The Prince of the Ch’u State having invited Confucius to visit him, the Master proceeded thither to pay his respects. His way lay through Ch’en and Ts’ai; and the high officials of those States consulted together, saying, “Confucius is an inspired and good man; his counsels will consist of attacks upon the vices of us nobles; and if that should be the case, our States would be in danger.”
Accordingly, they arranged for a number of armed men to obstruct the Sage’s way and to prevent him from continuing his journey.
His party were cut off from supplies for seven days, nothing being allowed to reach them. Broth made from leaves was not sufficient, and all fell ill except Confucius himself, whose spirits rose higher than usual, as he lectured, recited, played, and sang without giving way. He called Tzu-lu to him and said, ” We read in the Odes,
We are neither wild cattle nor tigers,
That we should be kept in these desolate wilds
Has my doctrine of Eternal Right been a failure? How have I come to this pass?” To this, Tzu-lu angrily replied, “The superior man can suffer no restrictions. To think that you, Sir, have ever failed in charity of heart is what I cannot believe; to think that you have ever acted unwisely towards others has not come within my experience. Besides, Sir, in other times I have heard you say that God will reward with happiness those who do good, and will punish with misfortunes those who do evil; and now for a long time you have been accumulating a splendid record of virtues and of duty towards your neighbour. How then should you be reduced to this extremity?” “My son,” said the Master, “you have not understood me. I will tell you. If all depended on charity of heart, loyalty, and giving good counsel, many great heroes would have escaped suffering and death. But success and failure are matters of opportunity; the worthy and the worthless are distinguished by their talents. Superior men of wide learning and wise schemes, who have failed from want of opportunity, are many indeed; why should I be the only one? The epidendrum grows in the depth of the forest, but it is not wanting in fragrance because there is no one there to smell it; the superior man cultivates the doctrine of Eternal Right and exemplifies it in practice; but he does not give up his principles because he is reduced to extremities. The man acts; the result, whether life or death, belongs to the will of God.”