What It Means to Pursue the Truth (9) Part One
For a while now, we have been fellowshiping on the topic of moral conduct. Last time we fellowshiped about one saying—“If you strike others, don’t strike them in the face; if you call others out, don’t call out their shortcomings.” Today we are fellowshiping about the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” which is another of the traditional culture’s requirements for human moral conduct. What aspects of people’s moral conduct does this saying touch on? Does it require people to be magnanimous and tolerant? (Yes.) This is a requirement that relates to the generosity of humanity. What is the criterion for this requirement? Where is the key point? (Be lenient wherever possible.) That’s right, it is that you should be lenient wherever possible, and not be so aggressive that you leave people no way out. This saying on moral conduct requires people to be magnanimous and not hold petty grievances. When associating with people or going about your business, if a dispute or conflict or grudge arises, don’t be too demanding, excessive or harsh in dealing with the offending party. Be lenient when necessary, be generous when necessary, and be mindful of the world and mindful of humankind. Do people have such great generosity? (No.) People don’t have such great generosity. People aren’t sure how great the human instinct’s ability to withstand this kind of thing is, and to what extent it is normal. What is the basic attitude of normal people toward someone who has hurt you, regarded you with hostility, or infringed upon your interests? It is hatred. When hatred arises in people’s hearts, are they capable of “being lenient wherever possible”? It isn’t easy to achieve, and most people cannot achieve it. When it comes to most people, can they rely on the conscience and sense that they possess in their humanity to be lenient with the other person and wipe the slate clean? (No.) But it’s not entirely accurate to say that it cannot be achieved. Why is it not entirely accurate? It all depends on what the issue is, and how trivial or important it is. Also, problems have differing degrees of severity, so it depends on how serious it is. If someone hurts you with their words only occasionally, then if you are someone with a conscience and sense you will think, “It’s not that he’s being spiteful. He doesn’t mean what he says, he just shoots straight from the hip. For the sake of all the years we’ve got along together, for the sake of so-and-so, or for the sake of something-or-other, I won’t hold it against him. As the saying goes, ‘Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.’ It was just one remark, it didn’t hurt my pride or harm my interests whatsoever, let alone affect my status or future prospects, so I’ll overlook it.” When facing these trivial matters, people can abide by the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.” But if someone really does harm your vital interests, or your family, or the harm they do to you impacts on your whole life, can you still abide by the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible”? For example, if someone killed your parents and wants to slaughter the rest of your family, could you apply the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” to someone like that? (No I couldn’t.) Any normal person of flesh and blood would not be able to do it. This saying cannot restrain people’s deep-seated hatred at all, and of course, less still can it influence people’s attitudes and opinions on this matter. If someone harms your interests or affects your future prospects, whether deliberately or not, or does you physical harm, whether intentionally or otherwise, leaving you disabled or scarred, or casts a shadow on your psyche and deep in your heart, can you abide by the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible”? (No.) You cannot do it. So, traditional culture requires people to be tolerant and magnanimous in their moral conduct, but can people do it? It’s not an easy thing to do. It depends on how much the matter has harmed and affected the person involved, and whether or not their conscience and sense can withstand it. If no great harm has been done, and the person can bear it, and it doesn’t go beyond what their humanity can withstand, meaning that as a normal adult they can put up with these things, and the resentment and hatred can be dispelled, and it’s relatively easy to let go, then they can be tolerant and lenient with the other person. You can do this without any sayings on moral conduct from traditional culture to restrain you, teach you, or guide you on what to do, because this is something that normal humanity possesses and it is achievable. If this matter hasn’t hurt you too deeply or had a big impact on you physically, mentally and spiritually, then you can easily do this. However, if it has had a big impact on you physically, mentally and spiritually, so that it troubles you throughout your whole life, and often makes you depressed and indignant, and you often feel gloomy and