“Liu Chi Alley” (六尺巷 in chinese) is located between Xihou Street and Wumu Garden in Tongcheng District， Tongcheng city, Anhui Province. The allusion of “Six-foot Alley” has become a historical story stems from the land dispute between Zhang’s family and his neighbors.
In the Qing Dynasty, there was a famous family in Tongcheng, Anhui Province. Father and son were the prime ministers of the two generations and had great power. Their names were Zhang Ying and Zhang Tingyu. During the reign of Emperor Kangxi in the Qing Dynasty, Zhang Ying was a Bachelor of Arts at Wenhua Palace and a minister of rites. At that time, the Zhang family’s old house in Tongcheng was adjacent the house of the Wu family. There was only about 3 feet of space between the land owned by each family.
The Wu family wanted to expand their property to occupy this space. The Zhang family vehemently disagreed. The two sides brought the case to the county courthouse of Yamen. County officials knew that both families involved in the dispute were well-known families with prominent officials. They dared not easily break the dispute. During this period, the Zhang family wrote a letter to Zhang Ying, now a senior official in Beijing, asking Zhang Ying to come out and interfere in this matter. After receiving the letter, Zhang Ying thought that he should humble the neighbors, and wrote a poem to his home in reply:
Thousands of miles of a mail is only for a wall.
Why not give up him three feet?
The Great Wall still stands today.
But where is the Empire Qishihuang now?
The Zhang family read it and eventually realized they understood its meaning. They took the initiative to give up three feet of space for the Wu family’s property. The Wu family, deeply touched by this gesture, decided to concede three feet of their own adjacent land, thus forming a six-foot lane between the properties. The two courtesy concessions and the Zhang family’s non-oppressive approach were passed on to be good folk stories.
From this story, we learn to be modest and tolerant in life. Mutual humility can avoid many contradictions and reduce disputes between people. Mutual understanding and tolerance can help people get along harmoniously, and can greatly improve people’s happiness index. As the saying goes, “A bit of forbearance will calm the wind and silence the wave. Take a step back and have the vastness of sea and sky.”
The virtues of tolerance and equality have been passed down since ancient times. In the process of building a harmonious society for people who are open-minded and respectful, this tradition of humility needs to be carried forward even more. The allusions to a “Six-Foot Lane” have gone far beyond its original meaning and has become a testimony to the virtues of harmony and humility of the Chinese nation.
Su Shi was a writer, artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, and statesman of the Song Dynasty, and one of the major poets of the era. His courtesy name was Zizhan and his pseudonym was Dongpo Jushi (東坡居士 “Resident of Dongpo”), and he is often referred to as Su Dong Po (蘇東坡). When we appreciate Chinese literature, Su Shi is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished figures, having produced some of the most well-known poems, lyrics, prose, and essays. His poetry has a long history of popularity and influence in China, Japan, and other areas in the near vicinity and is well known in the English-speaking parts of the world through the translations. Su Shi was the greatest writer of Song ci lyrics, often celebrating the joys of relaxed and transitory pleasures. This “To the Tone of Nian Nu Jiao Memories of the Past at Red Cliff” is one the most popular poems.
Nian Nu Jiao
Memories of the Past at Red Cliff
East flows the mighty river,
Sweeping away the heroes of times past;
This ancient rampart on its western shore
Is Zhou Yu’s Red Cliff of Three Kingdoms’s fame;
Here jagged boulders pound the clouds,
Huge waves tear banks apart,
And foam piles up a thousand drifts of snow;
A scene fair as a painting,
Countless the brave men here in time gone by!
I dream of Marshal Zhou Yu in his day
With his new bride, the Lord Qiao’s younger daughter,
Dashing and debonair,
Silk-capped, with feather fan,
He laughed and jested
While the dread enemy fleet was burned to ashes!
In fancy through those scenes of old I range,
My heart overflowing, surely a figure of fun.
A man grey before his time.
Ah, this life is a dream,
Let me drink to the moon on the river!
This poem was a tribute to the famous battle at Red Cliff, which took place on the Yangtze river in Sichuan at year 208 CE. Through the description of the magnificent scenery on the Moonlit Night River, he expressed the remembrance of the famous and heroic characters of that era. The lyrics are vigorous and create a majestic atmosphere. It is a powerful poem, and has been ranked as a masterpiece throughout the ages.
