Instructions in Virtue from the Chinese Heritage

Provisional translation by

Dharma Realm Buddhist Association and

The staffs of Instilling Virtue and

Cultivating Goodness Schools

At the Sagely City of Ten Thousand Buddhas,

Talmage, California, 95481-0217


Table of Contents


Chapter 1: On Being Filial at Home

Chapter 2: On Practicing True Brotherhood

Chapter 3: On Being Careful

Chapter 4: On Being Honest

Chapter 5: On Cherishing All Living Beings

Chapter 6: On Drawing Near To Good-hearted People

Chapter 7: On Studying Whenever We Can

Rules by Topics

I. Be Filial At Home

1. Obey your parents

2. Acknowledge your errors and faults.

3. Keep parents comfortable

4. Let them know where you are

5. Ask for elders¹ advice

6. Share good things

7. Give parents what they like

8. Protect your body and your virtue

9. Obey both kind and harsh words

10. Help parents change their faults

11. Try harder if they resist

12. Bring medicine when parents are sick

13. What to do when they pass away.

14. What to do after the funeral

II. Practice True Brotherhood

15. Harmony shows true filial respect

16. See money as a trifle; be gentle and patient

17. Let elders go first

18. Run errands for elders

19. Address them respectfully

20. If you meet on the road

21. If you drive by them on the road

22. How to sit with elders

23. How to talk with elders

24. How to move, how to be still, how to answer questions

25. How to treat others¹ parents

III. Learn to Be Careful

26. Waking up

27. Washing up

28. Getting dressed

29. Tidying up your clothes

30. Choosing what clothes to wear

31. Eating

32. Liquor and drugs

33. Walking and standing

34. Good posture

35. Entering a room (1)

36. Behavior when alone

37. Avoid haste

38. Avoid fights and gossip

39. Entering a room (2)

40. Answering

41. Borrowing things

42. Returning and lending things

IV On Being Honest

43. Talk truthfully

44. Talk less and talk straight

45. Avoid profanity

46. Avoid gossip

47. Avoid gangs

48. Speak clearly

49. Mind your own business

50. Follow the example of virtuous friends

51. Correct bad habits

52. Accept only your best

53. Be content with simple needs

54. Listening to praise brings harmful friends

55. Learning from criticism brings good friends

56. Simple mistakes and deliberate evil

57. Repent of offenses, don¹t cover them up

V. Cherishing All Living Beings

58. Cherish all people

59. Good conduct brings honor

60. Achievement win respect

61. Share your talents; don¹t envy others

62. Avoid flattery; preserve old things

63. Avoid butting in

64. Don¹t discuss peoples' faults

65. Praise others' strengths

66. Slander brings disaster

67. Urge others on to be good

68. Give more than you get

69. Do the hard jobs yourself

70. Return kindness; forget grudges

71. Be proper, just, forgiving, and kind

72. Lead with virtue, not with force

VI. Draw Near to Good Hearted People

73. Truly humane people are few

74. Humane people are awesome because they are direct

75. Draw near to such people

76. Avoid bad friends

VII. Study Whenever You Can

77. Learning without practice is fruitless

78. Practice without learning is blind

79. How to study to success

80. Read one book at a time

81. Budget your time and work hard

82. Note down what you don¹t understand and then ask an expert

83. Keep your room and your desk tidy and neat

84. Keep your tools and your mind sharp

85. Put books back when you¹ve finished

86. Treat books carefully, repair them when necessary

87. Read only the teachings of Sages

88. Tame instinct and idleness ­become a Worthy Sage yourself!


These standards for students are guidelines,

Handed down to us by Ancient Sages.

They tell us to obey our parents,

And to practice true brotherhood.

Learn to be careful and honest,

And cherish all living beings.

Draw near to good-hearted people,

And study whenever we can.

Chapter 1: On Being Filial at Home

1. When Mother and Father are calling,

Answer them right away.

When they give you directions,

Obey them without hesitation.

2. When your parents need to instruct you,

Respectfully do as you're told.

Whenever your parents must scold you,

Acknowledge your errors and faults.

3. In the winter make sure they are warm,

In the summer make sure they are cool.

Each morning cheerfully greet them.

At night see their rest is secure.

4. Before going out, tell your parents.

Let them know when you come in.

Settle peacefully in your home,

And finish what you begin.

5. No matter how small the affair,

Always ask for your elders' advice.

If you don't ask your elders' advice,

Then you've not been a dutiful child.

6. When good things, though small, come your Way,

Give your family their rightful share first

If you hoard up the best for yourself,

Kinfolks' feelings are sure to be hurt.

7. Whatever your parents enjoy,

Do all you can to provide.

Whatever your parents dislike,

You should earnestly cast aside.

8. Whenever you injure your body,

Your parents feel grief and alarm.

Whenever you damage your virtue,

Your family's good name comes to harm.

9. When parents¹ words are loving,

Obeying them is not hard.

To obey when their words are bitter

Takes a noble heart's resolve.

10. When your parents do something wrong,1

Exhort them to change for the better.

On your face a kind expression,

In your voice a gentle tone.