despondent because of it, and it makes you regard this human race and this world with hostility, and you have no peace or happiness in your heart, and you live practically all your life in hatred, that is to say, if this matter has gone beyond what normal humanity can withstand, then as someone with a conscience and sense it is very difficult to be lenient wherever possible. If some people can do it, they are exceptional cases, but what must this be based on? What kind of conditions must be fulfilled? Some people say: “Then they should accept Buddhism and let go of hatred to attain Buddhahood.” This may be a path of liberation among common people, but it is merely liberation. What does this term “liberation” mean, anyway? It means steering clear of earthly disputes, hatred, and killing, and equates to the saying “out of sight, out of mind.” If you steer clear of such matters and can’t see them, then they will have little impact on your innermost feelings, and will gradually fade from your memory with the passage of time. But that is not abiding by the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.” People are unable to be lenient, or forgiving and tolerant of this matter, and to let go of it once and for all. These matters have only faded from the innermost depths of people’s hearts, and they no longer care about them. Or it is merely due to some Buddhist teachings that people reluctantly stop living in hatred and getting hung up in these worldly sentiments of love and hate. This is just passively forcing oneself to stay away from these places of conflict and strife full of love and hate, but this does not mean that one can apply the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.” Why is that? As far as normal humanity is concerned, if something happens to a person that causes serious harm to their body, mind, and soul, such as an unbearable pressure or injury, then no matter what capacities they possess, they cannot bear it. What do I mean by “cannot bear it”? I mean that people’s normal humanity, ideas and views are unable to resist or dispel these things. In the language of humankind, it can be said that they can’t bear it, that it goes beyond the bottom line of human tolerance. In the language of believers, it can be said that they just can’t understand this matter, see through it, or accept it. So, as there is no possible way to resist or dispel these feelings of hatred, is it possible to abide by the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible”? (No.) What is the implication of not being able to achieve this? Namely, that normal humanity does not possess this kind of generosity. For example, say someone killed your parents and wiped out your whole family, could you let something like that go? Is it possible to dispel that hatred? Could you look upon your enemy as you would look upon ordinary people, or think of your enemy as you would think of ordinary people, with no feeling in your body, mind or spirit? (No.) No one can do it, unless they believe in Buddhism and witness karma with their own eyes, so that they can give up the idea of killing in revenge. Some people say: “I am good-natured, so if someone killed my parents, I could be lenient with him and wouldn’t seek revenge on him, because I’m a big believer in karma. The saying ‘Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible’ sums it up to a tee: If revenge breeds revenge, will there ever be an end to it? Besides, he has already admitted his mistake and even got down on his hands and knees and begged me for forgiveness. This score is settled now, I’ll be lenient on him!” Can people be this magnanimous? (No.) They cannot do this. Leaving aside what you might do once you catch him, even before you catch him, all you can think about constantly every day is getting your revenge. Because this matter has hurt you greatly and affected you greatly, as a normal person, you will certainly never forget it for as long as you live. Even in your dreams you will see images of your family being killed and of yourself exacting revenge. This matter could affect you for the rest of your life, until your last dying breath. Such hatred simply can’t be let go of. Of course, there are slightly less serious cases than this one. For example, supposing someone slapped you in the face in public, embarrassing and humiliating you in front of everyone, and insulting you for no reason. Since then, many people look at you with discriminatory glances and even mock you, so you feel ashamed to be around people. This is much less serious than killing your parents and family members. Even so, it is difficult to abide by the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” because these things that have happened to you are already beyond the tolerance range of normal humanity. They have caused you great physical and mental harm, and greatly injured your dignity and character. There is no way you can forget them or let them go, so it is very difficult for you to abide by the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible”—which is normal.
