Ancient Chinese Stories on Guarding Against Lust (Part 2 of 5)
(Minghui.org) (Continued from Part 1) Ancient Chinese Stories on Guarding Against Lust (Part 1 of 5)
6. Yan Zi's Old Wife
Yan Ying, also known as Yan Zi, was a renowned thinker and diplomat during the Spring and Autumn period. He was especially favored by Duke Jing of the Qi state.
One day, Duke Jing went to visit Yan Ying at his home. As they were drinking, Duke Jing saw a woman and asked, “Is the lady I saw just now your wife?” When Yan Zi said that she was, Duke Jing jokingly commented, “She is both old and ugly. I have a daughter, young and pretty. How about marrying my daughter?”
Upon hearing this, Yan Zi got up, stood before the Duke Jing, bowed to him, and said, “Your lord, although my wife is old and ugly, I have lived with her for a long time, and I knew her when she was young and pretty. When a woman becomes a man's wife, she offers him her youth and beauty for life, until she becomes old and ugly. When my wife was young, she entrusted herself to me and I accepted her and married her. She has lived with me all these years.
"Now, although your lord has bestowed upon me much honor, how can I betray her youthful commitment to me ?” Yan Ying bowed to the duke again and refused his offer with thanks. Seeing that Yan Ying cherished his obligation and feelings for his wife so deeply, Duke Jing didn't push the idea any further.
Another time, Tian Wuyu (an influential celebrity at the time) tried to talk Yan Ying into repudiating his old wife. Yan Ying said to him, “I've heard it is regarded as improper to repudiate one's old wife, and lewdness to take young and beautiful concubines. If one forgets honor at the sight of beautiful women and enjoys wealth, then he is violating the moral principles. How can I go against the principles of our ancient ancestors?”
It was said of Yan Ying: As a court official, Yan Ying was loyal to the sovereign and cared for the people. As a man, he was admired for his high morals. Simple and honest, he followed the principles of benevolence, righteousness, good manners, and trustworthiness. Confucius commented on his conduct favorably as being courteous and quick-witted. (Author's comment)
7. Confucius Warned Against Lust
Confucius said, “In youth, when the physique and vigor are not yet settled, he guards against lust.”
Huang Xiaozhi commented on this saying: "In the sage’s view, one should always refrain from lust. It is said in The Book of Rites that an ordinary man should not take a concubine unless he is still childless at fifty. It's obvious that people tried to restrain themselves from lustful desires. Confucius didn't say much about this, but he emphasized that, 'In youth, when the physical powers are not yet settled, he guards against lust.’ Clearly, this is a very important issue and people should refrain from lustful desires.
"This is because when people are young, they are in the budding stage, like a sprouting plant or a hibernating insect. If the sprouts are damaged, they will wither. Hibernating insects, if dug up and exposed, will surely die. Confucius warned young people against lust so that they would refrain from it and care for themselves, thus preserving their youth.
"If one can keep lustful desires under control when one is young, his essence will be well-preserved and he will be filled with energy. When he goes to court to handle state affairs, his spirit and energy will enable him to achieve amazing things. One's fine character and real knowledge all start from this. Even if one does not amount to much, he will still enjoy a long life and not die from unnatural causes. This is something young people should pay attention to.
"One comment of praise is: The teachings of Confucius regulated moral principles; loyalty, piety, integrity and sense of shame, benevolence, righteousness, courteousness, and trustworthiness. Man and woman are different and should keep their distance from each other. This is a sincere warning to young people." (Author's comment)
8. Mencius Had Few Desires
Mencius said, “To nourish the mind, there is nothing better than lessening desires. If you have few desires, even if you sometimes lose control, the chances are few. If you have many desires, even if you sometimes might be able to control your desires, the chances are few.”
Master Yin Huang explained this point by giving an example, “People should refrain from lustful desires even when they are healthy, let alone when they've just recovered from illness. Ten years ago, the son of a prosperous businessman was studying Western medicine in Japan and was first in his class. One day he was traveling on a tram. He jumped off before the tram stopped and broke his arm.
"Since he was a doctor that specialized in this area, he soon recovered. Bones need about 100 days to heal completely, and sexual activities should be avoided during that time. He went back to China before the 100 days were up, because his mother passed away. He spent a night with a woman and died the next day. He was very intelligent and was about to begin his career as a doctor, yet he didn't know he should have abstained from such behavior. For a bit of sexual pleasure, he paid with his life. What a pity!”
“… … I often say that 40% of all deaths result from indulging in lust. Even though their deaths may not directly result from lustful desires, their health is greatly damaged by such desires, and they die indirectly. Only 20% of all deaths are from natural causes. Such a vast world with so many people, and 8 or 9 out of every 10 die from indulging in lustful desires. Isn't it sad? … ...”
People praised Mencius. Building on his predecessors' contributions and promoting the heart of a sage, he based his conduct on benevolence and maintained a clean heart with few desires. He was regarded as second to Confucius, and people respected him. His mother, honored because of him, moved three times to find proper neighbors. (Author's comment)
(To be continued)