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Qunshu Zhiyao (A Compendium of the Essentials of Governance)    (Lecture 5) by Professor Yuli Liu  群書治要  (第五集)  劉余莉教授  


Respected friends, greetings!  Today we will continue with the Fourth Passage of Qunshu Zhiyao 360.



“Color’s five hues from the eyes their sight will take;
Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make;
The flavors five deprive the mouth of taste;
The chariot course, and the wild hunting waste
Make mad the mind; and objects rare and strange,
Sought for, men's conduct will to evil change
[A1] .[1]




This passage is selected from Qunshu Zhiyao vol. 34, Laozi (Dao De Jing or Tao Te Ching)[2].  “Color’s five hues from the eyes their sight will take,” this verse refers to the five solid colors of red, greenblue, redyellow, white, and black, and yellow.  Here “Color’s five hues” also imply the full spectrum of the colors and the kaleidoscope of visual contoursIn other wordsit cautions us that, over-indulgence in the kaleidoscope riots of colors, chasing after the kaleidoscope of visual contours a riot of colors or the pleasure of visual effects will make people’s lose their vital spiritualenergies, mental powers or Chi, and their spirits disperse externally, eventually harm their eyess and dull their visions.  The manifestation of this verse is more obvious in our modern society.  Especially after the invention of television, computer, and the Internet, more and more people become near-sighted and need to wear glasses.  Most of us are near-sighted and this verse points out the crucial reason for this phenomenon and that is [c]olor’s five hues from the eyes their sight will take.” Indulge in the stimulation of visual effects is detrimental to our eyesight.



Here, “their sight will take” does not mean blindness only; it also means the blindness of the heart.  In other words, we cannot see the needs of others.  Since the invention of television, computer, and cell phone, more and more people wallow in the stimulation of the spectacular visual effects.  People spend more time seeing movies, watching TV programs, and play video games.  In contrast, they ignored the interactions between people; their family members no longer exist in their sight and they can no longer perceive the needs of people around them.  It is a common phenomenon nowadays to see people busy texting, reading text messages, or talking on their cell phones even in the social gatherings of classmates, friends, or colleagues.  With the development of modern science and technology, people rely more and more heavily on external communication devices.  In turn, the face to face direct communications become less and less; and the ability of telepathy, what the ancients would call the ability to read people’s mind by observing their visage and speech, is already a lost art.  If we observe other’s facial expressions, especially when we care about them, one look from their eyes will make us understand their physical and mental conditions.  Are they under pressure or such?  When we truly care for another person and constantly think of that person, we can even telepathically communicate with that person without seeing each other face to face.  The two minds can telepathically communicate with each other.  The ancients had demonstrated this ability showing that they had higher transcendental spirituality.



For example, once Zeng-zi[3] (505–435 BC), one of the Four Sages of Confucianism, was away from home and a friend came to visit.  His mother was very kind and became anxious about the two friends missing each other.  What can Zeng-zi’s mother do under such a situation?  Since she knew that mother and son can communicate with their hearts, she bit her finger.   At the same moment, Zeng-zi felt a sharp pain to his heart and knew immediately that something happened to his mother.  He hurried home and found that his mother was well and only a friend came to visit.  His mother was just using this method to notify him.



We may feel such story is unbelievable.  That is because parents are never on the mind of today’s children. All their thoughts are about selfish desires--chasing after external fame and riches.  They cannot see the needs of their mother even when she is right next to them.  Even if the mother were to bite all her fingers and bleed, the son will feel nothing.  This shows that modern people’s ability of telepathy and their spirituality are declining.



As for us practitioners, the purpose of cultivation is to elevate our spirituality.  Therefore, we must keep far away from the visual stimulations of televisions, computers, and cell phones.  Why our minds are no longer telepathic?  It is because our minds are totally occupied by desires, afflicted thoughts, and vexations; hence can no longer retain our innate supernatural powers.  The ancients had a phrase called “vacuous spirituality.”  This phrase is very interesting.  Only when we empty our minds can they become sensitive and alert in order to better perceive other’s needs.  In Buddhism there is a terminology called “Ceto-pariya-ñāna,” the intuitive mind or the supernatural power to know other’s mind.  This intuition that knows other’s mind actually is an innate ability of mankind.  The reason we don’t have such abilities any more is simply because we are lost in the external phenomena world and gradually our innate abilities are lost as well. 



This is especially true of today’s people who live in the midst of (máng, busy) --(máng, blind) -- (máng, confused).  The first máng (, busy) combined the semantic of (meaning heart) and the phonetics of the word  (wáng, death, destruction)[4].  From this combination we can decipher what the word (máng, busy) is trying to tell us.  When we are hustled, our mind is engrossed with so many things, it can no longer be sharp and enlightened.  The second máng (, blind) is what the first verse is referring to-- we are blind to the needs of our family and the people around us.  The third máng (, confused) means confused, clueless.  Many people may have a successful career--success in the eyes of today’s people is symbolized by high income--but in exchange they only gained the grievances and resentment of family members, divorces from their (successive) wives, and losing the custody of their children.  Eventually, they become very confused, clueless, and innocently complained:  “I am so busy, working day and night, and isn’t everything I do for our family?  How come none of you understand me?”  Such complaint demonstrates that we have not seen the true needs of our family members.

