Thursday, May 1, 2008

Guidelines for emperors

I like to browse old bookstores and many years ago I came upon a book, ‘The Story of Oriental Philosophy’, by L. Adams Beck. It was published in Philadelphia in 1928, long before Zen, Taoism and other oriental philosophies were much known in the west, still less mainstream as they are today. The book is full of treasures, not least of which is an account of Confucius and his disciples visiting the emperor’s court in the city of Lo in Ho-nan. He is greeted by one of the ministers of the emperor who shows him the Hall of Light, where past emperors gave audience to the feudal princes.

(Confucius) walked about, examining with deep content all the arrangements handed down from antiquity, and sighed with pleasure.
‘Now I know the great wisdom of the Duke of Chao and how his house attained to the imperial throne!’ he said with deep satisfaction…
In the hall of the ancestral temple was a statue of a man with three needles fastening his lips. The disciples grouped themselves about it, while the master read aloud the inscriptions upon the back, of which I give a part:

Do not be overanxious for relaxation or repose. He who is so, will achieve neither.

If a man does not resent slight injustices he will soon be called upon to face giant wrongs.

Heed words as well as acts; thoughts also; and remember even when alone that the divine is everywhere.

A sapling may be easily uprooted. With a tree an axe is needed.

Do not glory in your strength. There is always a stronger.

The masses and ordinary men have small prescience or power in dealing with the unknown and can only follow a leader.

Heaven has no favourites.

The ocean is full. Yet inflowing rivers do not overflow it.

My mouth is closed; I cannot speak. Do not consult me. I cannot solve your doubts and I have nothing to ask. My teaching is enigmatic and true.

I stand elevated above you, but no man can harm me. What mortal can say so much?

A house may be burned by smouldering fire, when a fierce flame would have shown itself and have been easily extinguished.

A river is the flux of many streams.

The union of many threads makes an unbreakable cord.

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond