(Clearwisdom.net) Mo-tse, also called Mo Di, lived in the State of Song (11th Century BC - 286 BC), during the Warring States Period. He served as Da Fu (Great Officer) of the Song state. Mo Di devoted much effort to writing and editing. He was also deeply involved in Taoist cultivation. He promoted a simple and thrifty lifestyle. He wrote ten books during his lifetime. He was later known as Mo-tse, a special name to honor his position in history.
One day, Mo-tse heard some bad news: the State of Chu was planning to launch a war against the State of Song. He was very concerned because Song was no match against Chu. If a war broke out, Song would be conquered by Chu. Mo-tse felt he had a responsibility to safeguard Song's future, and he decided to travel to Chu to try to persuade the King of Chu to give up the thought of war.
After a seven-day journey, Mo-tse arrived in Chu. He first met with Gongshu Ban, a talented expert in charge of making ladders to attack fortresses. Mo-tse said to Gongshu Ban, "You are making ladders for the State of Chu to attack Song, but what did the State of Song do wrong to deserve this? Chu has vast and fertile land, but the people in Song do not have enough land to even meet their basic needs. Robbing Song, a poor state, to increase the already-rich Chu is not a wise move. Song has not really done anything to offend Chu. Attacking Song is not morally justified. You know the situation perfectly. If you choose not to tell your king, you are not truly loyal to him. If you tell him but he does not listen, I would say you are not determined enough and not very persuasive."
Gongshu Ban told him that the King's mind was not easily changed. And it was hard for Gongshu Ban to recall his own suggestion to attack the State of Song. Mo-tse realized that he must meet with the King of Chu in person and talk him out of the plan to initiate war. When Mo-tse finally met the King, he did not bring up his intention right away. Instead, he made an analogy, saying, "If a rich man abandons his expensive horse wagon in order to steal his poor neighbor's broken trolley; if he does not wear his own elegant attire, but prefers instead to steal a t-shirt from the poor neighbor; if he overlooks his own delicious seafood and steak and steals his poor neighbor's food made from chaff and wild vegetables, what kind of man is he, Your Majesty?"
The King answered, "If such a man exists, I think he must be mad."
Mo-tse then said, "The State of Chu is full of the best produce and animals. For example, the huge elk population in Yunmeng swamp and fish and turtles in the Yangtze River are abundant. Chu is the richest kingdom in the world. Look at our State of Song--it is so poor that the hunters cannot even find a quail, a carp, or even a rabbit. The contrast is exactly like the comparison of fish and steak versus chaff and wild vegetables. Your state is covered with lush forests, but the Song does not have many trees; it is just like comparing elegant attire with a t-shirt. I heard that Your Majesty was planning to attack Song. Isn't that a crazy thing to do?"
The King of Chu said, "What you have said is very good. But Gongshu Ban has prepared the ladders to attack fortresses, and he said we could certainly conquer Song."
Sensing a slight hope, Mo-tse asked to see Gongshu Ban again. When he arrived, Mo-tse took off his robe and laid it on a table, pretending it was the fortress of Song, and he removed his headband and pretended it was the soldiers and weapons of Song. Gongshu Ban then went on to play a war game with Mo-tse at the table. After nine rounds of war games, Gongshu Ban could not find a way to break Mo-tse's defense. Gongshu Ban was frantic.
Gongshu Ban said, "I know of a way to break Song's defense, but I am not revealing it." Mo-tse answered, "I also know what attack method you have in mind, but I am not revealing it either." The King was very curious and asked Mo-tse what was going on. Mo-tse said, "Gongshu Ban meant to kill me, so the State of Song could be conquered. But he had no idea that my student, Qin Huali, and his 300 soldiers were waiting to repel your attack with heavy arms and my tactics. Even if you kill me, Song's defense remains intact and Chu will not succeed." The King of Chu was convinced by Mo-tse and gave up the war plan.
When Mo-tse was 82 years old, he made an insightful observation, "I have been through all kinds of things of the world, and I have come to know a great deal. People's fortunes, honors, and positions are all temporary. I have seen enough of this earthly life, and I have decided to leave the chaos of society and follow Deity Chi Songzi to travel around the world." He settled in Mount Zhoudi and concentrated on studying Taoist cultivation.
When a deity saw his diligent devotion in cultivation, he gave Mo-tse a silk book with cultivation secrets and recipes for making medicinal pills using herbs. He also gave Mo-tse books that explained Taoist principles and the theory of Yin and Yang. A total of 25 volumes of books were given to Mo-tse. The deity told Mo-tse, "You have very good inborn quality for cultivation and a high intellect; after you study these books you can become a deity. You do not need another master."
During the Warring States Period, all kingdoms were at war with each other. If Mo-tse wanted, he could have provided his King with invaluable advice and enjoyed huge rewards and honor for life. But he had no interest in the human life and was determined to cultivate the Tao. Eventually, he became a deity.
From a historical view, everything in the world is but an illusion. Only after one transcends the material world can one see the truth of the universe.
(Based on Records of the Taiping Era)
December 7, 2009