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Master Cheng said, "The Great Learning is a posthumous work of Confucius and a book for novices who aspire to be virtuous. Only through this book were we able to know our forefathers' order of learning. Starting with this book, and then followed by the Analects of Confucius and Mencius, beginners can not go wrong in their order of learning.
The Great Learning
The way of the great learning is to rid oneself of selfish desires and develop further one ' s inherent virtues. One should not only develop his own inherent virtues further, but should encourage all persons to do so also. Only then is it possible to reach the acme of perfection. Once the acme of perfection is attained, is a man able to set the orientation of his ambitions. After setting his orientation, he will not waiver in his ambition and will be satisfied with his position. Satisfied with his position, he can ponder well. Being able to ponder well, he will be able to achieve all he wants. All things have their important and unimportant aspects; all events have their start and finish. If one knows the order of priority, he is not far from the way of the great learning.
In ancient times, one who intended to carry forward all the inherent virtues in the world and to rid them of material desires had to first rule his state well. To rule his state well, he had to first educate his family. To educate his family, he had first to cultivate himself. To cultivate himself, he had first to set his heart right. To set his heart right, he had first to be sincere and honest. To be sincere and honest, he had first to perfect his knowledge and the perfection of his knowledge depended on his investigation of things.
It is only when one is able to investigate things that knowledge can be perfected. It is only when one's knowledge is perfect that one can be sincere and honest. It is only when one is honest and sincere that he can set his heart right. It is only when the heart is set right that a man can educate his family. It is only when his family is educated that he can rule the state. It is only when the state is ruled that the world can be governed well. From emperor to the common people, self cultivation is the base. If the base is in disorder, is it possible to rule well the state which is at the end of the order of priority? No, it is impossible. It is not right to take what is unimportant as important and vice versa.
© 2000 Copyright by Han M. Stiekema. All rights reserved.