Decoding the Principles of the Universe
Zhang Hongbao’s Tianhua Philosophy
The Law of Mutual Promotion,
Inhibition, and Counterbalance of Five Elements
---- A New Approach to the Theory of Five Elements
Author: Zhang Hongbao
Notes, Volume 2 of the periodical Anthology of Tianhua Literature]
The law of mutual promotion, inhibition, and counterbalance of five elements (abbreviated below as “the law of five elements”) is the second great law of the universe as explicated in Tianhua philosophy. The law of five elements unfolds a macroscopic classification, categorization, integration of all the things in the universe, as well as laws governing their interrelations, mutual promotion and inhibition, and cyclical movement. The phenomena expounded in the law of five elements are ubiquitous in life. This law provides us with practical strategies and tactics. The law of mutual promotion and inhibition and the law of counterbalance involve various methods of promotion and inhibition in running a country, an army, or a family. Although the examples given are from rulers and generals, but a leader at any level can benefit from learning and adopting these methods. The philosophy of life as expounded by the theory of promotion, inhibition and counterbalance is universally beneficial.
Having originated but distinguishable from the traditional theory of five elements, the law of five elements has developed the traditional theory.
Mr. Zhang Hongbao’s book The Law of Mutual Promotion, Inhibition, and Counterbalance of Five Elements-- A New Approach to the Theory of Five Elements is divided into two parts.
Part One � From a brand new perspective, the law of five elements introduces the connotations and origins of “the five elements.” The macroscopic taxonomy of the universe presents, for the first time, a cogent and laconic explication of the genesis and order of the universe, providing the readers with a clear view of the position and practical significance of the concept of five elements, which has a history of thousands of years, in the universe as a whole.
In the first part, Mr. Zhang Hongbao presents a brief but revealing sketch of the whole process of the genesis and operation of the universe. The modern theory of big bang depicts the genesis of the universe in a big explosion, while the ancient Chinese view of the universe depicts the primal scene of the universe. However, nobody in ancient times or in modern age has been able to explain why the universe came into being and what caused the big bang. What were the internal law and the dynamic that caused the big bang? Mr. Zhang Hongbao, the founder of Tianhua culture, in his seemingly easy-going conversations, gave his readers a telling glimpse of the mystery of the universe. It is really amazing.
In the first part, in a language that is easily accessible to modern people, Mr. Zhang Hongbao gives a succinct explanation about some essential issues: what is Tao? What are its characteristics and features? What is the relationship between “Tao,” “rationality,” and “science”? How is Tao related to yin and yang and to the five elements? Which contains which? Which is superior to which? He pointed out what is the “one” in “Tao begets one” and what is the “two” in “one begets two.” Most importantly he unveiled a mystery that had frustrated us for thousands of years: the “three” in “two begets three” is the “five” in “the five elements”! “Three begets all things” refers to the genesis of all things of five elements. This is truly ingenious!
On the basis of his discussion of the characteristics and features of the five elements, Mr. Zhang Hongbao also put forward the theories of sub-categorization and category change. By doing this he abandoned the rigid, restricting framework of the traditional theory of the five element, made the taxonomical methodology even more flexible, and instilled new life into the traditional theory of the five elements.
After reading the first part, the reader will feel as if the spring thunders were gathering their momentums and the time will soon arrive for the Chinese culture to greet its renaissance.
The second part � “mutual promotion, inhibition, and counterbalance of the five elements,” explicates the inner connections, mutual relations and interactions among all the things in the universe as well as six sub-laws. While the first part lets us understand what is “Tao” and “five elements,” the second part not only leads us to a better understanding of “Tao” but also teaches us how to follow “Tao” and applies “Tao.” Mr. Zhang Hongbao’s exposition does not sound too abstract, transcendental, esoteric, and irrelevant for ordinary people to understand; his discussion are specific, concrete, substantial, and vivid. It reveals truths that we have not been exposed to before and makes these truths so applicable to our daily lives. The theories of mutual promotion, inhibition and counterbalance in the law of five elements are permeated with the light of wisdom and strategies. It is by his successful application of such wisdom and strategies that Mr. Zhang Hongbao established thousands of enterprises which were supported by eight major domestic bases, converted thirty million people as his disciples, and opened the mainland market of 1.2 billion people, accumulated a huge amount of resources and expanded his influence overseas. Mr. Zhang enjoys a great esteem because of the successful leadership he has provided for the thousands of enterprises and his thirty million disciples.
A close look will make us see the connection between Mr. Zhang’s success and the strategies and tactics that have been referred to above. Undoubtedly, the leasers who are engaged in the political and military endeavors and the competitions of the modern markets will benefit from these strategies and prevail in their causes. “Listening to one of your lectures is more valuable than spending ten years in school.” The Tianhua culture established by Mr. Zhang Hongbao has provided spiritual food for mankind.
The law of mutual promotion, inhibition and counterbalance of the five elements (abbreviated below as “the law of five elements”) originated from the traditional Chinese theory of five elements, but it is not simply a reiteration of the traditional theory. It is rich, contemporary fruition of the giant philosophy tree of the five elements.
As the second great law of the universe as explicated in the Tianhua philosophy, the law of five elements unfolds the classification, category, and integration of all things in the universe, as well as the laws covering the inner connections among different things, the various ways of mutual promotion, inhibition, and counterbalance, the control within the system, check and balance, and cyclical movement. The law of five elements is the kinetic model of the universe and an important speculative methodology. The theory of mutual promotion, inhibition, and counterbalance contains the quintessence of speculative methodologies of systemization, control, and dissipation.
One. “Five” and “Xing” (elements) in the Law of Five Elements
(1) The Content
To classify all the things in the universe is a basic method of thinking in our research. The “five” in the five elements is a number used by the ancient sages in their classification of the universe. The “five” refers to the categories of five major properties that all things in the universe belong to: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. But how did these five major categories come about?
Let’s first try to get familiar with some basic information about the macroscopic taxonomy of the universe as explicated by the Tianhua culture. The macroscopic taxonomy of the universe is a study of the laws of various levels during the whole process of the universe, including pre-genesis, post genesis, and extinction. The macroscopic taxonomy of the universe classifies the universal laws into six levels: the first level is “the grand system;” the second level is “system;” the third level is “order;” the fourth level is “class;” the fifth level is “subject;” and the sixth level is “study.” The sequence is as follows: the grand system, systems, classes, categories, families, and studies.
“The grand system” includes the whole cycle: the primal conditions of the universe, the genesis of the universe, the present state of the universe, the final phase of the universe, and the relapsing stage of the universe. “The grand system,” as the first level, studies “Tao,” the general law of the Big Way, or the grand law. The grand law includes the laws of various levels.
“System” is focused on the law governing the conditions at the genesis of the universe and thereafter, i.e. the law governing the cyclic movement, ever renewal, mutual promotion and inhibition, and mutation of the universe under the constraint of the grand law.
The first and second levels expound on the general laws.