特別是我們現在人都過著一種 --茫的人生。第一個「忙」是一個豎心加「亡」。看到這個字告訴我們什麼叫忙?當我們的事情很多的時候、很忙碌的時候,我們的心被這些事情所佔滿,它就不敏銳了,就不覺悟了。第二個「盲」就是這裡邊所講的眼盲的盲,看不到家人、周圍人的需要了。第三個「茫」就是茫然的茫。雖然自己事業很成功,而現在很多人事業成功的標誌就是賺了很多的錢,但是卻換得的是家人的怨聲載道、妻離子散。最後他就很茫然、不知所措,很無辜地說:「我這樣忙碌,這麼樣辛苦,不就是為了這個家嗎?但是為什麼大家都不理解我?」因為我們沒有看到家人真正的需要。


For example, on mother’s day, many reporters would interview successful people and ask them:  “What do you think is the best way to show filial piety to parents?”  These successful people would bombastically talk about making lots of money, buying good cars and big houses so that their parents can ride in limousines and live in mansions.  However, this is the way to display one’s riches so as not to lose face.  Then those reporters would interview these people’s mothers.  The reporters would ask:  “What do you think is the best way for your children to show filial piety?”  Surprisingly, all the mothers’ answers are the same without exception:  “I don’t want to live in mansion or ride in limousine; I just want my children to come home more often and to spend some time chatting with me.”  From this answer we can conclude that all our busy efforts chasing after monetary gains have blinded us to the true needs of our parents.  We may be busy working, but actually we are working for riches and fame, which cannot exchange for true happiness.



Of course, many people would argue that in this age we cannot live without TVs, computers, and the Internet.  If we do not understand these high-techs, our skills will become obsolete.  These arguments are specious.  In reality, fortune and calamity are interdependent.  Let’s look at the following story.



A middle-aged, unemployed man was looking for a job.  He saw that Microsoft Corporation (“Microsoft”) was looking for a janitor and applied for it.  The supervisor from Microsoft’s human resource department interviewed him and asked:  “Do you have access to the Internet?  If you are hired, we will post your employment on Microsoft’s website.”  The guy answered:  “I am sorry, but I don’t know how to use the Internet.”  The interviewer said:  “You are absurd.  How can you apply for a job at Microsoft and do not know how to use the Internet?”  He was shown the door.



The man was a little upset and found that he only had ten dollars left.  Suddenly, he had an inspiration and bought a large bag of potatoes in the market and started to sell his potatoes door to door.  Unbelievably, he quickly sold all the potatoes and made a profit of U.S. $30.00.



From then on he worked even harder to sell his potatoes door to door everyday.  Gradually, he had his own business.  With a few hundred dollars, he started a company to distribute fresh produce and soon established a big chain store.  Eventually, he became a billionaire.



One day a salesperson came to sell insurance to this billionaire.  Before leaving his office, the salesperson said: “All of our company’s insurance products are introduced in detail on the Internet.  If you have any needs, we can provide you with instant service.” The billionaire replied: “I don’t know how to use the Internet.”  The salesperson was greatly surprised and asked: “How can you manage such a big company without knowing how to use the Internet?” The billionaire told the story of his interview for the janitor job at Microsoft and said: “if I knew how to use the Internet at the time, I would still be a janitor today.”



The fortune and calamity in life are interdependent and can transmute.  Sometimes a calamity may actually be a blessing in disguise.  As the ancient proverb has said in the story of “the old man from the frontier losing his horse, how could anyone have known that it would not be fortuitous?”  Therefore, in today’s society we cannot follow the crowd, drift with the currents, or conform to other’s opinions (by peer pressure).  We must differentiate between right and wrong, good and bad, aesthetics and ugliness.  What are their standards?  It all depends on whether they are on a par with our innate virtues.



Why do practitioners stress on the importance of personal cultivation?  It is because “[t]he Way to Great Learning is to illustrate the illumining virtues; to have an affinity with the people; and to rest in the highest excellence[5],” as stated in the prologue of the Great Learning.  The purpose of personal cultivation is to illustrate the illumining virtue, to unveil our innate virtuous luminosity and make it manifest.  Our original nature is pure and never stainable.  It is still, never changing, and forever illumining.  How come our original nature does not illuminate anymore?  The reason is simple.  It is obstructed or concealed by selfish desires and external phenomena.  Our mind seeks externally without cessation; hence it is further and further away from its pure and pristine original nature.



Our true nature “neither moves nor stays,” or our self-nature originally is undisturbed, as the Six Patriarch of Chan Buddhism, Venerable Master Hui-neng[6] had said.  The mind that moves or is disturbed is called the false heart.  Actually, our true heart and our false heart are one and the same (in the noumenon).  When it is still or immobile, it is called the true heart; when it is disturbed, it is called the false heart. The patriarchs often used water and wave to analogize their relation.  They are one entity and not two, just like water and wave are one and the same.  When the water is disturbed, waves are produced like the false heart.  When the water is still like a mirror, not moving, it is just water without waves like our true heart.  Therefore, when our mind is reposed, when there are no thoughts activated, no differentiation nor obstinate attachments as instructed in Buddhism, at such moments, our true heart is revealed.   



Why people’s mind is disturbed?  Our deluded mind’s disturbances are the affections conditioned upon the external world.  Therefore, in the Book of Rites, the “Records of Music” began with


“All the modulations of the voice arise from the mind, and the various affections of the mind are produced by things (external to it).  The affections thus produced are manifested in the sounds that are uttered….  On this account the ancient kings were watchful in regard to the things that affect the mind[7].” 


This prose tells us that the disturbance of the deluded mind is produced by external phenomena.  The various affections of the mind are responses to things external to it (like wind making waves on the water).  In other words, our eyes are beguiled by the five hues of colors; our ears are attached to the five notes of music; our tastes are lured by the five flavors of food; our mood swings accordingly; and eventually our mind loses its originally correct and temperate state.



“On this account the ancient kings were watchful in regard to the things that affect the mind.”  For beginners especially, to recover their illumining virtues, to hold onto their original nature, they must first be prudent in what they see and hear.  In other words, adhere to what Confucius had instructed:  “Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety[8].”  This instruction was also the methodology prescribed by Master Cheng (Cheng-zi, 1033-1107)[9], an influential neo-Confucian scholar of Song dynasty.  Master Cheng said: “To renounce the external in order to cultivate the mind.”  Master Cheng was prohibiting what one sees, hears, eats, speaks of, and thinks of.  The purpose is to keep the mind still.  We all know that the purpose of personal cultivation is to illustrate the illumining virtues.  Therefore, we cannot be careful enough when it comes to the things in direct contact with our sensory organs, such as our eyes, ears, mouth, nose, body, etc.  We must abide by what Di Zi Gui proscribed: “Never go near rowdy places; never ask about devious or perverted things.”  Especially in today’s society, rowdy places are everywhere, such as casinos, KTVs, Karaoke bars, discothèques, etc.  All these rowdy places will lead people astray.  With the external temptations of the five human desires[10] and the six perceptions[11] and the internal poisons of avarice, anger, and ignorance in the mind, it is very difficult not to be contaminated and distracted by the modern environments.  This couplet is reminding beginners to proactively keep away from the source of contaminants when the mind has not yet reached the state of “no attachment to external phenomena; no disturbance within the mind.”  One will not be tempted if insulated from such places.



