Bookstores these days are filled with an abundance of literature on the study of strategy and tactics from experts of old. You can see this ideological trend everywhere in society, indicating that places with frequent human interaction adopt a lot of covert phenomena; competition, the strong preying on the weak, and the survival of the fittest. In terms of positive influence and their significance for human nature, these things are actually negative.
A person’s wisdom and skillful means should be cleverly used to help others. This kind of wisdom rises above worldly strategies and, combined with integrity and compassion, can benefit people. By contrast, those who are driven by the benefits and desires of their own personal gain, if followed to the extreme, in the end might just be caught in a trap of their own making, even forfeiting their lives. If you want to gain the admiration and support of others, rely on selfless devotion and compassionate generosity, rather than narrow-minded scheming.
When their wants are not met, these calculating individuals will exert unrelenting pressure on others. And in the end, they’ll bring disgrace upon themselves, as others turn against them. An ancient saying goes, “Sages do not worry that they lack wisdom, worrying instead that their virtue is lacking.” In the Han Dynasty, there lived a strategist whom I greatly admire named Chen Shi. His wisdom was impressive, but everything he did was to help sentient beings. Even when he was subjected to indescribable injustice, he always repaid such unjust treatment with graciousness, earning the respect of high officials and commoners alike.
He once said, “If my life were spent merely in the pursuit of trifling possessions, such foolish conduct would be a disgrace to my reputation and dignity! Those who give their life in the greedy pursuit of wealth are too numerous to count, yet there are plenty of clever strategists and advisers among them. If they meet their end today, what then? This would certainly never happen to a sage or to a truly wise strategist.” Chen Shi at one point served as a county magistrate and miraculously there was not a single litigation during his tenure. The magistrates from other counties begged to know his secret tactic. To this he replied, “The best strategy is to have none. I treat people sincerely every day, never resorting to dishonest rhetoric, and my intentions are benevolent, believing that so long as we trust one another fully, a day will come when the truth will become thoroughly clear to all. This is truly the best way to strategize without a strategy and the best way to inspire the whole world.”
Even the greatest mind is no match for the eyes of the common people. I also believe that the person with a glib tongue cannot overcome the voices of the masses. Although one’s words can hurt others, this actually deals a crushing defeat to one’s own dignity. This world is brimming with such distrust, discontent, resentment, meaningless gossip and nonsense; all of which are linked to the tongue (speech). The wounding effect and speed of the tongue is even more fearsome than a bullet. One wrong sentence, spread through the Internet, can influence the whole world. Eloquence will never surpass the importance of good personal character, and if someone unconscionably uses convincing words, schemes, and other despicable means to draw out far-fetched analogies and hurt others, they are no different than flies and maggots stuck to festering, putrid food. Schemes which are of no benefit to others are the customary trickery of unseen assassins, and the karmic retributions from such designs are fearsome. Furthermore, if in the pursuit of selfish interest one is unconcerned with cause and effect, disregarding one’s body, speech, and mind and shirking one’s moral responsibility, only one of the three most sinister roads will be available for this person to tread.