Once greed and selfishness dominate a man’s mind, his previously steel-like nature will become soft and weak; his intelligence will become blocked and dulled; his benevolent nature will become vicious; his pure spirit will become muddied; and the virtue he has accumulated over a lifetime will become dissipated. That is why the ancients regarded “Be not covetous” as a precious percept for self-improvement. It was thus that they managed to overcome greed for material things and enjoyed peace and security throughout their lives.
So long as a slight selfish desire emerges into a man’s mind, his uprightness will become weakened and yielding; his intelligence dulled and invalid; his benevolent nature degenerated and cruel; his pure aspiration sullied and unworthy—and as a result, the virtue he has accumulated over lifetime will become totally spoiled. That is why the ancients took “Not be covetous” as the discipline to guide themselves aright in surmounting material desires all their lives.
A momentary weakness of avarice and selfishness will turn uprightness into cowardice, wisdom into stupidity, benevolence into cruelty, and cleanness into dirtiness, thus spoiling one’s moral character for life. Hence the ancients regarded as invaluable the virtue of being free from avarice, something that makes one spend one’s life in peace.