Confucius Analects – Cautions in 3 Stages of Life, facing desire
16.3 Three caution in three stages in life
Confucius said, ‘There are three things which the superior man guards against. In youth, when the physical powers are not yet settled, he guards against lust. When he is strong and the physical powers are full of vigor, he guards against quarrelsomeness. When he is old, and the animal powers are decayed, he guards against covetousness.’
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When young, energy is abundant but not stable, be careful not to lost one self in following different forms of desire in life, it is time to set our goal into something healthy and positive;
When mature, energy is strong and stable, be careful not to lost one self in competing and beating up of others, it is time to consolidate what we have achieved, and allow others to do the same.
When in the old age, energy is declining, be careful not to hold on to what is achieved, like health, fortune and fame, it is time to relax and pass over our roles to the next generations.
Confucius describe our desire very lively in this chapter. When we are young, we are easily swayed by various desires in life; when we are getting more mature, we are drawn to competition and status in life; when we have achieve money power and fame in late years, we want it to last forever. Isn’t it so? Even for spiritual student, there is desire to health, to knowledge, to experience, to power, to longevity, then we want spiritual enlightenment. While some of these qualities are healthy and necessarily, over emphasis and attachment would lead to dogma and enslavement.
Actually, temptation to various forms of desire is present in all age of life, much like the temptation the genius professor perceived in the movie – A beautiful mind. You just need to accept it and endure it in a non-attached manner, just like in meditation, and then the phenomenon will pass over time. Awareness, discernment, acceptance, and patience are key in facing one’s desires.