Qunshu Zhiyao adopted the “Commentary of Laozi by Ho Shang Gong (Elder Living next to the River)” to explain this verse. According to this Commentary, “Color’s five hues from the eyes their sight will takemeans that “licentiousness and lasciviousness[12] will harm a man’s vital energy and cause blindness (weaken his vision).”  In the Commentary, the word “color” is not interpreted as the contour of forms and colors, but as the female contours or their sex appeal.  From this interpretation we understand that classic text has more than one meaning; the so-called “the benevolent sees benevolence; the wise sees wisdom.”  Moreover, even the same person reading the same text will have different interpretations and perceptions at different age.  All the text in the classics is in accord with our original nature and innate virtues.  Therefore, every sentence has infinite meanings.  Every time we read them, we may have an epiphany in the semantics and context.  Thus, in the Analects, Confucius said:  “Is it not a pleasure to learn with constant reviews and applications?”  The ancients began to study the Analects in their formative years and would still be reading the Analects in their seventies and eighties.  Why would they find constant reading of the same book such a pleasure?  It is because the increments of experiences gained with age gave them different and more profound understandings of the text.



“Licentiousness and lasciviousness will harm a man’s energy and cause blindness (weaken his vision)” means that lust for female physiques will harm men’s visions.  This annotation is reminding males not to be infatuated with female appearances, to restrain desires, and don’t let the hormones run wild.  Confucius also cautioned: “In puberty, the physical body and energy levels are not fully grown and developed, adolescents must guard against lust.”  The vital energies and Chi of adolescents are not stable and their bodies are not fully developed or mature; they must guard against lust and renounce sex.  Otherwise, the Chi of the kidneys will be harmed and eventually impair their visions.  According to the ancient Chinese, human body is a miniature of the cosmos.  Once we indulge in carnal desires, the body will lose its equilibrium.



The proverb says: “Licentiousness is at the top of all sins.”  A practitioner aspiring to cultivate the person and to be virtuous must renounce sex; prohibiting lewd behavior is a top priority.  “Self-discipline should start with the affliction that is most difficult to eradicate,” said the ancient.   A person wishing to overcome selfish desires must begin with the desire that is the hardest to quit.  If we can extinguish our lust and licentious desires, not only can we overcome our desires, we can also become saints or sages.  In addition, we will be full of vitality with a strong physique to cultivate and transcend into celestial beings or a Buddha.  Otherwise, we will age fast.  Moreover, if we cannot bridle our desires, we will easily become degenerates and perpetrate myriads of transgressions that will invoke unspeakable sufferings in samsara.



Therefore, the ancients emphasized caution when it comes to “sensuality.”  Various canons told us to renounce sex.  In the Precious Canon of Health and Longity, a story is told of a man named Lan Ren-yu.  Lan had displayed remarkable talents before attaining adulthood.  He was handsom with gracious manners.  All his classmates believed that he would become a high ranking government official who would wait at the Golden Horse Gate to be received by the emperor, have conferences with other ministers in the Jade Hall, and enjoy the riches and noble ranks life can offer.  His neighbor was a government minister and had a daughter whose beauty and talents were outstanding and widely known at the time.  She was already engaged but not yet married.  Once Lan saw a beautiful girl riding in a carriage and was infatuated and could not stop thinking about her.  One day he was strolling in his backyard and heard a melodious female voice from next door.  He climbed on a ladder and took a peek of the girl.  He immediatley recognized the girl as the one he saw in the carriage.  Thereafter, he dugged a hole in the dividing wall and peeked at the girl everyday.  Half a year had passed and the girl got married.  Lan had no more chance to look at her and was melanchony.  He wrote a poem called “Long in Rememberance.”  A friend of his saw the poem. After reading it, his friend did not say anything; instead, he burned it right away and cautioned Lan not to mention this to anyone because it is extremely detrimental to his latent merits.  Not only did Lan paid no heed his friend’s advice but also laughed at him as being pedantic, “a stickler of propriety’s rules.”  Soon he took the imperial examination (which traditionally took three days to finish and students are enclosed in the testing place).  During this time Lan dreamed of a deity who dugged out his eyes.  When he woke up, his pupiles were hurting like needles puncturing them.  He could not open his eyes or finish the exam.  When he returned home, his eyes were still hurting and eventually he became blind.  When the exam result was posted, of course, Lan failed and his friend who burned the poem passed with flying colors.



Stories like this are too numerous to count in ancient times.  They warned us that licentiousness not only harm our bodies but also harm our latent merits.  Although Lan Ren-yu did not put his desires into action, just by peeking at the girl he had harmed his career as a government official by passing the imperial examination.  Thus, the ancient scholars were apprehensive and cautious when it comes to the word “sex” and would be a stickler of rules and never overstep the boundaries of propriety.



The Precious Canon of Health and Longity recorded a positive story as well.  It was about a man named Tang Hao.  One day Tang was reading under the window.  A young girl heard someone reading with a baritone voice in the study and thought that this person with such a good voice will definitely accomplish great deeds in the future.  She licked the window paper and made a hole to look at Tang admiringly in the hope of expressing her affection.  When Tang Hao saw this, he immediately patched up the hole in the window and wrote a two-line verse: “Easy to patch up the hole in the window paper created by licking; hardest is to patch up the detriment to one’s latent merits.”  He was not beguiled by female sex appeal and activated his correct thoughts immediately.  Soon after he passed the imperial examine with the highest scores and became famous in the empire.  If everyone who studied the teachings of the saints and sages are like Tang Hao, never does anything to harm his latent merits, never deviates from propriety, how can there be so many misconducts that offend public decency?  How can there be so many indecent pictures and videos on the Internet?



