(Clearwisdom.net) Meng Ke [also known as "Mencius] who lived between 372 - 289 B.C. was a native of the Zou Kingdom, the modern day Zou County. He was a great ancient thinker and educator in China whose memorable quotes include, "A gentleman should be righteous and have dignity;" "Rule with virtue" and "A person with great love has no enemies in the world."

Meng Ke traveled to several kingdoms to teach his philosophy. The Qi Kingdom had invited him to be a visiting imperial scholar. King Qi Xuanwang asked him once, "King Qihuan Gong and King Jinwen Gong were two super powers during the Spring and Autumn Era [722-481 B.C.]. Could you please tell me something about them?"

Meng Ke said, "I do not feel like speaking of the stories of these two Kings. If you insist, I would then like to talk about a way to unify the world with virtue."

King Qi Xuanwang asked, "How can the world be unified by virtue?"

Meng Ke, "If everything you do is for people's well being, when you try to unify the world, no one can stop you."

Qing Xuanwang, "Can someone like me help people have a good life?"

Meng Ke, "Yes, you can."

Qi Xuanwang, "How do you know I can?"

Meng Ke, "I heard a story about you. One day as you sat in the palace you saw someone passing by, leading a cow. You asked, 'Where are you taking the cow?' 'To sacrifice it for worship,' the man answered. 'Set the cow free! I can not bear to see it trembling. The cow does not deserve to die because it did not do anything wrong.' 'Then, we will not sacrifice animals for worship, right?" the man asked. You said, 'How can we not worship? Let's sacrifice a sheep instead.' Was this a true story?"

Qi Xuanwang, "Yes, it was true."

Meng Ke, "Just because you have such a kind heart, you can unify the world. When people heard the story they thought you were a miser. I knew that was not true. You did this because you could not bear to see a cow slaughtered."

Qi Xuanwang, "Yes, some people think that. Although my kingdom is not very big, how could I be such a miser that I would save a cow for reasons of frugality? I really did not want to see a cow killed."

Meng Ke said, "Please, do not blame these people for thinking like that. They only saw you sacrificing a sheep to save a cow; how could they see the deeper meaning behind your actions? Also, if you really cared about the innocent, then what was the difference between a cow and a sheep?"

Qi Xuanwang, "You are right. Even I could not explain this. But I did not do that for economic reasons. People also have their reasons to think that way."

Meng Ke, "It does not matter. Your Majesty spared the cow because you are a kind person; because you saw a cow there, not a sheep. When you saw the cow about to be sacrificed you could not bear it. In reality, the sheep was also to be pitied, just like the cow."

Meng Ke continued, "But in front of your people, you treasure an animal's life more than theirs, why? It was like you are capable of lifting 3,000 lbs, but can not raise a feather; you can see the tip of a hair, but not a wagon load of fire wood. Your people cannot feel your love and compassion. No wonder they think you are a miser. Your Majesty does not unify the world with virtue; not because you are incapable, but you do not want to do it."

Qi Xuanwang, "What is the difference between not wanting and being incapable?"

Meng Ke, "If you ask a man to jump over the Northern Sea with Mount Tai held under his arms, he would say, 'I cannot do that.' He is indeed not capable. If you ask him to break a small tree branch for an old man he also might say, 'I cannot do that.' He does not want to do it, not because he is incapable. To do good for your people is not like jumping over the Northern Sea with Mount Tai under your arms but rather, it is like breaking a tree branch for an old man. The ancient sages far exceeded others, not because they had a special capability, but rather because they were accomplished at promoting good causes."

Meng Ke went on, "Your Majesty did not want to do these things for one reason: your biggest desire is to conquer the world and rule over all the kingdoms. You did not put the people's interests above all. But, if you want to fulfill your desire to rule the world with military power, you will not only fail but also cause disasters. Please think carefully. Do you really want to deploy all your armies, risk the lives of your soldiers and generals, make enemies with other kingdoms and cause disasters to the people, just for your own happiness?"

Qi Xuanwang, "No; why do I feel happy about all these troubles? All I wanted was to fulfill my greatest desire. I had no idea about these bad consequences. Now, after you told me, I understand."

Meng Ke, "If Your Majesty feels happy when the people are happy, then people will accord you the same. If Your Majesty is worried about people's troubles, then people will feel the same way. If Your Majesty can be happy or sad in the same way as the world, then it is impossible for you not to rule the world with virtue. People from far away will be attracted to your kingdom; people living here will live in peace and prosperity. People in the world will love and support you. Do you not want to have this state of affairs in your kingdom?"

Qi Xuanwang was very happy, "I like your idea and will give it a try. I hope you can assist me to achieve this goal."
Using Qi Xuanwang's compassion when he spared a cow, Meng Ke was able to tell the king about the right way to rule the world and eventually convince him. Qi Xuanwang gave up his plan to conquer the world with military force and chose to govern with virtue. As a result, the Qi Kingdom became a peaceful and prosperous place. People were grateful for Meng Ke's teachings.

Meng Ke was always courteous and dignified in his dealing with kings and lords and demonstrated his principles. All these were based on his love of people, respect for life and great courage. When people return to their original, compassionate thoughts, they can tell right from wrong, choose a bright path and understand the true value of life.

July 13, 2007