Episode 195: Eggxtrapolation

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Today we will talk about a story of where a family’s fortune is from. The story is from the book XueTaoXiaoShuo 雪涛小说 from the Ming dynasty around the 16th century.

In the book, it says a tradesman was so poor that he barely scraped a living. One day he picked up an egg and excitedly told his wife, “here is the family’s fortune!”

“Where?” asked the wife.

“Right here,” said the man, showing her the egg, “but it will be ten years before we become rich. I’ll take this egg and have the neighbor’s setting hen hatch it. Out of that brood I will bring a female chick home to lay eggs. In one month we can have 15 chickens. In two years as the chickens give birth to chickens, we can have 300. They should fetch ten pieces of silver in the market and with the money I’ll get five calves. In three years when the calves reproduce, I’ll have 25. When the calves’ offspring give birth in another three years, I’ll have 150. This should bring in 300 pieces of silver. If I use the money to make loans, in three years more I’ll have 500 pieces of silver. Two thirds of this to buy a house, one third to buy servants and another wife- and you and I can enjoy our remaining years to the end. Won’t that be wonderful?”

 

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All the wife heard was that her husband was thinking of buying another wife. Angrily she flung the egg away, smashing it and crying, “let’s not harbor the seed of disaster!” Enraged, the husband took her before the magistrate. “This wretched women has ruined the family’s fortune at a single stroke. She should be executed.” The magistrate asked the location of the fortune and the circumstances of the loss. The husband began with the egg and described all that had happened.

The magistrate said, “an evil woman has destroyed a great family fortune in one blow. She deserves to be executed.”

The wife protested loudly, “everything my husband has told you concerns things yet to come. Why should I suffer for that?”

“The concubine that your husband spoke of buying was also something yet to come. Why should you have became so jealous?” said the magistrate.

“True enough”, said the wife, “but one cannot move too soon in taking precautions against disaster.” The magistrate smiled and released her.

Alas! The man schemed from greed, and his wife smashed the egg from jealousy. Both were minds under delusion. The wise man, free of desire, recognized that even what exists is delusion; how much more so is that which has yet to come!

 

Mentioned:

雪涛小说 XueTaoXiaoShuo

Episode 194: Monkey Keeper

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Today we will talk about a story from the book LieZi 列子, a Taoist text attributed to Lie Yukou 列御寇, an ancient Chinese philosopher between the year 450 BC ~ 375 BC.

In the book, it says in the land of Song 宋 there was a monkey keeper who loved monkeys. He raised a whole swarm of them and could understand their thoughts. They were so dear to him that he would take food from the mouths of his own family to satisfy them. But still the time came when he had to reduce their provisions. Fearing that they would stop obeying him, he decided to trick them into accepting short rations. “Here are chestnuts for you,” he told them. “You’ll get three each morning and four each evening. Is that enough?” The monkeys rose up in anger. Then the trainer said, “very well; four each morning and three each evening. Is that enough?” Delighted, the monkeys agreed.

 

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In the book ZhuangZi 庄子, an ancient philosophy Chinese text from 3rd century BC, it commented on this story, “there is nothing change in the facts or the words but the monkey’s mood changed. They were just tricked no matter what.” By saying so, the philosopher ZhuangZi 庄子 conveyed his wish to end prejudice and conflicts of right or wrong. He thought nothing is the absolute right or wrong and keep oneself distant from politics and social obligations.

 

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Maybe you thought the story is about the monkey is being irrational and they should think more. But ZhuangZi is an anti-rationalist. Reason and logic is the corn of Greek philosophy and then the entire Western philosophical traditional, most Chinese philosophers especially ZhuangZi was skeptical towards rationalism and pointed out overdependent on them could limit the flexibility of thought.

 

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Mentioned:

列子 LieZi

庄子 ZhuangZi

Episode 189: Koan 1 – The Simplest Thing

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A Koan 公案 is a story, dialogue, question or statement which is used in Zen practice. Today we will start a new series in our podcast of koans.

I am not a Buddhist, and by no means I understand the world or have more life experiences than anyone who is listening. But hopefully by sharing these koans we can all have some inspirations and understand ourselves better.

The koan today is from the book The Jingde Record of the Transmission of the Lamp 景德传灯录, a work consisting of biographies of Zen patriarchs and Buddhist monks from the Song dynasty in the year 1004.

