Gong Sun Chou asked Mencius, saying, 'Master, if you were to be appointed a high noble and the prime minister of Qi, so as to be able to carry your principles into practice, though you should thereupon raise the ruler to the headship of all the other princes, or even to the royal dignity, it would not be to be wondered at. In such a position would your mind be perturbed or not?'
Mencius replied, 'No. At forty, I attained to an unperturbed mind.'
Chou said, 'Since it is so with you, my Master, you are far beyond Mang Pan.'
'The mere attainment,' said Mencius, 'is not difficult. The scholar Gao had attained to an unperturbed mind at an earlier period of life than I did.'
Chou asked, 'Is there any way to an unperturbed mind?'
The answer was, 'Yes. Bei Gong You had this way of nourishing his valour: He did not flinch from any strokes at his body. He did not turn his eyes aside from any thrusts at them. He considered that the slightest push from any one was the same as if he were beaten before the crowds in the market-place, and that what he would not receive from a common man in his loose large garments of hair, neither should he receive from a prince of ten thousand chariots. He viewed stabbing a prince of ten thousand chariots just as stabbing a fellow dressed in cloth of hair. He feared not any of all the princes. A bad word addressed to him be always returned. Meng Shi She had this way of nourishing his valour: He said, "I look upon not conquering and conquering in the same way. To measure the enemy and then advance; to calculate the chances of victory and then engage - this is to stand in awe of the opposing force. How can I make certain of conquering? I can only rise superior to all fear." Meng Shi She resembled the philosopher Zeng. Bei Gong You resembled Zi Xia. I do not know to the valour of which of the two the superiority should be ascribed, but yet Meng Shi She attended to what was of the greater importance. Formerly, the philosopher Zeng said to Zi Xiang, "Do you love valour? I heard an account of great valour from the Master. It speaks thus: 'If, on self-examination, I find that I am not upright, shall I not be in fear even of a poor man in his loose garments of hair-cloth? If, on self-examination, I find that I am upright, I will go forward against thousands and tens of thousands.' Yet, what Meng Shi She maintained, being merely his physical energy, was after all inferior to what the philosopher Zeng maintained, which was indeed of the most importance.'
Gong Sun Chou said, 'May I venture to ask an explanation from you, Master, of how you maintain an unperturbed mind, and how the philosopher Gao does the same?'
Mencius answered, 'Gao says, "What is not attained in words is not to be sought for in the mind; what produces dissatisfaction in the mind, is not to be helped by passion-effort." This last, when there is unrest in the mind, not to seek for relief from passion-effort, may be conceded. But not to seek in the mind for what is not attained in words cannot be conceded. The will is the leader of the passion-nature. The passion-nature pervades and animates the body. The will is first and chief, and the passion-nature is subordinate to it.
'Therefore I say, Maintain firm the will, and do no violence to the passion-nature.'
Chou observed, 'Since you say "The will is chief, and the passion-nature is subordinate," how do you also say, "Maintain firm the will, and do no violence to the passion-nature?"'
Mencius replied, 'When it is the will alone which is active, it moves the passion-nature. When it is the passion-nature alone which is active, it moves the will. For instance now, in the case of a man falling or running, that is from the passion-nature, and yet it moves the mind.'
'I venture to ask,' said Chou again, 'wherein you, Master, surpass Gao.' Mencius told him, 'I understand words. I am skilful in nourishing my vast, flowing passion-nature.'
Chou pursued, 'I venture to ask what you mean by your vast, flowing passion-nature!'
