OF MINDS & MEN : On Universal History & The Creation of Aristocratic Men (part IV of IV)

Parts I, II & III have been published on this platform respectively on December 9, 2023; December 14, 2023 and December 21, 2023.

*** Part I ***

OF MINDS & MEN : On Universal History & The Creation of Aristocratic Men (Part I of IV)

*** Part II ***


*** Part III ***

OF MINDS & MEN : On Universal History & The Creation of Aristocratic Men (part III of IV)

*** Part IV ***

Before going to paragraph 12.1, I want to state again that 礼 (Li3) translated usually as ‘Rituals’, when comprehensively grasped, is the appropriate behavior in a specific existential situation because of the right inner understanding coming from the achieved or advanced epistemological endeavor in a given human being.


Yan Yuan asked about 仁 (Ren2).

The Master said: CONQUER YOURSELF & RETURN TO 礼 (Li3) : THAT IS REN. If a person could conquer himself and return to 礼 for a single day, the World would respond to him with 仁. Being 仁 proceeds from oneself, how could it come from others ?

Yan Yuan said: May I ask for details of this ?

The Master said: If it is not 礼, don’t look at it; if it is not 礼, don’t listen to it; if it is not 礼, don’t say it; if it is not 礼, don’t do it.

Yan Yuan said: Although I am not quick, I ask to apply myself to it.

It is obvious for me that ‘Conquer yourself’ refers to the epistemological Journey, to the different types of learning. Learning information, learning skills including social skills, but the ultimate in learning is Being intimately woven with Becoming. Being eternally, unwaveringly Present through the Time flow of Becoming.

This paragraph is special because all the other numerous attempts to define 仁 in the Analects are epistemologically complex, even conceptually contradictory and frankly voluntarily multi-directional allowing a rich discussion on the central theme of the School of the Scholars. Not a bad attitude for sure but here Confucius offers a short and surgical statement, as if winking to the people of the future generations, at least to those who read the whole ANALECTS attentively & capable of appreciating his tongue in cheek humor …

PARAGRAPH 15.24 The Silver Rule

Zigong asked: Is there a single saying that one may put into practice all one’s life ?

The Master said: That would be ‘reciprocity’: that which you do not desire, do not do to others.

The Chinese character 恕 (Shu4) that Professor Robert Eno translated as ‘reciprocity’ can also be understood as ‘consideration for others’.

PARAGRAPH 14.34 The Bronze Rule or the Common Sense Rule

Someone said: To employ virtue to repay resentment, how would that be ?

The Master said: What, then, would you employ to repay virtue ? Employ straightforwardness to repay resentment; employ virtue to repay virtue.


The Master said: The wise are not confused, the 仁 ( Ren2) are not beset with cares, the valorous are not fearful.

For the attentive readers of the whole Analects & of the epistemological appendix of the I Ching, the Ten Wings 十 翼 (Shi2 Yi4), this paragraph is about The Upper Trigram, Lines 6-5-4 (Truth-Goodness-Beauty in Timelessness. Wisdom : Valor & Humanity : Justice in Time).

Wisdom 智 (Zhi4) is 知 (Zhi1), the intellect made with an arrow (left component of 知), meaning physical skills combined with a mouth (right component of 知, the small rectangle), meaning verbal and conceptual skills AND enlightened with the 日 Sun of the Absolute as the Foundation, R.I.G.P.A. : R.eal I.nner G.rounded unwavering P.ure A.wareness. IN ONE WORD, BEING. That something that remains unchanged and always present through all the bodily, emotional and conceptual experiences of our life in Time. That something is the Presence of Timelessness (RIGPA) in our life in Time. Someone living with RIGPA at the center of his life in Time can never be confused.

As already discussed, 仁 (Ren2) is ‘to conquer yourself & return to 礼 (Li3). Someone having conquered himself, meaning deeply seeing to the dark recesses of “his” PERSONALITY given to him by the Society and having developed his INDIVIDUALITY (doing his things, so to speak) and then reached to the Sun of the Absolute or BEING is simply not beset with cares because those anxieties come from the past memories having crystallized, those crystallized memories (good & bad) make the Personality [Per Sona : by (Per) all the inner ‘Sona’ meaning sounds/voices (memories) coming from the others, the social masks].

‘Fearful’ here is not the natural fear when in presence of a potentially lethal clear danger. ‘Fearful’ here is cravenness, lack of determination for doing what is right because the Timeless Forms of Beauty has not been kindled thus there is no inner sense of Justice in Time. For those having Beauty, they are naturally not fearful.


This paragraph is the twin of 9.29 but expressed with more words and offering apparently an easier alternative but is it really a lower alternative or it’s yet another illustration of Confucius’s particular sense of humor ? …

Zilu asked about the complete man.

