Spoken By The Supreme Master Ching Hai
at Tien Shan Center in Satin, Hong Kong April 6, 1994
(Originally in Chinese)
Liezi had written a story about Confucius and his disciples. There was a person named Zixia who asked Confucius, "What kind of a person is Yenhui?" Confucius had many disciples, one of them was called Yenhui, right? (Answer: Yes.) Confucius said, "Yenhui is more compassionate than I!" More compassionate than Confucius, not I! I don't have anything, anyone is more compassionate than I! (Master and everyone laugh.) He continued to ask, "What kind of a person is Zigong?" Confucius answered, "Zigong is more eloquent than I." Meaning more eloquent than Confucius, not I. I don't have any eloquence to be included. I worry that sometimes I say "I", "I", "I", and you don't know who "I" refers to. (All laugh.)
Zixia continued to ask Confucius, "What about Zilu? What kind of a person is Zilu?" Confucius answered, "Zilu is more courageous than I am!" meaning more courageous than Confucius, don't you mistake it for me. (All laugh.) I am pretty courageous. (Master laughs.) If anyone beats me, he'd know how courageous I am, because I'd run away immediately! (Master and all laugh.) Zixia inquired further, "Then what about Zizhang? What kind of a person is Zizhang?" And Confucius replied, "He is more solemn than I." Meaning he was more serious, unlike me, telling jokes all the time! We laughed for quite a while in the cave before I came down to see you.
Then Zixia stood up and questioned Confucius, "Then why do the four of them come here to learn from you?" (Master laughs.) The four of them were better than Confucius in a certain way, why do they come to learn from him? Confucius then said, "Sit down!" (Master laughs.) He was so disturbed that he stood up. "Sit down and I'll tell you why. Don't you understand, that Yenhui knows about compassion, but doesn't know when not to be compassionate." That is being compassionate without knowing when not to be. "Zigong who is articulate, but doesn't know when to be silent." He meant being a person who doesn't know arguing, understand? Not to act like one who knows everything and argues all the time to bore others! Right? But let me finish reading before I make comments. It may be more satisfactory or I can just comment freely. Whichever, I am not "Jin Shentan" who added his comments under every article he saw. I'll just make comments freely, whether under or over, head or top.
Confucius continued to say, "Zilu knows about bravery, but he doesn't know when to be afraid. "Understand? He did not know when to pretend to be fearful or when to be afraid. Well, not really "afraid", but to be meek at times. He doesn't know when to be meek. And "Shih!", means Zizhang, "Shih is serious and stately, but doesn't know when to accommodate and compromise with others. If you were to add all of their talents together and exchange them for all of my imperfections, I wouldn't take them!" Since they were so great, then add up all of the parts which were better than Confucius; and exchange them for the parts which were not as good as theirs. Confucius said he would not take the exchange. Therefore, those four people should come and bow to him as their teacher; they followed him wholeheartedly, without any thought of losing faith, without any thought of regret.
This is a great story! Have you read it before? Why do you think it is this way? Why should we know about being compassionate and also know when not to be compassionate sometimes? Who knows? In our world, we all respect the compassionate people, right? Then why does it say here that sometimes we should be unmerciful? Who knows why?
What does being compassionate mean? It means that a person is very loving towards all, is that right? He is very generous, very understanding, ready to forgive others, never blame others, and is always loving. This is being compassionate. When we see others in difficulty, we love them and help them; when others make mistakes, we forgive. Then why shouldn't we uphold this quality? Why shouldn't we do so every time? Isn't this a better way? Why did Confucius say that we should know when not to be compassionate? What does it mean? Who knows? Quick! (Someone answered: When we deal with bad people.) (Another answered: It means capable of being a loving person and also being able to treat someone unlovingly. Being unkind to people means being unmerciful. We should have both qualities.)