From the ancients’ perspective, to write pornography and disperse such materials to incite people’s lust are detrimental to one’s latent merits and will invoke calamaties upon oneself.  A man named Qian Da-jin from the Schezuan Province was very handsome, prolific with high literary talent; everytime he wrote, a thousand-word prose flowed easily from his writing brush.  He left home to study at the age of seventeen and attended the imperial exams several time but never passed.  In the year of Ganzi, before the exam, he went to the shrine of the God of Literary Attainment and prayed devoutly.  That night he dreamed of a boy dressed in blue who took him to the God of Literaray Attainment.  The daity ordered celestial beings to check the records of imperial examinations and found the following passage:  “Qian Da-jin: originally should be placed in the second position in the county examination at the age of 20, should have passed the imperial court examination and well known in the empire, should be appointed to government officials of the 2nd ranking, and could have lived to be 73 years old.  However, because he wrote three pornographic novels, all his merits, ranks, and longivity are cancelled.”  Fortunately, the God of Literaray Attainment advised him by saying:  “You have been loyal to the nation, tolerant with friends, and without transgression in the virtue of filial peity.  However, your ficticious pornographies have ruined the reputations and virtues of many people male and female.  If not for your latent merits in previous life, you would have already been suffering in hell now.”  Warned of his transgressions, Qian Da-jin made a sincere vow to reform.  From then on, he was very conscientious and would constantly advise people to prohibit lewdness.  Whenever he saw pornographic books, he would buy them, then burn them.  Later, he was appointed as a government official for his knowledge in the scriptures and lived to be sixty-two years old.



There are many similar stories in such books as the Precious Canon of Health and Longity, the Complete Collection of Mr. An-shi, the Treatise on the Response of Rewards and Retributions, etc.  Contemporary people would not read the classics written by the saints and sages.  Instead, they are influenced by the immoral concepts of the West and become promiscuous.  Females are lacking in the virtue of chastity.  With the wide reach of TV broadcast and the Internet, the relationships between the sexes are utterly in disarray and the pheonomena of pruriency prevails.



 To avoid the temptations of carnal desires, first we must be cautious and guard against what we see and hear.  We must "look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; act not which is contrary to propriety."  We should isolate ourselves from contaminants and uphold our pure heart.  Second, we must deeply believe in the law of cause and effect, the doctrine that rewards and retributions are invoked by our thoughts and deeds, and understand that the loss is greater than the gain if we have a propensity for lascivousness.  Especially, the harm of promiscuity is grave.  Thus, “do not commit adultry” has been proscribed as a major precept by all religions. 



Let’s recapitulate the various detriments of promiscuity/adultery.  It will harm the latent merits and blessings in this life.  For instance, a person who is supposed to advance in rank would lose the promotion; those who could make a fortune failed to have any profit.  In addition, they will be restless, uneasy, and worry about the exposure of their transgressions that will ruin their reputations and bring shame to their families.  It will also make their careers full of obstacles.  They will contract numerous illnesses, such as the various sexually transmitted diseases that are deadly.  Moreover, infidelity will also illicit the violations of other precepts such as false speech and frivolous speech because they need to lie to their family members, relatives, and say words to lure and beguile others.  “Desire is a bottomless abyss.”  Lost in sensuality is developing the animalistic side of mankind and ignoring the transcendence of our spirituality.  Some would say that they cannot let go of the beautiful friendship between them.  However, if one party has sexual desire toward the other, it will destroy this beautiful friendship.  It is the equivalent of leading each other to the fire pit, as if going to hell together.  Hence, it is not loving that person but harming him or her.  To a Buddhist, “committing adultery” is traducing Buddhism with the one’s body.  If a Buddhists transgressions are known by others, s/he is traducing the Buddha Dharma because others will lose faith in Buddhism and the wish to learn.  Finally, the harm is in losing the chance to get out samsara and be reborn in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land.  Instead, after death, they will fall into the three evil realms; suffer in hell where bitter karmic retributions are boundless.  Once we understand these detriments, we should vigorously, single-mindedly overcome the temptations of sensuality.

我們概括一下,這個邪淫的危害有這許多種。損害現世的陰德福報,你看本來有功名,就沒有功名了;本來可以賺很多的錢,這個錢也賺不到了。還使自己身心不安,家人蒙羞,一旦自己擔心東窗事發,自己的名聲受損,家人也跟著蒙羞。還會招致事業不順利、身體各種各樣的疾病,你看現在的各種性病愈來愈多,很多性病都是致命的。因為邪淫還會觸犯其他像妄語、綺語等等的戒律因為要邪淫,就要矇騙親人、家屬,就要說妄語,還要去說一些勾引、誘惑別人的話,所以也觸犯了其他的戒律。「欲是深淵」,沉迷於欲望,就是等於發展了人禽獸的一面而忽視了靈性的提升。有的人說,兩個人感情很好,就是放不下[A2] 。其實如果邪淫的話,也破壞了兩個人之間美好的情義,等於是相牽入火坑、相牽入地獄,那不是愛,那就是害他了。對於學佛的人,還是以身謗佛。因為自己不檢點的行為,讓別人知道了,那就是毀謗佛法,讓人對學佛失去信心。還有就是不能出離輪迴,往生淨土死後還會墮落三途,到地獄受苦,苦報無邊。所以明白了這些禍害,就能夠勇猛精進,克服色欲的誘惑。


The ancients had prescribed many methods to divest licentious desires;F for example, the “contemplation on the impurities of the body.  The ancients analogized our body as a dirty, odorous skin bag.  The surface looked nice with ornaments, dressed in silk and velvet, sprayed with perfume, painted with cosmetics, etc.  In reality, the skin bag was filled with blood, pus, flesh and other dirty stuff.  Once we understand the truth, we will not be fooled by its external camouflage.