“Order” is focused on the full-dimensional law governing the universe after its genesis, i.e. the basic law of the universe, or the basic law of yin and yang, which expounds on the mutual derivability, interaction, opposition, connection, and transformation between yin and yang matters.
“Class” is focused on the laws governing the operation and change of things within the five dimensions of the universe (length, width, height, time, and space). In the space-time of five dimensions, there are three horizontal levels, i.e. three worlds; there are five vertical classes, i.e. at every level of the space-time, there are five classes of thing with the same or similar properties or characteristics: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal.
The third and fourth levels expound on classes and categories.
“Subject” is focused on research of each category of things. The subject of the research and the laws it expounds on are those within the three-dimensional world. Subjects can be roughly divided into subject of theories, subject of applications, and subject of humanities. In fact, “one hundred subjects” can be reduced to these three subjects. This is the fifth level.
The sixth level, “study,” refers to the learning under each “subject,” such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geography, biology, music, physical education, art, literature, history, philosophy, agriculture, forestry, cattle farming, sideline agriculture, fishing, industry, commerce, soldiery, as well as a growing number of marginal majors and industries. A “study” is focused on the law governing an individual discipline, relations and interactions between disciplines.
The fifth and sixth levels expound on scientific principles.
According to the macroscopic taxonomy, the law of mutual promotion, inhibition, and counterbalance of five elements belongs to the level of “class.”
It is easier for us to gain an understanding of the law of mutual promotion, inhibition, and counterbalance of five elements if we approach it from the perspective of the multi-dimensional universe based on the macroscopic taxonomy. A good understanding of the various levels above the level of “class,” we can have a more comprehensive and contextual observation of the universal law.
First, let’s take a look at the first level, “the grand system.” At this level, the subject of our study is “Tao.”
What is Tao? Tao is the progenitor of nature and the source of the universe. The rationale of Tao that is accessible to mankind is the rationale of the Big Way. The rationale of the Big Way is the general law of nature, or the general law of the universe. The rationale of the Big Way contains the laws (rules); laws are embodied in the rationale, and the rationale is embodied in the laws.
Tao has the following features: it is so big that it is all inclusive and so small that it has no interior; it is extremely simple and extremely subtle at the same time; it is mysterious, borderless, and amorphous.
Tao has the following characteristics: contentment, void, quietness, passivity, naturalness, purity, unpretentiousness, simplicity, and peacefulness. The Big Way is like water.
The functions of Tao: It begets and determines all things. Tao resides in matter, and matter resides in Tao.
The content of Tao is the various laws and methods relating to everything that it contains. The thinking and behaviors that are compatible with Tao is moral, and the rationale that is compatible with Tao is truth. For thousands of years, people have been seeking the Truth in order to obtain freedom, but we have ignored the fact that the truth resides among us. Truth can be divided into various levels, and there are relative truths in different levels. The totality of countless relative truths is the rationale of the Big Way.
In the macroscopic taxonomy of the universe, Tao is regarded as “the grand system.”
Laotsu said that “Tao begets one, one begets two, two begets three, and three begets everything in the universe.” What does one in “Tao beget one” refer to? Tao is in an eternal, spiral, and cyclical movement. Determined by its eternal laws, when its movement arrives at a certain phase, its energy reaches high intensity. The people with super-functions whose heavenly eyes have opened are able to observe with their heavenly eyes that the energy of high intensity gathers itself into an egg-shaped entity of chaos. This egg-shaped entity is the primal condition prior to the genesis of the universe. We call it “the egg of chaos.” “The egg of chaos” is an ocean charged with energy, with yin and yang undistinguishable from each other, in a state of void. This entity of void is what Laotsu called “one.” In the terminology of the macroscopic taxonomy of the universe, its is called “system.”
Then what is “two” in “one begets two”? What is the source of this “two”? What is the position of “two” in the macroscopic taxonomy of the universe? Tao operates according to its own internal laws in an eternal, cyclical movement, but every phase of this movement has its own characteristics and features. “Being is born out of nothingness.” In its primal condition, the entity of Tao derived from Tao is an ocean of energy in the form gas. By the employment of super-function, one can observe that it is cold. Its temperature and properties are similar to water. During the process of its movement, the law of mutual promotion pertaining to the watery properties determines that it will give rise to status bearing characteristics of wood, so the egg of chaos during its movement gradually acquires the properties of wood. When it continues in its movement and it wood nature begins to transform into the status of fire.
“The egg of chaos” changes from cold to warm and then to heat. When the temperature keeps rising and reaches a certain extent, “the egg of chaos” begins to develop and expand. When the expansion reaches its peak, a big explosion occurs. In 1948, a scientist Carmov published The Theory of the Explosion of the Overheated Universe and expressed the view that twenty billion years ago, as a result of the big bang, the universe began to have time and space. The accomplishment of modern Western astronomy corroborates the rationale of ancient Chinese theory about the genesis of the universe and the order of the universe. After the explosion of “the egg of chaos,” from the body of Tao emerged yin and yang matter: the pure yang ascends and becomes the heaven, while the impure yin descends and becomes the earth. Thereafter, the body of Tao begins to exist in the form of matter, and the various laws of Tao also begin to penetrate into various dimensions of the material world, moving from the original “collective responsibility system” under the dominance of Tao to a system of “individual responsibility” that operates respectively in each dimension. The opening up and division of heaven and earth result in the formation of earth, which has the properties relating to cultivation and regeneration. The state of earth continues in its movement forward and gives rise to metal, which in turn causes the matter of gas congeal into dew, so resulting in water Hence begins the eternal cyclical movement.
The yin and yang matter that comes into being as a result of the big bang that initiates the cyclical movement is what we refer to as “two” in “one begets two.” In the terminology of macroscopic taxonomy of the universe, it is called “order.” Everything in the universe is composed of two orders (kinds) of matter: yin and yang.
Then what is “three?” And how does “three” come into being? What does it belong to in the framework of the macroscopic taxonomy of the universe? The integration of yin matter and yang matter in different space-time intersection results in different plural materials, referred to as plural matters. All plural matters are lives, and lives are classified into three levels, i.e. the lives of the three-dimensional world (the world of desires), lives of the four-dimensional world (the world of color), and lives of the five-dimensional world (the world of non-color). In these worlds of three levels exist more than 100 kinds of elements of yang matter. These elements in their numerous arrangements and formations integrate with yin matter at different space-time intersections to constitute all the things in the world of plural matters. All these things can be reduced to five fundamental categories: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. That is to say, the plural matters of these five categories constitute everything in the universe. In macroscopic taxonomy of the universe, the “five” of “the five major categories” belongs to the level of “class.” The “grand system” is “Tao,” the “system” is “the egg of chaos,” the “order” is the two kinds of matters of yin and yang, and the “class” refers to the five major categories of matter in the universe.
Five categories are the “three” that Laotsu referred to in his theory of the genesis of the universe. That three begets everything means that all things in the universe belong to these five categories.
