There once was an abbot living in a temple with many fellow followers under his charge. Many disputes would break out between the temple residents, born out of jealousy and stoked by a lack of consideration for each others wellbeing. These disputes would disrupt temple life and upset the abbot greatly.
On one particular occasion, an argument over ‘who would deserve to be imparted with the highest level martial arts’ became so intense that a fight nearly broke out in order to determine who was most competent in kungfu.
Upon seeing this, the abbot immediately called all the young followers together and announced, “Today I will officially choose who will receive the honor of the scriptures on advanced kung fu. Whoever can interpret these 4 sentences correctly will be chosen.”
There was murmured excitement as everyone gathered around the abbot to listen to the questions. Meanwhile, a young and quiet novice, who was often bullied by the other brothers, carried on sweeping the yard as if he had not heard the much-anticipated announcement. The master looked around at the gaggle of jostling disciples and then noticed the young novice still engaged in his work in the corner of the yard, he called him over and then began to speak…
“The first sentence is as follows… ‘Consider yourself another person’. Can you tell me how you understand this statement?” the abbot put to his followers.
While frenzied whispering broke out in search of the answer, the novice humbly said, “Does this sentence mean that when I am sad or suffering, if I consider myself as another person, then my suffering will be relieved. When I am too excited, if I consider myself as another person, that state of mind will be neutralized. When I am in an angry state, thinking of myself as another would ease my mood.”
The abbot gently nodded and began with the second question, “‘Regard others as yourself.’ Explain this statement.”
The abbot quietly awaited answers from the disciples.
But still no-one had an answer, that is none other than the novice, who thought for a moment and then said, “When one regards others as themselves, he or she will be able to feel the joy or sadness of others, to understand what they need and be able to extend your hand to give it. Then, whatever one does, he will think of others first.”
The abbot smiled a wide smile and the asked his third question, “The third statement, ‘consider others as others’.”
While the majority of the disciples were perplexed, and by this point growing increasingly frustrated, the novice answered straight away.
“Does this sentence mean that we must respect the privacy of each individual and not interfere with others’ privacy under any circumstance. Everyone has their own destined relationship, we cannot casually intervene in anyone else’s business,” he replied, now with confidence.
The monk was deeply impressed by his flawless explanation, but there was still one more question to ask.
“Now I will ask you to explain the final statement. ‘Regard yourself as yourself’.”
The novice replied at once, “This saying means to respect our own inner mind, always look back at yourself and do not be affected by the external environment or any prejudice you have of others. Only when you are not being influenced by others, are you truly being yourself.”
The monk laughed, “What a person of high inborn quality you are, you have solved my profound questions about human life concisely with just a few words. These sentences may be easy to understand, but you have to apply them in real life for them to have any power.”
All the other disciples fell speechless and felt ashamed of their ignorance. They each went solemnly to the meditation room to ponder the questions the abbot had asked and the answers the novice had given. The one who was most often overlooked, bullied and teased, had revealed that he actually had the most profound knowledge of them all.
The abbot asked the novice once they had all left, “Why do you prefer cleaning to practicing kungfu?”
“Because I see that when I do the cleaning, I also sweep away the dirt from my mind. If hatred and love still linger in my heart, I will accidentally hurt others while practicing martial arts,” the young novice replied.
The abbot felt a deep joy that he had found such enlightenment in one of his disciples and asked him, “So, do you want me to impart to you the ancient scriptures now?”
He replied, “I would really like that but I am afraid that it is not a suitable time for me right now. I am not mature enough yet, and my brothers will be upset and may cause more trouble for you.”
Master nodded in agreement.
“In the future, you may encounter many tribulations, if you know how to consider yourself as others, then the tribulation will be easy to overcome. When you want to go down to the mountain to help others, first you have to understand yourself clearly, knowing how to balance your mind and stay firm under the pressure of negative external factors. Just go with the flow and do not casually interfere in the lives of others. Whatever you do, you must think of others first, then you will be most useful.”