Stories from History: Zhang Zhibai’s Simple Life

September 23, 2014 at 12:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Author: Zhen Yan

[] Zhang Zhibai lived an uncorrupted and simple life. When he was the prime minister for Emperor Song Ren Zhong, he lived just like an ordinary person. He was very happy and content. Many advised him to change his lifestyle and follow the trend so he would not be criticized as a hypocrite.

People around him said, “You make very good salary, but your life is so simple and frugal. Why do you do that?”

Zhang Zhibai replied,” I heard that one gets more enjoyment out of a simple life. With my salary, I can easily provide the best food and clothing for my entire family. My common sense tells me that it is easy to change from a simple lifestyle to a luxurious lifestyle. However, it is extremely hard to change back and live a simple life again. Can my salary last forever? Can my life last forever? If my family members get used to a luxurious life, once I die, how are they going to adjust to a frugal life? As it is now, whether I have my job or not and whether I am here or not won’t make any difference to my family. They live the same way.”

People admired him for his vision and understanding after hearing that.

Later, when he was seriously ill, the emperor came to visit him. His wife dressed in simple and inexpensive clothing to receive the emperor. In his bedroom, the emperor saw old worn- out curtains, quilts, and bedding. The emperor sighed and admired his character for a long while and then asked someone to immediately bring him new replacements for everything in his bedroom.

For the later generations, anyone who wanted to cultivate an uncorrupted character would take him as a model.

Translated from:


Great Wisdom

September 23, 2014 at 12:32 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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[] Han Qi, a high ranking official from the Song Dynasty, once said, “We should treat a superior man and an inferior man alike: with sincerity. If we know he is inferior, just getting acquainted with him should be enough.” Usually, when ordinary people meet an inferior person who is deceiving others, they will expose his scheme.  However, Han Qi was different. He knew clearly the bad thoughts of an inferior man, but he would tolerate it and would not show it.

Everyone likes to be with superior people and it is easy to be sincere with them. However, it is much harder to deal with inferior people. The mentality of ordinary people is that if you are nice to me, then I’ll be nice to you; if you are not nice to me, why should I be nice to you?  In that way, when we see that others are having a problem, we point it out bluntly. As a consequence, this will make the inferior man angry and look for the opportunity to hurt us.

We do not tolerate others for their mistakes or impurity because we consider ourselves clean and pure. Actually, this is due to that fact that we have not assimilated virtue deeply into our heart.  We should observe others and not expose their shortcomings.  When we disclose other’s weaknesses, we express our dislike and our contempt for others. The motive to do this comes from our indifference and resentment.  We do not have the compassion to help others. If we can maintain a calm heart and are not concerned what others may think, we will not be so concerned about the strengths and weaknesses of others.

It is the same when we are having conflicts in our official or personal interactions with others. If we cannot tolerate other’s shortcomings, we are more likely to have enemies.  Even among friends, you reject others and others reject you. Eventually you are in a hostile environment and disasters will follow.  Prime Minister Kouzhun from the Song Dynasty was a typical example. He was very straightforward and very critical of Dingwei’s fawning personality and reproached him openly in front of others.  Dinghui was very offended and he helped others to gain power and had Kouzhun banished to Aizhou.

Compassion does not mean that one cannot tell right from wrong. On the contrary, it means that I know exactly that you are deceiving me and hurting me but I am broad-minded and do not keep score. In my heart I know what happened but, on the surface, I look like that I have been fooled.  Most people cannot do that except the cultivators.

Prime Minister Koushun did just that. When he encountered an inferior person, he exposed him. As a result, they became opposing forces to each other, and the opportunity to transform Dinghui was thus
lost.  Han Qi reacted differently. When he ran into an inferior person, he treated him just the same as others. He was sincere but kept the contact on a superficial level and avoided being trapped into mind games.  Superior men know how to transform others with their virtue and will not abandon or reject others because they are inferior. Others will accept us easily only if we can be tolerant.

Translated from:

Sun Simiao and His Cultivation Theory Related to Health

August 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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January 16, 2010 | By Shanxing

( Sun Simiao, who is also called China’s King of Medicine and Heavenly Doctor Sun, was a famous doctor in Chinese history. He also practiced preserving health through qigong. Sun was born during the Western Wei Dynasty. Legend has it that he lived for 141 years. Sun decided to learn medicine because when he was young, he often got sick. He was versed in the Chinese classics and history, as well as the thoughts of a hundred schools. He could “memorize thousands of sentences each day” at age seven. For his skill of memorizing a daily article of over one thousand words, he was praised as a “sacred child.” At age 20 he could expertly discuss the theories of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, and was also good at the Buddhist classics. Sun refused to become a government official during the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Tang Dynasty Emperor Li Shimin personally visited him.

