Lecturer: Master Zheng-Yan
Subject: Self-discipline in Spiritual Practice (寬人律己福慧人)
We cannot live apart from other people. Humans are meant to live in a group. But how do people treat each other? Some harshly criticize others, yet find it difficult to discipline themselves. If we can be self-disciplined in our living and abide by rules, then we can be considerate toward others. If we can get along with others like this, we will be very happy. If we are critical of others and cannot control ourselves, living with other people will be hard. Other people will displease and upset us. When we see these people, we will always criticize them and find faults. Seeing them will never make us happy. That is being egotistical. If we are too full of ourselves, then we will always be lonely. If we isolate ourselves from others, then we will feel exhausted and unhappy. We must be forgiving and have self-discipline. Thus wisdom and blessings will grow. That is the correct way to treat other people.
If we know how to treat others, we can manage ourselves. If we cannot control ourselves, we will not treat others well. Since we live among people, we must be lenient towards others, yet self-disciplined. Then we will truly be blessed and wise.
While living in a group, if we are critical of others and cannot control ourselves, then being with others will be very exhausting. Those who are considerate and self-disciplined are truly blessed and wise.
There was a king named Alexander the Great. He is world-famous. Almost everyone knows about him. He was a strong ruler who expanded his kingdom. He is a well-known historical figure. One day he was walking in his garden when he saw a young guard who must have been very tired because he fell asleep while leaning against a post. Alexander walked over to wake him up. But upon looking closely, the soldier seemed to have tears on his face. As he moved closer, he saw a letter fall out of his pocket. The wind blew the letter to the ground, so he picked it up and read it.
It was a letter written by the soldier’s mother. In the letter she told him, “I’ve received the money you sent. I can afford medicine for a few days. This should be enough. Don’t worry about me. Just be loyal and fulfill your duty.”
After he read this letter, he knew that this soldier joined the army even though his mother was sick. He could not stay with her and be filial. His mother was sick, and he was worried about her, so he shed those tears. He was so tired that he fell asleep standing up. At that time, Alexander took a bag of money out of his pocket and wrapped it with this letter. He put it back into the soldier’s pocket and left.
When the soldier woke up, he felt his pockets. As he reached for the letter he also felt the bag of money. The money was in a bag stitched with the name Alexander on it. He was confused and also very frightened, so he asked to see the king.
The guard thought that this was simply a soldier seeking an audience, but before he could respond, the king noticed him and knew it was the same soldier. He told the guard to let him in. The soldier entered and knelt in front of Alexander the Great. He kept bowing and said, “I did not fulfill my duty. I was tired when I was on duty. I got lazy, I leaned against the post and fell asleep. I came to confess that I didn’t fulfill my duty. When I woke up, I felt my pockets for a letter from home and found some money. This is definitely not my money, so I brought it back to report to you that this is definitely not my money. I don’t know whose it is. Can you please determine whose money this is?”
He raised the bag and returned it to the king. But Alexander did not reach for it.
He smiled and kindly told him, “It seems that you are truly an honest person.” This bag of gold is a reward for your honesty. So take this money and send it to your mother so she can afford her medicine. By the way, remember to send my regards to her.”
The soldier was very touched.
From this story, we realize that a ruler who could lead tens of thousands of soldiers, unite and rule Greece, and conquer Persia, would have been a strong and powerful ruler. He was the King of Macedonia, but he was actually very kind to his soldiers. A ruler who was very attentive and generous would be a very powerful person because he could command the soldiers’ hearts too. Many people would be loyal and work hard for the country and for him.
This story is still applicable today. Think about how this ruler had a generous heart. The solider was also very disciplined and honest. Although in a moment of carelessness he fell asleep on duty, he confessed that the money was not his. The ruler was giving and kind, and his soldiers were disciplined. Both were blessed and wise, so they were accommodating and self-disciplined. That is what we all need to learn. We have been discussing karmic cause and effect. Are we finished yet? No. The text continues on.
Earlier we said, “If those who do evil enjoy good things now, they are experiencing reward from a previous lifetime, a fruition of a Future-life Retribution.” This evildoer must have created a lot of good karma before that has not been exhausted yet, so he has enjoyed blessings in subsequent lives. Although he seems to do evil things now, he still lives a pleasurable life because the blessings he enjoys now were not created in this life, but in the past. He created those blessings in the past; they have nothing to do with what he does now. Although he crates bad karma in this life, he has not exhausted his blessings yet, so he still enjoys blessed conditions.
Next, “Those who do good now are still haunted by suffering.” Some do good deeds and are good people, so why do their children and grandchildren encounter so many difficulties in life? Some are ill and poor themselves, but still very kind. Why are they surrounded by so much pain and misfortune? We all have similar questions.
The text says, “This is retribution from past lives, a fruition of a Future-life Retribution.” This is retribution from a past life. Affinities and karmic retributions from past lives are not always clearly apparent in this lifetime or in future lifetimes either.
So when we see a good person with many difficulties entangling them, we should know that this is a Next-life or Future-life retribution from the past. Perhaps they created much bad karma in the past. They brought this unexhausted karma to this life. Perhaps it will still not be exhausted this life, so they will bring it to their next life.
But they are doing good now, so good evil are mixed. Perhaps the good created in this lifetime will reward them in the next. When bad karma comes into fruition, retributions manifest. If the roots of goodness are weaker, they cannot overcome the bad.
Everyone must deeply plant their roots of goodness and create a more open environment. We must spread and sow more seeds of love so that there will be more good people. We want to help transform others and to envelop them with blessings of goodness, so that it will be hard for bad karma to find them.
For example, if we want to help transform someone, as that person beings to accept us, there is a tug-of-war between good and evil. Our side, the good side, wants to save them, but the evil side really wants to drag them down. We want to increase the strength of goodness. To increase the power of goodness, we must increase the number of good people. If the power of love is grater, we can better protect those who want to change. Then there will be better opportunities. So we all need to create a good environment. Then everyone can reach out and welcome people who want to change. Only then can we increase the number of good people in this world and decrease the number of unwholesome individuals.
The passage below says, “That is why they receive painful retributions. It is not that their good deeds bring evil retributions.”
Why is this? Why would someone who seems so kind be surrounded by so much bad luck? Their children and grandchildren are bad. Their husband or wife is bad. They torture this person. Whether it is the relationships between spouses, between parents and children, or between friends, they are all bad. This person is not bad, so why does this happen? These are painful retributions. They are unrelated to this life, but are retributions for a past life. Of course there is a cause for them. Everyone, I hope we are all very mindful. In our daily living, when we are among others, we must be generous and not petty. We should take a step back. As for our minds, we must adhere to the rules and be disciplined. Even though not everything will be successful and not everyone may treat us well, we know that it is a result of past affinities. Now we should treat others generously, and also guard our minds so that our blessings and wisdom can grow.
Whatever happened has already happened. We must take care of the way we live now. Being a good person and creating good affinities is very important. Please always be mindful.
(Source: Da Ai TV 靜思晨語 法譬如水)