The Master said, “[The task of self-cultivation] might be compared to the task of building up a mountain: if I stop even one basketful of earth short of completion, then I have stopped completely. It might also be compared to the task of leveling ground: even if I have only dumped a single basketful of earth, at least I am moving forward.”Confucius, & Slingerland, E. (2003). Analects: With selections from traditional commentaries. Hackett Publishing.
The Master said, It’s like building a mound. If the mound needs one more basketful of dirt for completion and I stop work, then the stopping is mine. Or it’s like the case of level ground. Although it may be only one basketful of dirt, if I heap it up, then the progress is mine.
[Or, according to an older interpretation:]
The Master said, It’s like someone building a mound. If the mound needs one more basketful of dirt for completion but the person stops work, then I stop [helping him]. Or it’s like the case of level ground. Although the person may have heaped up only one basketful of dirt, if he keeps working, then I follow along.Confucius, & Watson, B. (2007). The Analects of Confucius. Columbia University Press.