Mankind has been looking for the fundamental truth. The mysterious theory of five elements originated from the simplest facts, but after enhanced induction and abstraction, the essence of the theory, transcending the five basic elements of water, wood, fir, earth, and metal, embraces the five major categories of properties and characteristics. Water, wood, fire, earth, and metal are only symbols for things belonging to these five categories of properties. Everything in the universe derives from the matter ascribable to one of these five basic properties, which in turn originate from the two basic matters that can be traced to the primordial body of chaos that is begotten by “Tao.”
Modern science has long held the view that the world of matter is composed of more than one hundred of various elements. In the past two decades, however, some physicists have come to realize that this confusing range of matter is composed of just a few basic particles. A European particle physics laboratory invested one billion dollars in designing a machine called “super electron particle accelerator;” American scientists in Stanford, California, led by a Nobel Prize winner Barton Weicheter, also built an innovated particle accelerator called Stanford linear accelerator and invested one hundred and fifteen million US dollars in the construction of Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. These two research institutions took advantage of these two super-size particle accelerators in their researches and found out that the universe is composed of three basic matters. Physicists have classified these basic particles into three different categories. In its brilliant achievements, modern physics is approaching the fundamental truth of the universe � the universe is composed of matters of various properties that can be reduced to five basic categories. Although there is a long way to go, but fortunately the first step has been taken. We believe that, with the development of modern science and technology, we can obtain evidence that shows the accomplishments of the human civilization of the previous cycle or some fundamental truths passed on to inspire the human beings by some super-advanced lives.
Probing through the enclosing fog of a mysterious universe, modern science has begun its search for the basic categories of the matter that constitutes all the things in the universe. But what are the natural properties of these categories? Modern science has not transcended its microscopic experiments to engage itself in a comprehensive contemplation.
(2) Properties, Characteristics, and Classification of the Five Elements
Everything has its properties and characteristics. Categorization or classification can only be based on a mastery of things’ properties and characteristics.
What are the properties of the five elements?
The characteristics of the property of water: moving downward, cold, humid, and covert; the characteristics of the property of wood: vitality, smoothness, adjustability; the characteristics of fire: aspiration, prosperity, lushness, and heat; the characteristics of metal: inhibition, austerity, latency, and tranquility; the characteristics of earth: cultivation, endurance, acceptance, and nourishment.
The properties and characteristics of the five elements are divided into the standard status, sub-status, and changing status. The standard status is the typical status of the five elements or the features of the five elements; the sub-status is the atypical status of the five elements; the changing status is the special features of the five elements in change or genesis. The feature statuses of the five elements are the status of water, the status of wood, the status of fire, the status of earth, and the status of metal.
Concerning the properties of the five elements, the traditional theory of five elements offered a supplementary categorization in terms of qi, taste, color, sound, season, and orientation. For instance, water is stipulated as cold in qi, salty in taste, black in color, six in music notation scale in sound, winter in season, and north in orientation. Wood is windy in qi, sour in taste, blue in color, three in music notation scale, spring in season, and east in orientation. Fire is hot in qi, bitter in taste, red in color, five in sound, summer in season, and south in orientation. Earth is humid in qi, sweet in taste, yellow in color, one in music notation scale in sound, summer in season and middle in orientation. Metal is dry in qi, pungent in taste, white in color, two in music notation scale in sound, autumn in season, and west in orientation.
The mastery of these five major properties and characteristics will enable us to conduct direct categorizations and indirect conjectures about things around us. In this respect, Chinese medicine has been quite successful in the classification. Chinese medicine has classified the five inner body organs, five sense organs, limbs, and body liquids according to the five categories of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal in its illustration of their biological functions. For instance, the liver belongs to the category of wood. The wood is inclined towards straightforwardness, adjustability, and expansion upwards and outwards. By the same token, the liver enjoys smoothness of temper and easy-going temperature and abhors depression and melancholy. It has the biological function of promoting openness and preventing stagnation. Therefore, the liver has the properties of wood. The stomach (along with the spleen) works on water and grain, provides nutrition for the inner organs and limbs, and supplies energy for qi and blood; since earth has the properties of being simple and kind, everything in the world depends on it for sustenance and livelihood. Therefore, the stomach has the properties of earth. This classification enables us to find out the inter-relation between the inner organs, which will benefit the diagnoses and treatments of diseases and facilitate biological and psychological adjustment and harmony.
The typical properties are water, wood, fire, earth, and metal, but there are countless things that have atypical properties. Therefore, in our classification, we can put those things that possess typical properties into the five categories, those without the standard properties into the five sub-categories, and those that have been transformed from standard categories and sub-categories into the five transformed categories.
The key to the classification of the five elements is flexibility and analogy. Everything that possesses the properties of the standard, sub-standard, and changing categories of water can be ascribed to the category of water; Everything that possesses the properties of the standard, sub-standard, and changing categories of wood can be ascribed to the category of wood, and so on.
(3) The Theory of Sub-Categories and Transformed Categories
We have brought up the concepts of sub-categories and transformed categories in the previous section. This section will further elucidate on the definition and classification method of sub-categories and transformed categories.
There are many things in the universe that cannot be classified according to the standard five categories. For instance, the theory of five elements has five colors for the five categories, but actually in our daily lives there are seven common colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. In addition, there are countless shades of colors that we can concoct. The theory of five elements also five notes in the music notation scale: 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6, but in fact we now use the scale of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. This scale is not compatible with the traditional scale of five notes. There are many similar phenomena like this, including the social field. According to the stipulations of the theory of five elements, all things should be subjected to the framework of five factors before they can be interpreted or managed, but in fact the political systems in many countries nowadays are based on the check and balance of three branches of government, instead of five branches. The traditional theory of five elements is facing a serious challenge.
The theory of five elements needs further development. The result is the advent of sub-categories, transformed categories, and the various laws dealing with different situations that are introduced in Part Two.
Sub-categories are relative to standard statuses in standard categories. The things that possess the typical properties or characteristics of the five categories are things that belong to standard categories. The things that are not in the standard status but possess properties or characteristics that are very close are placed in sub-categories.
The transformed categories derive from standard categories and sub-categories. The transformation can be either a change in category or a mixed category. Change in category refers to a new thing that comes into being through a reform, innovation, or change of something the standard category or sub-category. Change in category can be divided into abrupt change or gradual change, through a violent means or through peaceful evolution. Change in category often results in something that possesses ambivalent properties or characteristics. But generally speaking, they can be classified into a major category. A mixed category is a third category that results from the interaction between two categories. The intercourse of a donkey and a horse may produce a mule, which is a mixed category.
After the explication of the classification of the five elements, combined with the basic law of yin and yang as well as the various laws applicable to various situations that are to be introduced in Part Two, it is easier for us to apply the theory of five elements with flexibility.
(4) The Content of “Xing” (Element)
In ancient times, the character “xing” is used interchangeably with the character “yun.” For instance, in The Internal Canon of Medicine, “the five xing” is used interchangeably with “the five yun,” for the two characters both have the connotations of movement or operation. In the traditional theory of five elements, you cannot talk about “the five elements” by separating the two characters. All references to “the five elements,” especially in all tables of the five elements, the two characters are always used together as one entity. In fact, this reference to the classification is not correct. “Five” and “xing” (element) are two separate concepts. “Five” refers to the five major categories, while “xing” refers to movement, change, cycle, and operation. The two concepts should not be confused with each other.
