"Other people cannot take this kind of hardship." Most people saw him and exclaimed, "See how much suffering he's in!" "But Yen Zi didn't alter his happiness." Why was he happy? Because he didn't seek anything outside or rely on external conditions. He had truly attained the happiness of his own nature. He could truly direct the hearing to hear his own nature, and he was replete with the wisdom of listening, the wisdom of reflecting, and the wisdom of cultivating. So Confucius said, "Hui has never gone against my words." No matter what I say, he always says, "Yes, yes, yes." He never argued back, just like a fool, like a retarded person or a vegetable. But then Confucius said, "When I examined his conduct after he retired, I found him able to illustrate my teachings. Hui was not a fool." Actually, Hui was diligently applying himself and practicing Chan meditation. He learned the happiness of Confucius and imitated the supreme spirit of the Tathagata. So Yen Hui was a person of great wisdom. He died at the age of 33. Why? Because he had done what he had to do. He had already exerted enough influence on people. Hui was such that he could "hear one and know ten." After hearing one principle, he could understand ten principles. Another disciple, Si (Zi Gung), was able to hear one and know two principles. So Zi Gung said, "I'm not up to Yen Hui. I'm way too far below him." That was what Confucius said. Yen Hui entered the Dao, the path, as a pure youth, so he was happy every day.
Confucius said, "I set my heart on learning at fifteen." In the Three Character Classic, it says, "He began applying himself vigorously to his studies." The scholar Su Laoquan began studying with great zeal at the age of twenty-seven. Later on, there were the three Sus. He was the elder Su. There was also a big Su and little Su. They are known as the three Sus, Su Laoquan, Su Dongbo, and Su Ziyou. Now there's someone who claims to have the learning of the three Sus combined. He's really boasting and bluffing. So you see, there are all kinds of people, including those who hang around the rich and noble in order to raise their
own status, like the toad who dreamed of eating the meat of the swan. Confucius said, "At thirty, I established my resolve." To do what? To imitate the ancient sages and worthy ones; to imitate Heaven and Earth in every move he made. He wanted to imitate the ancient sages, such as Emperors Yao, Shun, Yu, Tang, Wen, and Wu, and the Duke of Zhou. "At forty, I was not confused." He had awakened and become enlightened, and he understood. His mind became unmoving, and he no longer had lustful thoughts. This is the state of a sage. "At fifty, I knew the will of Heaven. At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of truth. At seventy, I could follow my heart's desires without transgressing the rules." Confucius ate meat and was not vegetarian, but during the times when he bathed and ate vegetarian food before offering sacrifices to the Lord on High, he also became a vegetarian. Confucius talked about the Lord on High, but this did not refer to the Christian God. His Lord is known in China as the Jade Emperor. In Buddhism, the Jade Emperor is a Dharma protector who protects Buddhism. So Confucius worshipped the Jade Emperor, and he didn't transgress the law of Heaven. What is the law of Heaven? It is simply to avoid having thoughts of lust.
The things I have said today will be very irritating to some people, and they will feel upset. But don't worry, over time, you will no longer find it irritating.