11. If they cannot accept your advice,

Kindly tell them again.

Or use tears to move them with Feelings

If scolded, you never complain.

12. When parents are ill call the doctor,

Be sure the prescription is right.

Wait on them day after day,

At their bedside by day and by night.

13. For three years after their passing,

Remember them always in sorrow.

Don't go to parties and movies,

And don't eat luxurious foods.2

14. See to all funeral arrangements,

Honor your family ties.

Serve your departed ancestors,

As you honor your kin while alive.

Chapter 2: On Practicing True Brotherhood

15. When all the brothers are friendly,

And sisters show respect,

The harmony blessing these children,

Is a sign of the Filial Way.

16. If you see wealth as a trifle,

No one will envy your share.

When words are both gentle and patient,

Bad feelings will soon disappear.

17. When people are eating or drinking,

Or when it is time to sit down,

Let those who are older go first;

The young ones should follow behind.

18. If an elder is looking for someone,

You run the errand instead.

If the person you seek can't be found,

Hurry back and report what you've learned.

19. In speaking to those who are older,

Use the right term of respect.

When facing your teachers and elders

Don't show off or try to look smart.

20. If you meet face to face on the pathway

Greet them with cheerful respect.

If your elders choose not to address you,

Humbly stand to one side.

21. If an elder's on foot and your riding,

Stop and ask if he's traveling far.3

Respectfully wait till he's passed you,

Before you drive on in your car.

22. When an older person is standing,

Children should not take a seat.

But wait til the elder is seated,

And then sit when you are told.

23. Speak softly in front of your elders,

In a low voice that pleases the ear.

But then you are wrong if you're speaking,

So softly that no one can hear.

24. Be swift when it's time to move forward;

Go last when it's time to return, .

Stand up to answer when questioned,

Your gaze held steady and calm.

25. Behave with everyone's parents,

The way you behave with your own.

Treat all brothers and sisters,

Just like your family at home.

Chapter 3: On Being Careful

26. In the morning it's best to rise early

At night you should go to bed late.

Cherish the time that is left you,

Don't expect that old age will wait.

27. First wash your face after rising,

And next brush your teeth very well.

After you go to the toilet,

Use water and soap on your hands.

28. Make sure your hat is on straight,

And fasten your buttons up right.

Your socks should both match and look Tidy,

And tie up your shoelaces tight.

29. Your hat and all other clothing

Should hang in their own special places.

If you leave them in heaps where you toss them,

They're sure to get wrinkled and soiled.

30. What matters with clothes is they're clean,

Not whether they're stylish or fine.

Wear what is suitable for you.

Accord with your status and means.

31. Don't get attached to good flavors

Or pick out the best food and drink.

Eat just enough to get full,

And never take more than you need.

32. Whatever your age or position,

Don¹t drink liquor or take harmful drugs.

Drunks are disgraceful and ugly.

Drugs bring you misery and shame.

33. Your walk should be easy and graceful.

Stand with your back tall and straight.

Salute other people sincerely,

Make full bows with respect.

34. Watch your step as you enter a doorway,

Stand up straight, don¹t lean on the wall.

Don't stick out your legs when you¹re sitting

Or slide back and forth on the chair.

35. When you open a door, best be careful.

Do it gently, without too much noise.

Go wide when you're turning a corner,

Don't trip on the legs of the chairs.

36. Carry containers with caution,

Empty and full just the same.

And enter a room that is empty,

As you would if a crowd were inside.

37. Avoid doing things in a hurry,

Haste leads to many mistakes.

Neither fear the difficult jobs,

Nor skip over simpler chores.

38. Never go near rowdy places,

Or where you see fights going on.

Gossip about things improper,

Is better not to pass on.

39. Before you step through a doorway,

Ask first if there's someone inside.

Then when you enter the room,

Raise your voice to show you've arrived.

40. If someone should ask who you are,

Never respond, "It is I,"

Answer by giving your name.

Or you've not made a clear reply.

41. Be sure that you first get permission

Before using peoples¹ possessions.

If you use it but don't ask the owner,

Then stealing is what you have done.

42. If you borrow an item from someone

Make sure you return it in time.

When people ask you for something,

Loan it to them whenever you can.

Chapter 4: On Being Honest

43. Honesty is most important

In choosing the words that we speak.

When was it ever permitted

To say things dishonest and false?

44. To talk just a little is better

Then to chatter non-stop all day long.

Stick to the facts and speak briefly;

Don't use cunning or flowery words.

45. Harsh words and vulgar expressions,

Cheap talk and words that are cruel,

Jargon, slang, and swearing;

All talk such as this we avoid.

46. If you haven't seen something quite Clearly,

Don't pretend that you know.

If you¹re not sure what actually happened,

Don't spread the story around.

47. When you know that a matter is wrong,

Don't carelessly take part.

If you just go along with the crowd,

Then you're certain to make a mistake.

48. When you speak, say the words clearly.

Distinctly and smoothly they flow.

If you talk too fast, no one will heed you,

The same if you mumble too slow.

49. Some like to talk about good points,

Others enjoy finding faults.

If something is none of your business,

Simply pay no attention at all.