The dialogue is between Vinaya Master YouYuan 有源律师(Vinaya Master are masters that focuses on the discipline and precepts. )and Zen Master DaZhuHuiHai 大珠慧海禅师 from the Tang dynasty 唐朝.

 

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Vinaya Master YouYuan asked, “monks practice Zen. Do they work hard?”

Zen Master DaZhuHuiHai said, “working hard.”

Vinaya Master YouYuan asked, “how?”

Zen Master DaZhuHuiHai said, “they eat when they are hungry and sleep when they feel sleepy.”

Vinaya Master YouYuan asked, “every human being is like this. How do you call this working hard?”

Zen Master DaZhuHuiHai said, “it’s different?”

Vinaya Master YouYuan asked, “what’s the difference?”

Zen Master DaZhuHuiHai said, “people don’t actually eat when they eat. They think a lot of things in their heads. People don’t sleep when they sleep. They struggle. That’s the difference.”

 

Mentioned:

景德传灯录 The Jingde Record of the Transmission of the Lamp

Episode 188: Nested Relationships

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The philosopher Kant writes, “Space is not something objective and real, nor a substance, nor an accident, nor a relation; instead, it is subjective and ideal, and originates from the mind’s nature in accord with a stable law as a scheme, as it were, for coordinating everything sensed externally.”

Today we will talk about an interesting story and think about space. This story is from the book XuQiXieJi 续齐谐记 from the Southern dynasty 南朝 by the author Wu Jun 吴均 between the year 469~520. The story line is based on a Buddhism story from the Buddhism script JiuZaPiYuJing 旧杂 譬喻经from India.

In the book, it says there was once a man named Xu Yan 许彦 from the place called Yang Xian 阳羡. One day when traveling on his way in the Mountain SuiAn 绥安, he ran into a young scholar around the age of 17 or 18. The young scholar lied near the road and told him that his feet hurt very much. He asked Xu Yan if he could be carried in his goose cage. Thinking it was a joke, Xu Yan let the young scholar enter the goose cage he brought as he wished. Surprisingly, the young scholar went into the cage and fit in the cage without a problem. He sit together with two geese that didn’t get bothered by this intruder. In addition, the cage did not change the shape and the Xu Yan did not feel any change of the weight of the cage.

 

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After a while, they stopped at a tree to take a break. The young scholar came out of the cage and said to Xu Yan, “I will prepare a meal to pay back the favor of your kindness”. Xu Yan said, “that would be great.” Then the scholar brought out a bronze container from his mouth. The copper container has many delicious dishes. It was an amazing feast indeed.

After several drinks, the young scholar said to Xu Yan, “there is a lady who is with me. Can I invite her to join us now?” Xu Yan replied, “sure!” Then the young scholar brought out a beautiful girl from his mouth. The pretty girl was around 15~16 years old, well-dressed. She joined them at the table.

Soon the young scholar got drunk and fell asleep. This girl said Xu Yan, “although he is my husband, I am not happy with him. I have a lover. Since my husband is asleep, can I let my lover to join us. Would you please keep it secret?” Xu Yan replied, “OK!”

Then the girl brought out a man from her mouth. The man was around 23~24 years old and was smart and handsome, with whom Xu Yan had nice conversations.

After a while, the young scholar was about to awake, the girl brought out an embroidered screen from her mouth to hide the young man from her husband’s view. Then the young scholar and the girl went to rest together.

On the other side of the screen, the young man who was from the girl’s mouth said to Xu Yan, “it is true that the girl and I both have feelings for each other. But we are not excursive. I have another girlfriend. Can I ask her to join us now? Please keep the secret.” Xu Yan replied, “OK.” So the young man brought out a lady from his mouth, who was about 20 years old. The three of them drank together and had a wonderful time.

When hearing the sound from the other side of the screen that the couple were getting up, the young man swallowed back the woman he brought out from mouth. At this time the young scholar’s wife came out of the curtain and swallowed back the young man she brought out from her mouth.

The young scholar was now up. He said, “I am sorry that I took a long nap. You must feel bored this whole time. It’s getting late. We need to say good-bye. ” He swallowed back the lady he brought out of his mouth along with all the dishes and food wares. He left a bronze plate as a gift to Xu Yan and said, “this is for our great memories.”

