The Dao of "Forbearance" in Traditional Chinese Culture

Li Jian

PureInsight | September 9, 2006

[] The Chinese
nation is one with great ability in forbearance. Being able to tolerate
and compromise has been considered a traditional virtue in the Chinese
culture since ancient times. Confucianism stresses internal holiness,
Daoism stresses guarding of gentleness, and the Buddha School talks
about compassion. All three teachings carry the inner connotation of
"Forbearance." By taking one step back, one will find the ocean broad
and sky open. By being tolerant, one will be able to achieve genuine

In Shang Shu (one of the
classics of Confucianism), Zhou Cheng Wang (an emperor of the Zhou
Dynasty) warned officials, "Only by being tolerant can one achieve
accomplishments and only by being forgiving, can one have mighty
virtue." Confucius said, "Not being able to tolerate trivial things,
one's major plan will be ruined." He also said, "Gentlemen do not
compete with each other." Lao Zi said, "Those who conform to heavenly
principles don't compete with others but win naturally. Without saying
much, they are good at dealing with all matters." Buddhism says,
"Forbearance is number one in the six ways of salvation and ten
thousand methods of cultivation." All these teachings are about the Dao
of "forbearance."

1.    Forbearance in Confucianism

There are many descriptions of "forbearance" in "Lun Yu" by Confucius.
He said, "Not being able to tolerate trivial things, one's major plan
will be ruined." He also said, "Isn't it too muddle headed to forget
oneself and his relatives because of ones instant anger?" Confucius
also said, "Gentlemen do not compete with each other." and "Gentlemen
are restrained and do not compete."

It is also recorded in "Lun Yu" that Confucius warned Zi Lu (Confucius'
student): "Teeth are easy to break because they are rigid. The tongue
is easily protected because it's flexible. Being gentle surely will
overcome the rigidness and a weak being may also conquer strong ones.
If one is attached to fighting, he will inevitably be harmed and,
blindly flaunting his superiority, he will surely be destroyed. The
fundamental attitude of doing anything is: forbearance is the best."

2.    Forbearance in Buddhism.

According to the Buddhist scripture, Sakyamuni said, "I have
enlightened to the essence of 'non-competition,' which can be regarded
as number one in importance in the world." He also said, "Among the six
ways of salvation and ten thousand methods of cultivation, being
forbearing is number one."

It's said in Buddhist scripture: "The upright quality and behavior of a
person, a clean and fair face, and the beautiful manner and appearance
can only be obtained from being forbearing and compromising." It is
also recorded in the scripture, "In the past, a person praised the
Buddha Siddhartha as possessing great fortune and great virtue. Some
who heard that were very angry and said, 'He lost his mother only seven
days after birth. How can he be said to possess great fortune and great
virtue?' The person who praised Buddha said: 'After both of his age and
thought passed their prime limit, they did not die. When he was hit, he
did not get angry and when being cursed he did not return the cursing.
How can this not be regarded as having great fortune and great virtue?'
The angry people were convinced."

3.    Forbearance in the Dao School.

Lao Zi said, "Superior benevolence is like water, which benefits
everything without competing." Lao Zi also said: "Those who conform to
heavenly principles don't compete with others but win naturally.
Without saying much, they are good at dealing with all matters."

The cultivators of Dao School have also left many words about Forbearance. Zi Xuyuan Jun said, "By forgiving, forgiving and
forgiving, various disasters will disappear all at once. By tolerating,
tolerating and tolerating, one won't have any creditors and enemies."
Chi Songzi warned his disciples, "You won't be humiliated if you can
tolerate and compromise." Xu Zhen Jun also said, "Endure what is hard
to endure and follow those who unceasingly make earnest effort to stand
on their own feet." Sun Zhenren said, "Being forbearing can make a bad
thing disappear by itself, and reflecting on oneself would keep
disasters away from him."

4.    Words on Forbearance from other ancient classical books

"Yi - Sun Diagram" says, "Gentlemen suppress their anger and desires
through self-warning," meaning that a person with great virtue would
control his anger and desire by reflecting on himself. It is recorded
in Shang Shu that Zhou Gong
warned Zhou Cheng Wang, "When bad people complain about, hate and curse
at you, you should be stricter with your behavior." "It is not just
because you do not dare to be angry." "You also need to increase your
capacity for tolerance." Emperor Cheng Wang warned the officials, "Only
by being tolerant, can one achieve accomplishment and by being
forgiving, can one have mighty virtue."

It is said in "Zuo Zhuan," "Without being willing to tolerate even once
the humiliation, are you going to feel ashamed all life long?" It is also
said in "Zuo Zhuan -Zhao Gong Yuan Nian (First year of Zhao Gong)" that
"people in Lu Country manage their country based on forbearance between
each other." "Zuo Zhuan - Ai Gong 27th year) recorded the
following: "Zhi Bo said to Zhao Meng: 'you do not have courage. How can
you be respectfully called as Zi (learned or virtuous man)?' Zhao Meng
answered: 'because I can endure. You laugh at me, but what harm can it
cause to me?'"

5.    Proverbs about Forbearance

There is Chinese proverb that says, "Being tolerant will resist
disasters." "Be tolerant when encountering things. Being forgiving is
not a fool and a fool won't forgive." And "tolerate if you can and
discipline yourself if you can. Without tolerance and discipline,
trivial problems will grow serious". All these are telling people that
"taking one step back, one will find the ocean broad and sky open, and
by compromising a little bit one will enjoy pleasant climate."

The Chinese traditional culture is broad and profound. Gods passed this
culture down to mankind with the purpose of laying down the cultural
foundation for today's wide spreading of Falun Dafa in the human world.
Falun Dafa has, for the first time, revealed the ultimate
characteristics of the universe - Truthfulness, Compassion and
Tolerance, and told sentient beings, "In practicing Zhen-Shan-Ren, the
Dao School emphasizes the cultivation of Zhen. Therefore, the Dao
School believes in the cultivation of Zhen to nurture one's nature; one
should tell the truth, do things truthfully, become a truthful person,
return to the origin and true self, and in the end, become a true
person through cultivation. Nevertheless, it also includes Ren and
Shan, but with an emphasis on the cultivation of Zhen. The Buddha
School emphasizes cultivating Shan of Zhen-Shan-Ren. Because the
cultivation of Shan can generate great, benevolent compassion, and when
compassion develops one will find all beings suffering, the Buddha
School thus develops an aspiration to offer salvation to all beings. It
also has Zhen and Ren, but with an emphasis on the cultivation of Shan.
Our Falun Dafa is based upon the highest standard of the universe,
Zhen, Shan, and Ren, all of which we cultivate simultaneously. The
system that we cultivate is enormous." (Zhuan Falun)

In my view, forbearance means unswerving determination and resolution
in one's inner heart. When one possesses such a quality, he can endure
what others can't. This is a kind of accomplishment and realm in
cultivation. Chong Er endured hardship and humiliation in exile and
eventually became an emperor of Jin. Yan Yuan lived a simple life, was
contented in poverty and devoted to spiritual life, and eventually
became a virtuous disciple of Confucius. Han Xin tolerated the
humiliation of crawling between another person's legs and eventually
became a greatly respected general. Su Wu took care of sheep for 19
years, maintained loyalty and righteousness, endured what others
couldn't, and eventually became the model for later generations. Every
colorful and rich historical story like that has demonstrated the deep
inner connotation of "Forbearance" and paved the road and laid the
foundation for modern people to understand Dafa. People in today's
world have finally encountered the grand occasion of Dafa being spread
in the world after thousands of years of reincarnation and waiting.
They must not miss this once- in -ten thousand years' opportunity.

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