Six Selections from Ren Jing (Scripture of Forbearance)

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The Ren Jing (Scripture of Forbearance) was written by Wu Liang during the Yuan Dynasty. The following six stories are excerpts from the book.

I. Magnanimity – Letting bygones be bygones

When Han Anguo (? – 127 BC) was a high-ranking official in the State of Liang, he was imprisoned for committing a crime. He was assaulted by the prison officer Tian Jia while in prison. Han Anguo asked Tian Jia, “For those ashes that have already turned cold, can you still re-burn them?” Tian Jia said, “For those ashes that have already turned cold, if they can re-burn, I will urinate on them to extinguish them.” Han Anguo was later released and became Liangzhou’s prefectural governor. Tian Jia heard about this, and ran away in fear.

Han Anguo told his subordinates, “By law, If Tian Jia does not come back, his entire lineage will be executed. If he comes back immediately, I will pardon his sins.”

Tian Jia heard from other people what Han Anguo had said, and immediately came back to see Han Anguo.

Han Anguo asked him, “Those cold ashes have begun burning. Why did you not extinguish them? Why did you run away instead?” Tian Jia was very afraid. Han Anguo told him, “I will not retaliate against you. Now that you have come back, I will pardon your sins.” He then arranged a low ranking official post for him.

II. Enduring insults and losing money – Maintaining a warm attitude

Zhi Buyi once lived in a hostel with other people during the Han Dynasty. One of his roommates went home and took another roommate’s gold by mistake.

The person who lost his gold suspected that Zhi Buyi had stolen it. He became furious and said many harsh words towards Zhi Buyi. Zhi apologized to the person who lost his gold, “This is really a wrong doing.” He then bought an amount of gold equal to what was lost and gave them to that person.

The other roommate later came back and returned the gold he had taken by mistake. The person who lost the gold felt very ashamed.

Others later praised Zhi Buyi as an honest person.

III. Forbearance is the first and foremost attribute in the world

Wang Shouhe was an official of the Tang Dynasty. He had never had an argument with others. He once wrote a very large character “Tolerance” on his desk, and embroidered the character “tolerance” on the drapes in his home.

Emperor Ming of Tang felt that Wang Shouhe’s name had the meaning of “not in favor of having conflict with others.” Therefore, the emperor asked Wang Shouhe to see him and said, “Your name is Wang Shouhe. I can see that you do not like to argue with others. You like to write the word ‘tolerance’. Others can clearly see your intention.”

Wang Shouhe replied, “I heard that it is easy to break hard things. Tolerance is better than anything in the world.”

Emperor Ming of Tang praised him, “Good!” The emperor then gave him some silk as commendation.

IV. Remaining calm when valuable things break

When Pei Xingjian (619 – 682 AD) conquered Duzhizhefu (a region outside China during the Tang Dynasty) he seized countless jade treasures. Generals and soldiers from the minorities all wanted to see the treasures.

Pei Xingjian hosted a banquet to display the jade treasures. Among them was a beautiful two-foot long agate plate, of brilliant pattern and color.

A soldier was holding the plate when the rare treasure accidentally fell to the floor and broke into pieces. The soldier became very afraid, knelt down, and kept kowtowing his head to the floor until it bled.

Pei Xingjian said with a smile, “You didn’t do that deliberately.” He did not show a trace of resentment for the lost treasure plate.

V. Tolerance of others – Don’t show hatred to those who insult you

Du Yan (978 – 1057 AD) said, “Nowadays those who are in power like to scold other people’s slight mistakes. This is really not being tolerant enough.”

From the time Du Yan became the governor of a state, until he was promoted to a higher position, he never scolded any official staff members. To officials who were incompetent, Du Yan arranged for them to handle some cases so they would not have time to be lazy. To the officials who were imprudent, Du Yan told them about the disasters caused by imprudence. Du Yan refrained from bringing people to justice according to the law.

Fan Zhongyan once discussed with Du Yan about the merits of some matters. Fan Zhongyan even said some critical words to hurt Du Yan. However, Du Yan did not bear grudges and still remained very respectful of Fan Zhongyan.

VI. Dissuading a thief and giving him gifts to urge him to be a good person

Chen Shi (104 – 187 AD), courtesy name Zhonggong, was a county magistrate. One day, a thief was hiding on his roof, getting ready to steal. Chen Shi saw the thief. He asked his son to come over, and said to his son in a very gentle tone, “Those people who are not welcome are not really bad in nature. It is their habit. That person on the roof is such a person.”

The thief on the roof heard that and came down voluntarily. He knelt down on the floor and pleaded his guilt. Chen Shi said, “You don’t look like a bad person. The reason you went this far is because of poverty.”