Right! We should have both; yin (negative) and yang (positive) must be balanced. Be compassionate when we should be; but when we need to be unmerciful, we have to be unmerciful, this is what I mean to be truly good.
Under what conditions should we be or not be compassionate? For example, if we have a friend who is having difficulties. Being his good friend, of course we should help him, give him some money to run some business. Later he may become independent. If he has money, he may return to us, but even if he doesn't, we don't really care. If we have a lot of money, we don't mind if our friends use it, or if our brothers and relatives use it.
But if that person does not use the money to run a business but to do some bad things such as gambling, smoking, drinking and all kinds of terrible things, and he comes to us for more money, then at that time, we cannot continue to be compassionate! If we help him to be a bad person, a dependent person, then the more we are compassionate towards him, the more we hurt him. He will gradually become a person without an independent spirit and will not develop his abilities. Eventually he becomes a person who relies on others, a weak person, someone without a sense of shame or guilt, without conscience, without any integrity, and is not worthy of being our friend. Thus we not only lost a friend but we also hurt him. His life will become more vanquished and he will not be able to stand up on his own.
There is a Chinese story, I am not sure whether it is a Chinese or an Au Lac story, a story about Liu Ping and Yang Li. Whether they are Chinese or Au Lac people, anyway, there were two friends who were studying to take the Imperial examinations. One studied diligently, and he was selected to be the top scholar after the examination. He was given a high post in the Imperial Court and returned gloriously to his hometown. While the other friend, who enjoyed playing around and did not study as diligently, and even though he was very talented, as talented as his friend, he did not succeed in the Imperial examinations because he was lazier and did not study much. The friend who became the high official was very good hearted. He remembered his friend for they used to be close buddies. He thought his friend must not be in good shape now, so he sent for him.
When the friend arrived, the scholar pretended to be busy inside and let his friend wait outside for a long time. When his friend asked for him again, he purposely sent a little clerk out to entertain him and serve him a lousy meal. He was given the same kind of food given to the lower class workers or the very poor people, and was not treated well. When the friend asked to see the scholar, he pretended he was busy again and told him to wait or come back another day etc... On another day, the friend came back to see him, the scholar treated him the same way as before. Later, the poor, discouraged friend was very upset and felt very angry and insulted, so he did not come to see his scholar friend anymore. He went home feeling very disturbed! (Master laughs.) He felt very upset everyday. When he was feeling very down, didn't want to do anything, didn't even want to live, then, unexpectedly he met a girl. She was very beautiful, very graceful and noble, but was dressed in ordinary clothes.
She appeared suddenly from nowhere. After they met, she encouraged him and she understood his feelings, knew his difficulties and how he was betrayed by his friend, etc. She decided to support him and told him, "Don't worry. You continue to study, and I can weave and make lots of handicrafts to support you. I will also pray to the inner Master to help you. Don't worry." (Master and all laugh.) Therefore, the young man was able to focus his attention on his studies. He promised her that he would study hard and succeed in the Imperial examinations and marry her. The girl didn't say much, she only said, "We'll see at that time! You study hard first. This is a minor affair, we'll talk about that later!" She always said that and refused to let him get close. She always said that he must study hard, not to divert his attention on love affairs, that this matter is still very far away, and he must prepare to take the Imperial examinations first! She continued to work and supported his studies, and at the next Imperial examinations, he was selected as the top scholar!
After he also became the top scholar, the first person he wanted to see was his ex-friend, the other top scholar who was mean and wicked and betrayed him. He went to see him immediately, bringing along many subordinates to show his friend that he was also a top scholar now! He wanted to scold this bad friend on how he mistreated him before. While he was lashing out his anger, the old friend whispered something to his subordinate. The subordinate went inside and came out with a girl. The new scholar immediately recognized that it was the girl who worked and supported him while he studied for the past three years! He asked her, "Why are you here?" The previous scholar replied, "She is my wife!" (Master and everyone laugh.)
