In society, there are two kinds of contemptible behavior. The first is to keep your skill and knowledge to yourself and refuse to impart them to those who request to be taught, being jealous and obstructive of those who have ability. The second is to draw near to those who are powerful, hoping to get some influence from them, while making things worse for those who are weak and in a bad situation. What do I mean?
The first kind of vile practice is when people stingily refuse to impart knowledge and skills to those who seek instruction, out of fear that others will surpass them. Such people always hold something back and don't pass on all that they know. In the end, their skills and knowledge go with them into the coffin and are lost forever! These people usually have an overly high opinion of themselves and regard others with either contempt or jealousy. Not only are they jealous of those in their own field, they also slander and attack those in other fields, wreaking havoc in society and destroying the peace.
People who are truly kind and humane always consider the well-being of others as well as the society and country as a whole. They never hesitate to share their own knowledge, abilities, skills, and experience with others. In reality, an individual's glory or disgrace, when compared against the evolutionary history of humankind, is only a tiny cross-section of a mote of dust. Why should we be so concerned about it? To hide one's own abilities away only reveals one's own shallow understanding. To be jealous and obstructive exposes one's own lack of self-confidence. Humane ones spontaneously avoid such behavior, and wise ones would not stoop to it.
Once, during a large, formal party, a woman asked a petty-minded doctor numerous medical questions. The doctor answered each question. Afterwards, he secretly asked the lawyer next to him, "Should I collect a fee from that woman?" The lawyer's sober reply was, "Since you have imparted your expertise to her, you should certainly ask her to pay!" The following day, the doctor mailed a bill to the woman for ten dollars. Soon afterwards, the postman delivered a letter from the lawyer. The letter said, "Please pay a legal fee of twenty dollars." This joke makes fun of people who are stingy about teaching others.
Greenfair, after graduating from Cambridge University Medical School in England, soon became an eminent doctor known for his virtue, knowledge, and medical skill. Once he was traveling past a place called Lapland, near the North Pole. It was cold and barren, and the three thousand inhabitants made their living by fishing. Their lives were wretched. If they fell sick, they had no medicine and could only wait for death to take them. Greenfair felt that those people needed him more, so he stayed there to treat the fishermen for free. In several decades' time, he saved countless people. The fishermen were deeply grateful and respected him as they would a divinity. On his sixtieth birthday, they held a great celebration in his honor. In the midst of the merriment and laughter, suddenly someone showed up and asked him to go treat a patient in a village sixty
miles away. Greenfair immediately grabbed his medicine chest, bid goodbye, and set off in the blizzard. He was truly a compassionate Bodhisattva who came to save the world!
The second kind of vile practice stems from an attitude of liking the new and growing weary of the old. This attitude is held toward things as well as people. Such a person butters up to rich people and is haughty toward the poor. He fawns upon power. As it is said, "There are always people willing to add flowers to brocade, but rarely are there people who will deliver coal when it's snowing." In order to elevate his own status, a person with this attitude will not hesitate to step on others. Whence sees others in trouble, he will make things worse for them and not stop until he has done them in. Such behavior really makes one's blood run cold. Actually, such a person, who lacks feeling and conscience, is truly pitiful and in need of teaching.
In the poetry of the Han Dynasty, there is one poem which describes the dialogue that takes place when a man runs into his former wife. Probably noting the grim expression on her former husband's face and the disheveled look of his clothes, the woman inquired after his new wife out of concern. Having been raised in the old society, where a woman was taught to serve her father, husband, and son and possess four feminine virtues, her generous behavior was quite normal. The man, who had abandoned his former wife for a new woman who turned out to be dissatisfactory, had the gall to compare the new wife's skill in weaving to the former wife's. He said, "In terms of weaving, the new one is not as good as the former!" In my youth, such a man struck me as being totally utilitarian and devoid of modesty. When I grew older, having read a lot of history, I began to understand the law of cause and effect and learned to be more understanding. I am deeply grateful that China has these instructional poems, which teach us to be gentle, virtuous, kind, and forgiving.
During the Spring and Autumn Period in China, the emperor was weak and the feudal lords were strong. By the Warring States Period, the power shifted from the feudal lords to several people of the highest status in the royal family. Among these, the most eminent were known as the Four Princes of the Warring States Period. It was customary for these lords to surround themselves with talented men. They invited such men of ability to be lodgers in their home. For example, the leader of the Four Princes, Lord Meng Chang of the State of Qi, became known as "the one with three thousand lodgers." Lord Meng Chang's increasing renown brought on the suspicions of the King of Qi, who removed him from his post as Minister and sent him back to his estate in Xue. At that point, the majority of Meng Chang's lodgers deserted him. Later, due to the efforts of his loyal follower, Feng Huan, not only was Lord Meng Chang welcomed back as minister, but he was given a thousand more families to oversee. The lodgers who had previously deserted him came back one by one. Lord Meng Chang wanted to shame them, but Feng Huan hastily stopped him, saying,
"When they were hungry, they drew near; having eaten their fill, they ran off. When it was warm here, they came close; when it was cold, they deserted. This fault is common to all people. It was not that they did not like the situation here; however, when they did not find what they want, they naturally thought about going elsewhere. You shouldn't blame them for this, for that would hinder you from recruiting other men of ability." Meng Chang recognized the truth of Feng Huan's words and took his advice. In light of this story, although we dare not say that Feng Huan was one of true humaneness, it would not be exaggerating to say that he was a wise man who deeply understand the causes and results of matters.