Moral character refers to a person's moral conduct and virtue. Knowledge refers to worldly knowledge. If we investigate these two, we find that there are three types of people in the world.
People of the first type singlemindedly devote themselves to the pursuit of fame and profit. They are vulgar and seek only worldly knowledge. They may even use their knowledge to harm people for the sake of personal gain.
Those of the second type have lofty character, but have not had much education. Yet despite their lack of education, such people often surpass those who have studied. Although their knowledge is temporarily deficient, the strength of their cultivation of character will gradually bring forth their inherent great wisdom. When conditions are ripe, they may even reach the enlightened state of the Buddha, in which all matters and principles are perfectly understood. For example, the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, had profound virtue. Although he had never gone to school, he was full of wisdom. The deep doctrines he spoke are something that cannot be expressed in books.
People of the third type are endowed with both moral character and learning. Their inner cultivation and their work to benefit people in the world can influence each other in a positive way. This is the ideal way to be.
Speaking of moral character, I am reminded of our school's emphasis on the moral conduct of its students. Speaking of knowledge, I think of the importance of applying it in a dynamic and flexible way. In order to help students develop good character, we must have ingenuity and skill, and to have ingenuity and skill, we must have knowledge of student psychology.
We often hear our teachers criticize us and tell us where we need to improve. Are we students really that bad? Not at all. The rules of our school are very strict, so in comparison we appear "bad." However, when we "bad" students go outside, we become uncommonly good— everyone compliments our good manners and deportment. We know that our teachers don't really think we're that bad; they just demand so much of us because they hope we will be even better.
In order to bridge the gap between our teachers' good intentions and students' diligent efforts, we must apply knowledge with ingenuity to build a bridge that is both considerate and reasonable. Then, we students will love our school even more, and the school will become better and better.
If teachers are to help students develop good character and pass on knowledge to them, not only must the students themselves be willing, but teachers must also encourage them. We are only kids, after all—especially the boarding students who are far from their parents. Our teachers are taking on the heavy double-responsibility of being our stern father and kind mother. The sternness of a father can give us direction in learning, while the tenderness of a kind mother can give us the courage to go forward.
My father once said to me, "While acquiring knowledge is important, developing a good character is the highest goal." As I grow up, I have come to understand the meaning of his words more and more.