I heard a song recently, that touched me so deeply, I could not help but cry. The song uses the lyrics of a poem written by H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III, with the same Song ci style as “To the Tune of Nian-Nu-Jiao”. The bold and unconstrained poem entitled “To the Tune of Nian-Nu-Jiao: Abruptly Entering the Universe” has a powerful spirit that moved me deeply. Here is the English translation.
To the Tune of Nian-Nu-Jiao : Abruptly Entering the Universe
Abruptly entering the universe, The universe of a billion worlds, Stand firmly against all hardships and obstacles. Seeing through glory and riches, I simply smile. The rooster crows announcing the dawn, The morning bell hurries the moon, The whole Soha world is revealed. Everybody bustles about to survive, Life, like smoke and snow, gone!
Recalling when I was young, I mastered the pen and the sword but liked Buddhism best. The lion’s roar of the Buddha shook the universe! Countless suffering patients visited me, Day and night I pondered their cures. Millions of strands of thoughts Slowly turn toward prajna wisdom, Swaying the three worlds. I wish that my remaining life Be devoted to the benefit of all sentient beings.
The mood of this poem is broad and vast, and filled with emotion. The poem manages to capture the massiveness of the universe and centuries of human affairs. It begins with aspiration soaring to the sky, and ends with a very down to the earth message: serving and helping all living beings with all that he has.
Comparing the two poems, it is evident that the work of H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III not only provides a much broader view of the world and human existence, but also uplifts the reader to a much higher spiritual level. H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III truly is an outstanding and timeless master of letters and also has boundless compassion and mercy to all living beings.
I also found an astonishing fact, based upon his extraordinary accomplishments in the areas of Buddhism, the humanities, painting, calligraphy and ethics, the World Poets and Culture Congress, which is composed of 5,612 experts and scholars from 48 different countries and regions, selected Master Wan Ko Yee (H.H. Dorje Chang Buddha III ) as the world’s only “Distinguished International Master.” The resolution conferring upon him this title was mailed to the People’s Republic of China and was made public in Hungary on September 15, 1994. The “Distinguished International Master” certificate was signed by the then President of the international Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch.
Originally commissioned by King Frederick William III of Prussia in 1816 to be the new guard house for the royal family, The Neue Wache building, still very much intact, is used as the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany for the Victims of War and Dictatorship. Rich in history and architecturally significant, the Neue Wache building is a prodigious landmark in the capital.
Placed on the bustling boulevard of Unter Den Linden, it rubs elbows with Humboldt University and the Zueghaus. Its neoclassical architecture is thanks to Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who was the demonstrative figure in the Greek architectural revival movement that took place during his time. His intent was to keep the building as open as possible, as seen by the columns and the courtyard. Like many buildings in Berlin, it has seen many tumultuous political and social tides, bearing witness to monarchy, fascism, disintegration, and reunification. Starting as a royal guard house until the devastation of World War I, it now serves as a house of remembrance.
To step inside the Neue Wache today is to be confronted by a different memorial – with the similarly empty interior now interrupted by another eye catching detail – that of a small bronze statue of a grieving mother sits on the ground, holding her son who died in the war. It is placed directly under the Oculus and on top of the remains of the unknown soldier and concentration camp victim. The empty hall made the mother seem so weak and helpless, and the grief so great…
In front of the statue, you will sharply experience the pain of the mother who lost her son, and the cruelty and ugliness of war. This “old, lonely, remorseful woman” represents all the postwar mothers in the world.
The casualties of war are a number for a country, but for any mother, it is a life-and-death separation that can never be accepted!
Reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s pieta housed in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, this provocative sculpture was the work of Prussian artist Käthe Kollwitz – famous for her depictions of the effects of war and poverty on the lives of the poor. In this instance secularising traditional imagery of Christian suffering to address social justice issues.
Greek philosopher Plato would say that only the dead know the end of war. While the suffering continues without conclusion, its victims have a memorial in Berlin waiting for them. A place of contemplation and peaceful reflection. In a country that has, in only the last 100 years, experienced so much conflict and destruction.
This is the most ingeniously designed museum I have ever seen. There is only one exhibit in the huge building. The sun rises and sets, and the projection and spotlight of the skylight are different at different times, but the focus is always on that one statue. This simple sculpture amidst empty space can sting people’s hearts and make people feel the pain of war.
