On Aspiration

Li Jian

PureInsight | June 5, 2006

[PureInsight.net] Our
forefathers paid great attention in holding firmly to their goals
throughout their lives. Zhuge Ling, the famed counselor of Liu
Bei, a lord during the Three Kingdoms period, said, "By having a lofty
goal, one can overcome difficulty or one's own weakness at present and
proceed toward the established goal." Time and time again, our
forefathers climbed high mountains in order to look far and express
their lofty ambitions. Confucius climbed the East Mountain and realized
his country, Lu, was small. When he climbed Mount Tai he realized that
the world was small. Only by standing high can one see far-off. Only by
holding high aspirations and putting aside temporary losses or gains,
can one ultimately achieve grand inspiration.

Confucius said, "Whoever seeks knowledge should aim for benevolence and
righteousness. If one is ashamed of poor food or clothing, then one is
not worthy for a discussion on this matter."

Our forefathers also said, "Be happy to lead a simple life." Confucius
once sighed with regret, "A man with noble character seeks Tao, not
food," and "A noble person worries about Tao, not being poor." Yan
Yuan, the student that Confucius was the most proud of, was happy to
lead a simple life and concentrate on being a diligent scholar.
Confucius frequently praised him and said, "He (Yan Yuan) has only a
basket for holding cooked rice, one dipper for drinking water and lives
in a crude and run down house. Yet he has never lost his sense of joy
while seeking the Tao."

"Lunyu," in the Analects of Confucius,
states, "One who seeks knowledge should be steadfast and carry on the
quest with strong determination. It is because he has great
responsibility and needs to walk far." The statement was made by Ceng
Can, a student of Confucius. He explained his idea by saying, "It is
one's own responsibility to bring humanity to the world. Isn't this a
major undertaking? One needs to make great effort until he dies. Isn't
the course very remote? Among Confucius's students, Ceng Can was always
thought of as having an easygoing temperament. However, his words on
the subject were both forceful and piercing, and expressed his
persistent pursuit of ideal morals and characters.

Zhuge Ling once said, "A person should have broad determination. If one
is not quiet in mind with few desires, he cannot establish firm and
broad aspirations. If one cannot expel distracting thoughts, he won't
be able to plan far ahead." He used these words to teach his son often. They are regarded as the paradigm for cultivating one's
moral character.

A person blinded by greed is unable to have very lofty aspirations. If
one's mind is restless, he will not be able to have penetrating
insights. Only people who are indifferent to fame and wealth can have
lofty aspirations. Only by having a calm mind can one have deep
insights. Noble ideas take one far away from worldly greed. Deep
insights often come from quiet minds. A noble personality has to be
sustained by normal emotions and has to be pursued and refined
unceasingly amidst tranquility, without seeking fame and wealth.

Our forefathers said: "Where there's a will there's a way" (from Gengyan Biographies,
the Later Han Dynasty (947-950)). That is not to say one can just sit
back and wait for success once he has established a high aspiration.
Success requires unremitting effort besides determination. Without
making efforts toward achieving the goal, a high aspiration is only a
castle in the air. Jian Zhen, an eminent monk in the Tang Dynasty, took
a sea-voyage eastward to Japan to spread Buddhist dharma. His first
five attempts resulted in hardship and failures. But he didn't give up
and finally reached Japan in his sixth attempt. Eventually established
the School of Vinaya in Japan.

Su Shi, a famous writer during the Song Dynasty, once said, "To
accomplish an important event, it is essential to have both talent and
willpower." There are many adages that encourage people to have high
aspirations from childhood. For example, one adage says, "Success goes
to the determined person regardless of age, and it is futile to live to
be hundred years old without aspiration." Ma Yuan, a famous general in
the Han Dynasty said he had no great ambition in childhood but he
exerted himself with the idea of "the greater the adversity, the
stronger the will, gaining vigor with age." During numerous battles, he
established illustrious military successes.

Establishing a long-range ambition is very important for a person. But
the ambition must conform to morality and justice. Otherwise, the
person is unlikely to have a high moral realm.

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