Looking at these aspects that we fellowshiped on just now, the saying on moral conduct “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” which is referred to in traditional Chinese culture, is a doctrine that restrains and enlightens people. It can only resolve minor disputes and trivial conflicts, but has no effect whatsoever when it comes to people who harbor deep hatred. Do the people who put forward this requirement really understand man’s humanity? One could say that the people who put forward this requirement are by no means ignorant of how great the tolerance range of human conscience and sense is. It’s just that putting forward this theory can make them appear sophisticated and noble, and earn people’s approval and flattery. The fact is, they know very well that if someone hurts a person’s dignity or character, harms their interests, or even impacts on their future prospects and their whole life, then from the perspective of humanity, the offended party must retaliate. No matter how much conscience and sense he has, he will not take it lying down. At most, only the degree and method of his vengeance will differ. In this real society, in this extremely dark and evil social environment and social context that people live in, where human rights don’t exist, people have never stopped fighting and killing each other, just because they can take revenge whenever they get hurt. The more seriously they are hurt, the stronger their desire for vengeance and the crueler the methods by which they exact their revenge. So what will the prevailing tendencies in this society be like? What will happen to relationships between people? Will not this society be awash with killing and retaliation? Therefore, the person who put forward this requirement is telling people in a very veiled way not to retaliate, using this saying on moral conduct—“Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible”—to restrain their behavior. Whenever people suffer unfair treatment, or their character is insulted or their dignity hurt, this saying on moral conduct influences those people by making them think twice before acting, and stops them from being impulsive and overreacting. If people in this society wanted to take revenge whenever they suffered unfair treatment, no matter whether the treatment was meted out by the state, by society, or by people whom they come into contact with, then would not this human race and this society be difficult to manage? Wherever there are crowds, fights would then be unavoidable, and vendettas would be a common occurrence. So would not this human race and this society then be in chaos? (Yes.) Is the society in chaos easy for rulers to manage, or not? (No, it’s not easy to manage.) For this reason, these so-called social educators and thinkers put forward the saying on moral conduct “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible” in order to exhort and enlighten people, so that whenever they are subjected to any unfair treatment or discrimination, insults, or even are abused or trampled down, and no matter how great their spiritual or physical suffering, they first think not of retaliation, but rather of this classic maxim on morality, “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” making them unconsciously accept the restraints of these sayings on moral conduct in traditional culture, thereby effectively restraining their thoughts and behavior, and dispelling the hatred that they harbor toward others, toward the state, and toward society. When this hostility and rage that humanity necessarily possesses and these instinctive thoughts of defending one’s dignity are dispelled, will the struggles and vendettas between people in this society be reduced to a significant degree? (Yes.) For example, some people say: “Let’s call it quits, compromise will make a conflict much easier to resolve. It is said that ‘Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.’ He had his reasons for killing my family. It takes two to make a quarrel, and both sides cling to their own rationale. Besides, my family have been dead for years, what’s the point of raking the matter up again? Be lenient wherever possible—people must learn to be magnanimous before they can let go of their hatred, and only when they let go of their hatred can they be happy in life.” There are other people who say: “Let bygones be bygones. If he doesn’t hold petty grievances against me or regard me with hostility like before, then I won’t quarrel with him either, and we’ll just turn over a new leaf. As the saying goes, ‘Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.’” If such people, whoever they are, suddenly rein themselves in just as they are about to exact retaliation, then do not their words, their actions, and their theoretical basis essentially all stem from the influence of ideas and views such as “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible”? (Yes.) There are still others who say: “Why all the arguments? A fine example of a man you are, you can’t even let go of such a trivial matter! Some great men have hearts big enough to sail a boat in. At the very least, make room for a little generosity! Shouldn’t people be a bit magnanimous in life? Take a step back and see the bigger picture, rather than holding petty grievances. All this arguing back and forth is laughable to watch.” These sayings and ideas encapsulate a kind of human attitude toward worldly matters, an attitude that merely comes from “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible” and other such sayings from classic maxims on morality. People are inculcated and influenced by these sayings, and feel that they play some role in exhorting and enlightening people, so they regard these words as correct and proper things.