Mount Emei is one of the “Four Famous Buddhist Mountains” in China. It has steep terrain and striking beautiful scenery. “Emei” is a term used to describe a woman’s beautiful eyebrows in an ancient book titled The Book of Songs. The main peak, Golden Summit of Wanfoding, is 3,099 meters above sea level, it is the crown of all other famous mountains in China.
Mount Emei (Emeishan) is an area of exceptional cultural significance as it is the place where Buddhism first became established on Chinese territory and from where it spread widely through the East. The first Buddhist temple built on the summit of Mount Emei was in the 1st century CE. It became the Guangxiang Temple, receiving its present royal name of Huazang in 1614. The addition of more than 30 other temples including the Wannian Temple founded in the 4th century containing the 7.85m high Puxian bronze Buddha of the 10th century, and garden temples including the Qingyin Pavilion complex of pavilions, towers and platforms dating from the early 6th century; the early 17th century Baoguo Temple and the Ligou Garden (Fuhu Temple) turned the mountain into one of Buddhism’s holiest sites.
On Mount Emei, the importance of the link between the tangible and intangible, the natural and the cultural, is uppermost. Mount Emei is a place of historical significance as one of the four holy lands of Chinese Buddhism. Buddhism was introduced into China in the 1st century CE via the south Silk Road from India to Mount Emei. Mount Emei is traditionally regarded as the bodhimaṇḍa, or place of enlightenment, of the iconic bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Puxian). In Buddhist sutra, it is recorded that Samantabhadra Bodhisattva rides a white elephant with six tusks. Therefore, the statues of Samantabhadra in the temples of Mount Emei mostly ride on white elephants. There is an Elephant Washing Pool in Mount Emei as well.
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is associated with Buddhist practice and action. In the Āvataṃsaka-sūtra, the Buddha states that Samantabhadra Bodhisattva made ten great vows in his path to full Buddhahood:
To make abundant offerings. (e.g. give generously)
To repent misdeeds and evil karmas.
To rejoice in others’ merits and virtues.
To request the Buddhas to continue teaching.
To request the Buddhas to remain in the world.
To follow the teachings of the Buddhas at all times.
To accommodate and benefit all living beings.
To transfer all merits and virtues to benefit all beings.
The ten vows have become a common practice in East Asian Buddhism, particularly the tenth vow, with many Buddhists traditionally dedicating their merit and good works to all beings during Buddhist liturgies.
From ancient times to the present, there have been many eminent monks and great virtues in Mount Emei. The thirteenth patriarch of Emei Master Pu Guan, and abbot of JiuLaoDong XianFeng temple Master Guo Zhang, were all disciples of H.H.Dorje Chang Buddha III. They both received Great Dharma initiation from H.H.Dorje Chang Buddha III and reached liberation. At year 1998, Master Pu Guan passed away in the meditation posture having attained control over his life and death. Eight years after his passing, he still sits in a stupa in that meditation posture without having rotted at all. At year 2015, Master GuoZhang passed away at 108 years-old, at the Western Sichuan University Medical center. Doctor diagnosed the Master passed away. Unexpectedly, after a few hours, he was resurrected and opened his eyes, he then ordered his disciples to move him back to Jiewangting Temple to officially pass away. Eleven days after he passed away, local government officials visited Jiewangting Temple. They didn’t believe that the master was a profound practitioner. So he stabbed his body with needles, and blood spurted out.
Mount Emei is an area of striking scenic beauty. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful mountains in China.
To pay homage to China’s greatest poets, renowned translator Bill Porter—who is also known by his Chinese name “Red Pine”—traveled through China visiting dozens of poets’ graves and performing idiosyncratic rituals that featured Kentucky bourbon and reading poems aloud to the spirits. Combining travelogue, translations, history, and personal stories, this intimate and fast-paced tour of modern China celebrates inspirational landscapes and presents translations of classical poems, many of which have never before been translated into English. Porter is a former radio commentator based in Hong Kong who specialized in travelogues. As such, he is an entertaining storyteller who is deeply knowledgeable about Chinese culture, both ancient and modern, who brings readers into the journey—from standing at the edge of the trash pit that used to be Tu Mu’s grave to sitting in Han Shan’s cave where the Buddhist hermit “Butterfly Woman” serves him tea. Illustrated with over one hundred photographs and two hundred poems, Finding Them Gone combines the love of travel with an irrepressible exuberance for poetry. As Porter writes: “The graves of the poets I’d been visiting were so different. Some were simple, some palatial, some had been plowed under by farmers, and others had been reduced to trash pits. Their poems, though, had survived… Poetry is transcendent. We carry it in our hearts and find it there when we have forgotten everything else.”