The Master said: If he were as wise as Zang Wuzhong, as free of desire as Gongchuo, as valorous as Zhuangzi of Bian, as accomplished in the arts as Ran Qiu and patterned with 礼 (Li3) and music besides,then he may be called a complete man.

He added : But for someone to be deemed a complete man nowadays, what need does he have for all this ? If, seeing profit, his thoughts turn to what is right, and, seeing danger, he is ready to risk his life, and if he can long endure hardship without forgetting the teachings that have guided his ordinary life, he may indeed be deemed a complete man.


Zilu asked about the Junzi 君 子.

The Master said: Cultivate in yourself respectful attentiveness.

Zilu: Is that all there is to it ?

The Master: Cultivate yourself to bring comfort to others.

Zilu: Is that all there is to it ?

The Master: Cultivate yourself to bring comfort to the people. Cultivating oneself to bring comfort to the people, even Yao and Shun themselves would fall short of that.

Yao & Shun were sages having lived practically 2000 years before Confucius (551-479 BCE). They were examplars of perfect virtue.

This paragraph is about the great foundation of the epistemological Journey as expressed by the 3 Guiding Principles in the Great Learning 大 学 (Da4 Xue3) written by Zeng Shen 曾 参 (Zeng1 Shen1, 505-435 BCE), a direct student of Confucius :

1- MAKE YOUR INNER VIRTUE BRIGHT. Same meaning when Confucius said : Cultivate in yourself respectful attentiveness. That respectful attentiveness is the INNER VIRTUE or what I call, driven by my idiosyncratic proclivity for coining acronyms, RIGPA : The Real Inner Grounded unwavering Pure Awareness.

In a nutshell: Cultivate yourself. The 8 steps from The Great Learning :

A. Put order in your affairs (practical organization of a healthy life)

B. Extend your knowledge & understanding

C. Are you really sincere about your intention going on the epistemological Journey ?

D- Ready to balance your Mind ? The six layers of the Mind present and in Harmony

E- Cultivate yourself (This step is simply a statement summarizing A to D)

F to H are the 3 circles of relations where you can practice your Mind and Self-Cultivation

F- Put order to your family.

G- Assist in the governance of the State

H- Bring peace to the World


Cultivate yourself to bring comfort to others : Put order in your family

Cultivate yourself to bring comfort to the people. This circle includes everyone : Assist in the governance of the State & Bring peace to the World.


Live your life driven by the highest aspirations and abiding in the highest SELF-IMAGE, a DIVINE SELF-IMAGE. As Socrates (469-399 BCE), before dying, reminded kindly all of us at the end of the Phaedo : Take care of your SELF.

Confucius’ (551-479 BCE) words are :Cultivate your SELF. Cultivate your SELF to bring comfort to others. Cultivate your SELF to bring comfort to the people, even Yao 尧 Yao2 (2324-2255 BCE) and Shun 舜 Shun4 (2294-2184 BCE) themselves would fall short of that.

Above has been explained the endeavor of the aspiring Junzi 君 子, the aspiring aristocratic man.


The Master said: How straight Shiyu is. When the Dao 道 (Dao4) prevails in the state, he is like an arrow; when the 道 does not prevail, he is like an arrow. A Junzi 君 子 !

With Qu Boyu, when the 道 prevails in the state, he serves; when the 道 does not prevail, he can roll it into a ball and hide it by his heart.

Some gentlemen keep the same public behavior even at the risk of losing their life when the 道 does not prevail in the state. It’s Shiyu’s case. But other gentlemen might choose not to be anymore involved, for the time being, when the 道 does not prevail in the state. It’s Qu Boyu’s case. Let’s keep our minds open to different individual choices.


The Master said: To fail to speak with someone whom it is worthwhile to speak with is to waste that person. To speak with someone whom it is not worthwhile to speak with is to waste words. The wise man wastes neither people nor words.

No comment needed.


The Master said: The gentleman who is resolute and Ren 仁 (Ren2) does not seek to live on at the expense of 仁, and there are times when he will sacrifice his life to complete 仁.

Ren 仁 (Ren2): Timeless Form of Goodness, it means that at this fifth stage, The Timeless Form of Beauty (fourth stage) is also present. Cardinal Virtues of Valor/Enthusiasm & Moderation/Humanity, also inner sense of Justice : the inner engines of the aristocratic man.


Zigong asked about Ren 仁 (Ren2)

The Master said: The craftsman who wishes to do his work well must first sharpen his tools. When you dwell in a state, serve those of its grandees who are worthy men, befriend those of its gentlemen who are 仁.

This paragraph definitely stresses the vital importance of the right role models in our life.


