Retreating is Actually Moving Forward

Tang Yi Xuan and An Qi

PureInsight | October 3, 2007

[] There is a
meaningful story about "taking" and "giving" in Buddhism. It says that
after two people died, "A" and "B", they were brought to the King of
Hell. He checked the Registration Book of Merits and Demerits and decided to give them new lives. Two choices were given to them: one was "giving life," and the other was "taking life."

"A" was greedy and wanted to have a life that had no hardships so he
immediately chose "taking life." "B" was not upset even though "A"
stepped in front of him. "B" thought that the "giving life" could help
people and knew how meaningful it would be! After listening to both
wishes, the king made the deal with his destiny brush. He told "B,"
"Since you chose a life of giving, you will be a rich man in your next
life and you will donate your money to the poor." What happened to "A"?
Since he wanted to have a life such that could take from others, he was
told to become a beggar and to be at other people's mercy the rest of
his life.

This story reveals that the losses and gains for individuals cannot be
decided just from the surface. Sometimes it appears as if you have
gained something, but from another perspective you might have lost

When Zheng Banqiao was stationed in the government, his brother had a
quarrel with his neighbor due to house-building issues. Both families
were unwilling to compromise, so they built walls in front of their
houses that blocked the road. Zheng's brother wrote to him and expected
to get help in winning the case. However, Zheng Banqiao replied to his
brother with a poem:

Far away, the letter arrived for a wall issue,

Merely three chi, can't you just give to him?

The one-thousand-li Great Wall is still there,

Who can see the original builder Qin Shi Huang?

The neighbor learned that and was touched. They both moved back three
chi, so the road in between became a famous "Six-Chi Lane."

Zheng Qiao's attitude towards the problem tells us something. Based on
tolerance, one can retreat one step and then be able to keep a peaceful
state, leading to a clearer and wiser mind. Then conflicts will be
resolved and become opportunities and, thus, a better world will follow.

The Laughing Buddha had a famous chant:

With rice seedlings in one hand and starting to transplant,

Lowering the head, the blue sky can be seen in the water,

The doctrine is to have pure and clean sensations of the six roots,

 Retrogressing is actually making progress.

The realty was that peasants had to look down and step backwards in
order to transplant rice seedlings, which indicated that successes come
from lowering the head and retreating. It tells of the profound
philosophy of "retreating is actually moving forward." This concept is
similar to the Chinese saying, "sometimes the best gain is to lose." In
one's life, in many circumstances retreating might seem passive but it
can actually be a positive move. The stories above are examples to show
how it works.

Translated from:

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