These are some of the Poets’ graves that Bill has visited : Li Pai, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, Su Tung-p’o, Hsueh T’ao, Chia Tao, Wei Ying-wu, Shih-wu (Stonehouse), Han-shan (Cold Mountain).
With Finding Them Gone as your map, you will encounter rural and industrial China’s shifting cultural landscape without ever leaving the page. On your journey, you’ll set off by train in Beijing and arrive in the cave where Cold Mountain, a master of Hermetic poetry and Zen practice, once sang his verses—“with nothing to do I write poems on rock walls/trusting the current like an unmoored boat.”
Each step of the pilgrimage is marked with poetry from Chinese masters—among them Stonehouse, Cold Mountain, and Li Po—including poems never before translated into English.
There are some good reasons to believe that Nietzsche was interested in Eastern philosophy during his lifetime. In the Antichrist he states:
“Buddhism, I repeat, is a hundred times more austere, more honest, more objective. It no longer has to justify its pains, its susceptibility to suffering, by interpreting these things in terms of sin—it simply says, as it simply thinks, ‘I suffer’”
Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 23
Buddhism, as a pessimistic and decadent religion for Nietzsche resembles Christianity but it seems that he had far more admiration for Buddhism. He inherited most of his understanding of Buddhism from Schopenhauer, who considered his own pessimistic philosophy a European relative of Buddhism.
Schopenhauer, in his research into Indian philosophy, appears to have attained the most comprehensive understanding among nineteenth century German thinkers of a system of Asian thought.
Although Nietzsche did read about Buddhism, it was usually second-hand and westernised, he was predisposed to react to Buddhism in terms of his close reading of Schopenhauer. Many Buddhists have since disputed Schopenhauer’s comprehension of their religion.
Influenced by Schopenhauer, Nietzsche criticised both Christianity and Buddhism as forms of nihilism, where the will to nonentity prevails over the will to life. However, he soon feared the rise of pessimism in Europe would culminate in the triumph of the weary and passive nihilism.
It is important to know that Nietzsche was not a nihilist as some suggest, stating that the modern man would have to create his own values through a Revaluation of All Values, leading to the Ubermensch, affirming the world and saying yes to existence, the pinnacle of self-overcoming.
The foundation of his critique of Buddhism is his characterisation of Nirvana as a nothingness and as a form of nihilism. However, this does not best describe the Buddhist path.
There are Four Noble Truths in Buddhism. The first one is the acknowledgement of duhkha or “suffering”, an inseparable characteristic in the realm of Samsara, which suggests that human beings, at the time of death, are reborn to a realm determined by their karma. It is the cycle of aimless drifting, wandering or mundane existence.
If we stop here, we can see why Nietzsche considers it nihilistic. However, this is but one of the noble truths. The second one is the origin of this suffering which comes from craving, desire or attachment and the third one states that there is an end to suffering, by letting go of this craving. This leads to the final noble truth, which is the path that gives way to renouncement of craving and the cessation of suffering, following the Noble Eightfold Path, which liberates one from Samsara, the painful cycle of rebirth – achieving Nirvana, the cessation of all afflictions, actions, rebirths and suffering that are a consequence of afflictions and actions.
Nirvana refers to the realisation of the “non-self” and “emptiness”, marking the end of rebirth by stilling the fires that keep the process of rebirth going. This is what Nietzsche thought of as a longing for nothingness. However, it is not a longing for nothingness, it is simply the end of Samsara. Thus, different from Schopenhauer’s pessimism, Buddhism starts pessimistic but ends with the positive experience of Nirvana.
It is not an escape from the world, one begins with the suffering inherent in life, one is to overcome pleasure and pain, before beginning a mindful examination of one’s self and reality as perceived by the self. Upon this examination, one realises that there is no self, but only the combination of mental and physical states (skandhas).
This realisation of non-self is also misunderstood. It is not a destruction of a self, but rather a rejection of the existence of a self. Buddhists believe that the concept of “emptiness” means that all things are empty of inherent existence, there is no such thing as inherent existence, everything arises mutually. Thus, negation in the East does not have the same pessimistic connotation that it has in the West.
