Sunday, 27 February 2011

Abbot Xin Ting's enlightening stories

One of the most respected monk of current times, (who hailed from Taipei) the humble bespectacled, 40 something Abbot Xin Ting (Steady Heart) told some enlightening stories to a packed audience at Dewan SinChew, Petaling Jaya on Dec. 18th 2007. I like the writings of the reporter Chern Ming Chieh present there and I think that it'll be benevolent  for me to translate the articles for the sake of those who missed  reading the papers or were just too "AngMo" to understand the stories.  (who might not understand the Chinese language. Don't get mad with me, just kidding.)


1. One day in ancient China, the Grand Master Carpenter of all woodworks Lu Ban 魯班(507-440BC) learned that one of his protégés was leaving his tutelage just after three years and four months. He advised him not to, as Lu Ban knew that the young chap had not learnt enough the intricacy of the trade. But the carpenter apprentice was adamant and he left promptly. Soon the revolting young man realized his folly; things he created and made could not be sold, even the finished products were just fine looking but could not work.

Meanwhile Lu Ban was short of hands that he designed and created a wooden 'robot' that could carry heavy tools and even do sawing. The young man slipped into the master's workshop and found the wooden 'robot' charming and useful. He quickly took down the measurements of the 'robot' in all elevations and dimensions. No sooner he churned out one exact replica of his ex-master's wonder. The problem was: it could not work. So he stooped low and consulted the grand master Lu Ban, with flushed cheeks. Here were the conversations that took place:

Master Lu:       Did you measure correctly?
Young man:      Yes, I did, Sir.
Master Lu:       Did you measure all the dimensions?
Young man:     Yes Sir, Master Lu.
Master Lu:       Did you measure the head, torso, and the limbs?
Young man:     Yes, I did, Sir.
Master Lu:       Did you measure the heart? (In Mandarin: Liang Xin. That also means
                        conscience. 'Liong Sum' in Cantonese)
Young Man:     No, I did not measure the heart.(In Mandarin: I have not measured the
                        heart. That also means : I have no conscience.)
Master Lu:       You did not measure the heart, how are you going to create a man?
                       Ni may you Lieang Xin, Chern yang nen zhua ren?
                       (In Mandarin figuratively: You have no conscience, how to be a human?)

2. In 1950s one poor and wretched French writer in Lyon was so desperate that he decided to borrow money from a local wealthy man. He wrote the rich man a letter of appeal with all his linguistic skill and got a positive reply, inviting him to come to the wealthy man’s mansion for a discussion of the intended loan. But when the penniless writer arrived at the there, he was disappointed as no one received him nor he found any other soul appeared at the grand house. He waited for an hour patiently and eventually gave up. As he was about to leave he bumped into a small-built man with an even more desolate look than him near the exit. The old man appeared to be clean but obviously needed help more than he did; the desperate writer gathered. He dug into his pocket and found three franc, without hesitation he gave the last few coins he had to the old man. 'Here you go, looks like you haven't eaten for days!'

Few days later the aspiring writer received a check of 200,000 Franc through the mail, with a note attached that read:" I'm the old man you gave 3 Franc to last week at my home. I have decided to give you 200,000 Franc without any condition instead of a loan. I believe with you kind heart, you'll be a great writer some day."



3. In ancient China there was a butcher who woke up every morning to the chime of the bell rang from the nearby temple, at the hour of the day break. His trade was to kill a pig a day for the village market where he sold the meat. One day he contemplated the idea of giving up his profession; he was talking to himself quietly: 'I kill more than three hundred pigs every year and that's an awful lot of pigs. I think I'll better stop this trade'. But came the chime of the day in the morning, he began to rationalize his action of slaughtering the pigs for a living: So long the villagers continued to eat pork, I need to go on my trade. If I were to be guilty, then the pork eaters were guilty as well.


One morning he woke up late because he did not hear the temple bell’s chime. Still he grabbed his tools, the butcher knives and staggered towards the sty. There he saw the huge pig he was to slaughter suckling eleven baby pigs! The pinkish piglets were happily helping themselves with succulent milk from the mother pig’s udder, so much so that they even looked lovely and cute. The butcher for the first time gave up killing pig for the day. He walked towards the temple to enquire why the monk did not strike the large bell of the temple. Was he sick? The kind looking abbot answered him with a broad smile: Some people had pleaded with me not to sound the bell today. Why? The butcher was not very convinced. The respectable monk continued: Last night I dreamt that eleven kids surrounded my bed whilst I was sleeping. Kneeling, they woke me up and told me to save their mother. I asked them how to save the life of their mother and they answered: Simple, just don't strike the bell at day break. The butcher realized instantly that the piglets must be the reincarnations of the eleven kids borne to the lucky mother pig. He gave up his trade straight away and became an ordinary farmer. Amitabha.



The short stories were translated by  
Alan CY Kok

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