Part of the makeup of a good and meaningful life is righteousness. Righteousness is defined as the state of being morally right or justifiable. It is also known as virtue.
What do the ancients have to say about a righteous life?
They say, “If each day, we can hear of one righteous thing, see one righteous thing being done and do one righteous thing, then that day would not have been in vain.”
How can we teach our children about righteousness? To rely on our educators whose promotions are not based on teaching righteousness would be inadequate.
The ancients said,
“There is nothing more skilled than practice: Therefore, children will be reminded to do their homework: that is their duty. Adults must patiently hone their skills in order to perfect them.
There is nothing more peaceful than patience: Life is full of obstacles and challenges when we just want to be left alone. When we cannot run away from our problems and challenges, we must learn to patiently endure them: the storm will blow over.
Chinese Emperor Yáo 堯 tried to talk ascetic Xǔ Yóu 許由 into taking over and rule the country. Xǔ Yóu simple left and went to mount Zhong Yue to continue his ascetic practice.
Later the emperor pursued him and again respectfully requested that Xǔ Yóu reconsidered. Xǔ Yóu got up abruptly and went to the nearby river to wash his ears.
Meng Zi said, “A man steals a chicken from his neighbor every day. When told that is dishonest, he replied, ‘You are absolutely right! Unfortunately, I can’t quite stop. I tell you what: I’ll just take one chicken a day for now. I’ll stop after a year.’
Would such behavior be acceptable?
We should fix our flaws as soon as we become aware of them!”
A man found a jade stone in the mountain. He offered it up to the king of the country.
The king asked his jeweler to examine it and said it was not jade. The king therefore ordered that the man’s left foot be cut off as punishment.
Then after the crown prince succeeded his father to the throne, that man offered up the jade stone to the new king. His jeweler proclaimed that it was not jade either. So, the new king ordered the man’s right foot be cut off as punishment.
Zeng Zi’s wife was preparing to go to the market but their son cried and asked to go with her. So she said, “Stay home and be a good boy. When I come back I will give you pork for dinner.”
After she came back from the market, Zeng Zi told her to kill a pig for their meal.
She said, “I did not mean it!”
Zeng Zi replied, “How could you? Do not ever think that children don’t understand! Whatever parents do, they will imitate. If we lied to him, aren’t we telling him that it’s OK to lie?”
So, Zeng Zi went and killed his pig and let his son have pork.
Ma Vien grew up as an orphan. Life was very hard but he was undaunted. He used to tell his friends, “When you face great suffering, you should strengthen your resolve; when you become old, you should become even more unrelenting in your resolve.”
Therefore, Ma Vien worked very hard. He vigorously cultivated the fields, took great care of his animals and eventually became very wealthy. However, he did not rest on his laurels. He often told his friends, “Those who are rich should understand that they are to use their wealth to help the poor and unfortunate. Otherwise, they are just slaves to their wealth and would be wasting their lives guarding it. What’s so great about that?
During the Warring States era in China, a man brought what he claimed to be an elixir of immortality to offer up to the king of the So country.
The gate keeper official asked the man, “Can it be eaten?”
The man replied, “Yes, of course!”
So, the official grabbed the potion and swallowed it.
The king got upset and ordered the official be put to death by beheading.
Parents can be ranked according to three criteria:
Confucius asked his disciple ZiLu, “What kind of man has wisdom? What kind of man is humane?”
ZiLu replied, “A wise man knows how to make others know you. A humane person knows how to make others love you.”
Confucius said, “You are surely a man of learning.”
The ancients taught:
When seeing a superior person, one should imitate him or her. When seeing an inferior person, one should examine oneself to make corrections.
We should try our best to reinforce our righteousness and get rid of our faults.
Those who criticize us appropriately are our teachers; those who praise us appropriately are our friends; and those who flatter us are our enemies.
In ancient China, a commoner brought a gem to offer to an official. The official refused to accept. The man said,
“The jeweller informs me that it is a high quality gem. That is why I decided to offer up to you. It would be a great honor if you would accept it.”
The official said, “You own an authentic gemstone. My lack of greed is also a gem. If I accept your gift then we’d both lose. Isn’t it better that you bring your gem back home, that way we both still have our treasures?”
In ancient China, in the country of Yue, there was a famously known beauty called XiShi 西施. She was so beautiful that even when she had a stomach ache, although she would bend over and grimace, she was still irresistible.
