Ancient Cultivation Stories: Strength Comes from Having No Desires

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One day, when teaching his students, Confucius1 could not help but sigh, "I have not yet seen a truly strong person."

His young students felt strange about these words because they thought students like Zilu and the young Shen Cheng had strong willpower. In particular, Shen Cheng, though very young, would never compromise easily. Even around his elders and fellow students, Shen Cheng would not hide his tough attitude. Everyone gave in to him to a certain extent.

So, when the students heard Confucius sighing about having never seen a truly strong person, they all responded spontaneously, "If you're going to talk about strength, Shen Cheng should deserve this title."

Confucius said, "Shen Cheng has many desires. How can he be called strong?"

A student asked, "Shen Cheng does not look like a greedy person. How could Teacher say that he has many desires?"

Confucius replied, "So-called 'desires' do not necessarily mean craving for money. To put it simply, a selfish thought that makes one struggle to have an advantage over others is a desire. Although Shen Cheng is upright, he is fond of gaining superiority, and often becomes sentimental easily. This in itself is a kind of desire. How could a person like him be called strong?"

Confucius continued, "So-called ‘strength’ does not mean gaining superiority; instead, it is the strength to forbear. Only if one controls his desires, never goes against the ways of heaven, is consistent in his mind, and does not change his principles easily, can he be called truly strong."

From Lun Yu2


Notes:

1. Confucius (551 – 479 BC) was a famous Chinese spiritual Master. His teachings about morality have deeply influenced East Asian life and thought for two thousand years.

2.. Lun Yu, or Analects of Confucius are a record of the words and acts of the Chinese Sage and Saint Confucius and his disciples, as well as the discussions they held. The Chinese title of Lun Yu literally means "Sayings of Confucius".

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