“Five xing (element)” is the cyclical operation of things of the five major categories according to their internal laws.
TWO. Mutual Promotion, Inhibition, and Counterbalance of the Five Elements
The law of five
elements expounds on the way in which, things are connected to and interact on
each other, on the general internal order and exigent special order, and on how
we should design and execute control and balance within the system, how we
should master the nature of mutual promotion, inhibition, counterbalance, and
cyclical movement of things in general. There are six sub-laws involved here:
the law of mutual promotion and inhibition, the law of vicissitude, the law of
counterbalance, the law of multi-dimensional situations, the law of trend and
potential, and the law of transmitted change.
(One) The Law of Mutual Promotion and Inhibition
The interaction between yin and yang gives rise to the five elements. The interaction among the five elements gives rise to all things in the universe. The interaction among things in the universe gives rise to countless changes, and the countless changes involve countless impacts. Then, what is the most fundamental method of impact? According to our ancient sages, it is promotion and inhibition. How a laconic summation! It tells us once again that truth is always simple.
The notion of promotion and inhibition refers to the relationship of mutual promotion and mutual inhibition that exists among things of the five major categories. Mutual promotion refers to the promoting, enhancing, and strengthening impact produced by something upon another. The sequence of mutual promotion is as follows: water begets wood, wood begets fire, fire begets earth, earth begets metal, and metal begets water. The internal law of the Big Bang is derived from this sequence. Mutual promotion also contains the meaning of mutual regenerating and mutual strengthening. Therefore, mutual promotion is the interdependence of things on one another; without interdependence, things will not experience change. The mutual promotion among five elements results in transformation of things in their statuses. The mutual promotion of the five elements is sequential and cyclical. (See Illustration I.) However, things cannot afford to promote each other in an eternal cycle. That would result in unspeakable consequences. To maintain a dynamic balance of the whole universe, promotion must be balanced by inhibition.
The notion of mutual inhibition refers to the constraining, restrictive, and checking impact produced by one thing upon another. The relationship of mutual inhibition represents the complexity and instability of things. Its sequence is as follows: water inhibits fire, fire inhibits metal, metal inhibits wood, wood inhibits earth, and earth inhibits water. Mutual inhibition also refers to the mutual impact of restriction, containment, and suppression. The relationship of mutual inhibition among the five elements is indicated in Illustration II; the sequence is one element inhibits the one that follows the next. The sequential mutual promotion forms a cycle of enhancement, while the sequential mutual inhibition forms a cycle of suppression. (See Illustration III.)
After numerous careful observations, Darwin, who put forward the theory of evolution, found that the relationships of mutual promotion and inhibition exist among cats, field mice, the local bees, clover, and goats. In the place where there are few cats, the field mice will increase in number, and the local bees will decrease in proportion, (for the field mice often destroy the honeycombs.) And the decrease in the number of bees results in the decrease in the number of opportunities for pollination of cloves; therefore, the amount of feeding grass for goats will also decrease in proportion, resulting in impact upon the size of herds. Therefore, to raise goats in this place, people have to keep more cats. Although keeping cats and raising goats are not interrelated, the two things are intricately connected because of the relationships of mutual promotion and mutual inhibition.
The biological sphere of the earth is a vast ecological system, including a great variety of subsidiary ecological systems. In each subsidiary ecological system, there exist cycles and transformations of matter and energy between living beings and non-living things through five channels. In the activities of reforming nature and developing science and technology, economy and production, human beings will suffer penalties from the natural laws if we fail to understand the cycles and transformations of the ecological systems.
There is a ubiquitous existence of the relationship of mutual promotion and inhibition. There is inhibition in promotion; there is promotion in inhibition. These two aspects are interdependent. Let’s take for example the relationship of up and down in the human society. Water is down there, and a boat is up there. Water sustains the boat and therefore is promotional; at the same time, water can also make the boat founder and therefore is inhibiting. Thus, there is inhibition in promotion. To be able to navigate on the water is based on the awareness that water, which sustains a boat, can also make it sink. Having mastered the law of mutual promotion and inhibition, following the guidelines of Tao, and observing the laws of nature at various levels, we will be able to reach the other bank without unnecessary setbacks.
The law of mutual promotion and inhibition also serves to remind the leaders of various levels: when you are in the process of selecting cadres at various levels or even your successor, you should keep in mind the possibility that the successor will dispose of you or completely negate you, as well as the possibility that the successor will push your cause forward. Stalin picked Krushev as his successor, and Krushev turned out to be the very person who demolished Stalin’s grave. Mao Zedong picked Lin Biao as his successor, and Lin Biao turned out to be the very person who plotted to bombard the train Mao was riding in. Since ancient times, there have been countless coups in the courts, and most of the rebels have been the kings’ relatives or trustees. The greatest danger does not come from the outside; it comes from the fact that the successor that you have chosen and cultivated may not carry on your cause. In the market economy amid heated competitions, the separation between ownership and management authority has been gradually implemented in enterprises in China; therefore, the board directors should never forget the law of mutual promotion and inhibition. Under the circumstances that we are not sure whether we have picked the right person or we have installed a check and balance mechanism, we must not hand over the power of management and operation. We must not forget the lesson of “the tiger eats the cat.”
There is promotion in inhibition. What does it mean?
In nature, wood inhibits earth. If the earth is thick, the inhibition from the wood is welcome, and the result is wooded hills. Earth inhibits water. If water is abundant, the inhibition from earth is welcome, and the result is dikes and levees. Fire inhibits metal. If metal is abundant, then inhibition from fire is welcome, and the result is iron and steel of good quality. Thus, inhibition is considered to be positive as a balance. At a certain period, the wheat should be contained in its growth; otherwise, the wheat will overgrow and tend to fall down. Here, containing the wheat’s growth is inhibition. The inhibits serves to prevent the wheat from overgrowing in its part above the ground but encourage the wheat’s roots to develop, thus promoting tillering. From the perspective of the whole process of the wheat’s growth, to contain the young wheat in its growth serves the purpose of preventing the wheat from falling down, enhancing tillering, and ensuring a robust harvest. Thus, inhibition paves the way for promotion, and therefore promotion resides in inhibition. The same rule can be applied in the social field. To cultivate and educate cadres, criticism and penalties are indispensable, but they serve to take good care of the cadres and help them move forward. To cultivate with a definite purpose, sometimes trimming as required by the cause is necessary. Here, inhibition serves the purpose of better functioning in the future. It is easy to obtain thousands of soldiers, but it extremely difficult to get a good general. To use people without checks and inhibitions will result in loss of lives or, more severely, the destruction of the common cause.
