Standards for Students [弟子規]

Composed in the Qing Dynasty, around 1661-1722 by Li Yuxiu [李毓秀].
Translation by the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association 1998


These are rules for being a student.
Handed down to us by Ancient Sages.
First be filial to your own parents
And respectful to all of your elders.
Be trustworthy, cautious and kind,
And draw near to those who are good.
Whatever time you have left,
Should be devoted to learning.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: On Being Filial and Respectful
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

Chapter 1: On Being Filial and Respectful

1. When your mother or father is calling,
Do not be slow to respond.
When your parents tell you to do something,
Do not be lazy or sulky.

2. When your parents need to instruct you,
You should listen with patient respect.
Whenever your parents must scold you,
Accept it with faithful compliance.

3. In the winter, make sure they are warm.
In the summer, make sure they are cool.
In the morning, cheerfully greet them.
In the evening, tell them “Good night.”

4. If you plan to go out tell your parents.
Report to them when you get back.
Settle down in one certain place.
Do not switch from one job to another.

5. No matter how small the affair,
Do not act just as you please.
For if you act just as you please,
Then you have not performed as you should.

6. Although a thing may be small,
Do not save it just for yourself.
For if you hoard things for yourself,
Your parents’ hearts will be grieved.

7. Whatever your parents like best,
You should provide for them soon.
Whatever your parents dislike,
You should earnestly remove.

8. If you carelessly injure your body,
Your parents will worry and fret.
If you heedlessly damage your virtue,
You bring shame and disgrace to your parents.

9. When your parents are loving and kind,
Of course it’s not hard to be filial.
The true test of being a person
Comes when parents are hateful and cruel.

10. If you recognize faults in your parents,
Exhort them to change for the better.
Speak to them kindly and gently
With a pleasant smile on your face.

11. If they cannot accept your advice,
Wait for an opportune time.
You may even use tears to exhort them,
But don’t resent it if you are punished.

12. When your 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 death,
Remember them always in sorrow.
During this period of mourning,
Don’t drink wine or eat meat.

14. Take care of their funeral arrangements,
Make offerings on their behalf.
Reverently cherish their memory
As if they were still in the world.

Chapter 2: On Practicing True Brotherhood

15. When the older children are friendly
And the younger children respectful,
Then brothers and sisters won’t fight,
And they know how to be filial.

16. Don’t think of wealth as important,
For then you will not feel resentful.
When talking to others, be patient,
Then you won’t be troubled by anger.

17. When people are eating or drinking,
Sitting down or taking a walk,
Let those who are older go first.
The young ones should follow behind.

18. If an elder is looking for someone,
You should 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 proper terms of respect.
When you are facing teachers and elders
Don’t show off or try to look smart.

20. If you meet an elder while walking
Greet him or her with proper respect.
If your elder does not address you,
Respectfully stand to one side.

21. If an elder’s on foot and you’re riding,
Stop and ask if he’s traveling far.
Respectfully wait till he’s passed you
Before you drive on in your car.

22. When an elder person is standing,
The young ones should not take a seat,
But wait till the elder is seated,
And sit down 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. Greet your elders promptly,
And take your leave slowly.
Answer questions respectfully,
And don’t let your eyes dart around.

25. You should treat everyone’s parents
Just the same as you treat 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. In the morning, first wash your face,
And next brush your teeth very well.
After you go to the toilet,
Use water and soap on your hands.

28. You should put on your hat with great care,
And fasten your buttons and snaps.
Then pull up your socks very neatly,
And fasten your shoe laces as well.

29. Your hat and other clothes
Should be put in their own special places.
Do not leave them just lying around,
Or they’re sure to get wrinkled and soiled.

30. Your clothing should always be neat.
If it’s not new and stylish, don’t worry.
What you wear should make common sense.
Don’t spend too much money on clothes.

31. Do not fuss and complain about tastes
When you are given something to eat.
Eat enough so that you are full,
But do not eat more than you need.

32. Whenever you are young,
Don’t drink liquor or take harmful drugs.
To get drunk is disgraceful and ugly.
Taking drugs brings you nothing but shame.

33. Your walk should be easy and graceful.
When you stand, keep your back tall and straight.
Your half bows should be deep and full,
And your full bows made with respect.

34. Watch your step as you enter a doorway.
Stand up straight and don’t lean against the wall.
Do not sit sprawled all over the floor.
Do not wriggle and squirm when you walk.

35. When closing a door, best be careful,
Do it slowly without too noise.
And when crossing a room,
Don’t bump into the table and chairs.

36. You should carry an empty container,
Just as carefully as one that is full.
And enter a room that is empty,
As you would if a crowd were inside.

37. There is no need to be in a hurry.
If you rush you will make a mistake.
Don’t be afraid of what is hard,
And don’t be careless with what is easy.

38. Never go to rowdy places,
Or places where people are fighting.
When something is low and improper,
It’s not worth your talk or your questions.

39. When you’re going to enter a room,
First knock to make sure it’s permitted.
When joining a gathering of people,
Let them all know you are there.

40. If someone should ask who you are,
You should answer by giving your name.
If you respond, “It is me.”
You’re not giving a proper reply.

41. If you use someone else’s belongings,
First be sure that you ask for permission.
If you don’t get the owner’s permission,
Then stealing is what you have done.

42. If you must borrow something from another,
Make sure you return it on time.
If someone ask you for something,
Loan it to them when ever you can.

