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The man of superior character is not (conscious of his) character.

Hence he has character.

The man of inferior character (is intent on) not losing character.

Hence he is devoid of character.

The man of superior character never acts,

Nor ever (does so) with an ulterior motive.

The man of inferior character acts,

And (does so) with an ulterior motive.

The man of superior kindness acts,

But (does so) without an ulterior motive.

The man of superior justice acts,

And (does so) with an ulterior motive.

(But when) the man of superior li acts and finds no response,

He rolls up his sleeves to force it on others.

Therefore:

After Tao is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) humanity.

After humanity is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) justice.

After justice is lost, then (arises the doctrine of) li.

Now li is the thinning out of loyalty and honesty of heart.

And the beginning of chaos.

The prophets arethe flowering of Tao

And the origin of folly.

Therefore the noble man dwells in the heavy (base),

And not in the thinning (end).

He dwells in the fruit,

And not in the flowering (expression).

Therefore he rejects the one and accepts the other.

上德不德,是以有德;下德不失德,是以无德。上德无为而无以为;下德无为而有以为。上仁为之而无以为;上义为之而有以为。上礼为之而莫之应,则攘臂而扔之。故失道而后德,失德而后仁,失仁而后义,失义而后礼。夫礼者,忠信之薄,而乱之首。前识者,道之华,而愚之始。是以大丈夫居其厚,不居其薄;居其实,不居其华。故去彼取此。

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