An Exhortation Letter to My Children.
Then you can cultivate yourself.
Then you can nourish your virtues.
This is the way to become a noble-person (君子, Junzi).
Not living a pure and simple life
— you cannot make certain your will.
Not having a quiet and peaceful heart
— you cannot reach afar.
— this requires one to be quiet.
— this requires one to learn.
— your talent cannot be broadened.
Without a firm will
— your learning cannot be accomplished.
Being lazy and lax
— you will not strengthen your spirit.
Being narrow-minded and impetuous
— you will not build your character.
When your age increases with time,
Your mind will fade along with your days.
Your body will wither like a houseplant.
you will be unable to handle your own affairs in the world.
You will just stay in a drab room beset with foul moods.
What else can you do then?
Zhuge Liang (諸葛亮, 181-234 C.E ) was the prime minister of the state of Shu (蜀) in the Three-State period (220-280 C.E) of China. Because of his great accomplishments in politics, military skills, technologies, social management, philosophy and literature, Zhu was commemorated heartedly by later generations of Ru.
This “Exhortation Letter to My Children” was composed at Zhu’s old age. Through plain but profound words, Zhu emphasized the importance of living a simple life for one’s self-cultivation in order to become a learned and talented Ru. Also, he admonishes his children to start this process as early as they can in case the inevitability of aging would not allow them to do so.
Through this letter, we find that the Ruist emphasis upon the “simpleness” of one’s life is all about “focusing,”: focusing upon the right thing, learn and do it persistently, and then, you will be good at it. In Song and Ming Ruism, this Ruist method of self-cultivation urging one to be continually focusing and mindful towards what is right and worthy is nicely captured by one character “敬” – “reverence.”
Translated and Commented by Bin Song; Edited by Andy Linscott.