The Understanding of Life: A Man of Great Wisdom Often Seems Slow-Witted

Guan Ming

PureInsight | October 18, 2004

[] Over a decade ago, in a county in Northern China, there was an incident. In the street, a group of young local ruffians took turns fiercely hitting one tall and sturdy middle-aged man of strong physique. After suffering silently from the savage beating, the middle-aged man's nostrils and lips started to bleed. However, what was strange was that he did not hit back, nor did he try to avoid being hurt by the punches and kicks. The onlookers thought that this man was a fool. One elderly man could not stand watching this scene any longer. After the ruffians were gone, the old man went to clean the bloodstains off the face of the middle-aged man. To the old man's surprise, after looking carefully at the middle-aged man, he realized that the middle-aged man was the professional coach in a martial arts school in a neighboring county. Furthermore, the man had won the free style championship in a prestigious professional level competition!

Astonished, the old man asked him, "With your skill you could have easily handled more of these ruffians. Why didn't you hit back upon being hit like this?" The middle-aged man peacefully replied, "People who practice martial arts need to follow the moral standards of martial arts. Being hit several times by them would not cause too much harm to me. But if I hit back, I might kill someone. Furthermore, fighting with ruffians who are not skilled in martial arts might make my hands dirty." Hearing this, some spectators showed respect while others, unimpressed, laughed at the man and walked away.

This story reminded me of Han Xin who endured the insult of crawling between a ruffian's legs. If Han Xin had beheaded that ruffian with his sword, he would not have had to suffer from the humiliation from having to crawl between the ruffian's legs. But he would have had to suffer the consequence of taking a person's life. Furthermore, had he done that, he would not have been able to draw back. Crawling between a ruffian's legs was not cowardly, nor was it foolish. It was a manifestation of his forbearance and great wisdom. Years later, Han Xin became a great general and helped to found the Han Dynasty. His great contributions in the Han Dynasty's unification of China clearly demonstrate that he was a person of great wisdom.

Yue Fei's unreserved loyalty in his service to the Song Dynasty earned him the title of national hero and is considered by some to be [the epitome of] "blind loyalty". Others consider the behavior of those who have great wisdom as "insane" or "silly." Yet, the truth is to the contrary. In Chinese history, there is a story about "the insane monk who swept Qin Hui away." The "insane monk" was actually not insane. He simply used his own wisdom to play tricks on the public and Prime Minister Qin, the treacherous court official who wrongfully killed the patriotic and loyal hero, Yue Fei. Qin Hui thus forever nailed himself on the historical pillar of shame. He was the genuine lunatic and fool.

Looking for temporary happiness and immediate benefits is only the common people's cleverness in trivial matters. Great skills often seem awkward; a man of great wisdom often seems slow-witted. Even if common people do not usually understand whether a person is a hero is not decided by successes or failures. Not haggling over common people's gains and losses but being kind all the time is the manifestation of the true and great wisdom.

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