A letter from Zhuge Liang (a great figure in Chinese military history) to his nephew. I read this in my teens and committed it to memory. It has been a treasure to me that I love to show and share with everyone.
Aspirations should remain lofty and far-sighted. Look to the precedents of the wise. Detach from emotions and desires; get rid of any fixations. Elevate subtle feelings to presence of mind and sympathetic sense. Be patient in tight situations as well as easy one; eliminate all pettiness.
Seek knowledge be questioning widely; set aside aversion and reluctance. What loss is there in dignity, what worry is there of failure?
If your will is not strong, if your thought does not oppose injustice, you will fritter away your life stuck in the commonplace, silently submitting to the bonds of emotion, forever cowering before mediocrities, never escaping the downward flow.
Another letter he wrote to his son reads:
The practice of a cultivated man is to refine himself by quietude and develop virtue by frugality. Without detachment, there is no way to clarify the will; without serenity, there is no way to get far.
Study requires calm, talent requires study. Without study there is no way to expand talent; without calm there is no way to accomplish study.
If you are lazy, you cannot do thorough research; if you are impulsive, you cannot govern your nature.
The years run off with the hours, aspirations flee with the years. Eventually one ages and collapses. What good will it do to lament over poverty?
Now that I am reading these again, I come to realize that these two ancient pieces of writing are possibly the two largest influences on my current thought and direction. I read these before I read the Tao Teh Ching, but the Taoist influences are quite apparent to me now.
I read them, in the form above, in a book called Mastering the Art of War. My intentions were less than noble in reading such books, but the result, now, later in life, has been the complete opposite of what I had intended.
Truth has gravity- even just the reflection of it, in something unrelated, has a pull, and rings clear. I read the Tao Teh Ching and I Ching because of the apparent truth in their principles as mentioned in these books about the conduct of war. The Art of War, Mastering the Art of War, books influenced by Taoism… Reading eastern books about war has led me down a path of peace.
An article about Zhuge Liang can be found here.