Perhaps the most serious misreading we find in Nietzsche’s account of Buddhism was his inability to recognise that the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness was an initiatory stage leading to a reawakening.
Throughout Nietzsche’s books and notes, he refers to different aspects of Eastern philosophy on more than four hundred occasions, and in several of these he claims to be interested in it.
Although Nietzsche considers Eastern philosophy as nihilistic, he does indicate its profundity. It seems that he studied this material closely and appreciated it greatly, this is important to note. And even if Nietzsche despised sacred texts, he upholds the beauty and grandeur of them as literary documents.
Nietzsche’s interest in studying Buddhism seems to be seeing it as a psychological symptom, as well as a historically embedded phenomena. Having chosen Buddhism to comment on might be in line with his idea of having the courage to engage with worthy adversaries. He states:
He (the Buddha) does not advocate any conflict with unbelievers; his teaching is antagonistic to nothing so much as to revenge, aversion ressentiment. And in all this he was right, for it is precisely these passions which, in view of his main purpose, are unhealthful.
Nietzsche, The Antichrist, 20
Here he agrees on the Buddha’s doctrine, which is opposed to the feelings of revenge, antipathy and ressentiment. And in Thus Spoke Zarathustra he said:
“For that man be delivered from revenge, that is for me the bridge to the highest hope, and a rainbow after long storms”
Nietzsche’s conceptions of the Eternal Recurrence and Samsara, Zarathustraand Bodhisattva (a person who is able to reach Nirvana but delays doing so through compassion for suffering beings), the Transvaluation of All Values and Nirvana, are all examples of similarities.
In his analysis of the self, Nietzsche contended:
“the subject is only a fiction: the ego of which one speaks when one censures egoism does not exist at all”. This is remarkably similar to the Buddha’s doctrine of non-existence of the self.
Nietzsche’s philosophy may have been much more similar to Buddhism than he might have realised. This should not be surprising, given Nietzsche’s respect for the Buddha and that Buddhism concerns itself with one of the basic problems with which Nietzsche was grappling: the structure and meaning of the human condition.
At the onset of his mental collapse, he even came to identify himself with Buddha:
“I have been Buddha in India, Dionysus in Greece.”
However, on the whole, this impression is deceptive.
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Eastern Philosophy and Nietzsche | Buddhism and Hinduism
Although Nietzsche considers Eastern philosophy as nihilistic (wrongly), he does indicate their profundity. It seems that he studied this material closely and appreciated it greatly.
You wonder how a book like Zen Baggage could be written. First, who would have guessed that China’s legendary Zen temples would rise from the ashes of the Cultural Revolution and prosper in the new century? And second, what Western writer could pull off a history of Zen in China and then go on to paint a vivid picture of contemporary life in China’s most legendary Zen temples and monasteries?
The only writer I know who could do that justice is Bill Porter, also known as Red Pine, the éminence grise of translators and commentators on Zen and Taoist poetry and texts. In this latest, most personal, travel book, Porter is back on the fertile ground he covered so well in Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits.
Thanks to that book, we know that Taoist hermits continued to practice and live in their remote huts in the Chungnan Mountains throughout the era of China’s Red Guards. The book was a revelation to Westerners and it seems to have fascinated many Chinese as well: the Chinese translation is now in its sixth printing under the title Hidden Orchids of Deserted Valleys.
Porter makes it clear that the average Chinese doesn’t quite know what to make of the legendary Zen temples and monasteries that have become heavily visited pit stops on a sort of Zen Tourist Highway running from Beijing to Hong Kong. Most of the temples are thriving: attracting more monks, building academies, expanding zendos, and refurbishing, enlarging, and promoting themselves in close—maybe too close—cooperation with the Chinese authorities, all under the auspices of a program that seems more intent upon raking in tourists’ money than in preserving the cultural legacy of Zen. The current government’s new relationship with Zen temples seems to be motivated in part by a desire to be more respectful and tolerant than the Communist regimes of the past, and its view that Zen is a non-threatening, home-grown, institution that promotes responsibility and discipline.
Zen being Zen, the abbots of these ancient temples are only too happy to accept whatever benefits accrue from the government’s new view of things. They remember all too well the days when monks were rounded up and abused, and temples were gutted or shut. Now abbots can easily meet the government’s modest expectations while also scooping up hoards of badly needed yuan from the bus loads of Chinese tourists who flock to the temples’ trinket shops to buy T-shirts, tea sets and kitschy souvenirs. The money is wisely used to build sub-temples in remote locations where monks can practice without being put on public view.