Sun Simiao made a name for himself for having summarized the clinical experiences and medical theories prior to the Tang Dynasty and compiled them into two renowned medical books, Qian Jin Yao Fang (Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Liang of Gold) and Qian Jin Yi Fang (Supplement to Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Liang of Gold).

1. Sun Simiao’s books passed onto future generations

Sun Simiao authored over 80 books in his lifetime. Besides Qian Jin Yao Fang and Qian Jin Yi Fang (mentioned above), he also wrote Lao Zi Zhu (Notes to Lao Zi), Zhuang Zi Zhu (Notes to Zhuang Zi), one volume of Zhen Zhong Su Shu (Book on the Bed), one volume of Hui San Jiao Lun, three volumes of Fu Lu Lun (On Fortunes and Happiness), one volume of She Sheng Zhen Lun (Advice on Health Cultivation), one volume of Gui Jing (Canon of the Tortoise), and others.

Qian Jin Yao Fang consists of 30 volumes and covers 232 medical subjects. Sun Simiao believed: “A human life is extremely precious; more valuable than one thousand liang [an ancient Chinese unit of weight] of gold.” Because of this belief he titled his book with the two characters “Qian Jin,” which means one thousand liang of gold. The entire book collected 5,300 prescriptions, covering a wide range that is rich in content. It is a colossal work, representative of medical science during the Tang Dynasty. It had a great impact on and made significant contributions to medical developments, especially prescriptions for later generations. The scholarly text also made contributions to medical advancements in Japan and Korea.

Qian Jin Yi Fang also consists of 30 volumes. Sun Simiao wrote it in the later stages of his life. It is a comprehensive supplement to Qian Jin Yao Fang. He divided the entire book of Qian Jin Yi Fang into 189 subjects, covering over 2,900 prescriptions. It describes over 800 medicinal drugs and provides effective ways for treating especially febrile diseases, strokes, miscellaneous diseases, acne, and carbuncles.

2. Sun Simiao’s medical ethics and further contributions to medicine

Sun Simiao expressed his belief that medicine is an art of kindness. In his book Da Yi Jing Chen (Sincerity and Devotion of Great Doctors), he wrote: “When a great doctor treats a patient, he must concentrate himself, calm down, and be free of desires and pursuits. He first needs to have a compassionate heart to devote himself to freeing the patients from the suffering of illnesses. If patients come for treatment, whether they are of high or low social status, rich or poor, elderly or young, beautiful or ugly, enemies or relatives, the Han race or other ethic groups, intelligent or unintelligent, the doctor should treat them the same as if they were all the doctors’ dear ones…”

This short paragraph is a clear representation of Sun Simiao’s noble character as a doctor.

He adopted a holistic approach to treating illnesses. He believed that by skillful nursing and recuperating successfully, one can be free of illnesses. As long as “a good doctor treats the illnesses with prescriptions and acupuncture, the patient’s illness will be curable and disasterson the earthwill be avoidable.” He stressed medical ethics and treated all patients the same. As already stated above, he declared, “a human life is precious, and more valuable than one thousand liang of gold.”

Sun Simiao also paid great attention to gynecology and pediatrics. He authored three volumes of Fu Ren Fang (Gynecology) and two volumes of Shao Xiao Ying Ru Fang (Pediatrics), which were placed on top of Qian Jin Yao Fang.

Qian Jin Yao Fang is the earliest encyclopedia on medical subjects in China. It covers a broad range of categories–from basic medical theories to different clinical subjects, and from theories and methodologies to prescription formulas and drugs. The book covers materials from the classics in one segment, while another category includes the empirical formulas and prescriptions that were circulated among the populace. This book included the strong points of different schools and is suitable for people from different educational backgrounds. It is popular even today.

Much of the book’s content still plays a guiding role, making it of great scientific value. It is indeed an asset for traditional Chinese medicine.

