Chinese Wisdom
for Contemplation

The sage is like water.
Water is good, nourishes all things,
and does not compete with them.
It dwells in humble places that others disdain,
hence it is close to the Tao.
In his dwelling, the sage loves the earth.
In his mind, he loves what is profound.
In his associations, he is kind and gentle.
In his speech, he is sincere.
In his ruling, he is just.
In business, he is proficient.
In his action, he is timely.
Because he does not compete,
he does not find fault in others.
— Lao Tzu (604-517 BC)
Tao Te Ching, VIII

The sage has nine wishes.
In seeing, he wishes to see clearly.
In hearing, he wishes to hear distinctly.
In his expression, he wishes to be warm.
In his appearance, he wishes to be respectful.
In his speech, he wishes to be sincere.
In business, he wishes to be serious.
When in doubt, he wishes to inquire further.
When angry, he wishes to examine
and resolve the resultant difficulties.
And when he sees an opportunity for a gain,
he wishes to think of righteousness.
— Confucius (551-479 BC)
Confucian Analects, XVI.10

The sage is a spiritual being. Even if great oceans burned up, he would not feel hot. Even if the great rivers are frozen, he would not feel cold. And even if terrific thunder were to break up mountains and the wind were to upset the sea, he would not be afraid. Being such, he mounts upon the clouds and forces of heaven, rides on the sun and the moon, and roams beyond the four seas. Neither life no death affects him. How much less can such matters as gain and loss?
— Chuang Tzu (399-295 BC)
The Chuang Tzu, Ch. II

One who commands our liking because of his virtue is called a good man. One who is sincere with himself is called a true man. He whose goodness is extensive and solid is called a beautiful man. He whose goodness is abundant and is brilliantly displayed is called a great man. When one is great and is completely transformed to be goodness itself, he is called a sage. When a sage is beyond our knowledge, he is called a man of the spirit.
— Mencius (371-289 BC)
Book of Mencius, VIIB.25

Universal love is called humanity. To practice this in the proper manner is called righteousness. To proceed according to these is called the Tao. To be sufficient in oneself without depending on anything outside is called virtue.
— Han Yu (768-824)
An Inquiry on the Tao, Ch. 2

Lao Tzu, Lao Tse
Lao Tzu, British Museum

Sincerity is the foundation of the sage. “Great is the creative, the originator! All things receive their birth from it.” It is the source of sincerity. “The Creative's way is to change and transform so that everything will obtain its correct nature and destiny.” In this way sincerity is established. It is pure and perfectly good. Therefore “the successive movement of yin and yang constitutes the Tao. What comes for the Tao is good, and that which realizes it is the individual nature.” Origination and flourish characterize the penetration of sincerity, and advantage and firmness are its completion. Great is the Change, the source of nature and destiny.
— Chou Tun-Yi (1017-1073)
Penetrating Book of Changes, Ch. 1

Instead of looking upon the internal as right and the external as wrong, it is better to forget the distinction. When such a distinction is forgotten, the state of quietness and peace is attained. Peace leads to calmness and calmness leads to enlightenment. When one is enlightened, how can the response to things become an impediment? The sage is joyous because according to the nature of things before him he should be joyous, and he is angry because according to the nature of things before him he should be angry. Thus the joy and anger of the sage do not depend on his own mind but on things.
— Ch'eng Hao (1032-1085)
Literary Works, III.1b

Empty and tranquil, and without any sign, and yet all things are luxuriantly present. The state before there is any response to it is not an earlier one, and the state after there has been response to it is not a later one. It is like a tree one hundred feet high. From the root to the branches and leaves, there is one sap running through them all.
— Ch'eng I (1033-1107)
Works of the Two Ch'engs, XV.8a

The four directions plus upward and downward constitute the space continuum. The past and the future constitute the time continuum. The universe is my mind and my mind is the universe. Sages appeared tens of thousands of generations ago. They shared this mind; they shared this principle. Sages will appear tens of thousands of generations to come. They will share this mind; they will share this principle. Over the four seas sages appear. They share this mind; they share this principle.
— Lu Hsiang-Shan (1139-1193)
Complete Works, XXII.5a

How can knowledge and action be separated? This is the original substance of knowledge and action, which have not been separated by selfish desires. In teaching people, the Sage insisted that only this can be called knowledge. Otherwise, this is not yet knowledge. This is serious and practical business... I have said that knowledge is the direction for action and action the effort of knowledge, and that knowledge is the beginning of action and action the completion of knowledge. If this is understood, then when only knowledge is mentioned, action is included, and when only action is mentioned, knowledge is included... But people today distinguish between knowledge and action and pursue them separately, believing that one must know before he can act. They will discuss and learn the business of knowledge first, they say, and wait till they truly know before they put their knowledge into practice. Consequently, to the last day of life, they will never act and also will never know. This doctrine of knowledge first and action later is not a minor disease and it did not come about only yesterday. My present advocacy of the unity of knowledge and action is precisely the medicine for that disease.

— Wang Yang Ming (1472-1529)
Instructions for Practical Living, I.8a

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