Patriarch Lu’s Precious Repentance of the Infinite records Patriarch Lu’s ideas as he taught and preached them. When mentioning the story of Zhang Liang, a famous figure in the Han dynasty, it says: ” he gave us a good example by treating everyone fairly, even when asked to put on a shoe for a stranger.” When he was young, Zhang Liang lived in obscurity. One day, when he was out, he met an old man who wore clothes made of haircloth. Seeing that Zhang was coming, the old man deliberately kicked off one shoe, and in a rough manner ordered Zhang to go down on his knees to put on the shoe for him. As a gentleman, Zhang treated him with compassion and satisfying his demand, although it was unreasonable and rude. After he did that, the old man said: “you’re the young man who deserves my teaching.” Five days later, the old man started to teach him “military tactics from the grand lord”, which Zhang Liang later used to help the founder of the Han establish the Han dynasty. He became one of the most important figures in his era. Soon after founding the Han dynasty, Zhang Liang retired from his position, and stayed on Mt. Baiyun in order to take care of that old man, his teacher, who has become known in history as Lord Yellow Stone.
Zhang Liang was also a Daoist figure. He had a deep understanding about affairs in the world. According to the above-mentioned story, he started his journey to success by helping a stranger put on a shoe. We can imagine that if he had looked down upon the old man in rough cloth and refused his unreasonable demand, he would never have had access to the “military tactics of the grand lord”. Without them, Zhang Liang would never have been able to establish his reputation in the Han dynasty in later years.
Therefore, “today” is tightly linked to “tomorrow”. We should devote ourselves to “today” as an investment for “tomorrow”. Everything we are doing now will leave a mark, which will change our life in the future. A Daoist divination book says: as the moon waxes and wanes, human life changes. If you want to know your future, you had better stick to daily practices and behaviors.” When the moon waxes, it grows larger, and when it wanes, smaller. In ancient Chinese, people used to liken the movement of the moon to uncertainty of human life, i.e. neither successes nor failures last forever. All movements are determined by the coherence of Dao, which is also changing all the time. If a man knows this, he will understand better the relation between “today” and “tomorrow”. On that basis, he will understand more about successes and failures, and treat them more reasonably. Therefore, paying attention to today, today’s thoughts, virtues, daily life, good deeds, etc., are the best investment for a bright future.
Author: Chen Yaoting
Translator: Gou Bo
(Courtesy of: Taoism Culture & Information Centre)