Musings of a Chinese Mystic
SELF-ADAPTATION TO EXTERNALS
YEN HO was about to become tutor to the eldest son of Prince Ling of the Wei State. Accordingly he observed to Chu Po Yu: "Here is a man whose disposition is naturally of a low order. To let him take his own unprincipled way is to endanger the State. Tot try to restrain him is to endanger one's personal safety. He has just wit enough to see faults in others, but not to see his own. I am consequently at a loss what to do."
"A good question, indeed," replied Chu Po Yu; "you must be careful, and begin by self- reformation. Outwardly you may adapt yourself, but inwardly you must keep up to your own standard. In this there are two points to be guarded against. You must not let the outward adaptation penetrate within, nor the inward standard manifest itself without. In the former case, you will fall, you will be obliterated, you will collapse, you will lie prostrate. In the latter case you will be a sound, a name, a bogie, an uncanny thing. If he would play the child, do
you play the child too. If he cast aside all sense of decorum, do you do so too. As far as he goes, do you go also. Thus you will reach him without offending him.
"Don't you know the story of the praying-mantis? In its rage it stretched out its arms to prevent a chariot from passing, unaware that this was beyond its strength, so admirable was its energy! Be cautious. If you are always offending others by your superiority, you will probably come to grief.
"Do you not know that those who keep tigers do not venture to give them live animals as food, for fear of exciting their fury when killing the prey? Also, that whole animals are not given, for fear of exciting the tiger's fury when rending them? The periods of hunger and repletion are carefully watched in order to prevent such outbursts. The tiger is of a different species from man; but the latter too is manageable if properly treated, unmanageable if excited to fury.
"Those who are fond of horses surround them with various conveniences. Sometimes mosquitoes or flies trouble them; and then, unexpectedly to the animal, a groom will brush them off, the result being that the horse breaks his bridle, and hurts his head and chest. The intention is good, but there is a want of real care for the horse. Against this you must be on your guard."
For travelling by water there is nothing like a boat. For travelling by land there is nothing like a cart. This because a boat moves readily in water; but were you to try to push it on land you would never succeed in making it go. Now ancient and modern times may be likened unto water and land; Chou and Lu to the boat and the cart. To try to make the customs of Chou succeed in Lu, is like pushing a boat on land: great trouble and no result, except certain injury to oneself. . . .
Dress up a monkey in the robes of Chou Kung, and it will not be happy until they are torn to shreds. And the difference between past and present is much the same as the difference between Chou Kung and a monkey.
When Hsi Shih [*1] was distressed in mind, she knitted her brows. An ugly woman of the village, seeing how beautiful she looked, went home, and having worked herself into a fit frame of mind, knitted her brows. The result was that the rich people of the place barred up their doors and would not come out, while the poor people took their wives and children and departed elsewhere. That woman saw the beauty of knitted brows, but she did not see wherein the beauty of knitted brows lay.
Kuan Chung being at the point of death, Duke Huan went to see him.
"You are venerable Sir," said the Duke, "really ill. You had better say to whom, in the event of your getting worse, I am to entrust the administration of the State."
"Whom does your Highness wish to choose?" inquired Kuan Chung.
"Will Pao Yu do?" asked the Duke.
"He will not," said Kuan Chung. "He is pure, incorruptible, and good. With those who are not like himself he will not associate. And if he has once heard of a man's wrong-doing, he never forgets it. If you employ him in the administration of the empire, he will get to loggerheads with his prince and to sixes and sevens with the people. It would not be long before he and your Highness fell out."
"Whom then can we have?" asked the Duke.
"There is no alternative," replied Kuan Chung; "it must be Hsi P'eng. He is a man who forgets the authority of those above him, and makes those below him forget his. Ashamed that he is not the peer of the Yellow Emperor, he grieves over those who are not the peers of himself.
"To share one's virtue with others is called true wisdom. To share one's wealth with others is reckoned meritorious. To exhibit superior
merit is not the way to win men's hearts. To exhibit inferior merit is the way. There are things in the State he does not hear; there are things in the family he does not see. There is no alternative; it must be Hsi P'eng."
To glorify the past and to condemn the present has always been the way of the scholar. Yet if Hsi Wei Shih [*1] and individuals of that class were caused to re-appear in the present day, which of them but would accommodate himself to the age?
^79:1 A famous beauty of old.
^81:1 A patriarch.