3.13

Wangsun Jia asked, “What is the meaning of the old saying, ‘It’s better to sacrifice to the spirit of the kitchen stove than the spirit of the southwest corner?’”

Confucius said, “It’s not so! If you offend Heaven, there’s no one you can pray to.”

6.22

Fan Chi asked about wisdom.

Confucius said, “Work for justice and harmony in society. Respect the spirits, but keep them at a distance. That’s wisdom.”

Fan Chi then asked about humaneness.

Confucius replied, “Ah, humaneness. The humane person takes on the difficulty of self-cultivation first and only looks for the outcomes afterwards. That’s humaneness.”

7.35

Confucius became very sick and Zilu asked permission to offer a prayer for him.

Confucius asked, “Is there a precedent for that?”

Zilu replied, “Yes. There is a passage in the Eulogies, ‘We pray to the spirits above and the spirits below for you.’”

Confucius replied, “Then I have already been praying for a long time.”

11.12

Zilu asked Confucius about serving the spirits. Confucius replied, “If you can’t yet serve the living, how can you be able to serve the spirits?”

Zilu then said, “May I ask about death?”

Confucius replied, “You don’t yet understand life. What could you understand about death?”