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  • Writer's picture山水闲人Jane

Cultivating Grace and Composure through the Principles of "Four No's"

Living with Magnanimity and Composure



Modern individuals often criticize Confucius, not only him but also other ancient sages, contemporary figures, and those around them. This attitude of skepticism and overturning everything is quite alarming. Professional jealousy, mutual exclusion, and mutual defamation are common occurrences throughout history and across cultures.


The wisdom and classics handed down by ancient sages have remained unchanged for thousands of years. We should carefully study and contemplate them. Confucius possessed many virtues, including the crucial principle: "Abandon the Four No's: No presumption, no insistence, no rigidity, and no selfishness." Achieving these in practice is challenging and represents the cultivation and conduct of a sage, sounding easy but daunting in reality.


Let's start by examining the concept of "no presumption" ("毋意"). It refers to opinions, and "no presumption" means refraining from subjective judgments and hasty expression of one's opinions about people or matters. This is a common flaw among ordinary people. As the saying goes, "Everyone talks behind others' backs." People tend to criticize and gossip about others. This tendency is deeply ingrained, with individuals often considering themselves right and forming fixed opinions as they age. Achieving absolute objectivity is challenging, but as the ancients said, "With deep knowledge, emotions become calm." Those with high cultivation and profound knowledge naturally exhibit a calm temperament.


"No insistence" ("毋必") signifies not viewing the development of events and one's expectations as definite. This aligns with the wisdom found in the I Ching, emphasizing the constant change in all things. Flexibility and adaptability are essential in our actions. Recognizing and understanding the patterns of change, both in societal progress and personal emotions, is crucial for harmonious coexistence with family and friends.


"No rigidity" ("毋固") is straightforward: avoid stubbornness. It's challenging to remain humble, open-minded, and willing to listen to others' opinions regardless of their correctness. Confucius exemplified humility, always willing to listen and learn from others. Recognizing that everyone is a potential teacher, he stated, "In the company of three, there must be one I can learn from. Select the good and follow it; identify the bad and amend it." Adopting a humble attitude allows one to learn from others' strengths and improve upon one's weaknesses.


"No selfishness" ("毋我") is the most challenging. It urges individuals to consider others in all matters and contemplate situations from their perspective. Constantly thinking of others is, in essence, taking care of oneself. This selflessness is the practice of sages, often misunderstood by ordinary people. The Dao De Jing explains this concept: "The eternal Tao does not seek personal gain, yet it nurtures and sustains all things. The sage, in the same way, places himself last but finds himself first." Aligning with the selfless principles of nature, sages, by forsaking the ego, ensure the best arrangement for their own existence.


From childhood, we learn the opening sentence of the Analects: "To learn and at due times to repeat what one has learned, is that not a pleasure?" The emphasis here is on practical application. Utilizing acquired knowledge and theories in daily life and experiencing the subtleties of this wisdom can bring profound joy. If we truly understand the meanings behind the wisdom and theories left by the ancient sages and apply them daily, we can continuously remind and uplift ourselves, enhancing our cultivation and morality. With a broader and more composed mind, we can navigate life with greater ease.

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