The relationship of mutual promotion and inhibition among the five varieties of things entails four kinds of associations for things of any category: promotion of self, promoting the other, inhibition of self, and inhibiting the other. For instance, your leadership may have resulted from other people’s support. It is called promotion of self. Then what is promoting the other? Besides trying your best to benefit and repay the people who support you, promoting the other also means that you need to select cadres at various levels, including selecting and cultivating your own successor. This is “promoting the other.” Knowing this rule does not guarantee that you can do it well. In modern times and ancient times, in China and foreign countries, there are numerous instances of both failures and successes in promoting and cultivating successors. Those who have succeeded resorted to one of the following ten methods:
1. Evaluate the examinee’s language ability, range of knowledge, and talent through observations during an interview;
2. Evaluate the examinee’s ability to act according to changing circumstances through arguments and debates;
3. Evaluate the examinee’s honesty through observations of his behaviors by an assigned investigator;
4. Evaluate the examinee’s moral integrity through direct interrogations to find out whether there is any withheld information;
5. Evaluate the examinee’s probity through a test by means of money; evaluate the examinee’s legal consciousness through a test by means of fortune;
6. Evaluate the examinee’s self-discipline by alluring him with sexual appeals;
7. Evaluate the examinee’s courage in adversities by placing him in a dangerous situation;
8. Evaluate the examinee’s composure by making him drunk to see how he behaves while he is drunk;
9. Evaluate the examinee’s modesty by placing him in an eminent position; evaluate the examinee’s loyalty by assigning him an essential task; evaluate the examinee’s honesty by ordering him to handle an important business;
10. Evaluate the examinee’s ability to comport himself by letting him do his job independently.
It has always been difficult to make a good appointment. Using a capable and virtuous official will make people happy and encouraged; using a villainous official will invite bad people to gather together. Promoting or demoting an official should be decided through observing his performance as an administrator and his character. The selection of officials should be based on their characters. Someone who is lacking ability will not produce much harm. But some who is very capable but has a bad character will result in much damage. At the incipient stage of a cause, if we just focus on talent and ignore moral character, that is mere expediency. When we are consolidating our achievement, we need to pay attention to both talent and character when making appointments.
Benevolence is affluence combined with decorum; righteousness is eminence without arrogance; loyalty is responsibility combined with assiduity; trust is effort combined with honesty; courage is intrepidity combined with invincibility; wisdom is flexibility combined with initiation. These six virtues are important methods by which we can tell whether talent and character are both there.
The way to use people is to enhance their strengths and avoid their weaknesses, to guide them by “six virtues” and alert them by “six vices.” By doing this, we can make them exert themselves and guard themselves against pitfalls without imposing high standards or admonitions. To act according to the “six virtues” will give you an ever-lasting good reputation; to commit the “six vices” will make you infamous in the history. In the dynasty of West Han, Liu Xiang thus categorized the “six virtues” and ‘six vices:”
1. Those are “holy officials” who are able to develop a clear view of the crux of the problem and the key to the solution before the crisis emerges and even before any bad sign shows itself and therefore are able to crush the source of trouble in the embryo to ensure the safety of their superiors and long-term prosperity of their state.
2. Those are “good officials” who are able to try their best to submit good suggestions and proposals to their superiors, encourage them to follow the etiquettes, assist them in carrying out good policies, and help them correct mistakes.
3. Those are “loyal officials” who are able to rise early and go to bed late, persist in recommend capable people for suitable positions, and encourage their superiors with anecdotes of perspicacious leaders.
4. Those are “wise officials” who are able to foresee successes and failures, take proactive measures, block loopholes, eradicate the source of trouble, transform an impending disaster into a good fortune, and make their superiors free from troubles and worries.
5. Those are “chaste officials” who are able to follow laws and rules, perform their duties conscientiously, refuse briberies, decline rewards and benefits and be frugal in meals.
6. Those are “frank officials” who are never obsequious, have the courage to offer their honest opinions and point out their superiors’ mistakes.
1. Those are “puppet officials” who seek money from their offices, pay little attention to their duties, go along with the social trends, and always have the wait-and-see attitude.
2. Those are “obsequious officials” who praise whatever their superiors say, approve whatever their superiors do, secretly gather information about their superiors’ preferences and try to satisfy their desires, provide their superiors with entertainments in total disregard of resulting damage.
3. Those are “treacherous officials” who are docile on the surface but sinister in their intentions; who are glib speakers and ingratiating in their behavior but jealous of the virtuous and talented, who focus on the merits and dismiss the demerits of the people their superiors recommend, who focus on the demerits and dismiss the merits of the people their superiors are trying to elbow out, resulting in their superiors’ meting out inappropriate rewards and punishments and becoming inefficient in having their order executed.
4. Those are “covetous officials” who are smart enough to cover up their mistakes and sophistic enough to make spurious arguments, creating bad feelings among the superiors’ kiths and kin, engendering chaos and disorder in the ranks.
5. Those are “vicious officials” who seeks power and abuses their authority, who place their personal interest above that of the state, who form cliques and cause damage to the country, who promote their own positions by usurping the king’s authority.
6. Those are “officials bringing destruction to the country” who use slanders and evil words to confuse the king and seduce the king to do unjust things, who form cliques and try to prevent the king from getting the truth, who make the superiors unable to discriminate the right from wrong, resulting in a widespread infamy to their superiors.
To cultivate and train talents, we must develop the ability to discriminate the genuine from the spurious, to tell the difference between the appearance and the reality. In his Six Strategies, Lord Jiang describes fifteen types of people:
1. They look virtuous but are sinister in their intentions;
2. They look gentle and kind but have robbers’ mentality;
3. They are courteous before you but are supercilious in their mind;
4. They appear humble on the outside but are disdainful in their mind;
5. They look smart but do not possess any real talent;
6. They look kind and honest but are not sincere;
7. They seem to be good planners but they cannot make up their mind;
8. They seem to be good planners and decision makers, but they are actually empty talkers;
9. They look sincere but actually cannot keep their promises;
10. They look hesitant on the surface but are actually loyal and reliable;
11. They are radical in speech and prefer novelties, but are efficient in their work;
12. They look courageous but are actually craven;
13. They look austere on the surface but are actually easy-going;
14. They look harsh and serious on the surface but are actually composed and sincere in their work;
15. They look weak and plain on the surface but are circumspect and prudent and are always able to complete the assignment.
“Promotion” also carries the meaning of containing. That earth begets metal also means that earth is able to contain water. An important factor in the cultivation of talents is tolerance and magnanimity. It is not difficult to recognize a talent; what is difficult is to have the sagacity or perspicacity to overlook some inevitable foibles in a talent. It is easy to develop strong and distinctive predilections for virtues and abhorrence for vices; what is difficult is cultivate strict self-disciplines and learn to work together with people who have serious weaknesses. “Water that is pure and clean cannot support fish; people who are too picky do not have friends.” We should be tolerant towards some weaknesses and avoid losing talents just because of some venial mistakes. We would avoid frivolity about minor offenses. Of course, magnanimity is not tantamount to lasser-faire. We should keep a ruler in our mind and adhere to certain principles. Great leaders are magnanimous and just. These two qualities are also conducive to cultivating talents.