Why is it that people can let go of hatred? What are the main reasons? On the one hand, they are influenced by this saying about moral conduct—“Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.” On the other hand, they are worried by the thought that if they hold petty grievances, constantly hate people, and are intolerant of others, they will be unable to gain a footing in society and will be condemned by public opinion and laughed at by people, so they must reluctantly and unwillingly swallow their anger. On the one hand, looking at human instinct, people living in this world cannot bear all this oppression, senseless hurt and unfair treatment. That is to say, it is not in people’s humanity to be able to bear these things. Therefore, it is unfair and inhumane to put forward the requirement “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible” on anyone. On the other hand, it is obvious that such ideas and views also affect or distort people’s views and perspectives on these matters, so they are unable to treat such matters properly and instead regard sayings such as “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible” as correct and positive things. When people are subjected to unfair treatment, in order to avoid the condemnation of public opinion, they have no choice but to bottle up the insults and unequal treatment they have suffered, and wait for an opportunity to retaliate. Even though out loud they say nice-sounding things like “‘Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.’ Never mind, there’s no point retaliating, it’s water under the bridge,” human instinct prevents them from ever forgetting the harm this incident has done to them, that is to say, the harm that it has done to their body and mind can never be erased or fade away. When people say, “Forget the hatred, this matter is over and done with, it’s water under the bridge,” that is just a facade formed solely by the constraint and influence of ideas and views such as “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.” Of course, people are also confined by such ideas and views, insofar as they think that if they don’t manage to put them into practice, if they don’t have the heart or the generosity to be lenient wherever possible, then they will be looked down upon and condemned by everyone, and discriminated even more in society or within their community. What is the consequence of being discriminated against? It is that, when you come into contact with people and go about your business, people will say, “This guy is small-minded and vindictive. Be careful when dealing with him!” It effectively becomes an extra hurdle when you go about your business within the community. Why is there this extra hurdle? Because society as a whole is influenced by ideas and views such as “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.” The mores of society as a whole revere such thinking, and the whole of society is confined, influenced and controlled by it, so if you cannot put it into practice, it will be difficult to gain a footing in society, and survive within your community. Therefore, some people have no alternative but to submit to such social mores and follow sayings and views such as “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” living pathetic lives. In the light of these phenomena, didn’t those so-called moralists have certain aims and intentions in putting forward these sayings about moral ideas and views? Did they do it so that humans could live more freely, and their body, mind and spirit be more liberated? Or was it so that people could live happier lives? Quite obviously not. These sayings about moral conduct do not serve the needs of people’s normal humanity at all, and least of all were they put forward to make people live out normal humanity. Rather, they entirely serve the ruling class’s ambition to control the people and stabilize its own power. They do service to the ruling class, and were put forward so that the ruling class could keep social order and social mores in check, using these things to constrain every person, every family, every individual, every community, every group, and the society formed by all the various groups. It is in such societies, under the indoctrination, influence, and inculcation of such moral ideas and views, that the mainstream moral ideas and views of society emerge and take shape. This taking shape of social morality and social mores is no more conducive to the survival of the human race, nor is it more conducive to the progress and purification of human thought, neither is it more conducive to the enhancement of humanity. On the contrary, because of the emergence of these moral ideas and views, human thinking is confined to within a controllable range. So, who benefits in the end? Is it the human race? Or the ruling class? (The ruling class.) That’s right, it is the ruling class that benefits in the end. With these moral scriptures as the basis of their thinking and moral conduct, humans are easier to rule, more likely to be obedient citizens, easier to manipulate, more easily governed by the various sayings of the moral scriptures in everything they do, and more easily governed by social systems, social morality, social mores, and public opinion. In this way, to a certain extent, people who are subordinate to the same social systems, moral environment, and social mores have basically unanimous ideas and views, and a unanimous bottom line for how they should comport themselves, because their ideas and views have undergone processing and standardization by these so-called moralists, thinkers, and educators. What does the word “unanimous” mean? It means that all those who are ruled—including their thoughts and normal humanity—have been assimilated and confined by these sayings from the moral scriptures. People’s thoughts are restricted, and their mouths and brains are also restricted at the same time. Everyone is forced to accept these moral ideas and views of traditional culture, using them