In her village, there was woman who saw all that had happened. Because she was shallow and conceited, this woman assumed that she could win the hearts of all that saw her, just as XiShi did.
A jade craftsman went to the stone market and bought a stone. He broke it up and retrieved a block of jade. The jade is of the top-notch quality. As a result, the jade craftsman became very wealthy.
The stone merchant who sold the stone heard of the story and felt that his stones must also contain jade. Therefore, he broke up all the stones in the shop looking for jade. Not only did he waste time and sweat, he ended up with useless stones without finding any jade and was scolded bitterly by his wife.
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Zeng Zi 曾子 ranks amongst the top students of Confucius, second only to Yan Hui 顏回.
Zeng Zi was gravely ill and bed ridden. His son and another disciple was by his bed side. So was a young boy (who was typically called upon to fan him or fetch things).
The boy said: “The straw mat [that Teacher is lying on], is very shiny and well made, is it for the great officials’ use?”
Zeng Zi’s son immediately said: “Silence! Say no more!”
Great men value their reputation and are not greedy for fame.
To value one’s reputation is to acquire knowledge and wisdom. One chooses to live by the principles of propriety (and not violate the rules and regulations). One decides to exemplify loyalty, self-respect, and bravery (and not fear loss or death).
Layman Atula, who has 500 followers, brought them all to the monastery to hear the Dharma.
They first met with Ven. Revata who delighted in solitude. Ven. Revata did not even utter a single word.
Extremely disappointed, Atula and his entourage went to see Ven. Shariputra and complained. As a result, the wise Shariputra immediately expounded in great detail the Abhidharma for them. Unfortunately, Atula could not quite grasp the profound principles.
A great general believed in upholding the following statements regarding the four disharmonies:
Most meditation approaches laud lesser results such as spiritual penetrations, good feelings (that make you “smile”), etc. In contrast, a major objective of Chan meditation is to realize the state of No Thoughts.
The state of No thoughts can simply described as:
The king of the Sở country was on a hunting trip. He misplaced his bow. His entourage was actively looking for it but he said, “Never mind! A man from Sở lost a bow, a man from Sở would find it: there is no loss!”
When Confucius heard of the story, he sighed, “The Sở king is such a small thinker! Why did he specify Sở people? Wouldn’t it be better that he said,“A man lost a bow, another man will find it”?”
In ancient China, Lưu Ngưng Chi had the reputation of being a man of principle. He gave his share of his inheritance to his siblings because he wanted to earn his own livelihood without depending on anybody. He even refused to become an official and chose to travel everywhere instead.
One day, someone came and claimed that the shoes that Lưu was wearing was his. Lưu immediately gave up his shoes without any resistance. Later, the same man found his own shoes and came to apologize and wanted to return Lưu’s shoes. Lưu categorically refused.
One of my students texted me and complained that I often took her for granted and that she felt that I did not appreciate her contributions at all.
I texted in reply the following:
“I am very sorry you feel that way. But that is just life.
“For example, as monks, we open our doors to everyone old or young, man or woman, white or colored, Buddhist or atheist and so forth. Therefore, quite often people come and take advantage of us repeatedly.
A master painter offered some of his works to the king.
The king asked, “What is difficult to draw?”
The artist replied, “Drawing dogs or horses is rather difficult.”
“What is easy to draw?” The king pursued.
“Ghosts and spirits.” was the reply.
“Why is that?” The king asked.
During the Warring States era in China 春秋末战国, the Lu King of Lu country 鲁国wanted to conquer his neighboring country. Mo Zi 墨子, a renowned Chinese philosopher, heard of it and went to try to talk him out of it, saying, “If in this country of ours, the larger provinces attack the smaller provinces, the stronger families attack the weaker families, killing and stealing from each other, what would your Highness think?”
The Lu King answered, “They all are my subjects. If the stronger bullies the weaker, stealing from each other, then it is a very serious crime that must be severely punished.”
Mo Zi 墨子, a renowned Chinese philosopher, during the Warring States era in China 春秋末战国 took three years to make a wooden kite. After it was flown for a day, it broke.
His disciples praised him, “It is incredible that you made a wooden kite that can fly!”
“It took me three years to make that wooden kite.” Mo Zi said. “However, it could only fly for a day before it broke down. How can one be proud of that? Take the cart maker. He used some wood and in a day can make a cart that can carry heavy loads for long distances for long time periods: that is real skill!”