Talent cultivation calls for a specially designed environment, a certain ambience, or some activities that are organized to attract or engender some special types of talents. These elements are conducive to the genesis of talents. The emergence of all-around talents has something to do with national politics. Political democracy, academic freedom, and unobstructed exchanges among different schools of thought will pave the way for the emergence of all-around talents.
Talent cultivation calls for respect for knowledge, ability, and talent. We must make substantial efforts to provide a stage for people to develop and apply their talents. When we have decided to use a person, avoid imposing on him any unnecessary restrictions. We must trust the official we have appointed, treat them well, and make them free from unnecessary interpersonal entanglements.
Talent cultivation also calls for openness to human resources from everywhere, a willingness to make friends with all kinds of people. To some extent, the depth of friendships reflects how far your career will advance. When making friends, is it necessary to track someone’s genealogy?
Certain types of talents will lead to certain types of accomplishments. A certain level of talents will result in a certain level of accomplishment. This rule also applies in our attempts to consolidate our accomplishments. Without magnanimity, without a heart that is as broad as an ocean, neither a country nor a corporation is able to retain its talents and brightest minds. And a most important characteristic of an ocean-like heart is the ability to accept and absorb nutrition from various cultures other than our own, including Chinese Taoism, the study of Change, Confucianism, military arts and other schools of thought, also including foreign cultures such as Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, capitalism, and Marxism, for these cultures have nurtured many excellent talents. We need to know that the talents that can assist us to succeed in our undertakings or consolidate accomplishments are usually not from our own circles. The Tao of the universe embraces both the pure and the impure, both the virtues and the vice. Only sages and people of virtue are magnanimous enough to embrace the whole society.
Understanding the rationale behind “promotion of self” and “promotion of the other” as well as the methods of applying these two laws, a leader or “a first hand” will be able to judge people and make judicious appointments, work well with other people, attract talents to work for him and obtain maximum support from the society.
“The inhibition of self” and “the inhibition of the other” both focus on “the way of inhibition” in the three-dimensional world of human society. Since the laws of “the inhibition of self” and “the inhibition of the other” in the three-dimensional world of human society belong to the category of counterbalance in its content, the explication of these two laws will be dealt with in the section on the law of counterbalance.
(Two) The Law of Vicissitudes
“Cheng ru” (vicissitude) refers to the “cheng”, “kang cheng,” “ru” and “fan ru.” Both “kang cheng” and “fan ru” belong to the category of contravariance. “Cheng” refers to prosperity or something positive, and “kang cheng” means excessive prosperity or something positive but overdone. For instance, the relationship between a mother and her children is one of promotion, and the mother’s love for her children plays a nurturing function. However, if it is overdone, or if the children are spoiled and indulged, it is no longer nurturing,, as the children may commit crimes in the future and repay their mother’s love with harm. Another example is the issue of tax and various management fees. If the tax is kept at the level of a country’s normal income, people can accept it. However, if people are overtaxed under different excuses, they will be forced to rebel. These situations are instances of “kang cheng” (a good thing that is overdone). “Kang cheng” is the overture of contravariance. “Kang cheng” results in nothing but harm.
“Ru” means insult or bullying. “Fan ru” is anti-inhibition. When a policeman is trying to arrest a thief and ends up being beaten and bound up by the thief, we call it an instance of “fan ru” or anti-inhibition. This instance demonstrates the likelihood that the original object that was subjected to inhibition has become long enough to inhibit and bully the original inhibiter. “Fang ru” tends to create chaos and disorder in the normal operation of promotion and inhibition, resulting in an unproductive situation and ensuing problems.
Insulting people will result in very serous consequences. Rancor will build up in the insulted party, and disasters may follow rude behaviors. In the State of Qi, there used to be a court official called Yi She, who got drunk at a banquet given by the king of Qi. He walked out of the courtyard and leaned himself against the door of the open gallery. A gate guard came over to ask him for some wine to drink. Yi She recognized the guard as someone who had been punished before and began to rebuke him:” Get away from me! You used to be a prisoner. How dare you ask me for wine!” Having been insulted, the guard backed down. When Yi She had left, the guard sprinkled some water at the gate, making it look as if someone had urinated here. The next morning, the King of Qi passed by, noticed the mess, and asked the guard: “Who urinated here?!” The guard said, “I didn’t notice who did it, but yesterday Official Yi She was standing here.” Thus, the King of Qi sentenced Yi She to death.
(Three) The Law of “Zhi Hua” (Check and Balance)
“Zhi” (Check) carries two connotations. The first is to impose inhibition and check on people’s thinking and behaviors, to impose on self and others constraint, restrictions, check and inhibition through law, rationality, and emotion. “Law” refers to legal regulations, such as laws of the state, the managerial regulations within a corporation, the rules and disciplines of a martial art club, or the rules in a family; “rationality” refers to public ethics and moral codes; “emotion” refers to decorum and etiquettes. Another meaning of “Zhi” relates to the imposition of inhibition, control, subduction, and defeat by means of maneuvering, including legal, rational, emotional means, in order to achieve the purpose of reaching check and balance.
“Hua” means absolution and regeneration. “Zhi hua” is to achieve an absolution and regeneration by means of inhibition (zhi).
“Zhi hua” belongs to the category of “subduing.” “Subduing” has to be implemented through the means of check and balance. That is why we call it “subdue and retrain.” “Zhi hua” only applies to the social field of intelligent beings, while “promotion” and “inhibition” are universal phenomena and laws in the universe.
From another perspective, “ke zhi” (check and inhibition) serve to circumscribe other people’s freedom and compromise our own freedom at the same time. So this is not a pleasant term. Who does not want freedom? Who does not want to be free from restrictions? Mankind has struggled for thousands of years for freedom and liberty. However, the Big Way (Tao) runs its own course. The world of balanced development is under the domination and inhibition by the law of yin and yang and the law of promotion and inhibition.
Creation cannot take place without promotion or inhibition (check and balance). There would be not regeneration with out “sheng” (promotion), and disasters will arise if there is no “zhi” (inhibition). Promotion and inhibition are mutual derivative and coexist in a unity. Tao is simplicity itself.
According to Tianhua philosophy, a good understanding of Tao should be accompanied by a good knowledge of methods. How should we proceed with “zhi hua?” The following is an explication of “the inhibition of self” and “the inhibition of the other.”
1. The Inhibition of Self
“The inhibition of self” means self-control or circumscribing the ego. As determined by the law of promotion and inhibition governing the universe, the connotations of promotion and inhibition vary in different dimensions and different systems to ensure the balance among the systems. In the grand system of human society, whether you are an official or an ordinary civilian, whether you are treating other people or dealing with mundane affairs, whether you are establishing a career, engaged in a commercial competition or a military activity, you have to follow the way of “inhibiting self” in the system of human society. Your survival and development depend on the regulations of law, rationality, and ethics. There is no absolute freedom in our world, and everything is circumscribed to some extent. To function as a civilian in our society calls for regulations and constraints. Those who follow the Tao will practice “the inhibition of self” by themselves, which will save them much trouble and make them happy in their earthly existence. Those who are unaware of Tao will have endless trouble. It is up to everyone whether he or she is going to possess a spacious living arena.
