When Yao ruled the world, Po-ch'eng Tzu-kao was enfeoffed as one of his noblemen. But when Yao passed the throne to Shun, and Shun passed it to Yu, Po-ch'eng Tzu-kao relinquished his title and took up farming. Yu went to see him and found him working in the fields. Yu scurried forward in the humblest manner, came to a halt, and said, "In former times when Yao ruled the world, Sir, you served as one of his noblemen. But when Yao passed the throne to Shun, and Shun passed it to me, you relinquished your title and took up farming. May I be so bold as to ask why?"The truly virtuous person doesn't spend their time trying to prove to others or themselves just how virtuous they are. They live it with every breath they take.
Tzu-kao said, "In former times when Yao ruled the world, he handed out no rewards and yet the people worked hard; he handed out no punishments and yet the people were cautious. Now you reward and punish, and still the people fail to do good. From now on Virtue will decay, from now on penalties will prevail. The disorder of future ages will have its beginning here! You had better be on your way now - don't interrupt my work!" Busily, busily he proceeded with his farm work, never turning to look back.
~ Burton Watson translation ~
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