Do you understand? He sacrificed his wife to help his friend. He sent his wife there to work and support him, to encourage him to study so that he would not degenerate, waste his talent and bury his brilliance. This friend of course couldn't understand his scholar friend's good intention. He kept thinking that
his friend had mistreated him and wanted to scold him in revenge. Later he understood. He kneeled and bowed down to him and they hugged each other and cried touchingly. You must know this story; is it a Chinese story? It is very famous in Au Lac. (Master laughs.) This is the mercilessness of a gentleman. Sometimes, the compassion of a mean person might hurt others instead. But the mercilessness of a gentleman is truly hard to come by; it can help many people, help himself and others. It is the true compassion. Therefore, sometimes we need to know how to be merciless. Do you understand what I mean?
Through this story we can understand Confucius when he said, Know compassion and have compassion, but also know when not to be compassionate. This means that we should know how to manage toughness and gentleness effectively. Otherwise, we get attached and get stuck in our compassionate qualities. But it is also not good if we cannot let go. Sometimes we must let go! For example, we have some treasure. When a war breaks out, of course we will gather all of our diamonds, gold, agate, coral, etc. into a pack; we carry it on our bodies and do not want to let it go. Wherever we go, we carry it with us until we reach some safe place. But after we have arrived at the safe place, we have to put the package down. Or if our friends or relatives are hungry, we need to take some out to sell in exchange for money in order to buy food for them. We cannot hang on to the treasure and not care about others. Therefore, compassion and mercilessness should be used accordingly. If we know how to use it appropriately, mercilessness is compassion; otherwise, compassion becomes mercilessness, compassion becomes malevolence.
Many people misuse the word "compassion". They think a person should be compassionate and merciful all the time. Everyday, they smile and say to whomever comes "Good! Good!" (Master and all laugh.) That is stupidity; only a wooden Buddha would do that. Human beings shouldn't be this way. A gentleman should know how to deal with others; he should know when to go forward and when to retreat, when to be tough and when to be gentle. That is a truly good person. Therefore, Confucius said here that he was not as compassionate as Yenhui. This is the reason; because he was not compassionate sometimes. There were times that he seemed to have let go of his compassion and was rather merciless to some people. That's why he said Yenhui was more compassionate than he was. Perhaps Yenhui was compassionate all the time, and didn't know when to say "no", "I don't understand", or "I cannot". Understand! To take everything as "yes","yes" "yes", is not compassion, but stupidity.
Therefore, even if Yenhui was very compassionate and very loving, he lacked the part of mercilessness and didn't know when to let go of his compassion. So in order to have a truly loving heart and greater compassion, he must come and learn from Confucius. You now understand what I mean! It is not that Confucius didn't know how to be compassionate, but he knew a higher form of compassion. Therefore, we say that a fully enlightened person is not all compassion. He is not as compassionate as we human beings imagine him to be; his behavior and methods are not what we expect them to be, within the framework of morality, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom and faithfulness. Understand? He has transcended this level. When he should step inside this framework, he will come in. When he should step outside in order to help more people, to fulfill higher ideals, then he will step out, understand? He comes and goes freely. Most of us can only stay within this framework, do not know how to get out or come back. If we don't know how to get out, then it is not the same; it is more rigid, like a one way street, we only know to go forward and don't know how to come back!
The same way like Zigong. He was very articulate, very good at debating; but he didn't know when not to argue and be a simple person. When he didn't know, he should say he didn't know, for he shouldn't know about everything anyhow. All that we should know, we know; that which we should not know, we don't need to know. If I don't know, I can say that I don't know because I don't need to know about that, and I will not die because I don't know about that! I know all of those things that I should know, and all that I should do; for those that I shouldn't know and shouldn't do, then I leave them alone!