As already stated, Qian Jin Yao Fang has made great contributions to the development of prescription formulas. By summarizing the clinical experiences from the era of Zhang Zhongjing [a famous doctor in the Han Dynasty] to that of Sun Simiao and the achievements in prescription formulas over the previous several hundred years, it demonstrated Sun Simiao’s profound medical knowledge and extraordinary medical skills. Future generations have called Qian Jin Fang–the two books of Qian Jin Yao Fang and Qian Jin Yi Fang–the ancestor of prescription formulas.

Sun Simiao valued preserving health and actively practiced it. Because he was good at the art of cultivating health, he lived to over 100 and still enjoyed good vision and hearing when he was old. He combined ideas on the preservation of health from Confucianism and Taoism, as well as from ancient India, with those of traditional Chinese medicine. He proposed many practical and effective ways to cultivate good health, which, even now, guide people’s daily lives. For example: “One should keep a balanced mindset and not solely pursue recognition and self-interest. Be constrained in food intake, and do not eat or drink too much. Pay attention to the circulation of Qi and blood and do not be lazy and motionless. Live a regular daily life and do not violate the law of the nature…”

Sun Simiao was also the first to invent a urethral catheter. According to historical records, one of his patients could not pass urine. Seeing that the patient was in extreme pain, Sun thought, “It is already too late to treat him with medicine. If there was a way to insert a tube into his urethra, the urine could perhaps flow out naturally.” He saw a neighbor’s child at play blowing on a green onion stem. The green onion stem was very thin, long, and soft. Sun decided to use such a tube and gave it a try. Having chosen a suitable green onion stem, he charred it gently, cut the sharp end off, and then carefully inserted it into the patient’s urethra. He then blew into the tube once. As expected, the urine flowed out of the tube. The patient’s bloated abdomen gradually became smaller, and the patient’s illness was also cured.

By cultivating morality and the body with virtue and by having both virtue and talent, Sun Simiao became a great figure whom common people and medical professionals for several generations have highly respected.

December 24, 2009

Concerning the Proverb “You Shouldn’t Question the Whole Thing, but Neither Should You Believe in Everything You’ve Heard or Seen”

August 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Han Ru

[] When it comes to beings or phenomena outside of this dimension such as myths, Buddhas and gods, some people with a lot of experience in life might bring up the proverb, “You shouldn’t question the whole thing, but neither should you believe in everything you’ve heard or seen.” On the surface, it means that they neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of these phenomena or the existence of gods. But the bottom line is that they don’t believe in these things. Actually the phrase “You shouldn’t question the whole thing, but neither should you believe in everything you’ve been told or have seen” came from the cultivation community and reflects an objective view that cultivators had of cultivation. But as human society became more and more degenerate, people’s righteous faith in gods gradually disappeared. Thus this proverb’s meaning has become twisted and it has now become a phrase to express people’s lack of belief in gods or Buddhas.

The first part of the proverb, “You shouldn’t question the whole thing,” implies that people should believe in gods, Buddhas, and other dimensions. It makes good sense because many people have witnessed or experienced specific phenomena of gods, Buddhas and other dimensions.

So what does the second part of the proverb “but neither should you believe in everything you’ve heard or seen” mean? This pertains to reality in other dimensions. There are levels of heaven, levels of hell, Buddhas, Daos, gods, demons and ghosts in other dimensions. If a cultivator believes in everything, he would mess up his cultivation and might even end up cultivating on a demonic path without knowing it. That is why the second part of the proverb states that one must not believe in everything that he has heard or seen. A cultivator must depend on his enlightenment to keep his righteous faith and to attain the Right Fruit [1].

The same principle applies to ordinary people. If they don’t show reverence to righteous gods and instead put the statues of unknown spirits in a shrine, they might end up burning incense for foxes, weasels, ghosts and snakes [2], and bring upon themselves spirit or animal possession. Then these people are done for. Confucius said, “Keep one’s distance from the ghosts and spirits while showing them reverence.” [3] The saying carries a similar meaning. In summary, the second half of the proverb means that people shouldn’t believe in messed up things. Instead, they should have righteous beliefs.


[1] Right Fruit: In the cultivation world, “attaining the Right Fruit” refers to the completion of cultivation and reaching a high level.
[2] “Fan Ch’ih asked about wisdom. The Master said, ‘To work for the things the common people have a right to and to keep one’s distance from the ghosts and spirits while showing them reverence can be called wisdom.'” (From Book 6:22 in Analects)
[3] Foxes, weasels, ghosts and snakes: In Chinese ideology, it is believed that the spirits of foxes, weasels and a few other animals have supernatural powers and can take over a statue in a temple or even possess a human being.

