The Tract of the Quiet Way
For seventeen generations I have been incarnated as a high mandarin, and I have never oppressed my people nor maltreated my subordinates. I have helped them in misfortune; I have rescued them from poverty; I have taken compassion on their orphans; I have forgiven their transgressions; I have extensively practised secret virtue which is attuned to heaven above. If you are able to keep your hearts as I have kept mine, Heaven will surely bestow upon you blessings. Therefore, these are the instructions I declare unto mankind:
He who wants to expand the field of happiness, let him lay the foundation of it on the bottom of his heart.
Practise benevolence wherever you find an opportunity, and let your deeds of merit be unheeded (yin).
Benefit all creatures ; benefit the people.
Practise goodness: acquire merit.
Be honest like Heaven in conducting your affairs.
Compassionate and auspicious, the state government must be devoted to the salvation of the people.
Let your heart be impartial and wide of range.
Fulfil the four obligations ; impartially observe the three doctrines.
Be faithful and reverential to the ruler. Be filial and obedient to parents. Be congenial and friendly to brothers. Be sincere in your intercourse with friends.
By discoursing on morality and righteousness, convert both the cunning and the dull. By preaching on the canonical books and histories, enlighten the ignorant and the benighted.
Relieve people in distress as speedily as you must release a fish from a dry rill [lest he die]. Deliver people from danger as quickly as you must free a sparrow from a tight noose.
Be compassionate to orphans and relieve widows. Respect the old and help the poor.
Promote the good and recommend the wise. Be lenient with others and exacting with yourself.
Save your clothing and provisions that ye may befriend the hungry and cold on the road.
Give away coffins and cases lest the dead of the poor be exposed.
Build charitable graveyards for unclaimed corpses.
Establish philanthropic institutions for the education of children.
If your own family is well provided, extend a helping hand to your relatives. If the harvest fails, provide for and relieve your neighbors and friends.
Let measures and scales be accurate; and be neither chary in selling nor exacting in buying.
Treat your servants with generosity and consideration. Do not expect perfection nor be too strict in your demands.
Publish and make known sutras and tracts. Build and repair temples and shrines.
Light lanterns in the night to illuminate where people walk. Keep boats on rivers to ferry people across.
Buy captive animals and give them freedom.
How commendable is abstinence that dispenses with the butcher!
While walking be mindful of worms and ants.
Be cautious with fire and do not set mountain woods or forests ablaze.
Do not go into the mountain to catch birds in nets, nor to the water to poison fishes and minnows.
Do not butcher the ox that plows thy field.
Do not throw away paper that is written on.
Do not scheme for others’ property.
Do not envy others’ accomplishments.
Do not approach thy neighbor’s wife or maids.
Do not stir thy neighbors to litigation.
Do not injure thy neighbor’s reputation or interest.
Do not meddle with thy neighbor’s conjugal affairs.
Set not, for personal malice, brothers at variance with one another.
Set not father and son at variance for trifles.
Never take advantage of your power, nor disgrace the good and law-abiding.
Presume not, ye that are rich; nor deceive the needy and suffering.
Live in concord with your relatives and clansmen.
Let go hatred and forgive malice.
Those that are good, seek ye for friends; that will help you to practise virtue with body and soul. Those that are wicked, keep at a distance; it will prevent evil from approaching you.
Pass in silence over things wicked, but promulgate all that is good.
Always have in mind helpful sayings.
Do not use improper language.
Cut the brambles and thorns that obstruct the highway. Remove bricks and stones that lie in the path.
Repair the defiles though for many hundred years they have remained unimproved.
Build bridges to be traversed by thousands and ten thousands of people.
Expound moral maxims to correct the people’s faults.
Supply the means to give instruction to people of talent.
Let your work conform to Heaven’s reason, and let your speech express humaneness.
Keep the ancient sages before your eyes even when at supper or while looking over the fence.
Be mindful when you are alone in the shadow of your coverlet.
Anything evil refrain ye from doing; all good deeds do! So will you be released forever from the influence of evil stars, and always be encompassed by good guardian angels.
Rewards may be immediate, and you will receive them in person, or rewards may be remote, and will devolve upon your posterity.
Blessings come a hundredfold in loads as if drawn by horses; good fortune is piled up a thousandfold like a mass of clouds.
Do not all these things accrue to the heart of the quiet way?
Yin Chih Wen
The Tract of the Quiet Way
Teitaro Suzuki and Paul Carus
[Some commentary and footnotes removed]