Porter’s personality comes through vividly in Zen Baggage, and it contains sketches of his earlier life in Taiwan, his frequent travels to China, and, most revealingly, his on-the-road personae as he makes his six-week, 2,500-mile, temple-hopping pilgrimage, which was largely a catch-up journey to supplement his many previous visits. He is on intimate terms with many of the temple abbots and others that he meets on his trip. In contrast, in Road to Heaven, during his forays into the rugged Chungnan Mountains (home of the hermits), he was on new ground ferreting out the names of hermits and the mountains where they were living, and then he tracked them down. What was most surprising about his first encounters with these Taoist solitaries, both men and women, is how seldom they showed surprise at the appearance of this bearded foreigner–if, indeed, they perceived him as a foreigner. He seemed to have been expected.
Zen Baggage is soaked in wisdom so subtle it is almost invisible. I was three-quarters of the way into it, for example, when I realized I’d easily absorbed a chronology of the major Chinese Zen patriarchs along with the distinctive swerves and turns that collectively make up Zen’s birth, its crucial philosophical debates, its divisions, its flowering in the sixth century, its slow decline, and its diffusion in the world.
Porter’s personal Taoist/Zen style of travel gives his journey an interesting edge. Whether he’s interviewing the abbot of a legendary temple or eating sweet cakes at a truck stop, he lashes it all together in a bundle of concrete details that help illuminate the tales, metaphysics, koans, and esoterica of early Zen. He has read so deeply in Zen, Taoism and Buddhism that he could be the abbot of any of these legendary temples––to the benefit of the temples and monks––but it’s clear that most, if not all, of the abbots and monks he talked with would laugh at such a suggestion. Throughout Asia, Zen too often remains the “property” of individual countries, whereas in the West it’s readily perceived as open to all equally. In all his encounters, you get the feeling that in only a few cases was there a true meeting of minds. Many Chinese sized Porter up as just another Westerner who spoke good Chinese, and had no knowledge of his translation work or of his life (not that he cared), and most probably weren’t interested anyway. The prevailing orthodoxy seemed to be: “We’re the only ones who can translate the texts, who understand Zen––Westerners can’t get it.” But as history reminds us, Buddhism is international: the Chinese texts the abbots depend upon were carried back to China from India by Chinese pilgrims and translated from Sanskrit and other languages. In Porter’s many trips to China over the past two decades, we have an apposite addition to the history of Buddhism: a Western pilgrim who traveled to the East to get Chinese texts to translate into English.
On this latest trip, he bounced down China’s buzzing highways in buses to report to the world (or the English-speaking West), on what grew from those early Chinese translations into Zen. This recounting of how Zen was born and thrived in China (for a while), then died out, and is now being reborn closes China’s Buddhist/Zen circle, for the time being at least.
Along with his translations (11 so far), Porter’s two travel books are singular achievements that break new ground in our understanding of Zen and Taoism in contemporary China. My guess is that we can expect more travel books from him that will flesh out the on-the-ground story of Zen and Taoism, and that they will showcase his two greatest assets as a writer: his independence as a scholar and his practical knowledge of whatever he calls his personal blending of Taoism and Zen.
The travel books most closely resemble the work of his mentor John Blofeld (1913-1987), the British writer and translator of Buddhist texts, who gave Porter the encouragement that led to his first translation in 1983, Cold Mountain Poems. Like Blofeld, Porter uses his unique skills as a translator and his talents as a travel writer to bring to life Buddhism’s past and present.
In the Tang Dynasty, there was a peculiar Zen master. He didn’t even have a Dharma name, and his practice was very special. He did not live in a temple. He settled himself in an awning like a bird nest on the top of a pine tree. People called him “the Zen Master of the Birdsnest”. Many visitors hiked to the remote forest to seek the monk’s wise advices.
Bai Juyi, was a very famous Chinese poet, also a high level officer at that time. One time, Bai Juyi traveled long distance to visit the Zen Master. He asked Zen Master Birdsnest, “Can you tell me what is the most important thing the Buddha ever said?”
The Zen master replied, “Don’t do any bad things, and do all the good things.”
Bai Juyi thought this answer is far too simple, he sneered, “Even a three-year-old can say this.”
