Setting one’s heart right

When it is said that the will becomes sincere when there is knowledge, the reference is to self-knowledge, and the point is that one who has self-knowledge will not deceive himself about the motives and principles of his actions. Thus it is said, “What is meant by making the will sincere is that one should not deceive himself.”

People should not try to deceive themselves that if they do something in private no one will know and therefore it is all right. The wrong action will be known to the one who commits it immediately, and soon the effects will be known to others as well.

Corruptness of private character does not remain purely private—a person does not live in isolation—but affects, and is affected by, the whole community of human beings.

When someone is upset by worries and cares, or is overcome with passions, his or her heart is disturbed. This person is hardly in a position to make fair and just decisions concerning any matters, personal or public.

When, on the other hand, “the heart is set right,” one avoids the excesses of defects that affect one’s ability to make good decisions. That is why Confucius says, “The cultivation of the personal life depends on setting one’s heart right.”

With the proper attitude toward life a person will remain calm even in joy and sorrow and will be able to live a good personal life.

Koller, John M. Oriental Philosophies. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1970. 273. Print.


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