Mencius: One Prospers in Calamities and Perishes in Comfort

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The philosopher Mencius told people in 300 BC that one prospers during calamities and hardship and that one perishes when living at ease and comfort. However, in modern days, people tend to be led by inertia and laziness. People try to seek pleasure and escape from suffering, and thus they live a life in vain.

Mencius said that when Heaven is about to confer great responsibilities to a man, the individual must learn about suffering and physical hardship, be exposed to hunger and poverty, and experience disorder in his life. All these methods stimulate the mind, harden the nature, and develop his great potential.

Mencius believes that humans make mistakes but can correct themselves based on past experience. When they are distressed and perplexed, they will rise and achieve great accomplishments.

When men have seen, heard about, and experienced hardship, they can understand and rise to new heights. Hardship and calamity help one develop great skills and abilities, while ease and comfort have the opposite effect.

In modern China, because of the improvement of material benefits, many people have not experienced hardship, especially those who grew up under the one-child policy. These children have gradually developed selfishness and a domineering character.

In many people’s minds, pursuing pleasure and happiness is the primary aim of human life. They want to reap without sowing and pursue overnight success and extreme luxury. Many young people are not willing to work hard and complain a lot about their lot in life. They feel resentful whenever they encounter a little difficulty in life, refuse to excel in the workplace, and feel that they have been taken advantage of by others.

Hardship is not a bad thing, as one can develop a strong will, and it can strengthen one’s mind and help one succeed. In fact, most things that are good for people are less comfortable. For instance, morning exercises and other sports are tiring, but they are good for one’s health.

Strict supervisors may not be pleasing but can help subordinates develop efficiency. Good medicine tastes bitter because it results in a cure, and unpalatable advice helps people see their faults and do things better.

People have karma, which leads to hardship. Enduring the hardship can eliminate karma. If a person has never endured hardship but only enjoys happiness, the outcome will probably be the opposite.

「Eliminating the calamity earlier, curing the illness earlier, and enduring the hardship earlier」 is a good thing.

Ancient Chinese Government Officials From Humble Backgrounds

According to Mencius, in the chapter of Gaozi II, Mencius spoke of Emperor Shun, one of the ancient Five Emperors. He was discovered while working on a farm.

Fu Yue was promoted from a laborer skilled in building defensive walls to the position of a government minister in the Shang Dynasty.

Jiao Ge was a fish and salt trader before he became a Grand Counselor during the Shang Dynasty under King Zhou.

Guan Yiwu, also called Guan Zhong, became a famous prime minister under Duke Huan of Qi. He became a prime minister after he was released from prison. He was known for his reforms and skillful diplomacy.

In the Spring and Autumn Period, Sunshu Ao became the well-known prime minister of the Hegemony of Chu. He was a hermit before he was selected to serve the country.

Baili Xi was a slave who later became a very important minister under Duke Mu of Qin.

生於憂患 死於安樂

孟子於公元前三百多年時就告誡人們:生於憂患,死於安樂。但現代人往往任由惰性主導,貪圖享樂而逃避苦難,結果錯失人生。

據《孟子·告子下》記載,上古五帝之一的舜是從農耕的田野中被發現的,殷商時期著名賢臣傅說是從泥水匠中被選拔出來的,周文王推薦給紂王的重臣膠鬲是從魚鹽販子中被選拔出來的,鮑叔牙推薦給成為齊桓公重臣的管夷吾是從獄官手裡釋放出來加以任用、成為中國歷史上著名宰相的,春秋時期楚國名相孫叔敖是從隱居的海邊被提拔上來的,秦穆公手下的賢臣百里奚是從奴隸集市場被贖出後加以重用的。

孟子說,上天將要降臨重大責任在這個人身上,一定要先使他的內心痛苦,使他的筋骨勞累,使他經受飢餓而體膚消瘦,使他缺乏錢財、受貧困之苦,使他所行不順、做事錯亂,用這些來使他的內心受到震撼,使他的性格堅韌,增長他過去所沒有的才能。

孟子認為,人常常犯錯誤,這樣以後才會改正;心意困惑,思慮堵塞,然後才能奮發;(心緒)顯露在臉色上,表達在聲音中,才能被人瞭解。憂慮患害使人發展,安逸享樂使人滅亡。

現代中國,由於物質條件提高了,很多人幾乎從出生就沒吃過甚麼苦,大多數獨生子女更是在蜜罐中長大的,逐漸的養成了自私、霸道、強勢的性格,更不懂得「生於憂患,死於安樂」的道理。在很多人的觀念當中,追求享樂是理所當然的,錯把「不勞而獲」、「一夜成名」、「窮奢極欲」等當成價值取向。很多人年紀輕輕就不願努力付出,而且還愛抱怨,生活中遇到點苦難或者工作上稍微多做點事就開始憤憤不平,覺得自己吃了很大的虧。

其實吃苦並非甚麼壞事。從現實上說,苦難可以磨鍊一個人的意志,使之內心變得堅強、能夠成事。

事實上真正對人有益的事情,多半都是不太讓人舒服的。例如,晨練等運動雖然辛苦,但卻可以讓身體健康;上司對下屬嚴厲讓人心有不快,但卻可以培養人做事嚴謹高效的習慣;良藥苦口利於病,忠言逆耳利於行。

再往深層去探討,人是有業力的。有業力就有苦難,人在吃苦時就可以消業。如果一個人活在世上只是享福而從不吃苦,結局多半會很糟糕的。說句笑話,「有難早消,有病早治,有苦早吃」,是好事不是壞事。

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