We all have the same life, the same breath, and yet why are the souls of some so noble, while the souls of others are terribly pathetic? I believe it all hinges on a person’s character traits and ethics. In order to transmit his ideals and aspirations, Confucius lived a life characterized by homelessness and destitution, especially when, he reached the Country of Chen, he and his disciples were in such a dire state of misfortune that they were basically at the end of their rope. They coudn’t find anyone who was willing to assist them. both teacher and students spend many days without a morsel of food. Many of them were so hungry that they could only lie on the ground clutching their stomachs, unable to walk or even think. At this time, even Zi Lu started to complain, saying, “Alas! I never would have thought that even people of such noble character could be this down and out!” When Confucius heard these words being spoken, he immediately told Zi Lu, “Although people of noble character may also become destitute and dejected at times, they are different from petty characters in that when the latter are destitute they are even more likely to break the law and commit crimes.” In the same way, Confucius once said that if a person in the midst of poverty can have no complaints or regrets just like his disciple Yan Hui, this is rare indeed. But when a person suddenly one day becomes extremely wealthy, to remain free of arrogance at such a time is somewhat easier indeed.
When I was young I became very fascinated by metal and stone carvings. I felt endless awe and admiration for that exquisite stone and bamboo carving work, and I asked one master how to achieve such skill. That master said, “Persevere from start to finish.” He talked of how when he was 12 years old, he studied engraving under a famous artist in his hometown. He had been engraving ever since, never once altering his ambition under any circumstances. He said that his ability had been accumulated over the course of 26,280 hours. At first I didn’t understand so I asked him, and he replied, “I started learning with my master for one hour each day, and that increased to 10 hours each day, and I just never stopped doing it.” He said that in the winter his fingers would become so stiff that the skin would split open and bleed, but he didn’t care, nor did he care if he had nothing to eat. If he had no money for rent and his landlord wanted to evict him, he also wouldn’t pay it any heed. If his parents and immediate family opposed him, he also didn’t care, persisting all along. Later on, he encountered the first customer who really appreciated him, and his fame eventually became known all throughout the land. He said that he was very grateful to his persistence and to those 26,280 hours of hard work, and he persevered right into old age. I often think of his example in order to encourage myself. When in the midst of his ascetic practice, Milarepa became so destitute that he didn’t even have a piece of loin cloth with which to cover himself, and was so poor that he had to resort to a single bit of nettle with which to satisfy his hunger each day. His little sister came to visit him one day and upon seeing his circumstances, she covered her face with her hands and cried bitterly, but Milarepa still remained diligent in his incessant practice. In the end he obtained a supreme level of achievement. Before he realized enlightenment, Buddha Shakyamuni neglected both sleep and food, becoming so emaciated that there was nothing left but skin and bones. His hair was so disheveled that it looked like a heap of straw on which small birds came to excrete and yet he was completely unaware. Just before he attained enlightenment, a group of demons used all kinds of sinister enchantment to menace and tempt him, and yet the Buddha never left his seat. In the end, the Buddha attained enlightenment, perceiving his true nature.
Why is it that the sharpest sword can cut through anything including giant rocks? The reason is that it must be tempered hundreds and thousands of times in a great fire, in order to finally complete this great art. Modern people invariably get coddled by their parents, growing up in an environment free of scolding or spanking. From the delicate flowers in a greenhouse to strawberries that are easily crushed, becoming visibly emotional at the slightest discomfort, and capable of extreme behaviour. It is my opinion, during the education received from their parents when young, and later from their teachers at school, the most important thing is to pay attention to the cultivation and training of the child’s personality and willpower. Furthermore, the instilling of morality and ethics also plays an extremely important role.