Forty and Beyond
What Confucius was saying is that once a man turns forty and is seen as detestable or disliked by everyone else, this is how he will remain for the rest of his life.
When I was in high school, one of my good friends wrote the following: “After a man turns forty, he should be responsible for his own appearance.” I did not know if he quoted someone else or figured it out by himself, but thought it made very much sense.
In medical school, despite not having paid much attention in class, I would read textbooks occasionally. I found that, very frequently, descriptions of diseases in diagnostics or internal medicine often included the following statement: “This disease tends to occur in people forty or older.” I did not understand at the moment: “Why do the great majority of them occur to those who are forty or over?”
Now, having learned that Confucius mentions the same age in “Analects,” I started thinking seriously.
From what I have seen and known so far, I could make the following explanation:
Everyone, without a doubt, arrives in this world through his own karma. Before forty, a man’s life is predominantly based on his karma from his previous lives; therefore, it determines his appearance, personality, good and evil, career, fortune, and so on. However, a man, when reaping the fruits of his previous lives’ karma, is also creating new karma. This karma accumulates with age, and its effect becomes more apparent, and around forty, it becomes obvious and is reflected in his body, look, and personality.
Hence, how a man looks before forty shows the amount of spiritual practice and progress from his previous lives, which cannot be changed; during and after forty, a man, through the karma he has been making in this life, should, therefore, be responsible for his own appearance.
If he is growing ugly, that indicates an increase in the amount of evil karma he has planted in his mind and a decrease in the amount of good. If, on the other hand, he is growing more handsome or beautiful, then the reverse is true.
After forty, many serious diseases are manifested because of this life’s bad actions, speeches, and thoughts. But if one upholds the precepts, abstains from eating meat, and takes good care of his health, he will, from childhood to now, be strong against those diseases.
Having reached forty and beyond, once a man is detested, his bad habits are likely sealed, because after middle age, habits become hard to change. As Confucius said, “[one] will also remain like this to the end.”
However, these are only common conditions. Not everyone is like that, as there are many late bloomers. Moreover, if a man is fortunate enough to learn the Buddha-Dharma, he often changes completely, like iron turning into gold. This is especially the case with Amitabha name-recitation. If, in his last breath, he meets a virtuous master who guides him into reciting “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” he can transform from an ordinary man to a sage, his body from flesh-and-blood to immortal, which has the thirty-two appearances and eighty kinds of good, and the five gravest transgressions and ten evils into infinite kindness and compassion.
(Translated by Chih-Yi Gabriela Lin;
edited by Eddie Cao)
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings