Managing A Country And Pacifying The World
Are Also Forms Of Spiritual Practice
Spoken By Supreme Master Ching Hai, Hsihu Center, Formosa Sept. 10, 1995. (Originally in Chinese)
Outer appearances do not necessarily reflect our inner level; it is most important to know whether our mind is pure and not wavering. Is that right? Therefore, Lao Tzu said: "Something that is too white will look unclear, and a person who is too virtuous will look flawed."
We may not be able to detect virtuous persons. Sometimes it is not very good if they go overboard. For instance, many ancient people, because of their blind loyalty to king and country, suffered greatly or even lost their precious lives. Too attached to their reputation of being clean, upright and virtuous, they sometimes went to extremes and hurt themselves without making any contributions to the country or society.
Take Bo Yi and Shu Qi for instance, why did they die of hunger? Only to protect their chaste reputations. Why did Qu Yuan jump into the river? Just to show his loyalty to a fatuous king. If it was a wise king, of course be loyal to him! You should protect him, support him, counsel him, and be loyal to him. However, one is a stupid fool to be faithful to a fatuous king. A loyal fool!
We spiritual practitioners must not go to extremes, or be too rigid. We should be flexible, and judge the situation with our wisdom to decide what to do. Sometimes, if we are too attached to reputation, to some virtuous aspects, or to a certain living style, then we are not really good spiritual practitioners, as we are short of wisdom. Rules, reputation and morals are there to protect people, instead of demanding people to protect them. Do you understand what I mean? (Audience: Understand.)
Many people were highly esteemed because they were loyal to their king and country, like Bo Yi, Shu Qi and Qu Yuan, but I feel that they were not that good because they had no wisdom. If it is not necessary, we should not harm ourselves, because the king is not the whole society. A fatuous king is not the entire nation and we should not limit our goals in life to him only. They did this perhaps because they regarded themselves too highly. If a stupid king won't listen to you then forsake him. Sometimes, you may also pretend to follow him, do things in his way, and then influence him later. Or, you may do good things in silence; do not present yourself as a very virtuous person. Who can stand you? The king is notorious while you have such a good reputation. Will he like you? (Audience laughs.) Will he listen to you? Will he spare you? Even if he spares you, he will not let you stay near him. Or, even if he lets you stay he won't listen to you. Right?
Therefore, if you want to help the world, save the world, then do not be attached to certain aspects. Simply observe the situation and help in whatever ways you can - in silence.
Guan Zhong was a famous Prime Minister of Qi State. He behaved in the same way as the fatuous Qi Emperor. He did whatever the king did, and if the king was muddle-headed he was even more befuddled. Guan Zhong did not let the king "sense" his virtues, or give the impression that he was better than the king. That was exactly how he managed to reign in the country peacefully and successfully, and how he helped the fatuous king to benefit the people.
The people are the most important, not the king. You use him if you can. If you slay him, your reputation will be ruined. Just put him on one side, play with him, and teach him what to do afterwards. He will listen to you after he has confided in you. Besides, he sees that you are just like him - two idiots - (Master and everyone laugh) and takes you as his bosom friend. Because the two were much alike. Understand? When Emperor Huan of state Qi drank, Prime Minister Guan Zhong apparently drank even more. When Emperor Huan was dead drunk, it seemed as if the Prime Minister was in a greater mess. Deep in his heart, he knew the king extremely well. "One will be ever-victorious when he knows himself and the enemy thoroughly." Guan Zhong did not have to demonstrate his virtues or talents. He governed the country silently. The king was then not Emperor Huan, but Guan Zhong. It was better this way. (Applause.)
Although Emperor Huan was on the throne, Guan Zhong was the one who managed the country. Guan Zhong could pacify the world because he was very flexible, and could even make use of the evil people. He accommodated even the senseless, treacherous officials. Bao Shuya failed to do this, so he could not make a good prime minister. Bao Shuya was also a very good man, but too good, and too extreme. He loved the good people dearly. As to the evil persons, wow! He was not contented even if they were killed. (Master and everyone laugh.) He would possibly have slain them without blinking his eyes, so he could not rule the country as well as Guan Zhong.
Although Bao Shuya was a loyal and incorruptible chancellor, he did not benefit his country greatly. Guan Zhong messed about with parties, wine, tobacco and sex, just like the king did, but he benefited the country greatly and was the greatest hero.
We can learn something useful by reading history, not just by reading Buddhist scriptures or Master's lectures. If we have wisdom, we can learn from anything. Observe the way other people managed and pacified the country, and we will learn how to do it also. Understand?
