The last words of ‘The Fatal Encounter’ (逆鳞/杀王者) featured an invigorated king who survived assassination quoting Chapter 23 of the ‘Doctrine Of The Mean’ (中庸), while adding in his own words. As the English subtitles ran… ‘Do your utmost even in trivial things. From that you can gain sincerity. This sincerity becomes apparent. From being manifest, it becomes brilliant. Brilliant, it affects others. Affecting others, they are changed by it. Changed by it, they are transformed. It is only those with complete sincerity who can transform everything… It will change. If you do your utmost, one by one, the world will change.’
Indeed, it is from being utmost in even the so-called ‘trivial’ that greatness is accumulated and eventually expressed. If we are thorough in even small details, we become sincere in all matters. By being a brilliant example sincerely, others are touched and transformed. Although this is a Confucian teaching, written by Confucious’ grandson Zisi (子思), now one of Confucianism’s Four Books, the above is broadly aligned to Buddhist teachings – on how transformation of oneself and the world pivots upon acting with utmost sincerity.
In fact, powered by compassionate and wise sincerity in service to the masses is how the world becomes purified, to become a Pure Land. (This does take much time and effort though, spanning many lifetimes. As we can see, the Confucian concept of sincerity has yet to make our world a paradise. This is while Buddhas have established many Pure Lands already.) It is sincerity too, that binds and expresses the Three Provisions of Faith, Aspiration and Practice for reaching Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land.
Here is the actual and fuller quote in Chinese translated by A. Charles Muller – ‘其次致曲。曲能有诚、诚则形、形则著、著则明、明则动、动则变、变则化。唯天下至诚为能化。’ In English, ‘Those of the next level [yet to be perfect] straighten out their own twistedness. Being straightened they can possess sincerity. Having sincerity, they can give form to their character. Their character having form, their sincerity becomes manifest. Being manifest it is luminous, being luminous it can function. Functioning, it changes; changing, it transforms. Only the most fully actualised sincerity is able to transform people and things.‘
To straighten out twistedness can be interpreted as having the straight mind (直心), which is aligned to one’s pure Buddha-nature, thus away from crooked breaking of moral precepts. Yes indeed, how can we be sincere to one and all if we do not even start avoiding evil, to better do good for everyone’s welfare? It is worth noting, that Confucian ethics are not as comprehensive and encompassing of all sentient beings as Buddhist moral standards.