The Doctrine of the Mean
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The Doctrine of the Mean is a text rich with symbolism and guidance to perfecting oneself. The goal of the mean is to maintain balance and harmony from directing the mind to a state of constant equilibrium.
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What Heaven has conferred is called The Nature; an accordance with this nature is called The Path of duty; the regulation of this path is called Instruction.
The path may not be left for an instant. If it could be left, it would not be the path. On this account, the superior man does not wait till he sees things, to be cautious, nor till he hears things, to be apprehensive.
There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than what is minute. Therefore the superior man is watchful over himself, when he is alone.
While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the mind may be said to be in the state of Equilibrium. When those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there ensues what may be called the state of Harmony. This Equilibrium is the great root from which grow all the human actings in the world, and this Harmony is the universal path which they all should pursue.
Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish. Chung-ni said, “The superior man embodies the course of the Mean; the mean man acts contrary to the course of the Mean.
“The superior man’s embodying the course of the Mean is because he is a superior man, and so always maintains the Mean. The mean man’s acting contrary to the course of the Mean is because he is a mean man, and has no caution.”
The Master said, “Perfect is the virtue which is according to the Mean! Rare have they long been among the people, who could practice it!
The Master said, “I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not walked in:-The knowing go beyond it, and the stupid do not come up to it. I know how it is that the path of the Mean is not understood:-The men of talents and virtue go beyond it, and the worthless do not come up to it.
“There is no body but eats and drinks. But they are few who can distinguish flavors.”
The Master said, “Alas! How is the path of the Mean untrodden!”
The Master said, “There was Shun:-He indeed was greatly wise! Shun loved to question others, and to study their words, though they might be shallow. He concealed what was bad in them and displayed what was good. He took hold of their two extremes, determined the Mean, and employed it in his government of the people. It was by this that he was Shun!”
The Master said “Men all say, ‘We are wise’; but being driven forward and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, they know not how to escape. Men all say, ‘We are wise’; but happening to choose the course of the Mean, they are not able to keep it for a round month.”
The Master said “This was the manner of Hui:-he made choice of the Mean, and whenever he got hold of what was good, he clasped it firmly, as if wearing it on his breast, and did not lose it.”
The Master said, “The kingdom, its states, and its families, may be perfectly ruled; dignities and emoluments may be declined; naked weapons may be trampled under the feet; but the course of the Mean cannot be attained to.”
Tsze-lu asked about energy.
The Master said, “Do you mean the energy of the South, the energy of the North, or the energy which you should cultivate yourself?
“To show forbearance and gentleness in teaching others; and not to revenge unreasonable conduct:-this is the energy of southern regions, and the good man makes it his study. “To lie under arms; and meet death without regret:-this is the energy of northern regions, and the forceful make it their study.
“Therefore, the superior man cultivates a friendly harmony, without being weak.-How firm is he in his energy! He stands erect in the middle, without inclining to either side.-How firm is he in his energy! When good principles prevail in the government of his country, he does not change from what he was in retirement. How firm is he in his energy! When bad principles prevail in the country, he maintains his course to death without changing.-How firm is he in his energy!”
The Master said, “To live in obscurity, and yet practice wonders, in order to be mentioned with honor in future ages:-this is what I do not do.
“The good man tries to proceed according to the right path, but when he has gone halfway, he abandons it:-I am not able so to stop.
“The superior man accords with the course of the Mean. Though he may be all unknown, unregarded by the world, he feels no regret.-It is only the sage who is able for this.”
The way which the superior man pursues, reaches wide and far, and yet is secret.
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