Translated from: Copyright @ 2000-2011 All Rights Reserved

The Monk Who Overslept

August 10, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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(Clearwisdom) Buddha Shakyamuni often taught his disciples to study Buddhist doctrine attentively and wholeheartedly, and that they must not slack off or be lazy. Most of his disciples followed his teachings and cultivated diligently, and therefore obtained the Dao and reached their Attainment Status while eliminating a lot of worries and suffering.

However, there was one monk who simply was not diligent. Whenever others practiced meditation, he would just go to sleep. His fellow disciples tried to reason with him, but he would not change.

The monk’s greatest weakness was oversleeping. Everyday he would to go sleep after he ate a meal. When he slept, he kept his door closed tightly and slept alone in his room. No one could wake him up, no matter how hard they tried.

One day at noon, after begging for food on the street, the monk came back carrying his alms bowel. He went straight to his room and fell asleep. The snoring from his room could be heard till the next morning.

The next morning, it was time for Shakyamuni to teach the Buddha Fa to the public. Every disciple was present, except the monk who liked to sleep. Shakyamuni asked, “Why doesn’t the disciple who likes to sleep come?”

A disciple quickly stood up and replied, “Buddha, he has been sleeping since noon yesterday. We could not wake him no matter what we tried.”

Shakyamuni remembered that the monk only had seven days to live. If he died while sleeping all the time, his death would bring him unhappiness. Shakyamuni had great pity for the monk. He instructed his disciples to recite a scripture and took Ananda with him to see the monk in his room.

They could hear the thunderous snoring before they reached the monk’s room. They opened the door only to hear even louder snoring. The monk was still in bed in a deep sleep.

Ananda called the monk’s name a few times, but the monk did not respond and continued sleeping. Then, Shakyamuni walked to his bed and gently shook him. The monk immediately woke up.

Upon seeing Shakyamuni standing before him and gazing at him with compassion, the monk immediately got up and bowed to Shakyamuni, saying, “Revered Buddha, please forgive me for being disrespectful.”

Shakyamuni said to him, “You only have seven days to live. I cannot bear to see you die while sleeping so much and failing to reach an upright Attainment Status. I’m here to wake you up.”

The monk was shocked. It had never occurred to him that he might only have seven days to live. He was frightened and did not know what to do.

Shakyamuni comforted him and said, “It is predestined for you. Several lifetimes ago when you were a monk, you indulged in food and sleep and never pondered the meaning of the Fa. You did not follow the Buddhist’s precepts. You did not sow any blessings or virtue, therefore you reincarnated as a rice worm for 50,000 years. Then, you reincarnated as a snail, a mussel, and a moth for 50,000 years each.

“In your previous lives you liked to live in dark places without light, and you treasured your body and life very much. What’s more unusual is that all four different beings were fond of sleeping and could sleep for over 100 years once they fell asleep. You did not try at all to be diligent. After 200,000 years you were finally able to repay the sin you had committed. Then, you reincarnated as a human and became a monk.

“Now that you have become a monk you should cultivate and study diligently to make up for what you previously lost. I did not expect that you would still be so attached to food and sleep like you were 200,000 years ago. Why do you always feel like you do not get enough sleep? Don’t forget the consequences you suffered 200,000 years ago.”

Shakyamuni stopped talking. The monk blushed from shame. He quickly repented to Shakyamuni. When he criticized himself deeply and repented, all his distracted thoughts disappeared. He was able to attain the status of Arhat by the end of his life.

There are only 24 hours in a day. People usually say that time passes by in the blink of an eye. The average person sleeps eight hours a day. People who oversleep may end up spending most of their time in sleep and dreams and therefore accomplish very few major tasks in a lifetime. Several decades pass by quickly in the human world. You’ll indeed regret it if you do not firmly seize the opportunity. Sometimes you feel like life is long, but you don’t know when death will take you. By that time, you will not have done a good job completing the tasks you were supposed to do and the missions you were supposed to fulfill. Even worse, you may not have made the effort to do those things at all. Nothing will help, no matter how regretful you feel. Do you really want to become a sleep worm in your next life?

The monk who overslept finally realized that he needed to seize the time he had left and not be sleepy and drowsy all the time. A cultivator stresses the importance of striving forward diligently in Buddha cultivation. How can a sleepy and drowsy person become as diligent as a mighty lion? A cultivator should seize every minute, sleep less, and cultivate more to succeed in cultivation.

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