17. Fulfilling the Brotherly Duty
After their mother died, the four brothers of Good Man Wang divided up the family estate and lived separately. Since only the fourth brother, Shuyong, had not married yet, he lived with Good Man Wang. Though they lived together, the properties, houses and land were all evenly divided up. Each had his own share.
How did Good Man Wang take care of the matters that his mother had worried about? And how did he help his fourth younger brother? Good Man Wang said, “I was paying careful attention to every aspect of his life. When Shuyong worked as a laborer for other people, I would take his wages and invest them. I took full responsibility. For instance, I advised him to use his savings to buy domestic animals. Any profit made in the transaction would go to him, while I would take full responsibility for any loss. As for his land, he would manage the planting and harvesting by himself, of course. When it was time to till the fields in the spring, I would go to his job in his place so that he could come home to till his own field. During the summertime weeding of the land and the fall harvest, I also took his place so he could come home to work in his own field. There were many other tasks in which he also needed my help.” For several years, Good Man Wang helped his fourth younger brother in this way.
In just a few years, his fourth younger brother had saved up a considerable amount of money. However, he still complained about Good Man Wang behind his back. Feeling that this was unfair, relatives came and told Good Man Wang, “You were so good to your fourth younger brother, yet he still isn’t satisfied. Why don’t you ignore him? Don’t let him live with you!” However, Good Man Wang told his relatives, “All I know is that he is my mother’s youngest and most beloved son. This is something I must do for him. I do not care about other things.”
Dhyana Master Fa Zhao once spoke a verse,
Though you flourish on your own, you originated from the same branch and thus share the same breath.
Do not hurt each other’s feelings with a few words.
Each time you see each other, you are older than before.
For how much longer can you be brothers?
When brothers live together, patience brings peace.
Do not contend over trivial things.
The sons you bear will be brothers in turn.
Set a good example for your descendants to follow.
Brothers are of the same substance as their parents. So a true filial son will be friendly to and love his own brothers. That is why the ancients compared brothers to limbs on the body, meaning they should protect and care for each other. “Shun could transform Xiang” is a good example. Although Xiang was mean and unfaithful to his elder brother (Emperor) Shun, Shun never harbored any grievance or hatred for Xiang.
18. Resolving to Change a Bad Custom
During the New Year holiday, Good Man Wang always felt melancholy. He said, “The popularity of gambling is really too depraved. I detest the New Year. People are busy sowing in the spring, tilling and planting in the summer, harvesting in the fall, and storing the crops in the winter. Only after an entire year of hard work can they bring grain home. However, as soon as New Year arrives, people in every household are gambling, men as well as women, young and old alike. They can gamble continuously for a several days and nights without wanting to eat or sleep. They waste all their energy and time and cannot do other things. Some even gamble away all the family wealth amassed by their forefathers. Facing a dead end, they turn into bandits.”
Gambling is the main reason for the deterioration of social mores. It is said, “Gambling is the cause of robbery while lust is foremost of all evils.” Since Good Man Wang’s brother also gambled, he said with deep feeling, “Once a good person gets involved in gambling, he no longer wants to do other things. A good man then becomes bad. Why did our ancestors leave us this custom of celebrating the New Year? People nowadays squander all their wealth during the New Year celebration.”
Having thought of this, Good Man Wang felt very sad; he turned his face to the sky and resolved, “I will never gamble in my whole life!” Therefore, even though it was the first day of the New Year, Good Man Wang would not rest and continued to transport the manure (Because they lived on the hillside, he had to carry the manure on his shoulders.) When people saw him working on New Year’s Day, they scoffed, “What are you working so hard for?” Good Man Wang said, “I come from a poor family. I get ill if I rest. So I have to work.”
→To be continued