The next verse in the Fourth Passage is “[m]usic's five notes the ears as deaf can make.”  The five notes of Gong, Shang, Jue, Zhi, Yu are the pre-Tang names of the five notes of the pentatonic scale, corresponding roughly to do, re, mi, sol, la.  The annotation to Qunshu Zhiyao statedexplained:  “Tthe melodious five notes can create a harmony that goes to make the heart harmonious.”  We all know that the contemporary popular music is relatively not too tranquil.  After listening to such music makes people easily annoyed and impetuous.  If we observe today’s students sitting in classrooms, we will find that they cannot concentrate for even an hour.  The external stimulation of pop music not only harms the eardrums but also harms our spirituality.   The mind becomes very agitated and cannot settle down or stay calm.  Not only that, people would lack self-control and will be lured easily by any temptation.  When temptation dawns, they lacked the self-discipline to control themselves. 



In the Book of Rites, the Records of Music also stated: 


Thus we see that the ancient kings, in their institution of ceremonies and music, did not seek how fully they could satisfy the desires of the appetite and of the ears and eyes; but they intended to teach the people to regulate their likings and dislikings, and to bring them back to the normal course of humanity[13].” 


The purpose the ancient kings in composing music and instilling proprieties was not to satisfy people’s appetites or to entertain their eyes and ears.  They aspired to cultivate people to have the correct likes and dislikes; hence return them to the correct path of humanity.  Music indeed can transcend the spirits, but it has to be like the hymn with serene harmonies; and not nerve-wrecking music.  Excessive psychedelic music cannot achieve any good effects to the spirit.  Instead, it will let people indulge in their desires; make people lose their souls to the point that they cannot bridle their passionsThus, the ancients believed that music is not just for entertainment purposes, it must also take up the important responsibility of transforming people. 

In the Classic of Filial Piety, Confucius said: “For changing their manners and altering their customs, there is nothing better than music[14].”  Whenever Confucius visited a place, he would not inquire about the local governance.  Instead, he would first listen to the local popular music, a priori, he would understand the social morēs of this locality.



There is a passage iIn the Lushi Chunqiu (Lu’s Spring and Autumn Annals)[15] that described the characteristics of music in chaotic times.  It stated that during chaotic times if percussions or musical instruments made with leather are played, the chords would be like thunder clapping.  If the brass instruments or musical instruments made with stones are played, the chord will be like bombing.  If musical instruments made of bamboo or silk for dancers are played, the sound will be like howling and yelling.  Such cacophony can achieve the purpose of disturbing people’s mind and spirit, shocking the eyes and ears, and letting people indulge in debauchery.  However, as musical instruments they would never bring any joy to people.  Therefore, as music becomes more and more psychedelic, people become more and more depressed, the nation becomes more and more chaotic, and the role of the ruler becomes more and more debased.  The original intention of music is lost as well.



Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make is reminding people not to over-emphasize the enjoyment of audio effects.  Nowadays people like to listen to rocking roll, some like to dance in discothèque, disco dancing, which is pure venting and can cause great harm to people’s audio perceptions.  Dr. Masaru Emoto of Japan had conducted the water crystal experiments which exposed water to different types of music.  As of present, the results have shown that water crystals formed after exposing to Elvis Presley’s songs, or the “Boom, Boom, Boom” produced by heavy metal music are all ugly and repugnant to the eye.;

所以「五音令人耳聾」,就是提醒人不要過分重視這個覺的享樂。現在人喜歡聽的搖滾樂,還有喜歡去跳迪斯科、蹦迪,那純粹是發泄,對人的聽覺傷害很大。像日本有一位江本勝博士做了一個水結晶的實驗,給 這些水聽不同的音樂。結果聽到現在的,像貓王他們的這種音樂,就是「砰砰砰」那個刺激性很強的音樂,結果這個水的結晶都很醜惡,一看就讓人很厭惡。


Music's five notes the ears as deaf can make; also tells us that excessive indulgence in audio effects will make us deaf to our heart and other’s mind.  The ancients called the sound of the heart “the sound of silence.”  People chanting the name of the Amitabha Buddha will realize this.  When people are quietly chanting in their mind, they could hear the sound inside their heart.  However, if the surrounding environment is very noisy, the sound of the heart is difficult to hear.  The above is the explanations for this verse.



 “The flavors five deprive the mouth of taste” is the next verse.  The five flavors are: sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and salty.  Of course, the five flavors also comprehensively refer to all the flavors or flavors combined together to make gourmet food.  Deprive the mouth of taste” means that too enthusiastic about gourmet food will harm our taste buds.  For example, the tongue will become insensitive if a person has strong taste or loves spicy food; eventually s/he can no longer taste the original flavors of whole foods, such as the aroma of fresh vegetables.  In contrast, the lesser one’s desires for food and the lighter demands for flavors will make a person highly sensitive to the original taste of foods.;


Nowadays people love to eat food with heavy sauces or dressing.  When a bowl of noodles is placed on the table, people immediately add ground pepper and hot chili sauce into it.  Some commented that there are three stages to eating chili peppers.  The first stage is called “afraid of spicy chili.”  The second stage is called “not afraid of spicy chili.”  The third stage is called “afraid the chili not spicy enough.”  Actually, our taste buds will demand heavier and heavier flavors, which will cause great burdens to our bodyEventually, we will have this or that disease such as high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.  All these chronic diseases are related to eating too much heavy food.  As our taste for flavors is getting stronger and heavier, we lose self-control eventually.  Thus, Mencius said:  “To nourish the mind there is nothing better than to make the desires few[16].”  Here the desires also include the desire for food.



