The 12th chapter of the Analects

1. A disciple of Confucius, the favourite Yen Hui, enquired what constituted a moral life. Confucius answered, “Renounce yourself and conform to the ideal of decency and good sense.” “If one could only,” Confucius went on to say, “live a moral life, renouncing himself and conforming to the ideal of decency and good sense for one single day, the world would become moral. To be moral, a man depends entirely upon himself and not upon others.”
The disciple then asked for practical rules to be observed in living a moral life. Confucius answered, “Whatsoever things are contrary to the ideal of decency and good sense, do not look upon them. Whatsoever things are contrary to the ideal of decency and good sense, do not listen to them. Whatsoever things are contrary to the ideal of decency and good sense, do not utter them with your mouth. Lastly, let nothing in whatsoever things you do, act or move, be contrary to the ideal of decency and good sense.”

2. Another disciple of Confucius on another occasion asked what constituted a moral life. Confucius answered, “When going out into the world, behave always as if you were at an audience before the Emperor; in dealing with the people, act as if you were at worship before God. Whatsoever things you do not wish that others should do unto you, do not do unto them. In your public life in the State as well as in your private life in your family, give no one a just cause of complaint against you.”
The disciple then said: “Unworthy and remiss though I am, I shall try to make what you have just said the rule of my life.”

3. Another disciple asked what constituted a moral character. Confucius answered, “A man of moral character is one who is sparing of his words.” “To be sparing of words: does that alone,” asked the disciple, “constitute a moral character?”
“Why,” replied Confucius, “When a man feels the difficulty of living a moral life, would he be otherwise than sparing of his words?”

4. The same disciple asked what constituted a good and wise man. Confucius answered, “A good and wise man is without anxiety and without fear.” “To be without anxiety and without fear: does that alone,” asked the disciple, “constitute a good and wise man?” “Why,” replied Confucius, “When a man finds within himself no cause for self-reproach, what has he to be anxious about; what has he to fear?”

5. A disciple of Confucius was unhappy, exclaiming often: “All men have their brothers: I alone have none.” Upon which another disciple said to him, “I have heard it said that Life and Death are pre-ordained, and riches and honours come from God. A good and wise man is serious and without blame. In his conduct towards others he behaves with earnestness, and with judgment and good sense. In that way he will find all men within the corners of the Earth his brothers. What reason, then, has a good and wise man to complain that he has no brothers in his home?”

6. A disciple of Confucius enquired what constituted perspicuity. Confucius answered, “A man who can resist long-continued attempts of others to insinuate prejudice into him, or one who cannot be influenced by a sudden appeal to his own personal safety: —such a man may be considered a man of perspicuity. Indeed, a man who can resist such an influence, or such an appeal, must be a really superior man.”

7. A disciple on one occasion enquired what was essential in the government of a country. Confucius answered, “There must be sufficient food for the people; an efficient army; and confidence of the people in their rulers.”
“But,” asked the disciple then, “If one were compelled to dispense with one of those three things, which one of them should go first?” “Dispense with the army,” replied Confucius, “But still,” the disciple went on to ask, “If one were compelled to dispense with one of those two things remaining, which one of them should go first?” “Dispense with the food,” replied Confucius, “For from of old men have died, but without the confidence of the people in their rulers there can be no government.”

8. An officer of a certain State on one occasion remarked to a disciple of Confucius, saying: “A wise and good man wants only the substance; why should he trouble about the style?”
“I am sorry to hear you make such a statement,” replied Confucius’ disciple, “What you would say is true; but, stated in that way, it is impossible for men not to misunderstand your meaning. To be sure, the style comes out of the substance, but the substance also comes out of the style. For the substance in the skin of a tiger or a leopard is the same as the substance in the skin of a dog or a sheep.”

9. The reigning prince of Confucius’ native State on one occasion asked one of Confucius’ disciples, saying: “The year now is one of scarcity: we cannot make the revenue meet the public expenditure. What should be done?”
The disciple answered, “Why not tithe (take one-tenth) the people?” “Why,” replied the prince, “with two-thirds, even, we cannot make ends meet: how should we be able to do so with one-tenth?” To which the disciple answered, “When the people have plenty, the prince will not want. But if the people want, the prince will not have plenty.”

10. A disciple of Confucius enquired how to raise the moral sentiment and to dispel delusions in life. Confucius answered, “Make conscientiousness and sincerity your first principles. Act up to what is right. In that way you will raise the moral sentiment in you.” “You wish to live and hate to die. But while clinging to life, you yet hanker after those things which can only shorten life: that is a great delusion in life.”
Truly your wealth and pelf avail you sought,/ To have what others want, is all you sought.

11. The reigning prince of a certain State asked Confucius what was essential in the government of a country. Confucius answered, “Let the prince be a prince, and the public servant be a public servant. Let the father be a father, and let the son be a son.”
“It is very true,” replied the prince, “Indeed, if the prince is not a prince, and the public servant is not a public servant, and if the father is not a father and the son is not a son, —in such a state of things, even though I had my revenue, how should I enjoy it?”