The reply was, 'It is difficult to describe it. This is the passion-nature: It is exceedingly great, and exceedingly strong. Being nourished by rectitude, and sustaining no injury, it fills up all between heaven and earth. This is the passion-nature: It is the mate and assistant of righteousness and reason. Without it, man is in a state of starvation. It is produced by the accumulation of righteous deeds; it is not to be obtained by incidental acts of righteousness. If the mind does not feel complacency in the conduct, the nature becomes starved. I therefore said, "Gao has never understood righteousness, because he makes it something external." There must be the constant practice of this righteousness, but without the object of thereby nourishing the passion-nature. Let not the mind forget its work, but let there be no assisting the growth of that nature. Let us not be like the man of Sung. There was a man of Sung, who was grieved that his growing corn was not longer, and so he pulled it up. Having done this, he returned home, looking very stupid, and said to his people, "I am tired to-day. I have been helping the corn to grow long." His son ran to look at it, and found the corn all withered. There are few in the world, who do not deal with their passion-nature, as if they were assisting the corn to grow long. Some indeed consider it of no benefit to them, and let it alone - they do not weed their corn. They who assist it to grow long, pull out their corn. What they do is not only of no benefit to the nature, but it also injures it.'
Gong Sun Chou further asked, 'What do you mean by saying that you understand whatever words you hear?'
Mencius replied, 'When words are one-sided, I know how the mind of the speaker is clouded over. When words are extravagant, I know how the mind is fallen and sunk. When words are all-depraved, I know how the mind has departed from principle. When words are evasive, I know how the mind is at its wit's end. These evils growing in the mind, do injury to government, and, displayed in th government, are hurtful to the conduct of affairs. When a Sage shall again arise, he will certainly follow my words.'
On this Chou observed, 'Zai Wo and Zi Gong were skilful in speaking. Ran Niu, the disciple Min, and Yan Yuan, while their words were good, were distinguished for their virtuous conduct. Confucius united the qualities of the disciples in himself, but still he said, "In the matter of speeches, I am not competent." Then, Master, have you attained to be a Sage?'
Mencius said, 'Oh! what words are these? Formerly Zi Gong asked Confucius, saying, "Master, are you a Sage?" Confucius answered him, "A Sage is what I cannot rise to. I learn without satiety, and teach without being tired." Zi Gong said, "You learn without satiety - that shows your wisdom. You teach without being tired - that shows your benevolence. Benevolent and wise - Master, you ARE a Sage." Now, since Confucius would not allow himself to be regarded as a Sage, what words were those?'
Chou said, 'Formerly, I once heard this: Zi Xia, Zi You, and Zi Zhang had each one member of the Sage. Ran Niu, the disciple Min, and Yan Yuan had all the members, but in small proportions. I venture to ask, With which of these are you pleased to rank yourself?'
Mencius replied, 'Let us drop speaking about these, if you please.'
Chou then asked, 'What do you say of Bo Yi and Yi Yin?'
'Their ways were different from mine,' said Mencius. 'Not to serve a prince whom he did not esteem, nor command a people whom he did not approve; in a time of good government to take office, and on the occurrence of confusion to retire - this was the way of Bo Yi. To say "Whom may I not serve? My serving him makes him my ruler. What people may I not command? My commanding them makes them my people." In a time of good government to take office, and when disorder prevailed, also to take office - that was the way of Yi Yin. When it was proper to go into office, then to go into it; when it was proper to keep retired from office, then to keep retired from it; when it was proper to continue in it long, then to continue in it long - when it was proper to withdraw from it quickly, then to withdraw quickly - that was the way of Confucius. These were all sages of antiquity, and I have not attained to do what they did. But what I wish to do is to learn to be like Confucius.'
Chou said, 'Comparing Bo Yi and Yi Yin with Confucius, are they to be placed in the same rank?'
Mencius replied, 'No. Since there were living men until now, there never was another Confucius.'
Chou said, 'Then, did they have any points of agreement with him?'
The reply was, 'Yes. If they had been sovereigns over a hundred li of territory, they would, all of them, have brought all the princes to attend in their court, and have obtained the throne. And none of them, in order to obtain the throne, would have committed one act of unrighteousness, or put to death one innocent person. In those things they agreed with him.'
Chou said, 'I venture to ask wherein he differed from them.'