Since there are as many people in the world as motes of dust, invariably people differ in shape, appearance, life span, race and name. Each individual possesses a particular type of mind and nature as well as a variety of views and knowledge. From such differentiation, we further produce all sorts of desires and joy, will and behavior, comportment and manner. People adore certain individuals and detest others. People respect certain individuals while disdaining others. In actuality, these myriad variations all originate from a single thought. From our mind and nature, we produce views and knowledge. From views and knowledge we give rise to will and conduct. Our will and conduct influence our inclinations and comportment. Our inclinations and comportment affect our congenital shape, appearance, life span, race and name, which further affect the mind and nature, developing new views and knowledge, will and conduct, thus leading to dissimilar experiences after birth. During his life Confucius loathed spineless, fawning sycophants, but he particularly detested being around those phony gentlemen who appeared respectable. Thus Confucius said, "I hate purple, for it robs from the color red."
"Imposters are the thieves of virtue." Did Confucius really hate the color purple? Actually it's merely an analogy. Purple is a mixed color containing the color red, one of the three primary colors, yet it has clearly lost the original red proper. The color purple nevertheless leads others to mistake it for a variation of red. Similarly, hypocrites who appear respectful, wearing the mask of a "softie" and carrying the sign of a "gentleman" actually warp humaneness and distort uprightness—in reality they practice sycophancy and flattery. Most people cannot discern black from white; thus they fail to be cautious. In fact, people invariably consider those truly unique, independent and straightforward individuals as eccentrics and praise and emulate hypocrites instead. Thus, Confucius deemed those pretending to be honorable individuals more dangerous than scoundrels that people naturally despise upon first glance; fraudulent gentlemen are actually charlatans. Without first eliminating pretenders, we cannot rectify our foundation, purify our origin and receive the merit of straightening people's minds here in the world.
When Confucius received the emperor's mandate to be the Minister of Crime in the state of Lu, the first thing he did when he arrived on the job was to execute Minister Shao Zhen Mo, who with an intractable heart and defiant conduct craftily debated the compliant and gossiped with those he favored. Confucius' move had the effect of "killing a chicken to warn the monkeys." In less than three months, the state of Lu was well governed; wicked and immoral individuals no longer existed. It was reputed that during that time, "no one picked up lost items; no one closed their doors at night." Lu's neighboring state, Qi, was afraid Lu would become so strong that Qi would not be able to invade and pillage it, so Qi sent a troupe of female performers over. High minister Ji Sun Si accepted them and stealthily sent them to the King of Lu. The King was so infatuated with these women that he didn't appear in court to administer the state's affairs for three days. Confucius was so heartbroken that he resigned, returned home, then began to travel to various states. Unfortunately, Confucius wasted half of his life without finding a wise ruler with vision and courage willing to employ him. It wasn't until he was near death that Confucius realized that he didn't have much time left, so he returned home in disappointment. He condensed all his lifelong ideals into the
Annals of Spring and Autumn, which was a critique of political affairs. Furthermore, he poured the last of his lifeblood into educating and promoting the younger generations so that they would inherit his ideals. This is evidence that many people in this world follow the banal, while so few individuals are truly humane and virtuous. Although humane and virtuous individuals are rare, their straightforward and wholesome speech, their fearlessness in the face of authority and their attitude of munificence and selflessness will win people's respect and make rascals afraid. This is why although no wise ruler employed Confucius and scoundrels often presented him with difficulties during his travels; nonetheless, the heads of states and members of the nobility all competed to serve Confucius as an honored guest, hoping to win the reputation of "one who honors a sage." Similarly, malicious ministers and criminals dared not publicly kill and harm Confucius either, fearing the disgraceful title of "one who injures a sage."
Before Confucius entered politics, the state of Lu was controlled by three branches—the Meng Sun clan, the Shu Sun clan and the Ji Sun clan—while the king was practically a puppet. Yang Hu of the Meng Sun family had huge ambitions and indepth deliberations. He initially joined the Ji Sun family who dominated the state of Lu, then through flattery, favors, and competence, Yang Hu attained heavy responsibilities from the head of the household, Ji Sun Yi Ru, becoming the household manager. When the elder Ji Sun passed away, Yang Hu climbed on top of the new head of the clan, Ji Ping Zi. When Ji Ping Zi died, Yang Hu not only controlled the Ji Sun clan, but also suppressed the other two families by intimidation, further threatening the king of Lu and single-handedly controlling the affairs of state.
Hoping to win the hearts of the citizenry on the one hand, and needing someone to assist him in stabilizing the political situation on the other, Yang Hu visited Confucius several times in the hopes of obtaining his help. Confucius knew that Yang Hu could see talent better than the king of Lu and was a more decisive leader besides. However, Confucius had always detested those who cheat their rulers and overstep superiors, how could he compromise his integrity for the sake of being employed in an important position? For that reason, Confucius always invented an excuse to avoid Yang Hu.