After many years, Xu Yan gave the bronze plate to his friend as a gift who later found out it was made 400 hundreds years ago.

Mentioned:

续齐谐记 XuQiXieJi

旧杂譬喻经 JiuZaPiYuJing

Episode 187: Du Zichun – part 3

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Finally, a jailer reported to the King of Hell that Du Zichun had completed the course of suffering. The King said, “This wretch, so cunning, is unfit to be a man. Let him be born a woman in the next life!” So Du Zichun reincarnated to the next life as a girl in the family Wang Quan 王劝. Du Zichuan was born with diseases and took pills every day. She was “accidentally” fell into the fire place and other accidents. But he never uttered a word.

Soon, she grew up to be a woman of surpassing beauty. People regarded her as a mute girl for which she had suffered insults and sexual harassment. Du Zichun kept silence. There was a scholar from the same county named Lu Gui 卢珪, who heard of her beauty and became an admirer. Lu proposed through a matchmaker, but her family declined on grounds of her muteness. Lu Gui replied, “if a wife is able and virtuous, what need is there for speech.” Du Zichun’s family finally gave their consent.

For several years the couple had an enviably loving relationship. Du Zichun then gave birth to a child, who was an intelligent boy. When the boy was two years old, Lu Gui was holding the child in his arms and talked to Du Zichun. She never made a sound. He flew into a rage, saying, “in olden times, Minister Jia 贾’s wife would not smile, for she despised her husband. Even so, she made up for the regret one day while watching him shooting pheasants. After all, I am not as noble as the minister, but how come my knowledge is not compared with pheasants shooting? A man is despised by his wife. What’s the need of having a kid with this kind of wife?” He grabbed the boy’s feet, and bashed his head against a rock. It smashed instantly, splashing blood. Unable to hold back her love for the child the momentarily, Du Zichun slipped an involuntary cry, “Ugh!”

Before the sound died out, Du Zichun found himself sitting in the yard of the same place with the Taoist master in front of him. It was almost dawn. He saw the purple flames of the furnace leaped up and burned through the roof. The entire house was ablaze. The Taoist master sighed, “Look what you got me into.” He threw Du Zichun into the pot of water and the fire was burned out.

The Taoist master said, “you have put behind you all emotions including joy, anger, pity, fear, loathing, and lust. The one feeling you have not yet mastered is love. If you had not uttered that sound, my elixir would have been ready, and you would have ascended into heaven as an immortal by now. How very rare are those with the true makings of an immortal! I can try smelting the elixir again, and there is yet room for you in this world. Take heart and do your utmost!” The Taoist master pointed out to him the distant road back. Du Zichun climbed to the top of the platform to have a look. The furnace had cracked open, exposing an iron rod inside, several feet long, the thickness of a man’s arm. The Taoist took off his robe and proceeded to scrape it with a knife.

After returning home, ashamed of having broken the vow, Du Zichun decided to make amends by volunteering for another effort. But when he reached the Cloud Tower Peak, he could not find even the slightest trace of the Taoist master.

 

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We have talked in our podcast that to be an immortal in Taoism or a Buddha in Chinese Buddism, everyone has a chance. Emptiness is the ultimate nature of things and it is essential to dissipate suffering. Some people think Du Zichun is a humanist in terms of denial of Buddhism and Taosim in order to acclaim fraternity in the world. Some people think the story is about love is the source of trouble and through purification of love and desire can the Proper Way be realized. Some people think contrasting desire and practice of asceticism misinterprets the significance of Buddhism and Taoism because Buddhism and Taoism help heal suffering caused by desire and emotions.

So what is the Japanese version of the story like by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa ? Most of parts are similar. When Du Zichun was in the Hell,he made a sound when the he saw his mother were tortured. And he was back to the reality, he wasn’t even blamed by the master but appraised that how he felt for his parents should be honored. But he didn’t became an immortal since he failed and realized how he appreciate a normal life.

 

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In the Japanese version, he failed because he saw his parents instead of his child. Some people think this might be due the personal experience of the author Ryūnosuke Akutagawa that his mother had a mental illness shortly after his birth, so he was adopted and raised by his uncle. Also the ending was the quite opposite and I don’t know if it is due to Buddhism in Japan is more secularized it in China.

 

Mentioned:

玄怪录 XuanGuaiLu