On the day I went to his house, he was inside, and when he looked out the window and saw me coming, he said to his mother, “Mama, my teacher is coming!”
“Since when do you have a teacher?” his mother asked.
“Now! Now I have a teacher!”
His mother thought he was acting very strangely. He came to the door to greet me, and the minute I entered the door, he insisted on taking my bag from me. Wherever I traveled in Manchuria, I carried my “bag of myriad treasures,” which held Sutras and all sorts of things I used. But as soon as the child saw me, he insisted on taking my bag and carrying it on his back. I went in with him, sat down, and spoke with him a little. I asked him, “Who told you to bow to your parents? Did your parents tell you to do that?”
“No,” he said.
“Then why are you bowing every day?” I asked.
“I feel that there is no way I can repay my parents' kindness. They are elderly now, and I bow to them to make them content and not upset with me. I feel it's something a child should do,” he replied.
“But you started doing it when you were five years old,” I said. “A five-year-old child doesn't understand such things.”
“Well, when I was five, I did it because bowing to my parents made me happier than anything else.”
“Very good,” I replied. “You are a better child than I was. I didn't start bowing to my parents until I was twelve. Nobody told me to do it, either. But you started when you were only five. You're a very good child.”
That made him happy. Then I asked his parents, “He bows to you, but doesn't he sometimes do things that make you angry?”
His father said, “We have no virtue in the Way. No doubt my father had virtue, and so he is blessed with When you thoroughly understand all matters and principles, it is especially important to keep a low profile. such a grandson." The child's father was not conceited in the least. He didn't say, "I'm pretty special. See what a fine, filial child I have?" The child's father understood principle. He gave the credit of having a good son to his father's virtue and didn't claim to have done good deeds himself that merited such a reward.
Over an hour passed, and I put my legs down over the edge of the seat [kang, a brick bed used in northern China], preparing to leave. What do you suppose the child, whose name was Zheng De, did? He immediately got down and snatched my shoes. I thought he was going to help me put them on so that I could leave, but instead he took the shoes and ran off with them. He put the shoes in another room and came back, saying, "Teacher, today is the first time I have met you. You must stay at our home and have a simple meal with us, even though we don't have any especially good food here."
I was pleased with the child. The first time his teacher came, he asked his teacher to stay for a meal, which was also being filial to his teacher. I assented in silence by nodding my head. I didn't answer him verbally. Zheng De prepared and served the meal, and we all ate together.
After we finished, I asked the child, "Zheng De, you have bowed to me as your teacher. Is it the case that the teacher should obey the disciple, or that the disciple should obey the teacher?"
"The disciple should obey the teacher, of course," he replied. "How could it be that the teacher should obey the disciple?"
"If that's what you think is right, then why, without asking my permission, did you take my shoes away from me and put them away before asking me to stay for lunch? If you were obedient to your teacher, you should not have hidden my shoes and then asked me to stay. You could have simply invited me without using some way to coerce me into it. Now wasn't that a case of the teacher having to obey the disciple?"
The child immediately knelt before me and said, "Teacher, I'll never do it again. I thought if I did it that way, my teacher would certainly not leave."
"If you knew that by doing that, your teacher could not leave, then weren't you using force to make him stay?"
"I understand now," he said, "I won't ever do that again. Teacher, please forgive me!"
To be continued