Confucius said, “At fifteen, I set my heart on learning. At thirty, I took my stand. At forty, I was without confusion. At fifty, I understood the commands of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was attuned to what I heard. At seventy, I can follow my heart’s desire without stepping over the line.”
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.”
The border guard at Yi asked to speak with Confucius saying, “I’ve never been denied an audience with the noble men who have passed this way.”
Confucius’ students arranged a meeting.
When he came out, he said, “Friends, why are you worried because your teacher lost his position? The world has been without the Way for a long time now, and Heaven intends to use your teacher like the wooden clapper of a bell.”
Zigong said, “You can hear about Confucius’ mastery of literature and culture, but you can’t get his views on human nature or the way of Heaven.”
Confucius visited Nanzi and Zilu was not happy about it.
Confucius swore an oath, “If I have done wrong, may Heaven punish me! May Heaven punish me!”
Confucius said, “Heaven has given me virtue. What do I have to fear from the likes of Huan Tui?”
Confucius said, “How great Yao was as a ruler! Nothing is greater than Heaven, but Yao could emulate it. His virtue was so vast that the common people couldn’t even describe it! His achievements were sublime and his teaching was brilliant!”
When Confucius’ life was under threat in Kuang, he said, “King Wen is dead, but culture lives on in me. If Heaven intended for that culture to die off, those of us who came after wouldn’t have it. If Heaven doesn’t want to kill off this culture, what can the men of Kuang do to me?”
A high minister asked Zigong, “Is your master really a sage? Then why does he have so many skills?”
Zigong replied, “It’s Heaven that made him a sage and allowed him to develop many skills besides.”
When he heard about this, Confucius said, “What does the high minister know about me? When I was a boy, my family was poor, so I had to learn many skills. Does a noble person need to have many skills? I don’t think so.”
When Confucius became ill, Zilu told the other students to act as if they were Confucius’ “ministers.”
During a remission in his illness, Confucius said, “Ah, Zilu, you’ve been carrying on this charade for a long time now, haven’t you? You want to make believe that I have ‘ministers?’ Who are you fooling? Heaven?
I’d much rather die in the arms of my students than in the arms of ministers. Besides, even though I won’t get a grand state funeral, it’s not like I’m dying on the side of the road.”
When Yan Hui died, Confucius cried out, “Oh, Heaven is killing me! Heaven is killing me!”
Yan Hui asked Confucius about humaneness.
Confucius replied, “Restrain the self and return to ritual. That’s humaneness. If for a full day you can restrain yourself and return to ritual, everyone under Heaven will move toward humaneness. Humaneness comes from oneself. How could it come from others?”
Yan Hui asked, “Can I ask for specific steps?”
Confucius said, “If it’s not according to ritual, don’t look at it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t listen to it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t say it. If it’s not according to ritual, don’t do it.”
Yan Hui said, “Even though I’m not that clever, I’ll apply myself to this.”
Confucius sighed, “No one understands me.”
Zigong said, “What do you mean, no one understands you?”
“I don’t complain against Heaven or blame men,” Confucius replied, “I study what’s near at hand to understand what is higher. Only Heaven understands me.”
Confucius said, “When the Way prevails in the world, it’s the Son of Heaven who orders the rituals, music, and military expeditions. When the Way does not prevail in the world, it’s the regional rulers who order the rituals, music, and military expeditions.
“Once the regional rulers take over these duties, it’s rare for them to hold onto their authority for more than ten generations. Once the ministers take on these duties, their authority rarely lasts for five generations. When the family stewards are in charge, their authority rarely lasts for more than three generations.
“When the Way prevails in the world, these government duties don’t fall to the ministers. When the Way prevails in the world, the common people don’t need to debate politics.”
Confucius said, “A noble person stands in awe of three things: the will of Heaven, great people, and the words of the sages. The small person is clueless about the will of Heaven, despises the great, and mocks the words of the sages.”
Confucius said, “I don’t want to talk anymore.”
Zigong said, “If you don’t speak, what will we students pass along?”
Confucius replied, “Does Heaven speak? Yet the four seasons continue to turn and the creatures of the world are born. Does Heaven speak?”
Yao said, “Oh, Shun! The regulation of Heaven’s calendar now falls to you. Hold to the middle way. If the people fall into distress, this gift of Heaven’s will be withdrawn forever.”
In turn, Shun charged Yu with these same words.
T’ang said, “I, Lü, am only a youth, but I dare to sacrifice this black ox and make this declaration to the Lord of Heaven. I don’t dare pardon the guilty. We can’t hide anything from the Lord of Heaven, since we’re his subjects, and guilt is known in the Lord’s heart.
“If I commit a crime, don’t make the people of the ten thousand regions suffer for it. But if the people of the ten thousand regions commit a crime, let the punishment fall to me alone.”
The Zhou was greatly rewarded because it had good people to serve it.
King Wu said, “Although I have all my kin, it’s better to employ people who have humaneness. If the people commit crimes, let it fall to me alone.”
Set standard weights and measures, align the laws and regulations, and restore offices that have been abolished. Revive the states that are about to fall and the lineages about to end. Find worthy people who have gone into hiding and raise them up into high offices. By doing this, the people will flock to you.
This is what’s important to the people: their food, their funerals, and their sacrifices.
Be generous, and you’ll win the hearts of the people. Be trustworthy, and you’ll gain the confidence of the people. If you’re industrious, you’ll get things done. If you’re just, the people will be pleased.