(1) Essence of self-inhibition for civil leaders
As early as three thousand years ago, some had summed up the experience in this respect. Once day, the King of Zhou sought advice from Lord Jiang: “To run a country well, what should I do?” Lord Jiang replied, “a king must be magnanimous and munificent in embracing the world; a king must keep his promises so that the people both domestic and abroad can trust him and the whole world can be committed to him; a king must be benevolent before he is able to make the world obedient to him; and a king must promote the people’s interest before he can rule in peace. Predominant power can be used to intimidate the world but cannot be used to prevent it from being lost; being resolute and unhesitant during a crisis will ensure success without being affected by destiny or vicissitudes. A king qualified in these six aspects will receive love and support from his people and rule the country with efficacy.
The universe has its own orbit or operation, and ordinary people have their own regulations in their lives. If a ruler abides by the natural laws and allows people to recover from wars and natural disasters, listen to the people’s wishes, and govern in accordance with what they need, then peace and security will ensue. The Tao of heaven runs its own course and all creatures prosper on the earth; without tax or with little tax, the people will certainly enjoy affluence and prosperity.
The affluence of the people and the strength of the country are what politics is all about. If we have come to realize the truth of things, then we should keep it in mind and apply what we know in our practices; we don’t have to proclaim the truth publicly or engage in arguments with other people. The universe does not demonstrate its laws explicitly, and all creatures grow and prosper by themselves; the rulers who do not brag about their accomplishments will enjoy great fames for their virtues and benevolence.
Enlightened and perspicacious rulers follow the middle course and adhere to impartiality and justice.
A ruler’s character should resemble that of a dragon’s head: it extends above the crest of the cloud and sees afar with great insight. A ruler should be insightful, austere, and awe-inspiring. A ruler should be composed and sangfroid, keep his feelings to himself, and appear unfathomable. A ruler should be circumspect, listen to his subordinates’ suggestions without indicating whether he accepts them or refuse them.
For a ruler, the principle of self-inhibition is primarily based on probity or moral integrity. “The peace of a society is based on the ruler’s integrity.” “If a lumber does not have its heart in the center, then all the grains will become crooked.” “If the body is upright, then the shadow will not be oblique; if the ruler has probity, then the society will be in good order.” “If a leader has moral integrity, people will do what he wants without his issuing an order; if a leader does not have moral integrity, he will not be obeyed even if he gives orders.” “If the master is just and insightful, the subordinates will abide by law.”
To bring peace and security to the people’s lives, a ruler must not extract profit from the people. He may appear to benefit from the people materially, but the fact is people support him out of their gratitude for his munificence and magnanimity. The subtleties of giving and taking cannot be easily appreciated or even perceived by ordinary people.
A perspicacious ruler should also be composed and sangfroid. Dealing with the entangled mundane affairs calls for flexibility. A ruler should be easy-going and treat people with respect, accessible to suggestions and criticisms, austere and tolerant at the same time, know how to use sticks and carrots depending on particular situations, practice self-restraint and serve the public well, and devote himself to the betterment of the society. He should avoid becoming a dictator, persecuting his critics, and being kept from truths by a group of obsequious officials.
(2) Essence of self-inhibition for military leaders
A general’s character, personality, temperament, and self-cultivation exert a strong impact on his leadership skills, employment strategies, decision-making abilities, and political accomplishments. Whether a general is able to practice self-inhibition has a direct impact on the security of the military and the country.
Either in the battlefield or in the market place, one has to deal with not only the enemy or rivals but also one’s own shortcomings and weaknesses. Suntzu admonishes generals and military leaders against five dangers, inhibiting them from acting on impulse or being dominated by emotions in making decisions, in order to avoid catastrophic consequences. Generally speaking, military leaders may have five weaknesses: foolhardiness, which makes them vulnerable to the enemies’ chicaneries; cravenness, which may result in their being captured by the enemies; irascibility, which makes them easily succumb to enemies’ provocations; excessive concern over reputation, which makes them lose control as a result of the enemies’ defamations; obsession with civic obligations, which makes them immersed in mundane affairs. These five common weaknesses may cause military fiascos, total losses on the battlefields, or loss of lives of military leaders. “As military leaders, when you move forward to win the war, you are not merely seeking reputations; when you withdraw, you should not shun the responsibility of disobeying the king’s orders, as long as you only concern is for the safety of the civilians and the survival of the soldiers, and your actions are based on the fundamental interest of the king and the state.” “A king should not wage a war only because he is angry; a general should not fight a battle only because he is out of temper. You take a move when it is in your best interest; you stay when the move is not in your best interest.”
Military leaders should also abstain from twelve major causes of failures: □ vacillation; □ meting out arbitrary rewards and penalties; □ inequality; □ dislike of frank criticism; □ dissipation or prodigality; □ vulnerability to alienation; □ rashness; □ distancing oneself from the virtuous people; □ avarice; □ predilection to obsequy; □ negligence over defense and management; □ allowing the subordinates to remiss in executing orders.
(3) Essence of self-inhibition in social lives
The “eight virtues” in the etiquettes of Tianhua are upheld as the social virtues of the Twenty-first Century. In fact, the eight virtues reflect the practical application of the law of promotion and inhibition; they are the social regulations that aim at achieving the middle way through self-inhibition. These right virtues are as follows: □ remain humble even in a position of eminence; □ refrain from profiting from political power; □ avoid indulging in self-aggrandizement when receiving honors; □ do not give up during setbacks; □ do not relinquish principles when running into a big fortune; □ do not degrade oneself when allured by sex; □ be altruistic and magnanimous when dealing with people; □ be conscientious and devoted in performing one’s duties.
(4) Essence of self-inhibition in domicile management
As basic social units, families constitute the foundation of a country. There are similarities between managing a home and managing a country. The fundamental principle of running a family is introspection and self-cultivation. The most important virtue required for managing a family is respect. You will be able to command respect when you have gained trust from other family members. The master of the family should set himself up as a paragon, an example for the others to follow in order to gain the hearts and trust from the others. You will be able to inspire awe and respect when you have gained the hearts and trust from the other members of the family. The master of the family should exercise positive impact upon the family members by his own virtuous conducts, so that parents and children, brothers and sisters, husband and wife can perform their respective duties and live in harmony without making any strenuous efforts. The management of a family should be based, from the very beginning, on a sound system of regulations, as well as good education and constraints. If there is no restrain whatsoever from the start, family disorder will ensue, the children will suffer corruption in their morale and behaviors, and it would be too late to correct the situation. Excessive strictness or lassitude should be avoided in domicile management.
(5) Essence of self-inhibition in human resource management
To make the best use of talents, we should avoid vindictiveness; in recommending true talents, we should not be encumbered by the possible susceptibility to nepotism. Before we promote somebody, we should not reveal our predilections, nor should we be too laudatory about that person in case he might be subject to jealousy and become a target of acrimony. We should try to create better conditions for him to establish his career and for him to convince the others through his own accomplishments.