The Master said: The Junzi 君 子 (Jun1 Zi3) is not a vessel.

The Junzi is not a tool. He has learned some skills obviously but his reality is the Face the Whole gave him before his parents were born. HIS REALITY IS BEING, NOT UTILITARIAN, even if he might be sometimes, in certain circumstances, be useful and willing to be helpful.


The Master was striking stone chimes in Wey 衛 (Wey4).

A man passed by his gate, shouldering baskets hung from a pole. He said : What heart there is in the playing of these chimes !

Then he said : How uncouth, this clanking ! If none recognize you, then simply give up.

* When it’s deep, you wade straight through; when it’s shallow, you lift your skirts *

The Master said: Is it really so ? There’s nothing hard in that.

A first layer of interpretation would propose that Confucius said to the man essentially the following : it’s in my nature to keep on; there’s nothing hard in that. It’s not entirely wrong to think so but there is a deeper reading of the vignette.

The passerby, in a nutshell, told Confucius to relinquish his aspirations. He suggested to Master Kong that if the society does not acknowledge him, just be relaxed with that, don’t be sad and just go with the flow. The ditty in the paragraph 14.39 is just perfect for conveying that mentality : ” WHEN IT’S DEEP, YOU WADE STRAIGHT THROUGH, WHEN IT’S SHALLOW, YOU LIFT YOUR SKIRTS “, meaning you will get wet anyway because the waters are deep or when it’s shallow, you have the option to lift your skirts. So go with the very down-to-earth reality; don’t fight either to be completely uplifted epistemologically or translating that Mind epistemological lifelong endeavor into lasting politico-socio-economic transformations. Just be clever enough or streetsmart enough to look for the signs of the times or the zeitgeist and go with them.

This sketch evokes uncannily the metaphor of the platform Plato used in his dialogue ‘The Republic’ showcasing the moment of our personal adventure, when we are unshackled within the Animal Kingdom (stage 3 of the epistemological development) and invited by the plutocrats (stage 2 of the epistemological development) to join them on the platform playing with the puppets creating Shadows on the Wall for mesmerizing the democratic men still shackled to the senses-perceptions. What is understood as Daoism (pronounced Taoism, the pin-yin transliteration system is not friendly-user for the Westerners because it’s not based on the phonetic values they’re used to; one needs to learn the new phonetic values of the pin-yin system, eg D=T) in the West is basically expressed by the aforementioned ditty. In any time, for any average person, epistemologically speaking, living anywhere in the World, it’s tantamount to an invitation to laziness, flippancy, irresponsibility and mediocrity.

With that background, Confucius’ reply is much more valuable, even heroic. Confucius said: IS IT REALLY SO ? THERE’S NOTHING HARD IN THAT.

There is nothing valuable to stay ONLY in the Animal Kingdom (The Lower Trigram) and not making the needed efforts and even sacrifices, to go to the Timeless Reality (The Upper Trigram). Confucius invited everyone to go deeper notwithstanding social success or social failure. That’s not the criterion. THE CRITERION is true Self-Knowledge, SELF-Knowledge. REMEMBERING UNWAVERINGLY THAT YOUR TRUE FACE IS THE FACE GIVEN TO YOU BY THE WHOLE BEFORE YOUR PARENTS WERE BORN. REMEMBERING YOUR ORIGINAL FACE, YOUR FACE FROM THE SOURCE, FROM THE TIMELESS REALITY.

Confucius (551-479 BCE) : Cultivate your SELF (Analects)

Socrates (469-399 BCE) : Take care of your SELF (Phaedo)

For the last section of my piece, I will simply write down nine paragraphs having more to do with socio-political considerations, thus ending logically my disquisition on the axio-epistemo-political endeavor, A NOETIC MACHINE HAVING ITS ENGINES IN THE CLASSICAL EDUCATION FOR CREATING ARISTOCRATIC MEN, whom PRESENCE is the absolute vital ingredient for establishing The Everlasting Civilization, within which Might serves Right and Justice is intimately nested with Power.


The Master said: Exemplary sayings, can one fail to follow them ? YET IT IS ADAPTING THEM THAT IS IMPORTANT. Lessons of obedience: can one fail to approve them with pleasure ? YET IT IS APPLYING THEM TO FIT THAT IS IMPORTANT. Those who approve without fitting and follow without adapting, I can do nothing with such people.

PARAGRAPH 13.3 正 名 : Zheng Ming (Zheng4 Ming2) : Rectification of Names.

Zilu said : If the ruler of 衛 Wey were to entrust you with GOVERNANCE of his state, what would be your FIRST PRIORITY ?

The Master said : Most certainly, IT WOULD BE TO RECTIFY NAMES.

