So, Mike has started a major reading project, going through his collection of books which rest quietly in his library, waiting to discharge their wisdom when called upon to do so. Yesterday he reread Thomas Merton’s “The Way of Chuang Tzu.” (New Directions Publishing Corporation, New York, copyrighted by the Abbey of Gesthemani, 1965.) Chuang Tzu was a writer who lived about 2400 years ago, and is the primary source of information on Lao Tzu and Taoism. Merton took selected writings from translations and put his own imprint on them, making the material more accessible to the modern reader. Mike wants to share a couple of readings. The first is excerpted from “The Fasting of the Heart.”(page 50-51.) It relates a conversation between Confucius and his disciple, Yen Hui.
“Yen Hui, the favorite disciple of Confucius, came to take leave of his master.
‘Where are you going?’ asked Confucius.
‘I am going to Wei.’
‘And what for?’
‘I have heard that the Prince of Wei is a lusty full-blooded fellow and is entirely self-willed. He takes no care of his people and refuses to see any fault in himself. He pays no attention to the fact that his subjects are dying right and left. Corpses lie all over the country like hay in a field. The people are desperate. But I have heard you, Master, say that one should leave the state that is well governed and go to that which is in disorder. At the door of the physician there are plenty of sick people. I want to take this opportunity to put into practice what I have learned from you and see if I can bring about some improvement in conditions there.’
‘Alas!’ said Confucius, ‘you do not realize what you are doing. You will bring disaster on yourself. Tao has no need of your eagerness, and you will only waste your energy in your misguided efforts………..This man is convinced that he alone is right. He may pretend outwardly to take an interest in an objective standard of justice, but do not be deceived by his expression. He is not accustomed to being opposed by anyone. His way is to reassure himself that he is right by trampling on other people. If he does this with mediocre men, he will all the more certainly do it to one who presents a threat by claiming to be a man of high qualities. He will cling stubbornly to his own way. He may pretend to be interested in your talk about what is objectively right, but interiorly he will not hear you, and there will be no change whatever. You will get nowhere with this.”
It seems that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Here is another type of person, more to be admired, “The Kingly Man.” (page 72.)
“My Master said:
That which acts on all and meddles in none–is heaven…..
The Kingly Man realizes this, hides it in his heart,
Grows boundless, wide-minded, draws all to himself.
And so his lets the gold lie hidden in the mountain,
Leaves the pearl lying in the deep.
Goods and possessions are no gain in his eyes,
He stays far from wealth and honor.
Long life is no ground for joy, nor early death for sorrow.
Success is not for him to be proud of, failure is no shame.
Had he all the world’s power he would not hold it as his own.
If he conquered everything he would not take it to himself.
His glory is in knowing that all things come together in One
And life and death are equal.”
Itypically results from being unloved in early childhood by parents who are too preoccupied by their own lives. Often they have been unloved themselves, and have no love to offer. Such people are interminably angry, and can become a bottomless pit of need for admiration and aggrandizement. It is a hole that no one can fill. But I wonder what would happen if all of the Prince of Wei’s subjects loved him. They wouldn’t necessarily tell him, having no platform for doing so. And they wouldn’t sing his praises either. They would just quietly love him in their hearts, because they are good people and they know he is unloved. He was unloved at first because he was in the way as a child, and subsequently because his behavior has been more reflective of the terrible twos than that of a mature man. And the Prince’s subjects will pray for him. They will pray that all the things that they pray for for themselves will be granted to the Prince as well. It is a better way. God bless the Prince of Wei.
And what is it that the Kingly Man knows? He knows that in this world of opposites, of good and evil, black and white, sun and moon, male and female, rich and poor, dog and cat, and day and night, that impermanence and eternity can co-exist, and that the greatest reality is the Oneness of all existence.
So, it’s a beautiful, sunny day in Happy Meadows. I hope all of you have sunshine in your lives, and that you find peace in the storms that blow through your neighborhoods. Until next time, stay healthy, have fun, be kind to your neighbors, and take things one day at a time. We love you all.
3 thoughts on “The Prince of Wei”
In so many historical writings and lessons, it’s hard not to see the majority of our politicians. When I consider Pelosi, Schumer and so many other politicians who have been in office for countless decades, I see ego without care for the people. While their words claim to empathize and seek compromise, their actions further the divide and anger we see in the world. Of course the Harry Reids would not exist without the Sarah Palins or Dick Chenneys on the right who fail to see beyond their myopic views of the world. Sadly, however, unlike the times we see in ancient writings, today we witness a calling out of party and not a calling out of absurdity. Instead of seeking the higher moral answer, the goal digresses to pointing at the failings of “the other guy” while refusing to recognize successes on either side and exaggerating mistakes on the other. Moreover, the political climate diverges to “your side is wrong so our side must be better” all the while both sides are perpetuating the same flawed ideals. We find ourselves whining about personalities, without an ounce of reflection on our own pettiness and perpetuation of the problem. To get back to logic and higher ideals would be a welcome thing in the trying times of today, but it will be harder than ever with the constant polarity of one sided news and a failure to address the important ideas and values sought over the failings of one side versus the other. When we rightly callout every wrong as a wrong, we will see progress. When we push for term limits on all parties, we will see progress. When we demand more, we will get more. But when we allow news outlets and authors to polarize our views through emotion and playing on our fears, we fall far from the great lessons we so admire from our history. Possibly when we all get back to cleaning our own side of the street, we can hold all those who represent us to the same standard we seek for our own life? Possibly when we all put ideas before party and God before man, we will begin acting on the great wisdom that we see time and time again throughout history? For me, there is no party, “there is one God, who wants people to do what is just and compassionate.” And, only when I live those values do I become a solution. I appreciate Mike’s insights in today’s writings and the call to learn from the greats of our past. The message resonates with a call for me to be a better person who tries harder to focus on answers over problems and to value actions over words.
Thanks for your thoughtful response.
Wonderful blog, Mike. So glad I read it! A lot to be said about those teachings.