Chapter 4: On Being Honest

43. Whatever it is that you say,
You should speak so that you can be trusted.
Tell the truth so others can believe you.
A lie is against human nature.

44. To talk just a little is better
Than to chatter non-stop all day long.
Talk only about what you’re sure of:
Don’t use cunning or flowery words.

45. Don’t use words to be mean and cruel,
Or speak about things that are coarse.
Let your language be pure and correct.
Stay away from all that’s unworthy.

46. If you haven’t seen something quite clearly,
Don’t speak of it as if you know,
If you’re not sure about what exactly happened,
Don’t spread rumors around.

47. When you know something is wrong,
Do not agree for others’ sake.
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 low.

49. Some like to talk about good points,
Others like to find faults, big and small.
If something is none of your business,
Simply pay no attention at all.

50. When you see the good points of others,
You should be want to be just like them.
Though you don’t match up to them now,
Persevere and one day you’ll catch up.

51. When you notice bad habits in others,
To measure yourself against them is wise.
If you have the same faults, correct them.
If not, never let them arise.

52. If your virtue and learning and talents
Don’t measure up to others,
Then spur yourself on 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 you’re angry when told of your faults,
And happy 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 of your faults make you glad,
Forgiving and straightforward friends
Then will gradually come to your side.

56. When an error is not made on purpose,
It is simply called a mistake.
But to deliberately do something wrong,
Is not a mistake, but an evil.

57. If you can reform your offenses,
Your faults will all disappear.
But trying to cover them over
Makes your offenses more severe.

Chapter 5: On Cherishing All Living Beings

58. For all creatures throughout the world,
One should cherish a kind regard.
The sky covers all of us equally.
The earth supports all mankind.

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 who have great ability,
Thereby enjoy great prestige.
Others will follow their lead,
But great talkers don’t earn much respect.

61. The abilities you yourself have
Should not be employed selfishly.
The abilities others may have
Should not be belittled and scorned.

62. It’s not right to flatter the rich
Or be arrogant towards the poor.
What’s old need not be rejected.
What’s new is not definitely good.

63. If you see a person that’s busy,
Leave him alone until he’s free.
If you see that a person is upset,
Don’t annoy him with your idle chatter.

64. Although you may know someone’s faults,
There’s no need to tell everyone.
The personal business of others
Should not be the subject of talk

65. Praising the virtue of others
Is itself a virtuous deed.
When people hear they’ve been praised,
They will want to improve even more.

66. There is never anything good
In talking of others’ shortcomings,
If they hear, they will surely resent it;
They will see you mean nothing but trouble.

67. We should urge each other on toward goodness.
And develop our virtue together.
If our faults are not corrected,
Then we all will have strayed from the way.

68. Things that you give and you get,
Are different and must be made clear.
Make sure than your giving surpasses
The amount that you receive.

69. Before you begin to blame others
First you should question yourself:
“Would I wand to be scolded and blamed?”
If not, then don’t do it to someone else.

70. Kindness must be returned.
Let enmity just fade away.
Grudges are better forgotten,
While kindness increases each day.

71. Treat your employees with fairness.
Be proper and just with each one.
And not only proper and just–
You should also be kind and forgiving.

72. If you try to rule others by force,
You will never win over their hearts.
If you lead them with virtue and reason,
Then they won’t feel oppressed and apart.

Chapter 6: On Drawing Near To Good-hearted People

73. We live on the earth all together
But we people are the same.
There are many who follow the crowd.
There are many who are truly humane.

74. Yet those who are truly humane,
Are feared by most other people
Because they won’t hide behind words
Or try to please with their looks.

75. To follow the truly humane
Will bring immeasurable good.
Virtue will grow day by day,
And our mistakes will be understood.

76. Not to follow the truly humane
Will bring immeasurable harm,
Then unworthy people will flourish
And the affairs of the country will suffer.

Chapter 7: On Studying Whenever We Can

77. Cultural refinements have value
But not at the expense of real work.
If you’re just superficially polished,
Then what can you expect to become?

78. But if you do nothing but work
And have no acquaintance with culture,
You’ll be bound by your own narrow views,
And your notions of truth will be murky.

79. And when you’re pursuing your studies,
On the three places focus attention:
Your mind, your eyes and your mouth.
It’s important to train all these three.

80. When you’ve taken up study of something,
Don’t let yourself become sidetracked.
Be sure that you’ve finished one project
Before starting off on another.

81. Let your goals be lofty and broad.
Let your efforts be focused and steady.
Once you have skill and experience,
You’ll resolve every problem with ease.

82. When a question comes up in your reading,
Make note of it while you remember.
Then ask someone else who will know,
And who can explain the right meaning.

83. Your room should be kept neat and tidy
With the walls uncluttered and clean.
Your desk should be kept in good order,
Pencils, paper, and pens well arranged.

84. If your desk and your papers are messed up,
It is likely your mind’s mixed up too.
If your writing is sloppy and careless,
It’s likely your thoughts have gone wrong.

85. Each of the books that you use
Should have its own place on the shelf.
After you’ve finished your reading,
Put them back in the place they belong.

86. Although you may be in a hurry,
You should close your books the right way.
If the pages or covers are damaged,
Be sure to take time to repair them.

87. What hasn’t been written by sages,
Is not something you should be reading.
Such books cover up your intelligence
And undermine your resolve.

88. Don’t ever injure yourself
Or waste time in unworthy pursuits.
We all can gradually learn
To ourselves become worthies and sages.