The annotation to Qunshu Zhiyao explained:  “Good taste is a falsehood.  People’s cravings for the five flavors will invoke a falsehood of the tongue and in turn lose the Dao (proper course) of speech.”  Here cravings for the five flavors emphasize the epicurean taste.  Their avarice for good taste will become more demanding; every increment will influence their speech patterns; and eventually they will become very talkative.   We can observe those foodies and will discover that they are especially talkative at dinner tables.  However, one is bound to have a slip of the tongue if one talks too muchAnyways, when the false heart is activated, inappropriate words will come out.  Our covetousness will disturb the tranquil mind.  When the false heart is activated, inappropriate speech such as frivolous, vulgar, and rude words will come out.  More important, the mind also follows speech.  For example, as you are acrimoniously scolding someone, angry speech will make you more enraged, the false heart becomes more agitated and turbulent.



“The mouth is the gate to fortune and calamities,our speech has great impact on our fortune, misfortune, glory, and humiliation.  The ancients cautioned that we must cultivate and foster virtuous speech and never say anything that is inappropriate in order to maintain the purity of our original nature.  In The Book of Change also told us that we can observe people from their speech.  In the Great Treatise II to the Book of Change, it stated:  “The words of a goodlucky man person are few; those of a coarse man mind are many[17].”  People who talk less, constantly nurturing and conserving their energy, honing their strength, discreet in their speech, and prudent in their actions will have less desires, expend less energies, thus do not need to eat much.  In contrast, those who are restless are especially talkative.  It seems like they feel insecure if they do not talk.  The above expounds our sensory of taste.



The chariot course and the wild hunting waste make mad the mind is the next verse in the Fourth Passage.  The wild hunting waste; depicts horse racing and hunting for wild animals. When the horse is in motion, the mind of the rider will not be tranquil.  It will be excited to rambunctiousness.  Besides, the hunted animals all have spirits and killing them will invoke their anger and vengeance.  Their spirits will haunt their killer and wait for the chance to take revengeIt will result in the endless cycle of “an eye for an eye.”  Moreover, when hunting animals, the mind is aroused to slaughtering, which is incompatible to humanity’s compassionate heart. 

Mencius said: “The Superior person keeps away from slaughter house and the kitchen to maintaincomplement his commiserating mindion.”  Why would the superior person distance himself from the kitchen?  It is because the kitchen is the place where small animals are slaughtered.   People will become oblivious to the sight of killing if they have seen too many live animals being killed.  Consequently, their loving-kindness and commiserating feelings will be erodedThus, the Superior person keeps away from slaughter house and the kitchen” to keep their commiserating mind whole.



Taizong of Tang dynasty started out as a military general; therefore, he loved hunting too.  Once he was out hunting and on the way he was caught in a rainstorm and was totally drenched.  At the time he was accompanied by the chancellor of internal affairs, Gu Na-LuChancellor Gu had a nickname called thewalking encyclopedia of the Nine Scriptures” given by Chu Shui-liang, another famous subject of Taizong.  The Thirteen Scriptures (Thirteen Classics[18]) known today were selected and organized during the Song dynasty.  In the early years of Tang dynasty

Library of the Nine Scriptures.  The thirteen scriptures are nominated after Sung dynasty.  In the beginning of Tang dynasty, scholarscholars were required to understand the Ddivision of Sscriptures and the imperial examinations would test on nine scriptures.  The Nine Scriptures includeing the Three Rites and the Three Commentaries.  The Three Rites are:  the Rites of Zhou, Yi-Li (the Book of Rites, Ceremonies and Etiquettes), and the Book of Rites.  The Three Commentaries are: the Commentary of Zuo or the Chronicles of Zuo (Chun-qiu Zuo Zhuan), and the Gongyang Zhuan (Commentary of Gongyang)  and Guliang Zhuan (Commentary of Guliang), which are the Three Commentaries on the Spring and Autumn Annals.   With the addition of the Book of Changes, the Book of Documents, and the Book Classic of Poetry together they constituted the Nine Scriptures.  Since Gu Na-lu was called the “walking encyclopedia of the Nine Scriptures,” he clearly had a thorough understanding of them.



Taizong of Tang asked Gu Na-lu how to make raincoats that can expel rain completely.  Gu Na-lu replied:  “If using roof tiles to make raincoats, they would definitely expel rain without drenching Your Majesty.  How can anyone use roof tiles to make raincoats?  It is impossible.  Besides it will be too heavy and inconvenient to wear such material.  In the Analects, Confucius said: “The superior man uses his ears to hear distinctively (the implied meanings)[19].”   Taizong being a superior man understood the implied meaning of Gu’s reply.  Gu was advising Taizong to refrain from hunting.  If he would not hunt, he would not be drenched by rain.  Taizong was very pleased with his answer and rewarded him with fifty bolts of brocade and a belt decorated with gold.  From this story we can discern that although Taizong loved to hunt but his proficiency in the classics made him understand the detriments of hunting.  Therefore, when the chancellor of Internal Affairs reminded him of the harm, he would gladly accept and exhort subjects to give him good counsel.



Our modern society is relatively more civilized and hunting of wild animals is prohibited in most countries.  Many people commented that children today do not hunt in reality but they hunt in video games.  The majority of these video games have rules for advancement to the next level of the game based on the number of people the player killed.  The result of such killing games is that children at the age of twelve or thirteen will not be terrified after they have killed people.  Their daily killing in video games has made them oblivious and apathetic.  When the police asked them why would they commit such felony?  Their answer was that “the victim will be revived after a while.”  This type of games has severely damaged people’s nerve systems.  Their nerve systems are in disorder.  Thus, those people who designed such games, same as those writing pornography, are perpetrators of abominable sins and their karmic retributions will be horrifying.