to judge and constrain their own behavior on the one hand, and to judge others and this society on the other hand. Of course, at the same time, they are also controlled by public opinion, which is centered on these sayings from moral scriptures. If you think that your way of doing things contravenes the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” you feel very upset and uneasy, and it soon occurs to you that “if I don’t manage to be lenient wherever possible, if I’m so petty and small-minded like some blinkered Lilliputian, and I can’t let go of even the slightest hatred, but carry it round with me all the time, will I be laughed at? Will I be discriminated against by my colleagues and friends?” So, you must pretend to be especially magnanimous. If people have these behaviors, does it mean that they are controlled by public opinion? (Yes.) Objectively speaking, deep within your heart there are invisible shackles, that is to say, public opinion and the condemnation of the whole of society are like invisible shackles to you. For example, some people know that it is good to believe in God, and that by believing in God they can attain salvation, and that believing in God means walking the correct path and not doing bad things, but when they first come to believe in God, they do not dare to be open about it, or to admit their faith, even to the point of not daring to spread the gospel. Why do they not dare to be open about it and let people know? Is it that they are affected by the overall environment? (Yes.) So what are the effects and constraints that this overall environment has on you? Why do you not dare to admit that you believe in God? Why do you not dare even to spread the gospel? Besides special cases such as authoritarian countries, where people of faith are persecuted, another reason is that the various sayings that come from public opinion are too much for you to bear. For example, some people say that once you start believing in religion, you don’t care about your family; some people demonize you, saying that believers in religion want to become immortal, and that they seclude themselves from society; others say that believers can go without eating, and not sleep for days on end without feeling tired; and still others say even worse things. At the outset did you not dare to admit that you believed in God because you were affected by these opinions? Do these opinions within the overall social environment have an effect on you? (Yes.) To a certain extent, they affect your mood and hurt your pride, so you dare not openly admit that you believe in God. Because this society is unfriendly and hostile towards people of faith and those who believe in God, and some people even utter vile insults and slanderous remarks that are too much for you to bear, you dare not openly admit that you believe in God, and have to sneak out to gatherings in secret, like a thief. You are afraid that others will say slanderous things if they find out, so all you can do is suppress your indignation. In this way, you have endured a great deal of anguish in silence, but suffering all this anguish is greatly edifying and you have gained a clear insight into many things, and understood some truths.
Just now we have fellowshipped extensively on this saying about moral conduct, “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible.” From the perspective of humanity, this saying specifies the minimum moral conduct that one should possess in terms of generosity and broad-mindedness. The fact is that, in light of the damage and effect on people’s human rights, dignity, integrity, and humanity, using only this saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” which is like the jargon of underworld robbers and bandits, to comfort and constrain people is a great insult to people with conscience and sense, and is inhumane and immoral. Normal humanity inherently possesses joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness. I will say no more about joy, sorrow, and happiness. Anger is also an emotion that normal humanity possesses. Under what circumstances does anger arise, and manifest itself normally? When the rage of normal humanity manifests itself—that is, when people’s integrity, dignity, interests, and their spirit and mind are hurt, trampled underfoot, and insulted, they will naturally and instinctively get angry, giving rise to indignation or even hatred—this is the reason why anger arises, and this is its specific manifestation. Some people get angry for no reason. A trivial matter can incite their wrath, or someone accidentally says something that hurts them and it can cause a red mist of anger to descend before their eyes. They are too hot-tempered, are they not? None of these things relate to their spirit, integrity, dignity, human rights or spiritual world, yet they can fly into a rage at the drop of a hat, which may be because they are so hot-tempered. It is not normal to display feelings of wrath at anything and everything. What we are talking about here is the indignation, anger, rage, and hatred manifested by normal humanity. These are some of people’s instinctive reactions. When a person’s integrity, dignity, human rights, and spirit are trampled on, insulted, or hurt, that person becomes indignant. This indignation is not a momentary fit of pique, nor is it a momentary feeling, but rather, it is a normal human reaction whenever a person’s integrity, dignity and spirit are traumatized. Since it is a normal human reaction, it can be said that this reaction is justified and rational, so it is not a crime, and does not need to be constrained. As for problems that hurt people to this extent, they should be resolved and dealt with fairly. If the matter cannot be resolved reasonably or dealt with fairly, and people are unreasonably expected to put into practice the saying “Execution does nothing but make heads roll; be lenient wherever possible,” this is immoral and inhumane to the victim, and is something that people should be aware of.