Ruling the country and pacifying the world are exactly the same as pursuing spiritual practice to save sentient beings. There is no difference. The ways are the same, the strategies are the same, and the spirit of serving others is the same. If an ordinary prime minister can sacrifice his reputation for the country and people, then he is really loyal to the king and country. This is the only real loyalty. Without Guan Zhong, the State of Qi would have been swallowed up by other states long ago. King Huan could no longer sit on the throne, giving orders, and enjoying wealth and pleasures. Therefore, the really loyal Prime Minister was Guan Zhong and not those dictating, criticizing, and hurting the king with reproaches. They should do things silently.
To manage the country and benefit the people, you should ignore your reputation even. Do not let people know that you are clean and upright, that you have great wisdom and talents to rule the country. Just do the work; do not explain or show off. Sometimes, it is better that way. Revealing too much of yourself to people, they will keep praising you. Sometimes, your morals are not perfect - you score only eight points but they award you twelve points, then you will feel irritated! Everyone is expecting more from you. Then, another person may praise you with fifteen points, while your worth is only half of it and you begin to have troubles. You become very nervous, doing things extremely cautiously and feeling uneasy. Since you are always trying to guard your reputation as expected of you by other people, you have difficulties working.
It is more comfortable to do things casually when people are not expecting much from you. People will think: This is the way he always is, no need to watch him. He is not serious, nothing great, no one wants him. He is filthy and casual, a mundane person, good only at enjoying pleasures; a useless person, just ignore him, don't pay any attention to him. He is not competitive. I am very virtuous and people will surely like me. That fellow is nothing.
In this way, you are free from competition, no one expects anything from you, and can do things smoothly. Do things indiscernibly just like laughing behind a mask, which no one can detect. Have you ever seen those masks, so dull and expressionless, covering everything except the eyes? No one can see you laughing or crying behind the mask. Similarly, while in this world, do not mind what other people think if we really wish to help people.
It is also easy if you really want to secure a good reputation. What you need is to make good advertisements, a good way of presenting yourself. Having paved the way for several years, people will come to know about your goodness. Then, if you wish to run for president, just for instance, it will be very easy. Should you really wish to run for president, make preparations well beforehand as if you have no such intention. You should go and pave the road by socializing with everyone, visiting all the temples, churches and organizations. By and by, people will nominate you. The whole country will see that you are the most virtuous, and rich in the demeanor of a spiritual practitioner. And then you will say, "Oh, please don't! It is so embarrassing!" (Laughter and applause.) When people insist on nominating you, you will say, "All right, but it is really embarrassing!" These are false virtues and a false reputation. The truly virtuous and reputable persons are often indiscernible because great persons always have their talents concealed.
Lord Wen of Zhou State was more virtuous than the king at his time. That king was really profane and greedy while Lord Wen was very generous. Later, he won the country and the throne. He could do anything better than the previous king, so people invited him to be the king. If Guan Zhong wanted to be a well reputed person, he could simply seize the throne from Emperor Huan of Qi State because Emperor Huan was notorious then. However, Guan Zhong did not do it. He did not wish to snatch the throne from others; he just wanted to benefit the country. What he truly loved was the country and not reputation, so he sacrificed his reputation even. For the sake of the country, he pretended to be even more befuddled than the king, so the king would not suspect him. His reputation was no better than that of the king, but that was how he managed to benefit the country.
Destiny gave you this king at that time, so what can you do? You would get a bad name by killing him. If another person stepped on the throne he might not be any better than Emperor Huan. Since Guan Zhong had won the king's confidence, he played the tricks accordingly and did his best according to the situation.
Fortunately the State of Qi had Guan Zhong, so the country was peaceful and later became almost the most powerful among the central states. What good was Emperor Huan? He was not worth a cent! His only merit was keeping Guan Zhong, and Guan Zhong's best trick was his ability to use this stupid king. (Laughter and applause.)
Besides using the king, Guan Zhong also used the bad officials by the king's side. He discriminated against no one, and that was how he got his way. He was really good. He was truly superb. It is not bad if we can learn from Guan Zhong in our spiritual practice! He was magnanimous. He was good, but not on the outside. That did not mean that he was not good within, he just did not want people to think too highly of him. He could accommodate anyone, and that was why he could rule the country and pacify the world successfully.