The final verse is “objects rare and strange sSought for, men's conduct will to evil change.”  Precious and hard to get things are “objects rare and strange.”  For example, gold, silver, pearls, gems, extinct birds and exotic animals, jade, precious stones, antiques, curios, etc., are all things that will excite the heart.  The phrase “evil change” refers to the detriment to people’s livesWhen people see the above things, their greed will be incited and their whole life will be wasted in the pursuit of satisfying their materialistic desires.  We have seen or heard of people spending all their energies shopping for cars, houses, luxurious items, and eventually neglected to take care of their children and families. Of course, there is no hope for them elevating their spiritualityAs a result, such people will end their lives in tragedy as well.  



Besides the harm to the person, the harm to social morés is also severe.  In Huai Nan Zi (Tthe Philosophers of Haui-Nan)[20], “Placing Customs on a Par” recorded documented a the special characteristic of society in declining times is “treasure exoticexalting goods from afar and treasuringe hard to get riches.”  It means that goods from far away will become stylish, hard to get things will be deemed as precious, and the basic necessities of life will be ignored.  This will result in the decline of the simple, honest, and bonhomie social ambiance in the world; purity and innocence will be treated as stigmas.  People will lose their original nature.



Once the social morés of “treasuring exalting exotic goods from afar and treasuring hard to get riches” are formedestablished, people will rush to purchase them, collect them, and do everything in their power to acquire them.  The result of such phenomena is the rise in theft.  iIn n the Analects, the majordomo (prime minister) of the Duke of Lu, Ji Kang Zi, distressed about the number of thieves in the state, inquired of Confucius how to do away with them[21].  Confucius replied:  “If you, sir, are not covetous, even if they people are rewarded people to steal, they would not do so.”  If the leaders are not covetous of material goods, including such exotic goods and hard to get treasures, even when they reward people to steal, people would not do so.  What the uppers do, the lowers will follow.  Whatever the leaders like, the subordinates will emulate.  If people at the top stress ethical relations and virtuous conducts, people at the bottom of the ranks will focus on personal cultivation.  If people at the top covet hard to get goods, people at the bottom of the ranks will rush to buy them and collect the same.  Therefore, iIn Dao-De Jin, Laozi commented that the sagesaints had said: “I will manifest no ambition, and the people will of themselves attain to the primitive simplicity[22].”  If the leaders are without personal desires, the social morés will naturally become simple, honest, and sincere.



In Qunshu Zhiyao, Shang Shu (the Book of Documents)[23] recorded a story of King Wu of Zhou dynasty.  The country of Xi-Lu paid homage to Zhou dynasty and offered the Tibetan Mastiff, a vicious dog, as a tribute.  Upon hearing this, the grand protector, Duke of Zao, immediately wrote a prose called “Lu’s Mastiff” to remind, advise, and caution King Wu of Zhou.  The prose stated that sagacious rulers in the cultivation of their persons would be prudent in their conducts; thus subjugating foreign states from the four corners of the world to pay tribute to the suzerainty.  Near or far these foreign rulers will offer local products as tokens of their tribute, usually in the form of food, clothing, utensils, etc.  The sagacious rulers will use this opportunity to grant favors to the dukes of nobility so that they will not neglect good governance in their duchy.  They will gift dukes of royalty with precious jade to stress the closeness of kinship.  The dukes would not devalue such gifts because they represent the graciousness of the monarch.  The monarch with sublime virtues will not slight people, or be discourteous.  If the monarch slights people in the leader’s position, they will neglect their duties.  If the monarch slights the common people, they will not be diligent.  ,

Trifling with people destroy one’s virtues.  will  Trifling with hobbies destroy one’s will.  To be successful, one should not spend time in useless pursuits and neglect the important things in life.  Do not exalt exotic things; do not neglect pragmatic things; hence the common people will live in prosperity.  Do not raise dogs and horses that are not indigenous.  Do not breed exotic birds and animals in the state.  Don’t elevate the status of strange and erotic goods; thus people from far away will be subjugated.  Elevate only the status of the sage; thus people close by will feel secure.  From morning till night work diligently.  Careless in the minute details of daily conducts will eventually harm the great virtues. It is like building a nine - ren mountain but

Tlack the last basketful of earth; or one step short of successSincere adherence to these caveats will make the people live in peace forever; and the Sons of Heaven kings in every generation. One step short of success



The ancients had the ability to see a straw shows and know which way the wind blows.”  (From small clues the ancients would know the whole picture or what would happen in the future.)  Seeing the gift of a Tibetan mastiff, the sage would immediately worry King Wu will crave for exotic things and treasure tributes from afar and lose his virtuous conduct.  Right away he wrote this prose to warn the king to

Early detection of evils can prevent insidious destructions. To nip a vice in the bud and to obstruct the insidiousness of evils.




If people spend all their efforts in the pursuit of far away goods, hard to get riches, they will not use their energy to elevate their virtues.  They will even ask you what does “illustrate the illumining virtue” mean?  How does it benefit me?  Of course, any one who can ask these questions are not completely hopeless.  At least they know there is an illumining virtue that needs to be illustrated.  A lot of leaders Llive a befuddled life as if drunk or in a dream; indulge drowned in the midst of desires and the gratification of pleasures; backslidinge into/plunge intoin depravity daily without any awarenessHow can such leaders know to; “illustrate the illumining virtue?



Therefore, a good leader will mobilized the good norms of a society.  The ancients said:  “It is easy to accumulate merits in governmental bureaus.”  Government officials who have wider influence and higher social status have heavier responsibilities.  It will be very easy for them to accumulate merits or, vice versa, create bad karmaFrom the office decorations in Chairman Xi’s office, we can observe that Chairman Xi is in fact leading a good social custom.  The pictures in his office are photos of him with his family.  He advocates family ethics, stresses filial piety, understands loving fathers have filial sons, and emphasizes ethical relations and moral educations.  Especially this year, his office added the volumes of Qunshu Zhiyao, which is best known as the book Chairman Xi loves to read the most.”  This is also guiding us to focus on the study of the canons of the saints and sages; to absorb the excellent teachings and experiences of historical governance.  There are also many files in his office, showing his diligence in governance that Chairman Xi is , Qunshu Zhiyao attending to a myriad of state affairs daily.  There are many photos of him with the people, setting the example for us to become one with the masses, to love the people.  All these are actually setting good social norms.  This is the paradigm of Chairman Xi as a sagacious leader.,



Today’s lesson will end here.  I welcome everyone’s corrections and criticisms due to my insufficiencies.  Thank you all!