50. When a person's good virtues inspire you

To cultivate many good deeds,

Don't fear that you won't be his equal,

Just do good! You will surely succeed.

51. When you notice a person's bad habits,

Look for the fault in yourself.

Correct it at once if you find it,

And work harder still if you don't.

52. If your virtue and learning and talents,

Don't measure up to your friends',

Then spur yourself on to try harder.

Accept nothing less than your best.

53. If your wardrobe is seldom in fashion,

And your home is quite simple and plain,

While your friends have the newest and Finest,

Don't worry, and never complain.

54. If hearing you faults makes you angry,

If you like it when praise comes your way;

Harmful friends will draw near you,

And wholesome friends will stay away.

55. If compliments make you uneasy,

And hearing your faults makes you glad,

Forgiving and straightforward friends

Will gradually come to your side.

56. When an error is not made on purpose,

We call it a simple mistake.

But evil is what we consider,

Mistakes that are purposefully done.

57. If you can reform your offenses,

Your faults by themselves disappear.

But trying to cover them over,

Makes offenses more severe.

Chapter 5: On Cherishing All Living Beings

58. For all creatures throughout the world,

We should cherish a kindred regard.

The sky covers all of us equally.

The earth supports all humankind.

59. People whose conduct is fine,

Are sure to have good reputations.

Good conduct is what we respect;

Fine looks cannot bring people honor.

60. People with outstanding talents

Rightfully earn their prestige.

Achievements are what we admire.

Braggarts don't gain our respect.

61. Don't use for selfish advantage,

Your own special talents and skills.

The abilities others may have,

Should never be envied or scorned.

62. It's not right to flatter the rich,

Or act arrogant towards the poor.

Old things need not be rejected.

New things are not always good.

63. When you see that a person is busy,

Leave him alone till he's free.

If you see that a person's upset,

Don't annoy him with idle chatter.

64. Although you may know someone's faults,

There's no need to spread them about.

The personal business of others,

Should not be the subject of talk.

65. Now praising the virtues of others

Is itself a virtuous deed.

When people hear they have been praised,

They will want to improve even more.

66. Talking of others' shortcomings,

In itself is a karmic offense.

When slander goes far beyond reason,

Disaster will surely result.

67. We develop our virtue together,

By urging each other towards goodness.

If we don't regulate our bad habits,

Then we all will have strayed from the path.

68. Things that you give and you get,

Are different, and must be made clear.

Make sure that your giving surpasses

The amount that you receive.

69. Don't simply pass on to others,

A job you yourself wouldn't do.

First ask yourself: "Am I willing?"

If not, let the matter stop there.

70. Kindness must be returned,

Let enmity just fade away.

Grudges are better forgotten.

While kindness increases each day.

71. Let the virtue of your right conduct

Set the standards for your employees.

With your character proper and just,

Let your heart be forgiving and kind.

72. If you try to rule others by force,

You will never win over their hearts.

If you lead them with virtue and reason,

They will never have cause to complain.

Chapter 6: On Drawing Near To Good-hearted People

73. We live on the earth all together,

But we people are not all the same.

There are many who follow the crowd;

Yet few who are truly humane.

74. Yet those who are truly humane,

Intimidate average souls.

Because they're direct and outspoken,

And because they won't flatter and please.

75. To draw near to such wholesome people,

Will bring on immeasurable good.

Our virtues increase day by day,

Our faults bit by bit disappear.

76. To fail to draw near good advisors

Will bring immeasurable harm.

Unworthy people will prosper,

And nothing one does will succeed.

Chapter 7: On Studying Whenever We Can

77. Being a scholar has value,

If we cultivate what we have learned.

When knowledge is gained to no purpose,

Then what can we hope to become?

78. But those who exclusively work,

And know nothing of reason and truth,

Will rely on their own narrow vision;

Their judgment will be uninformed.

79. The way to success in your studies,

Is to focus attention on three:

Trust to your eyes, mouth, and mind.

Believe these are all that you need.

80. Study one book at a time,

Don't let concentration diverge.

Stick with this topic 'till finished,

Only then choose another to learn.

81. Budget your time for one project,

And then work as hard as you can.

When your efforts come up to the mark,

Quite naturally you'll understand.

82. When a question comes up in your reading,

Make notes of it while you recall.

The first chance you get, ask an expert

To settle it once and for all.

83. Keep your room tidy and neat,

With the walls uncluttered and clean.

Your desk should be kept in good order:

With paper and pens well arranged.

84. If your tools are scattered or dull,

It's certain your thoughts are the same.

When a mind's lost its right concentration,

Poor writing reveals its state.

85. Each of the books that you read,

Should have its own place on the rack.

After you've finished your study,

Carefully put the books back.

86. Although you may be in a hurry,

Close up your books properly.

If you damage the cover or pages,

Repair the book before you leave.

87. Teachings that don't come from Sages,

Are words that we don't need to read.

These books cover over our wisdom,

And undermine our resolve.

88. Don't let your instincts control you,

Or waste time in idle pursuits.

Work hard and become worthy Sages

We all can harvest these fruits!