“Even the most confused and obfuscated person is able to wake up and clear his head well when examining the faults of others. And a very intelligent person becomes rather silly when excusing for his own mistakes. Therefore, if one could rebuke oneself the way he/she rebukes others and excuse others the way that he/she forgives himself, one could very easily become wise.”
This paragraph is part of the legacy of Fan Chunren (1027-1101), the second son of Fan Zhongya (notable writer in Chinese history) and an important figure in the political sphere during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279). But beyond politics, Fan stood out for leaving rich teachings about living by high moral standards.
Noticing his wisdom, many asked Fan for guidance on how to conduct himself and how to relate to others in a good way. He once said, “Only humility can harbor a sense of honor and modesty, and only forgiveness can bring forth benevolence and virtue.”
Fan was a spiritual cultivator. Every day, after working in the government office, he would change his clothes and dress up in a simple way. He was never annoyed with food and always maintained this way of being no matter what social rank he had.
In personal relationships, people in ancient China educated their children to be strict with themselves and forgive others. As a bricklayer of this tradition, Fan taught his children and students that the key to keeping morale high and gaining virtue is to “criticize himself in the way that flaws are found in others, and forgive others as we apologize to ourselves.”
Today, it seems difficult to put this sort of philosophy into practice. People tend to see the world according to their own dissatisfaction, conjuring feelings of sadness and discomfort, followed by annoyance and anger. Often the response is to start blaming and censoring others.
Often, we argue great principles to cover our own shortcomings. When we see faults in others, at that moment we turn a blind eye to our own faults and then feel good. But in this way, one’s own morality and behavior fall, wisdom and the person, in their entirety, become smaller, and a general feeling of unhappiness grows without one even knowing why.
The way to raise wisdom and approach happiness more effectively is to cultivate virtue, and the first step is to identify one’s own deficiencies. When a conflict or difficulty appears, try looking inside before looking outside and criticizing or blaming others to see what you find. If you can do this daily, your morals will rise and influence others in a positive way, you will constantly accumulate virtue, and your wisdom will be expanded.
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