Once when Yang Hu personally paid a visit, the guard answered as usual, "He's not here." When Yang Hu was about to get in his carriage and leave, however, Confucius purposely strummed his instrument and made music, disclosing to Yang Hu that Confucius had been there all along but simply didn't want to see Yang Hu. At another time, Confucius traveled to the state of Chen right after the state of Chu had invaded and occupied the capital of Chen. The western gate to the city was broken then, so the Chu intruders ordered the people of Chen to fix it. According to the rites of Zhou, a passenger in a cart must stand and bow if he sees two people on the road; if the passenger sees three or more people, he must get off the cart. When Confucius' carriage passed the gate, Confucius was unlike himself. Typically polite and observant of all the rites, this time Confucius ignored the people on both sides as if they were in visible. When Confucius' disciples questioned him, Confucius painfully explained, "The citizens of Chen are unworthy of being bowed to. Why?
At first they didn't know their state was about to be annihilated, so that was ignorance. When the citizens knew that their state was about to be dissolved, they couldn't unite and fight, which was disloyalty. When their state had been defeated, they could no longer die in battle, which was cowardice. Now they even help their enemy to repair the city. How can they be worthy of respect?
At this point of the story, some people may say that Confucius was pretentious and ill-mannered, or consider Confucius to lack compassion. You should know that humane people may be compassionate and nondiscriminatory, yet they still distinguish between love and hate, intimacy and distance, which are manifested through their conduct and decisions. Those who really understand propriety will cherish those who are kind, detest those who are baneful, draw close to those who are worthy, and distance themselves from those who are failures. If people only work on superficialities and treat everyone the same regardless of their wholesomeness, unwholesomeness, right or wrong, then they are not humane and wise ones, but imposters. Therefore, even the extremely humane and wise Buddha taught his disciples to ignore evilnatured bhikshus. The remarkably kind and compassionate Bodhisattvas will also appear as "angry-faced Vajras" before evil beings. The Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas' silent treatment and angry glares are utterly unlike most people's use of rejections and punishment. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas educate from the opposite side, shocking baneful individuals into realizing their own faults and reflecting on why they weren't welcomed, thus finally correcting their mistakes and becoming good. This is also why Confucius ignored Yang Hu and expressed disgust for the citizens of Chen who had just lost their own state. We absolutely cannot use worldly social etiquette to criticize Confucius, judging him to be too ostentatious. We should not question whether Confucius is violating his own pedagogy of "teaching those from all walks of life," and judge him to be uncompassionate. In actuality, Confucius was able to maintain the rites of righteousness while practicing the compassion of "teaching by not teaching."
In today's Dharma-ending age, the ways of civility are decreasing while the ways of the scoundrels are increasing. People get worthy people mixed up with fools. Individuals cannot distinguish between good and evil; sometimes they even mistake what's right for what's wrong, what's black for what's white. The society ridicules poverty but not prostitution while politically, "superiors and subordinates mutually exchange and raid benefits." Government workers don't understand what public servants mean; at best they assume the bureaucratic style of flattering superiors and oppressing subordinates, at worst they collude with government contractors, pilfering goods and committing crimes, failing to care about ordinary people's benefits and lives. They say, "Those who recognize the signs of the times are the outstanding ones"; then they hoard and smuggle, constantly engaging in unmentionable activities, even pulling others down with them. If those up above don't accept bribes, then subordinates visible. When Confucius' disciples questioned him, Confucius painfully explained, "The citizens of Chen are unworthy of being bowed to. Why? At first they didn't know their state was about to be annihilated, so that was ignorance. When the citizens knew that their state was about to be dissolved, they couldn't unite and fight, which was disloyalty. When their state had been defeated, they could no longer die in battle, which was cowardice. Now they even help their enemy to repair the city. How can they be worthy of respect?
During the time of the Eastern Han dynasty, a scholar named Yang Zhen had recommended Wang Mi for the position of the Cangyi County Magistrate, because Wang had talent. One day, Yang passed by Cangyi, so Wang Mi waited until midnight when Yang Zhen was alone in his guest house to present specially prepared gold and other gifts. Yang Zhen politely thanked Wang but declined the gifts, saying, "I did not recommend you because I sought repayment. Furthermore, if anyone finds out about your action, it will be detrimental for both of us!" Wang said, "It's midnight; no one will find out!" Yang sternly declared, "Heaven knows, earth knows, you know and I know: How can you say no one knows?" Wang was so ashamed that he hastily left with his gold and gifts. Today, open and honest gentlemen such as Yang Zhen are few and far between! If we cannot dwell in humanity and follow righteousness, but let the winds of time blow us around and chase after every step of change, then even if we aren't crooked villains, we are, at the least, hypocrites who've lost the moral fortitude of the upright and civil ones. On the other hand, if we singularly hold fast to incorruptibility and abandon the job of teaching bucolics and villains, then we lose the kindness and compassion of humane gentlemen. Therefore, not only must we cultivate on our own and save ourselves, but we must rectify the trends of the world and shoulder the responsibility of teaching so as to transform the world's customs. To rectify the trends of the world, we must begin by rectifying the human mind. To teach and transform the world, we must focus on teaching and transforming human nature too. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas teach and transform using both compassion and wisdom while past and present worthy sages model wisdom and virtue; how could we not constantly emulate and practice their dharmas?