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Standards for Students

孫果秀註釋 Explained by Jennifer Lin



Chapter 0ne: Revealing the Principle And Explaining the Meaning


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young students, young children

rules or standards


those of superior character,
here referring to Confucius

teachings or instructions

The rules for being a student are instructions given by sages.



This set of rules for young people was compiled from the instructions given by the ancient sages. What is meant by rules (gui ju)? Gui is a compass used for drawing circles, ju is a ruler used for drawing lines. Without the tools of a compass and a ruler, it is not possible to draw a straight line or a perfectly round circle. Therefore, anything that can serve as a basis or a standard can be called a rule (gui ju). What is this set of rules based upon? It is based upon the teachings of the ancient Chinese sage, Confucius. Book One Xue Er of the Confucian Analects says:



The Master said, "A youth, when at home, should be filial, and abroad, respectful to his elders. He should be earnest and truthful. He should be loving towards all, and draw near to those who are humane. When he has time and opportunity, after the performance of these things, he should employ them in the study of the six arts ."



This quote will be explained later on. A sage (sheng ren) not only has great learning, but he also has a lofty character. If a person is intelligent and learned but lacks virtue, then his intelligence and learning become tools for committing evil; he would be like a tiger with wings. A tiger is already fearsome to begin with, but if it has wings and is able to fly, then it will be able to fly freely and do whatever it wants. Therefore, being virtuous is far more important than having great scholarship and skills. That is why, in the introductory chapter, it is necessary to place virtue and morality before scholarship and skills. When sages teach and transform people, they also hope that each person can become a sage and a virtuous person. 




There is a saying in Buddhism: "All living beings have the Buddha-nature and can become Buddhas." There is another saying in Chinese: "All men can become like Yao and Shun." The Buddha was a person of great wisdom who realized Buddhahood. This great wisdom is inherent in all living beings, but we don't realize this because we are covered by ignorance. If we can put the Buddha's teachings of wisdom into practice now, we will develop our inherent wisdom, and when that wisdom becomes the same as the Buddha's wisdom, we will have realized Buddhahood. Yao and Shun were two famous sage-kings in ancient China who were known for being humane, kind, and filial. If we could learn from them and follow their standards, we can also become as virtuous as they were--and won't that make us sages as well? And so Confucius handed down the standards of virtue, giving us the chance to learn from them.



Who was Confucius? He was a sage whom everyone in China knows; he was also the greatest educator. Since he was born in a poor family and his father died when he was very young, he always helped his mother with the chores and learned various skills in the process. Moreover, Confucius pursued knowledge with great diligence. Whether it was practical knowledge from daily life or knowledge found in books, he would actively study and seek to practice what he learned. In this way he developed his extraordinary character and attained the wealth of knowledge and skills that enabled him to accomplish and be familiar with just about everything.




Confucius was not only concerned with self-cultivation, he also wished to help others cultivate their character. That was why he accepted a great many students based on the principle that "in education there should be no distinctions of class." He never indulged in the slightest discrimination based on the backgrounds, intelligence, or abilities of his students. Anyone who wished to study with him, as long as he prepared a token gift for the teacher according lo etiquette, would be accepted.




He taught students according to their dispositions. Based on the sharpness of their faculties and the measure of their minds, as well as on their various backgrounds and situations, he would give them individualized teachings that were easy to understand but contained deep meaning. He taught without weariness. Confucius never felt tired, never became impatient, and never thought about taking a rest. Therefore, many of his students became capable and productive people, and the Confucian school of thought has been handed down through the generations, becoming the mainstream of Chinese civilization. Later generations have honored Confucius as "the greatest sage and teacher," meaning that he was the greatest and most virtuous teacher of the past. 




Now we have the chance to study The Rules for Being a Student and to absorb his educational ideals--this is equivalent to being students of Confucius. Therefore, we should cherish this opportunity to learn from him how to become a sage. First of all, we should learn how to develop our virtue and how to enrich our knowledge and skills. That is why the first chapter is called "Revealing the Principle and Explaining the Meaning"; it brings out the principle that we need to emphasize and explains the reason why we need to understand it.

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