12. Confucius, speaking of his disciple, the intrepid Chung Yu, remarked: “one who can settle a dispute with half a sentence—that is Yu” (Chung Yu’s name). It was also remarked of the same disciple that he never slept a night over a promise.

13. Confucius on one occasion after he had been appointed Chief Justice in his native State, remarked: “While sitting in court, in deciding upon the suits that come before me, I am no better than other men. But what I always try to do is to make even the suits unnecessary.”

14. A disciple of Confucius enquired what was the essential thing in the conduct of the government of a country. Confucius answered, “Be patient in maturing your plans and then carry them out with conscientiousness.”

15. Confucius remarked, “A man who studies extensively the arts and literature, and directs his studies with judgment and taste, is not likely to get into a wrong track.”

16. Confucius remarked, “A good and wise man encourages men to develop the good qualities in their nature, and not their bad qualities; whereas, a bad man and a fool does the very opposite.”

17. A noble who was the minister in power in Confucius’ native State asked him to define government. “Government means order,” answered Confucius. “If you yourself, sir, are in order, who will dare to be disorderly.”

18. The noble mentioned above was distressed at the frequency of robberies in the country. He asked Confucius what should be done. “If you yourself,” answered Confucius, “show them that you do not wish for wealth, although you should reward them for stealing, the people would not steal.”

19. The same noble again asked about government, saying, “What do you say to putting to death the wicked in the interests of the good?”
“In your government,” answered Confucius, “why should you think it necessary to depend upon capital punishments? Wish for honesty, and the people will be honest. The moral power of the rulers is as the wind, and that of the people is as the grass, Whithersoever the wind blows, the grass is sure to bend.”

20. A disciple of Confucius enquired, “What must an educated gentleman do in order to be distinguished?” “What do you mean by being distinguished?” asked Confucius.
“I mean,” replied the disciple, “that whether in public life or in private life he will be heard of by the world.” “That,” answered Confucius, “is to be notorious, not distinguished.”
“Now a man who is really a man of distinction is one who stands upon his own integrity and loves what is right: who forms a correct judgment of men by observing how they look as well as by regarding what they say. Reflection makes him humble in his estimate of himself as compared with other men. Such a man, whether he be in public life or in private life, will be a distinguished man.”
“As to the notorious man: he is one who wants to be moral in his look and outward appearance, but really is not so in his life. He prides himself on such an appearance without misgiving. Such a man in public life or in private life, will also certainly be heard of and known.”

21. A disciple of Confucius on one occasion was in Confucius’ company when he went out for a walk on a terrace built for a religious purpose. The disciple then took the occasion to ask him what one should do in order to elevate the moral sentiment; to discover the secret vices and failings in one’s inmost mind; and, lastly, to dispel the delusions of life.”
“That is a very good question indeed,” answered Confucius. “Make it a rule,” he then said, “to work for it before you accept anything as your own: that is, perhaps, the best way to elevate the moral sentiment.” “Make it a habit to assail your own vices and failings before you assail the vices and failings of others: that is, perhaps, the best way to discover the secret vices of your inmost mind.
“If a man allows himself to lose his temper and forget himself of a morning, in such a way as to become careless for the safety of his own person and for the safety of his parents and friends—is that not a case of a great delusion if life?”

22. The same disciple mentioned above asked, “What does a moral life consist in?” “The moral life of a man,” answered Confucius, “consists in loving men.”
The disciple then asked, “What does understanding consist in?” “Understanding,” answered Confucius, “consists in understanding men.”
The disciple, however, did not seem to comprehend the meaning of what was said. Thereupon Confucius went on to say, “Uphold the cause of the just, and put down every cause that is unjust in such a way that the unjust will be made just.”
When the disciple left, he met on the way another disciple, and said to him: “Just a little while ago I say the Master, and enquired of him what understanding consisted in, and he answered, ‘Uphold the cause of the just, and put down every cause that is unjust in such away that the unjust will be made just, What did he mean by that?”
“It is a saying,” replied the other disciple, “very wide indeed in its application. When the ancient Emperor Shun came to the government of the Empire and, selecting from among the people, advanced Kao Yao to be Minister of Justice: from that moment all immoral people disappeared. When the ancient Emperor the great T’ang came to the government of the Empire and, choosing from among the people, advanced I-yin to be Prime Minister: from that moment, all immoral men disappeared.”

23. A disciple of Confucius enquired how one should behave to a friend. Confucius answered, “Be conscientious in what you say to him! Lead him on gently to what you would have him be; if you find you cannot do that, stop. Do not quarrel with him only to get insulted.”

24. A disciple of Confucius remarked, “A wise man makes friends by his taste for art and literature. He uses his friends to help him to live a moral life.”