[1] Translation by James Legge.   See, http://ctext.org/dao-de-jing


[2] Laozi is a Chinese classic text. According to tradition, it was written around 6th century BC by the sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu,  literally meaning "Old Master"), a record-keeper at the Zhou dynasty court, by whose name the text is known in China. was a sage, philosopher and poet of ancient China. He is the founder of philosophical Taoism, but he is also revered as a deity in religiousTaoism and traditional Chinese religions. Although a legendary figure, he is usually dated to around the 6th century BC and reckoned a contemporary of Confucius.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao_Te_Ching



[3] Confucians considered Zengzi to be his second most senior student, after Yan Hui. Zengzi taught Zisi (Kong Ji), the grandson of Confucius, who was in turn the teacher of Mencius, thus beginning a line of transmitters of orthodox Confucian traditions.  Along with Yan Hui, Zisi, and Mencius, Zengzi is considered to be one of the Four Sages of Confucianism.  He was said to have composed and/or edited the Classic of Filial Piety under the direction of Confucius. He was also associated with transmission of the Great Learning. 

See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zengzi


[5] Reference to translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/liji/da-xue


[6] Venerable Master Hui-neng ( 638–713) was a Chinese Chán (Zen) monastic who is one of the most important figures in the entire tradition, according to standard Zen hagiographies. Hui-neng has been traditionally viewed as the Sixth and Last Patriarch of Chán Buddhism.  The original verse by the Six Patriarch Hui-neng when he became enlightened can be translated as “How amazing our self-nature neither moves nor stays!:  Our original nature is in the absolute, therefore, moving or staying cannot be in the absolute of our self-nature.

See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huineng


[7] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/liji/yue-ji paragraphs 1 and 2.


[8] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/analects/yan-yuan


[9] One of the six great masters of Song dynasty.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheng_Yi_(philosopher)


[10] The five human desires are riches, sexuality, fame, food and drink, and slumber.  See, http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/en/index.php/Five_desires


[11] The six dusts or six perceptions are: color/forms, sound, scents, aroma, tactile sensations, thoughts. 

See, http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/en/index.php/Six_Perceptions


[12] The Revel Bible Dictionary defines "lasciviousness" as "wanton, licentious. The Greek word means unrestrained greed, or an animal-like indulgence in any passionate desire. Lasciviousness appears in several lists of immoral behavior (Mark 7:22; Galatians 5:19). Paul describes its nature well: 'Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality [lasciviousness, KJV] so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more" (Ephesians 4:19).  Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary defines "Lasciviousness" as the "KJV word for LICENTIOUSNESS. In turn, it defines "Licentiousness" as "undisciplined and unrestrained behavior, especially a flagrant disregard of sexual restraints (Mark 7:22; 2 Corinthians 12:21); (lasciviousness, KJV). The Greek word translated as licentiousness means "outrageous conduct," showing that licentious behavior goes beyond sin to include a disregard for what is right."

See, Lewdness (Lasciviousness) by Mayberry, Mark http://www.watchmanmag.com/0405/040518.htm


[13] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/liji/yue-ji, paragraph 6.


[14] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/xiao-jing.  Amplication of the All-Embracing Rule of Conduct in Chapter 1.


[15] The Lü shih ch'un ch'iu is an encyclopedic of Chinese classic text compiled around 239 BCE under the patronage of the Qin dynasty Chancellor Lü Buwei.  It is praised as unique among early works in that it is well organized and comprehensive, containing extensive passages on such subjects as music and agriculture, which are unknown elsewhere.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L%C3%BCshi_Chunqiu


[16] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/mengzi/jin-xin-ii, paragraph 81.


[17] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/book-of-changes/xi-ci-xia


[18] The Thirteen Classics is a term for the group of thirteen classics of Confucian tradition that became the basis for the Imperial Examinations during the Song dynasty and have shaped much of East Asian culture and thoughtIt includes all of the Four Books and Five Classics but organizes them differently and includes the Classic of Filial Piety and Erya, a dictionary and encyclopedia.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteen_Classics


[19] The Analects, the House of Ji, paragraph 10.  See, http://ctext.org/analects/ji-shi



[20] Huai Nan Zi is a 2nd-century BCE Chinese philosophical classic from the Han dynasty that blends the concepts of Daoism, Confucianism, and Legalism, including theories such as Yin-Yang and Five Phases. It was written under the patronage of Liu An, Prince (King) of Huainan, a legendarily prodigious author. The text, also known as the Huainan Honglie 淮南鸿烈 ("The Great Brilliance of Huainan"), is a collection of essays presented as resulting from literary and philosophical debates between Liu and guests at his court, in particular the scholars known as the Eight Immortals of HuainanThe Huainanzi is an eclectic compilation of chapters or essays that range across topics of mythology, history, astronomy, geography, philosophy, science, metaphysics, nature, and politics. It discusses many pre-Han schools of thought (especially Huang-Lao Daoism), and contains more than 800 quotations from Chinese classics.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huainanzi


[21] Refer to translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/analects/yan-yuan, paragraph 18.


[22] Translation by James Legge.  See, http://ctext.org/dao-de-jing, paragraph 57.


[23] The Book of Documents (Shujing, earlier Shu-king) or Classic of History, also known as theShangshu, is one of the Five Classics of ancientChinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China, and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years.  The chapters are represented as records of formal speeches by kings or other important figures.  See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Documents


 [A1]“Color’s five hues can make people blind; music’s five notes can make people deaf; the foods’ five flavors can make people crave; the racing and hunting sports can make the mind mad; rare and precious objects can make men’s conduct evil.”


 [A2]What does it mean? Can’t let go of the friendship, affinity, closeness? 

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