One of Robber Chih's followers once asked Chih, "Does the thief too have a Way?"The snippet above reminds me of something my mother preached incessantly: In whatever you undertake, always put your best foot forward. What is the point of doing anything half-ass? If you're not willing to put forth your best effort, then you would be better off doing something else.
Chih replied, "How could he get anywhere if he didn't have a Way? Making shrewd guesses as to how much booty is stashed away in the room is sageliness; being the first one in is bravery; being the last one out is righteousness; knowing whether the job can be pulled off or not is wisdom; dividing up the loot fairly is benevolence. No one in the world ever succeeded in becoming a great thief if he didn't have all five!"
From this we can see that the good man must acquire the Way of the sage before he can distinguish himself, and Robber Chih must acquire the Way of the sage before he can practice his profession. But good men in the world are few and bad men many, so in fact the sage brings little benefit to the world, but much harm. Thus it is said, "When the lips are gone, the teeth are cold; when the wine of Lu is thin, Han-tan is besieged." And when the sage is born, the great thief appears.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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