Zilu said : Is that so ? How strange of you ! How would this set things right ?

The Master said : What a boor you are, 由 (You2) ! [由 was his given name. Zilu his aristocratic name used in society]. A Junzi 君 子 keeps silence about things he doesn’t understand. If names are not right then speech does not accord with things; if speech does not accord with things, then affairs cannot be successful; when affairs are not successful, 礼 (Li3) and music do not flourish; when 礼 (Li3) and music do not flourish, the sanctions and punishments miss their mark; when sanctions and punishments miss their mark, the people have no place to set their hands and feet. Therefore, when a Junzi 君 子 gives things names, they may be properly spoken of, and what is said may be properly enacted. WITH REGARD TO SPEECH, THE JUNZI 君 子 PERMITS NO CARELESSNESS.

PARAGRAPH 13.23 Harmony, not conformity

The Master said : The Junzi 君 子 acts in harmony with others but does not seek to be like them; the small man seeks to be like others and does not act in harmony.

君 子 和 而 不 同 : Jun1 Zi3 He2 Er2 Bu4 Tong2.

The gentleman interacts harmoniously with all but does not conform.


The Master said : The Junzi 君 子 gets through to what is exalted; the small man gets through to what is base.

To “get through” can be understood as ‘to master a topic, a skill’ but also ‘to gain access to power holders’.


The Master said : Without anticipating that others are being deceptive, WITHOUT GUESSING that they will not keep faith, YET TO SENSE THESE THINGS IN ADVANCE, is that not what being worthy 贤 (Xian2) is about ?


The Master forbade four things : One must not act on guesses; one must not demand absolute certainty; one must not be stubborn; one must not insist on oneself.

The capacity of living with an unpredictable environment and not going down the primrose path of wild guesses just to placate our Mind but staying with a balanced rationality, reassessing constantly the situation & considering new factors, is certainly a major quality. The major quality of seeing uncertainties as such and not imposing on them a fake explanation or a favorable interpretation not buttressed by facts.


Zilu asked about serving the spirits.

The Master said : While you are yet not able to serve men, how could you be able to serve the spirits ?

Zilu : May I ask about death ?

Master Kong : When you do not yet understand life, how could you understand death ?


Zizhang asked Confucius : What must a man be like before he may participate in governance ?

Confucius said : If he honors the five beautiful things and casts out the four evils, then he may participate in governance.

Zizhang said : What are the five beautiful things ?

The Master said : The Junzi 君 子 is generous but not wasteful, a taskmaster of whom none complain, desirous but not greedy, dignified but not arrogant, awe-inspiring but not fearsome.

Zizhang said : What do you mean by generous but not wasteful ?

The Master said : To reward people with that which benefits them, is that not to be GENEROUS BUT NOT WASTEFUL ? To pick a task that people can fulfill and set them to it, is that not to BE A TASKMASTER OF WHOM NONE COMPLAIN ? IF ONE DESIRES REN 仁 (Ren2) AND OBTAINS IT, WHEREIN IS HE GREEDY ? If he never dares to be unmannerly, regardless of whether with many or a few, with the great or the small, is that not BE DIGNIFIED BUT NOT ARROGANT ? When the Junzi sets his cap and robes right , and makes his gaze reverent, such that people stare up at him in awe, is this not, indeed, to BE AWE-INSPIRING BUT NOT FEARSOME ?

Zizhang said : What are the four evils ?

The Master said : To execute people without having given them instruction is called CRUELTY; to inspect their work without warning is called OPPRESSIVENESS; to demand timely completion while having been slow in giving orders is called THIEVERY; to dole out stingily what must be given is called CLERKISHNESS.

Ren 仁 (Ren2) is the central Idea of Confucianism having been playfully explored in many passages of the Analects. One possible, not comprehensive naturally, ‘operational definition’ for 仁 and implicit in my favorite English translation for 仁, Perfect Humanity, is the following : Perfect Humanity will be unveiled in real human interactions when you’re capable, in a group, to intuitively sense the needs, the desires, the aspirations, the skills but also the character defects and weaknesses (in 3 words, the epistemological stage) of each member of the group and how to gather, combine them together to the satisfaction of all or almost all, for the common endeavor. So Ren has a lot to do with leadership.

When you interpret people’s words, is it for ensnaring them & manipulating them or for trying to understand them and yourself, your SELF ?



2 Responses to “OF MINDS & MEN : On Universal History & The Creation of Aristocratic Men (part IV of IV)

  • Marcella
    4 months ago

    Simply Beautiful Teaching Kwan
    Thank you

    • Kwan Lee
      4 months ago

      Thanks Marcella. I’m grateful that you read the four parts of my piece and were kind enough to leave a comment for each part.

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