Ancient Tales from China: “Straight Talk” with Royal Leaders for Benefit of the People (Part 3 of 3)
(Minghui.org) Continued from Part 2
Too Late for Regret
When Duke Zhao from the State of Lu was exiled to the State of Qi, Duke Jing asked him: “You're still a young man. What happened?” Duke Zhao replied remorsefully: “When I was a child, many people cared for me. I didn't appreciate them and I wasn't grateful. Many people talked to me about my behavior, but I didn't heed them and improve myself.
"After a while, there were no honest or responsible people helping me. Instead I was surrounded by sycophants and shallow people. I was like a dandelion plant in the fall with a rotten root. The first autumn breeze could easily uproot it.”
Duke Jing was very moved and thought that what Duke Zhao said made sense. He told Yanzi about Duke Zhao's response and asked: “If Duke Zhao could return to State of Lu, wouldn't he become a virtuous governor like those in ancient times?”
Yanzi answered: “It's not like that. Ignorant people are frequently filled with regret, and unscrupulous people often think they are honest and fair. It is like a drowning person who did not ask how deep the water was, or a lost person who does not ask for directions. Only when it was too late did the drowning person think of asking how deep the water was, or the lost person start asking for directions.
“For example, enemy soldiers surround the State, and the State is about to fall, and only then does the State begin making weapons. Another example, when someone is choking, he hastily starts digging a well to get water. Even though the best efforts are made, it is too late. There isn't enough time left to do anything.” Duke Zhao felt deep remorse only after he was exiled, but it was already too late.
Many people keep making the same mistakes throughout their lives. Only when they are faced with the painful consequences do they begin to regret their errors. But what they did has already been done, and there's no way to go back and undo it.
Afterward, they may feel remorse and chastise themselves for their wrongdoings. However, they don't learn from their mistakes and start doing things correctly. After some time, they commit similar wrongdoings, and then feel guilty again. This vicious cycle goes on and on, and their entire lives go by, filled with remorse.
An old proverb says: “One should not wait to do good deeds.” We also should not wait to correct our mistakes and improve ourselves. We must not always think that there's still time and delay doing the right thing. If we don't resolutely try to change our behavior, we probably won't be able to rectify even one error, no matter how much time has passed. Doing nothing may eventually lead to bigger mistakes, and we'll end up full of regret. So we should always be vigilant and correct our shortcomings as soon as we identify them.
A Calm and Relaxed Attitude Helps to Keep the Communication Channels Open
One day after Duke Jing had his daily meeting with his officials, Yanzi went to see him and said: “During the meeting you seem very stern.” Duke Jing said: “Well, I'm listening to my officials' reports and opinions in my royal court. Why would being stern negatively impact how I administer the State?”
Yanzi replied: “When you listen to your officials at the royal court, if you are too harsh, they may be afraid to say something that's true for fear that it might anger you. If they don't tell you the truth, then you don't know what's really happening in the State, and you'll never know how the people really feel and what they want. Since officials can't talk freely, it's like they are dumb. When they can't tell you what's really going on, it's like you are deaf. Wouldn't that negatively affect state affairs?
“ Moreover, a full granary gets filled with individual buckets, a curtain is woven with individual silk threads. Mount Taishan is so high, but it's not composed of one big boulder. A lot of dirt and boulders together formed the highest mountain. To build a peaceful and prosperous state, you cannot rely on the words of just one person. Of course, the duke doesn't need to follow every single piece of advice presented by the officials, but you should not discourage them from speaking up.”
Yanzi saw that Duke Jing's attitude toward his officials was so intimidating that the officials wouldn't dare to speak up, so he talked to the Duke about it. The duty and responsibility of an official is to assist the head of the State to administer state affairs. Whenever they see the head of State making a mistake, they need to speak up and point it out. They should not turn a blind eye to the mistake in order to protect themselves. Only that way can they help the head of State see his own mistakes, improve himself, and save the State from disastrous outcomes.
If a person is always arrogant, no one will point out his mistakes, or everyone will simply stay away from him. Since those who are arrogant can't see their own shortcomings, and they don't have friends who would tell them about their errors, they become bogged down in the quagmire of their mistakes, and they sink deeper and deeper, until they suffer irreversible losses.
When we talk to other people about their shortcomings, can we be like Yanzi and give reasonable advice in a sincere way? If we see our friends and family members make mistakes, in order to protect ourselves, we don't advise them in time, which leads to their failures. That means we haven't fulfilled our responsibilities as their friend or family member.
Everyone makes mistakes. The most important thing is to learn from our mistakes and improve ourselves continuously. As the old proverb says: “No upright deed is greater than correcting one's own faults.” If we just keep covering up our mistakes, that's more wrongdoing, and it will impede our moral improvement.
Like Standards for Being a Good Student and Child (Di Zi Gui) said: “If one corrects what one has done wrong, then it’s as if it hasn’t happened. If one covers up, then one adds to one’s wrongdoing.” Confucius once said that there are three friendships which are advantageous, and friendship with upright people was first on the list. It's a blessing to have friends who can advise us of our mistakes.
Duke Jing was very lucky to have Yanzi by his side. Yanzi's constant straight talks helped him realize his errors, reflect on his mistakes and improve himself. Yanzi was truly an upright official and a beneficial friend. Duke Jing was able to accept Yanzi's criticism and correction, and that's commendable.
Sometimes, Duke Jing was embarrassed by Yanzi's advice and felt that he lost face. But he agreed with everything Yanzi said and admired his courage to always speak up for the benefits of the State and its people.
When Yanzi died, he was deeply saddened and cried: “You gave me advice day and night and pointed out even the smallest mistakes. But I sat on my mistakes and didn't make much improvement. Now that you're gone, if the State of Qi is in danger, who would people ask for help!”
Yanzi was never guilty of insincere flattery. He was always frank with people, and had no hidden agenda. His straight talks and the way he governed the State and handled his personal life all reflected his upright conscience and his "putting people first" mentality.
Looking at today's China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has used its culture of deceit and confrontational approach to replace traditional Chinese culture. It subverts the idea of "conscience" and has no respect for life.
This has resulted in endless disasters for the Chinese people: the destruction of the environment, the severe pollution of natural resources, the complete loss of traditional moral values, toxic food, and counterfeit goods.
Corrupt officials and the collusion between businessmen and government officials and between policemen and gangsters creates so much hardship for ordinary people.
The CCP spreads lies and brutally cracks down on anyone who dares to tell the truth. The persecution of Falun Gong practitioners has been going on for 15 years. The Party's cruelty will not go unpunished. The Chinese people's growing and widespread indignation and discontent will eventually lead to the CCP's demise.
Over 160 million people have already withdrawn from the Party and its affiliated organizations. Through word-of-mouth, more and more people are finding out the truth and choosing to do the right thing – returning to heavenly principles, morality, and conscience, so that they can have a bright future