I think Guan Zhong was good! Sometimes, we can learn something from the ancient stories. So, when we comment on a person or want to realize someone, we must have wisdom to profoundly understand what type of person he is, instead of looking only at his outer appearance. We have to check the results of his deeds, of his actions, not only his behavior. Don't look at his outer appearance, look at his deportment, habits or ways of doing things. Outer looks often fool us; it is better to judge by the results of his deeds.
History did not give much credit to Guan Zhong, nor did his descendants enjoy any benefit from his reputation, power or property. He truly did everything for the people and not for a name in history. Therefore, his descendants enjoyed nothing from his reputation. He did not leave to his descendants any government position, power or financial benefits.
The later people also did not care much about the descendants of the prime minister; no one cared about him. It was because when Guan Zhong was alive the people observed very little virtue in him. All they could see was that he was enjoying pleasures just like the king. The king's name was already blemished, but his name was even worse than the king's. (Master and everyone laugh.) Do you understand?
Who could see through his outer mask, read his patriotic heart, and realize his loyalty? People of the world are very blind. Ordinary worldly people were not as good as Guan Zhong was, so they had no common quality that attracted each other. No one was his bosom friend, and no one could understand him. Therefore, people did not love or respect him, thinking he was only a flatterer to the king - patting the king's horse's nose, (Master and everyone laugh), and that he fooled around with the fatuous king for his own status and benefit. No one appreciated his talents in managing the country and pacifying the world, and his truly beautiful, clean, patriotic and loyal heart within.
In Au Lac, there was a prime minister who was as badly reputed as Guan Zhong. His name was Tran Thu Do, which is most probably strange to you. He was very famous. Everyone criticized him when he was alive, and history also discredited him. At that time, the king was crowned when very young, so the power naturally went to the prime minister. The prime minister even married the concubine of the former king. When the former king died, he married the concubine, out of love or out of ambition to control the whole court, it was never known.
The fact was he had complete control! As the king was ignorant, the prime minister decided everything. This prime minister was very stubborn so history criticized him as a dictator who threatened the young king and abused the court's power; and there were other accusations. However, if we read history carefully, we know that he was a very great revolutionary and democrat.
Nowadays, if we have a king and a prime minister, we call this a constitutional monarchy. Is that right? In that case, the king has not much power while the prime minister has great control. He was implementing a constitutional monarchy system then, but our Au Lac people were not used to it. To us, the king was the son of heaven. Whatever the king said was right; all the officials could only lower their heads and say, "Yes Sir! No Sir!" Therefore, we were not used to it, nor were the officials. He had too much power, and decided everything. The young king did not have a say. The king was so young and ignorant, if it were not for this prime minister Au Lac would not have been so peaceful then.
During that period, the country was prosperous in many respects. However, everyone criticized him as a dictator abusing his power and suppressing the king - all the accusations and no credit.
Even history recorded that he was bad. However, at that time, Au Lac was free and prosperous in many respects. If he were to listen to that senseless and ignorant king, how could he have managed the country? The nation would have been finished if he had obeyed the king! Sometimes, even when the king disagreed, the prime minister would still affix the seal. (Master and everyone laugh.) He affixed the seal himself, so everyone abhorred him.
The fact is he was really good. If he were bad, and since he had already married the concubine and grasped all the power in his hands, he could simply get rid of the king and sit on the throne! That was a common practice in those days. (Master and everyone laugh.) Very popular, especially in China, right? (Audience: Yes.) If the king was rather weak, and you happened to have some power, out you go! Then, the dynasty quickly changes, from sister Li to brother Wang! (Master and everyone laugh.)
Therefore, if Thu Do really wanted the throne or the power, he could get it quickly. The king was young, the power was in his hands and he was a powerful chancellor at the time of the former king. The former king had delegated all the power to him so that he could take care of the young king and the administration.
Thus, we see that Guan Zhong really had no desire for reputation because he discredited himself by behaving the way he did. He still kept the king there while he did everything. People abhorred him. In fact, we can see that he was a very good politician, by observing the results. Many accounts and comments in history make us - people of the later generations - think that some persons were bad, some persons were good, this one was virtuous, this one was loyal to the king, and that person was patriotic. We really need to read it over again and give it more thought. What actually happened might not be what was recorded in history. Besides, who were the ones writing the history? The officials, and they were only human beings, bearing prejudice, recording accounts with their own shallow wisdom, preconceptions and personal feelings including that of gratitude or resentment. Thus, we should not believe in history so easily; we have to use our wisdom. Should we really want to learn lessons from history, we have to analyze clearly to find out which persons were truly good and worthy for us to learn from.