Zen Master Birdsnest said: “Although a three-year-old child can say it, but an eighty-year-old man still finds it very difficult to do it.”
Master Qinluan was a famous Japanese Zen master. At the age of nine, he made up his mind to become a monk and asked Zen Master Cizhen to shave his ordination for him. Zen Master Cizhen asked him, “Why do you want to become a monk when you are so young?” Qinluan said: “Although I am only nine years old, my parents have both died. I don’t understand why people must die. Why must I be separated from my parents? Therefore, I must become a monk and explore these truths.”
Zen Master Cizhen said: “Very well. I’m willing to accept you as a disciple. However, it’s too late today, so I’ll shave you tomorrow morning.” Qin Luan said, “Master! Although you said that you will shave me early tomorrow morning, I am still young and ignorant. I can’t guarantee whether my determination to become a monk will last until tomorrow. Besides, Master, you are so old, you can’t guarantee that you will even wake up tomorrow morning!” After listening this words, Zen Master Cizhen was surprisingly happy, and said joyfully, “Yes! What you said is absolutely right. Now I will shave for you!”
Three Moves by Mencius’s Mother
Mencius, was a famous scholar well-known for his erudition. He was one of the greatest representatives of Confucianism in ancient China.
He had a great mother, who really focused on education. Once his family lived near a graveyard when he was a child. Therefore, he often played near the grave and imitated people’s crying or digging the tombs. When his mother saw this, she said: “It’s not a good place for a child to live in.”
His mother moved the family to a house near a market. Soon Mencius began to amused himself by imitating peddler’s hawking and bargaining. His mother found this place still not good for a child to live in. She decided to move away again.
At last they settled down near a school. Mencius quickly began copying the students’ reading and writing. He also took pleasure by imitating the sacrificial rites on ceremony and formalities of courtesy. He became more polite and hardworking. Then his mother said: this is a good place for a child !.
An old Chinese saying goes: Do not fail to do good no matter how petty the deed; do not engage in evil no matter how trivial the deed. Kindness has the power to bring happiness, peace and good fortune. The heroic Army General Eisenhower’s story is a great testimony of this ancient and eternal law: what goes around comes around.
One day, during the horrific throngs of World War II, Lieutenant General Dwight David Eisenhower of the Allied Forces was returning to France, to attend an emergency military conference.
That day, the snow was dense, the air was cold. And his car was urgently speeding to its destination. On the dimly lit path, Eisenhower suddenly saw an old couple sitting at the side of the road, shivering in the freezing cold.
Mr. Eisenhower immediately stopped the car and told the officer beside him to get out of the car and speak with them. An officer, another passenger in the car, immediately argued that, “General, we must be on time for the meeting at the Head office, please leave it to the local police.” Eisenhower knew that his concern for their punctuality was just an excuse not to help.
The General, however, was resolved to get out of the car at once to attend to the desperate elderly couple. He said to his staff, “If we wait for the local police to come, they will be dead before the police arrive!”
He found out that they were on the way to visit their son in Paris. But their car had broken down in the middle of their journey. In the thick snow they could not see anyone to ask for help from; they did not know what to do.
After learning of their plight, Mr. Eisenhower, without any hesitation, immediately invited them to get into the car. He offered them the gracious favor of delivering them to their son’s home in Paris, before heading back to the Head Office himself.
At the time, Eisenhower, the commander of the Allied Forces offered this kindness merely out of his own good will, disregarding his position as well as any complication that could affect the mission he was shouldering.
However, the intelligence received after that night, shocked everybody in the car, especially the officer who had tried to prevent the detour.
It turned out, that Nazi snipers had been placed along their route in an attempt to ambush and assassinate them on their way to Head Office.
Hitler was certain that, that day would have been the last day of the Allied commander, but his plan failed unexpectedly, which made him suspicious of the gathered intelligence. Hitler was unaware that it was the rescue of the elderly couple that had led Eisenhower to take another route.
Historians have commented that Eisenhower’s good deed that day saved him, almost certainly, from an assassination. Without his moral actions, the history of the World War II might have been quite different indeed.
It is in the small kindnesses that we show to one another, that may appear small and insignificant at first, that we find the truth of our fate. Within these actions, lies the power to write and rewrite history.
According to traditional culture, the more consideration we show for others and the stronger the goodwill we have towards them, the better our destiny, and the more blessings we have bestowed upon us.