Chen Shi then gave the thief two rolls of cloth and told him to be a good person again.

The thief never stole again thereafter.

《忍經》選譯(共六則)

一、寬宏大度,不咎既往

韓安國擔任梁國內史時,因犯法而入獄,被看守監獄的官吏田甲侮辱。韓安國問田甲說:「已經冷卻了的灰,還能重新燃燒起來嗎?」田甲說:「已經冷卻了的灰,如果還能重新燃燒起來,那麼我就在它上面尿尿,把它澆滅。」後來,韓安國得以釋放出獄,出任涼州刺史。田甲得知此事後,嚇得逃走了。

韓安國對下屬們放出話,講:「如果田甲逃走不歸,按國家的法律,那是要誅殺他家九族的。如果他沒有逃走,迅即回來,那麼,我會赦免他的罪過。」

田甲從別人那裏,聽到了這些話,立即趕回來,拜見韓安國。

韓安國問他:「已經冷卻了的灰,如今又復燃了,你為甚麼不在它上面尿尿,把它澆滅;卻反而要逃跑呢?」田甲非常害怕。韓安國對他說:「我不會打擊報復你。你現在能回來,我赦免你的罪過。」並且給了他一個亭尉的小官職。

二、忍辱付金,始終和溫

直不疑(人名)與別人同住在一個宿舍中,其中有一位舍友回家,誤將同宿舍另一位舍友的金子,拿走了。

丟失金子的主人,懷疑是直不疑所為,便向直不疑大發雷霆,講了許多難聽的話。直不疑向丟失金子的主人,認錯道歉說:「這件事,確實是做錯了。」自己買了金子,如數還給了他。

後來,回家的那個舍友,回來了,把誤拿的金子,還給了失主。那個丟失金子的人,感到非常慚愧。

直不疑因此被別人稱讚為忠厚的人。

三、萬事之中,忍字為上

唐代的光祿卿(官職名)王守和,從來都沒有與別人發生過爭執。他曾經在桌子上,寫下了一個很大的「忍」字;在幃帳之類的地方,也都繡上了「忍」字。

唐明皇覺得王守和這個名字,含有「不贊成世人愛爭鬥」的意味,於是將王守和叫到身邊來,說道:「你的名字叫王守和,足以看出你不喜歡爭鬥了。現在,你又愛寫‘忍’字,別人更能看出你的用心了。」

王守和回答說:「我聽說:堅硬的東西,容易被折斷。萬事之中,忍讓是最好的。」

唐明皇稱讚道:「好!」於是賞賜他錦帛,以示表彰。

四、珍奇盤破,心平氣和

裴行儉當初平定都支遮匐(外國地域名)時,從敵人那裏繳獲的玉石寶物,不計其數。少數民族的將領和士兵們,都想前去觀賞。

裴行儉便設宴招待,並在宴會時,將這些寶物,都展示給他們觀賞。其中有一件瑪瑙盤,二尺長,花紋和色彩,絢麗燦爛,非常漂亮。

有個士兵在觀賞時,捧著它,他不小心跌倒在地,這個盤子是稀世珍品,被摔破了。那個士兵,非常害怕,跪在地上,連連磕頭,頭都流血了。

裴行儉笑著說:「你並不是故意的呀!」臉上並沒有流露出一絲吝惜瑪瑙盤寶物的表情。

五、寬容他人,語侵不恨

杜衍說:「如今的當權者,大多都喜歡斥責別人的小小的過失,這實在是不夠寬容啊。」

杜衍從擔任知州以來,一直到後來被提拔為轉安撫(官職名),從來都沒有責罵過任何一位官員。對於不稱職的官員,杜衍就將一些事情託付給他們去處理,從而使他們沒有可以偷懶的時間;對於做事不謹慎的官員,杜衍就告訴他們:不謹慎會引起的禍害,並不一定要將他們繩之以法。

范仲淹曾經與杜衍討論一些事情的是非曲直,以至於范仲淹出口傷害到杜衍。但是杜衍並不記恨,依然十分尊敬范仲淹。

六、勸釋小人,贈布促新

陳寔字仲弓,擔任太丘縣令。一天,有個小偷,趴在他家房樑上,準備行竊。陳寔看見後,把自己的兒子喊過來,輕柔的教諭說:「不受歡迎的人,並非本性就不好,而是習慣造成的。房樑上的那一位,就是這樣的人。」

房樑上的小偷,聽到後,主動跳了下來,跪在地上認罪。陳寔說:「從您的相貌上看,不像壞人,您之所以走到這一步,應該是由貧困造成的。」

於是,陳寔送給他兩匹布,並且叫他一定要改過自新。

從此以後,這個人再也沒有行竊。

(以上均據元代吳亮《忍經》)

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