Monday, March 18, 2013

Confucius Story of 3 x 8 = 23

I am not really inspired these last few days. I don’t know why. It’s like I have some ideas but then I could not expand it so as an update for today, maybe I could just share a story that I read early this morning which made me re-think about what winning actually is.

This story is a re-post of a story from Everyone is Number One, which I have tried to translate as good as I could to English.

Here it goes...

Yan Hui is a favorite disciple of Confucius. He loves studying and he has a good behavior. One day, when Yan Hui was on duty, he saw a textile store which was crowded by many people. He came closer and found that the buyer and the seller were having an argument.
The buyer shouted “3 x 8 = 23, why do you say 24?”
Yan Hui approached the buyer and said “My friend, 3 x 8 = 24, let’s not argue about that anymore.”
The buyer was not happy and rudely pointed to Yan Hui’s face and said “Who asked for your opinion. Even if I want to ask for an opinion, I would go to Confucius. Confucius is the one who has the right to say whether it is right or wrong.”
Yan Hui said “Well, fair enough. How if Confucius says that you are wrong?”
They buyer said “If Confucius says that I am wrong, I would give you my head. How if he says that you are the one who is wrong?”
Yan Hui said “If I am declared wrong, I would give you my title.”
Both Yan Hui and the buyer had the deal on the bet and off they went to find Confucius. After listening to them, Confucius understood the root of the problem and while laughing he told to Yan Hui “3 x 8 = 23 Yan Hui. You are wrong. Now, you have to give him your title.” Yan Hui would never argue with his teacher and hence, when his teacher told him that he was wrong, he took off his hat and gave it to the buyer as a sign that he was giving away his title.”
The buyer took Yan Hui’s hat and went triumphantly. Even though Yan Hui accepted Confucius’ judgment, his heart still did not agree. He felt that Confucius had become old and absent-minded that he no longer wanted to study with him. Yan Hui then asked for a vacation with the reason of some family issues. Confucius knew what Yan Hui had in his heart and gave him the vacation he requested. Before leaving, Yan Hui came to Confucius to say goodbye and Confucius asked him to return as soon as his issues were resolved. He also gave Yan Hui two pieces of advice. The first was “If it rains heavily, do not find shelter under a tree” and the second was “Do not kill.”
Yan Hui agreed and off he went to his home.
On the way home, strong wind along with lightning bolts happened, followed by rain pour-down. Yan Hui wanted to seek for shelter under a tree but suddenly he remembered Confucius’ advice and thought that he wanted to follow his teacher’s advice one more time. He left the tree and not long after he left, the tree was struck by the lighting and came into pieces. Yan Hui was taken aback for his teacher’s advice had come to reality.
 “Am I going to kill someone?” he thought. Yan Hui reached his home after midnight and he did not want to disturb his wife’s sleep. He used his sword to open his room. Once he reached in front of their bed, he saw that there were two people on the bed, one of the left and one on the right side. He was angry and wanted to stab his sword, but when he wanted to do it, he again remembered Confucius’ advice to not kill. He then backed off and lighted a candle and he found out that the person sleeping beside his wife was his sister-in-law.
The next day, Yan Hui returned to Confucius. He knelt down and asked “Teacher, how did you know what would happen?”
Confucius said “Yesterday, the day was scorching hot and it was predicted that there would be hurricane, and that is why I reminded you not to take shelter under a tree. And, yesterday, you went with anger and you took a sword with yourself, and hence, I reminded you not to kill.”
Yan Hui said “Teacher, your prediction was impeccable, I am really astonished.”
Confucius said “I knew that you asked for vacation not due to family issues. You no longer wanted to study from me. Consider yourself. Yesterday I told that 3 x 8 = 23 was right, you lost the bet and you lost your title. Imagine if I said that 3 x 8 = 24 was right. The buyer would lose and it means he had to give his head to you. One life would be the cost. Do you think your title is more important than the life of one man?”
Yun Hui realized his mistake and said “Teacher, you prioritize which one is more important; while I thought that you are already old and absent-minded. I am really ashamed of myself.”
Since then, Yan Hui always followed Confucius wherever he went.
This story reminds us:
If I bet and win the whole world, but I have to lose you, what would it mean to me?
In other words, you bet and you win what you thought was the truth, but you lose something which is more important for your heart.
Everything has the degree of importance. Don’t bet with your life for righteousness just to regret in the end. It would be too late.
There are things that need not to be bet. Just step back for one step, and you will create goodness for everyone.
We fight our buyers for not losing. We would win in the beginning, but in the end we would lose our buyers and lose.
We fight our bosses. In the beginning we would win, but we would lose in the end if we are fired.
We fight our husbands. In the beginning we would win, but in the end we would lose if it turned out that our husbands are right.
We fight our friends. In the beginning we would win, but sometimes our friends are right and we would lose in the end.
Winning is not about medals, but it mainly concerns about self-winning and heart-winning.

Now, this story made me think…
How many times have we won in our lives and yet feel that we are the biggest loser by losing more important things?

We fight that our culture is right and thrash others who do not agree without thinking the effect of that to the other people.

We fight that certain people are the most important people in our lives by losing the people who truly love us.

We fight to earn more for our family by losing the quality time that we are supposed to spend with our children.

We put our relationships in stake just to win the argument, just to hurt back.

We fight that our opinion and our prediction are the utmost right just to collapse in the end.

Fighting for righteousness, Fighting for what you believe is not a wrong thing. Indeed it is the right thing, but at what cost? At the cost of those who we love? At the cost of being alone? At the cost of being a heart-less human being? At the cost of feeling sorry for the rest of our lives? At what cost?

Sometimes the consequences of winning is not the triumphant feeling, but the things that we actually let go and the things that we lost for good in order to win in the first place.

When the urge to win comes, in relationship, in family, in friendship, in marriage… just take one deep breath, step back and ask yourself:
“Do I really need to win this? What if I lose anyway?”
Sometimes letting others win is indeed showing how dignified your soul is because you know that in the end, the battle is not worth it at all.

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