CHAPTER 13, SELF-CULTIVATION AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH
PREPARING THE START
If any venture is to succeed, it must begin well. The Oriental
proverb, well begun is half done, describes the theme of the passages in
this section. A good beginning means, first of all, internal preparation.
A person should purify his heart prior to starting any venture;
furthermore, he must steel himself with firm resolution and gather
sufficient means to bear any and all burdens on the way to the goal. This
is practical advice, but it applies especially to activity in the
spiritual quest: It should not be embarked upon lightly or frivolously,
lest the aspirant fall into straits worse than where he was when he
The superior man does not embark upon any affair until he has carefully
planned the start.
Confucianism. I Ching 6: Conflict
Success is the result of foresight and resolution; foresight depends upon
deep thinking and planning to keep your secrets to yourself.
Islam (Shiite). Nahjul Balagha, Saying 46
He who wants to expand the field of happiness, let him lay the foundation
of it on the bottom of his heart.
Taoism. Tract of the Quiet Way
If you do not perceive the sincerity within yourself and yet try to move
forth, each movement will miss the mark.
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 23
One must not stand up and say the Tefillah except in a serious frame of
mind. The pious men of old used to wait an hour, and then say the prayer,
in order to direct their hearts to their Father in Heaven.
Judaism. Mishnah, Berakot 5.1
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I Ching 6: Cf. Great Learning, p. 842. Chuang Tzu 23: Cf. Records of the
Divine Wind, p. 722; Chandogya Upanishad 7.22, p. 201; Sutta Nipata 506,
p. 866. Berakot 5.1: The 'Tefillah' refers to the Amidah, or Eighteen
Benedictions, one of the central daily prayers of Judaism. Cf. Berakot
30b, p. 829.
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Before you climb a tree you must start at the bottom.
African Traditional Religions. Buji Proverb (Nigeria)
Check the edge of the axe before splitting wood.
African Traditional Religions. Njak Proverb (Nigeria)
The superior man gathers together his weapons in order to provide against
Confucianism. I Ching 45: Gathering Together
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and
count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he
has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to
mock him, saying, "This man began to build, and was not able to finish."
Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down
first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him
who comes against him with twenty thousand?
Christianity. Luke 14.28-31
A ship, which is not well prepared, in the ocean
Goes to destruction, together with its goods and merchants.
But when a ship is well prepared, and well joined together,
Then it does not break up, and all the goods get to the other shore.
Just so a bodhisattva, exalted in faith,
But deficient in wisdom, swiftly comes to a failure in enlightenment.
But when he is well joined to wisdom, the foremost perfection,
He experiences, unharmed and uninjured, the enlightenment of the Jinas.
Buddhism. Verses on the Perfection of Wisdom which is the
Storehouse of Precious Virtues 14.7-8
Woodworker Ch'ing carved a piece of wood and made a bell stand, and when
it was finished, everyone who saw it marveled, for it seemed to be the
work of gods or spirits. When the Marquis of Lu saw it, he asked, "What
art is it you have?" Ch'ing replied, "I am only a craftsman--how would I
have any art? There is one thing, however. When I am going to make a
bell stand, I never let it wear out my energy. I always fast in order to
still my mind. When I have fasted for three days, I no longer have any
thought of congratulations or rewards, of titles or stipends. When I have
fasted for five days, I no longer have any thought of praise or blame, of
skill or clumsiness. And when I have fasted seven days, I am so still
that I forget I have four limbs and a form and body. By that time, the
ruler and his court no longer exist for me. My skill is concentrated and
all outside distractions fade away. After that, I go into the mountain
forest and examine the Heavenly nature of the trees. If I find one of
superlative form, and I can see a bell stand there, I put my hand to the
job of carving; if not, I let it go. This way I am simply matching up
'Heaven' with 'Heaven.' That's probably the reason that people wonder if
the results were not made by spirits."
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 19