The Great Learning

(From the Book of Rites)

“The ancients who wished to exemplify illustrious virtue throughout the world would first set up good governments in their states.

Wishing to govern well their states, they would first regulate their families.

Wishing to regulate their families, they would first cultivate their persons.

Wishing to cultivate their persons, they would first rectify their minds [“hearts”].

Wishing to rectify their minds, they would first seek sincerity in their thoughts.

Wishing for sincerity in their thoughts, thy would first extend their knowledge.

The extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.

For only when things are investigated is knowledge extended;

only when knowledge is extended are throughts sincere;

only when thoughts are sincere are minds rectified;

only when minds are rectified are our persons cultivated;

only when our persons are cultivated are our families regulated;

only when families are regulated are states well governed;

and only when states are well governed is there peace in the world.

From the emperor down to the common people, all, without exception, must consider cultivation of the individual character as the root. If the root is in disorder, it is impossible for the branches to be in order. To treat the important as unimportant, and to treat the unimportant as important — this should never be. This is called knowing the root; this is called the perfection of knowledge.”

from deBary, Chan, Watson, Sources of Chinese Tradition, v. 1, p. 115.