Understanding Life: Knowing the Shape By Watching Water

Guang Ming

PureInsight | February 8, 2009

[PureInsight.org] Our human eyes have the ability to observe a myriad of things, but they always look from the outside. There is no way for them to see an object’s true form or true existence. For example, if you want to look at yourself, you have to use a mirror. If you do not have such a tool, you can only see other people’s appearances. So how do we correctly see both our own appearance and the current state of our country (China)? To do that, we can borrow wisdom from the ancient people of China.

Today when I opened the book Shi Ji (Records of the Grand Historian, written 109-91BC), from Yi Benji (Imperial Biographies)—Part Three, I saw a wonderful dialog between Chen Tang Emperor of the Shang Dynasty and Chen Yi Yi. Chen Tang was the first emperor of the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC-1046 BC). He was known for his moral integrity. He explained a very simple principle: A human being can observe his appearance by looking into the water. Likewise, a man can judge a country by looking at its people. Based on the suffering of the people and their love or hatred of the government, you can judge the safety of a society as well as the rise or fall of a dynasty.

As they were discussing this, Yi Yi said, “When ruling a country, you should select government officials with high moral standards who you know will act for the good of the people.”

In the Yi Jing (I Ching, “Book of Changes”), it says, “Heaven generates one, one generates water, and water generates ten thousand matters. In “Chapter Eight” of the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching), Lao Zi (Lao Tzu) says, “The kindest people are like water—they are useful to all things and never fight with others. Water was placed in the dirtiest of places. So it is close to the Dao.” You find water in places that no one would want to be in. Therefore, it is close to the Dao. Among the thousands of things in the natural world, Lao Zi gave the most praise to water. He thought that the virtue of water is closest to the Dao (Tao). In the real world, if you observe water often, you will see your own short-comings. You will be strict with yourself and look inward when you encounter problems. This is the quality of an unselfish person.

The Tang Emperor of the Shang Dynasty was known for having an unselfish character. According to folklore, soon after the Shang Dynasty was established, there was no rain and the country suffered several years of drought. The people prayed for rain, but their prayers were not answered. A wizard then suggested that they sacrifice a human being to bring rain back to the region. The Tang Emperor said, “Praying for water benefits the people. How could we sacrifice a human being?” After a while, he said firmly, “If this is the only way, let me be the one who is sacrificed.” He selected an auspicious day. On that day, he took a shower, cut his hair and nails, and dressed in a white cotton cloth. He kneeled down in front of the sacrificial altar and prayed, “God, if I have sinned, please do not punish my people. Please place their sin onto me. Please punish me as responsible for their crimes.” Then there was thunder and lighting, and rain poured from the sky. People cheered and carried the Tang Emperor from the woods back to his palace.

Since ancient times, wise emperors have respected Gods. They cultivated themselves and ruled the country with virtue. They tried to improve the lives of their people. Brutal emperors are stubborn and have done things their own way. They have refused to accept well-meaning advice and tried to hide their mistakes. They persecuted loyal officials and killed kind-hearted people. Only people with virtue can successfully rule a country. When a brutal ruler has been cursed by his people, his end is near.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org:80/zj/articles/2008/12/10/56484.html



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