(6) Essence of self-inhibition in dealing with our superiors
No matter how you supervisor appears to be easy-going, now matter how hard he or she tries to be condescending, you should never forget about your rank and your position. You should not look humble before your superiors and complain about him/her behind their back. Furthermore, you should not covet or steal your superior’s possessions. When you receives great favors from your superiors, you should refrain from showing your satisfaction, as any divulgence of arrogance will bring you harm. Once you betray the confidence entrusted upon you, you may lose your superior’s trust in you or, more seriously, you may incur trouble for yourself. Without knowing how to keep a secret will bring you endless trouble.
(7) Essence of self-inhibition in commercial activities
It takes sagacity and self-restraint to know what kind of money you can make and what kind of money you cannot make, what kind of people you can do business with and what kind of people you cannot do business with, what kind of people you should not receive any money from and what kind of people you should be generous to. A gentleman should adhere to moral principles in doing business and abide by ethical codes. You should not alienate people in the pursuit of profit. You should not recognize only “the law of value” and forget about the law of promotion and inhibition and the law of causality. Otherwise, you will be punished by law, rationality and ethics and lose everything you once owned, even you own life.
(8) Essence of self-inhibition in interpersonal relationships
When you are rich, you should benefit your neighbors and people in your vicinity. You should make a conscious effort to share some of your profit with other people. You should understand that the local officials and local people are “gods of earth;” with this understanding, you can avoid being extorted, blackmailed, and exploited out of your money. There is a world of difference between actively contributing to the local welfare and being forced to pay your due, although the amounts may end up being the same. When you follow the law of self-inhibition in dealing with this issue, the amount of your active contribution will become less and less than the amount you would have been forced to pay otherwise. You should make your business a promoter of other businesses in the vicinity to benefit the people around you as well as yourself. In this way, “gods of earth” will ensure you peace and safety; you may even receive panegyric from other businesses and local people. When you get rich, you should not cherish the desire to deprive other people or even your subordinates of their possessions. The formation of a community engaged in collective endeavors is based on common interests. You should resemble a boat sustained by rising water. You should not resemble a rock standing out of the water. If you promote your own interest at the expense of other people’s well being, you are destined to be eroded and weakened because of your conspicuity.
(9) Essence of self-inhibition in disputes
To avoid troubles and disasters, you should not engage in a dispute with someone who is not your enemy. Try your best not to be involved in a dispute. When you have to get involved in a dispute, you need to maintain your composure and avoid going to extremes. The best policy is to obviate disputes. The second best policy is to placate your opponent in a dispute. The worst policy is to carry on a dispute to the end. During a dispute, the only pragmatic and expedient method is to invite a judicious person of authority to be a mediator. Generally speaking, those people who are determined to make a dispute run its full course will not end up well. Most of them will incur misfortunes or even loss of their lives.
(10) Essence of self-inhibition in restraining others
When you are enraged by someone’s behavior and you intuitively resolve to teach that person a lesson, you should remind yourself to clam down and think before you leap. You should be aware that the measure you are going to take against someone, especially someone who has been an industrious subordinate of yours with established accomplishment, may turn out to be wrong. To “handle” a person is to make a decision. When you are trying to impose inhibition upon someone, you should not draw a conclusion without true evidence; you should avoid being credulous about the information provided to you, no matter how trustworthy the informer is. What you are told can only serve as reference. Once you make a mistake in blaming someone, you may regret belatedly. When you are imposing inhibition upon a subordinate of yours, you should pay attention to the following: rewards go before penalties, or rewards go with penalties; maintain propriety in meting out rewards and punishment; be strict inside but lax outside; do not resort easily to penalties with those people whom you have never bestowed favors previously. When criticizing or educating people, do not use insult or jeer at them. Be prudent in reprimanding people. Do not use harsh words; otherwise, you are like a bandit.
(11) Essence of self-inhibition when you are vulnerable
Be tolerant and learn how to deal with people who tend to deprecate you; treat them with respect and avoid going into fight with them. Things that refuse to bend tend to break, and things that insist on being straight are easily fractured. Flexibility leads to expansion. Only those who can endure what other people cannot endure can hope to achieve what other people cannot achieve. If you cannot endure little conveniences, you tend to disrupt the long-term plan. The possession of a long-term goal will enable you to avoid acing on impulse and pursue long-term advantages. An ordinary person who fights back at a slight insult or a minor provocation only demonstrates foolhardiness. A real hero is able to be nonchalant at sudden attacks and refrain from getting angry at unjustifiable insults. Tolerance and forbearance will lead you into the realm of autonomy.
(12) Essence of self-inhibition when you seem to be invincible
We should guard against complacency and unrestrained euphoria. It is understandable that we tend to do what our desires direct us to do, but a virtuous person can restrain himself, practice abstinence and maintain moderation. “Those who drink without getting drunk are the best drinkers; those who love women without being distracted by them from their careers are real heroes; a gentleman should not seek to obtain a fortune through an immoral means; your misfortunes will dissipate by themselves when you are able to endure unpleasant things and be tolerant towards others.” You should pause and think about how to withdraw when you are at the peak of your accomplishment; otherwise, the bow will break if it is drawn to its limit, and the moon will begin to wane when it has reached its fullness. Learn to be contented with you have, and you will not be subject to indignity; learn how to pause and pause often, and you will never to reduced to ignominy. When you are safe, you need to think about possible dangers; when you are making advances, you need to think about how to find a way out. In a vanity fair, safety usually comes with a step back, and danger usually arrives with reckless movement forward. Ever since the ancient times, it has been true that those high officials whose accomplishments overshadow their masters eminence are in great danger, and those whose fame spreads all over the country are not appreciated by their masters. Therefore, when you are being successful and prosperous, you should make greater efforts to show respect to your superiors and bestow benevolence and tolerance on your subordinates. You should never have the limelight focused on you. If you, at the peak of your prosperity, allow yourself to abuse the power entrusted on you, foment fraction and rebellion, and challenge the authorities, you are digging your own grave. You may be enjoying wielding power for a moment, but you are going suffer the consequences all your life.
(13) Essence of self-inhibition in adversity
Our lives are full of vicissitudes; therefore, we must be optimistic and adopt a long-term perspective. We should understand that life and death, success and failure, these matters are not always under our control. We should not allow our peace of mind to be disrupted by either favors or slights from other people. We should retain tranquility whether we are able to keep the favorable positions or not. A sagacious person is able to hold his stand during a crisis, to acquire a clear view at a high position, and a readiness to retreat from a clear and present danger. To attain a long-term goal, we sometimes have to hide our talents and abilities. A state that follows Tao will distinguishes itself, and a state that does not follow Tao will stay in obscurity. In our world, withdrawing is tantamount to advancing, and giving is tantamount to acquiring. With a step backwards, you may find a dramatic expansion of space for maneuvering. With the passage of time, any adversity will become something of the past.
(14) Essence of self-inhibition in confidentiality
Do not divulge the secret. Every profession has its secrets and confidential information, just as everything in the world is situated somehow between the substantial and the ephemeral.
(To be continued)
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