Even if we say that we know, but sometimes we don't really know. There are some people who always have an answer for you regardless of what you ask. (Master laughs.) Understand? Nobody can convince them otherwise; sometimes, people are just too tired to argue with them, but it doesn't mean that they know everything. They are too curious, too fond of winning. They wanted to know everything and understand everything. Thus it becomes a big burden sometimes, understand? And then you cannot afford to lose, you cannot become someone who sometimes is very ordinary, very simple, just like a child who does not know how to debate, and does not care who wins.
Reading this story today, I feel rather comforted. It's because sometimes when I got into a debate, I could not convince the other party. The other party kept citing a lot of sutras and a lot of theories, that I thought made sense also. (Master and all laugh.) So I lost. After I came home, I felt, "How can I be a Supreme Master yet lose my face?" (Master and all laugh.) Oh, then I thought, "Well, since I didn't have a face anymore, who cares whether it got lost?" (Master laughs.) Today I read about what Confucius said that when we talk, we need to stumble for words once in a while. What he meant was, Zigong was very eloquent, he had excellent articulation, but he didn't know when he needed to stumble, understand? What good is it when we stumble for words? It does not mean that we don't have the eloquence, but just that we don't have to win every time, we don't have to be so great every time. Understand? If a person has to be so fantastic at every moment, then nobody can stand him! And he can't stand himself either, understand? If we don't know that we need to stumble once in a while, we are not used to that way, and we always win, then one day if we lose just once, we would commit suicide, because we are not used to it and we cannot take it. This type of person is just too rigid!
Therefore, in this world one cannot be too perfect, understand? Slightly imperfect is perfection indeed! This means to know when is a good time to do what; when we should explain and when not to argue. It is alright to be a deaf mute; it doesn't matter. Then, we can truly be uninhibited and free! If we try to be a good person all the time, try to keep our good names in perfect order, and are able to argue back no matter who says what, then this is too boring and too inflexible. It is not perfect and not fun. (Master laughs.) When things are the same all the time, then it is not fun anymore!
Confucius said Zilu, who was more courageous, but he did not know that he needed to be a meek and timid person sometimes. Sometimes it should be this way, really should! I have told you about what happened in the Philippines last time, that they tried to control us by force. There were a large number of us, and of course we could have reacted; but if both sides got tough, a fight would have erupted. Do you think the result would be good? Certainly not! Isn't it so? First, I was a guest in their country. Second, we are a spiritual persons. Third, we were there to help, not to complicate the situation and cause further misunderstandings. It would not have been beneficial for either side, right? Therefore, at that time, if I was not meek and did not leave, if I did not pretend to be afraid of their power and gave in, then there would have been big trouble! It would have become very complicated and terrible, and may not have been beneficial for the Au Lac refugees. What would have happened if we won? We still would have had to buy plane tickets to go home after a short while! (Master and all laugh.) We were not meant to stay there forever. We must not be too impulsive, and not judge a true hero merely by the outcome of an incident.
Since ancient times, all the martial arts practitioners, teachers or masters in China always forbade people from showing their martial arts randomly. They were instructed to be patient and tolerate it until they had to defend themselves. They were not to provoke a fight, accept a challenge to fight, or to show off. Am I right? It is not that they were not brave or had no ability to fight, but the true martial arts is tolerance and not fighting.
When we are being pushed against the wall, then of course we have to fight back. But it is not for us to show off any time, so that others know that we are not afraid of anyone, or to show how terrific our martial arts are, how talented, how powerful we are. Therefore, in this world, sometimes an enlightened master handles matters according to the natural flow of the situation and in a humble way. Such as Shakyamuni Buddha, even though he possessed great miraculous powers, he refused to compete with others when challenged. Jesus Christ was also full of miraculous powers. He heard that he would be crucified, He knew that was his destiny, he should be crucified to be able to save sentient beings, so he allowed himself to be crucified. It was not that he couldn't escape; he could have run away without using any miraculous powers, because he had a lot of disciples, and he knew his time was up beforehand. It was not that he did not know, and he could have simply run away without using any miraculous powers!