Morality of the Mind Part 3 - Courage

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang, Dr. Jwing-Ming Yang and Master Wen-Ching Wu

Courage is often confused with bravery. Courage originates with the understanding that comes from the wisdom mind. Bravery is the external manifestation of courage, and can be considered to be the child of the wisdom and the emotional minds. For example, if you have the courage to accept a challenge, that means your mind has understood the situation and mad a decision. Next, you must be brave enough to face the challenge. Without courage, the bravery cannot last long. Without the profound comprehension of courage, bravery can be blind and stupid.

Daring to face a challenge that you think needs to be faced is courage. But successfully manifesting courage requires more than just a decision from your wisdom mind. You also need a certain amount of psychological preparation so that you can be emotionally balanced; this will give you bravery a firm root so that it can endure. Frequently you do not have enough time to think and make a decision. A wise person always prepares, considering the possible situations that might arise, so that when something happens he will be ready and can demonstrate bravery.

There is a story from China's Spring and Autumn period (722-481 B.C.). At that time, there were many feudal lords who each controlled a part of the land, and who frequently attacked one another.

When an army from the nation of Jin attacked the nation of Zheng, the Zheng ruler sent a delegation to the Jin army to discuss conditions for their withdrawal. Duke Wen of Jin (636-627 B.C.) made two demands: first, that the young duke Lan be set up as heir apparent; second, that the high official Shu Zhan, who opposed Lan's being made heir apparent, be handed over to the Jin. The Zhen ruler refused to assent to the second condition.

Shu Zhan said, "Jin has specified that it wants me. If I do not go, the Jin armies that now surround us will certainly not withdraw. Wouldn't I then be showing myself to be afraid of death and insufficiently loyal?"

"If you go," said the Zheng ruler, "you will certainly die. Thus I cannot bear to let you go."

"What is so bad about letting a minister go to save the people and secure the nation?" asked Shu Zhan. The ruler of Zheng then, with tears in his eyes, sent some men to escort Shu Zhan to the Jin encampment.

When Duke Wen of Jin say Shu Zhan, he was furious and immediately ordered that a large tripod be prepared to cook him to death. Shu Zhan, however, was not the least bit afraid. "I hope that I can finish speaking before you kill me," he said. Duke Wen told him to speak quickly.

Relaxed, Shu Zhan said, "Before, while you were in Zheng, I often praised your virtue and wisdom in front of others, and I thought that after you returned to Jin you would definitely become the most powerful among the feudal lords. After the alliance negotiations at Wen, I also advised my lord to follow Jin. Unfortunately, he did not accept my suggestion. Now you think that I am guilty, but my lord knows that I am innocent and stubbornly refused to deliver me to you. I was the one who asked to come and save Zheng from danger. I am this kind of person; accurately forecasting events is called wisdom, loving one's country with all one's heart is called loyalty, not fleeing in the face of danger is called courage, and being willing to die to save one's country is called benevolence. I find it hard to believe that a benevolent, wise, loyal, and courageous minister can be killed in Jin!"

Then, leaning against the tripod, he cried, " From now on, those who would serve their rulers should remember what happens to me!"

Duke Wen's expression changed greatly after hearing this speech. He ordered that Shu Zhan be spared and had him escorted back to Zheng.

There is another story about a famous minister, Si Ma-Guang, and his childhood during the Song dynasty (1019-1086 A.D.). When he was a child, he was playing with a few of his playmates in a garden where there was a giant cistern full of water next to a tree.

One of the children was very curious about what was in the giant cistern. Since the cistern was much taller than the child, he climbed up the three to see inside. Unfortunately, he slipped and fell into the cistern and started to drown.

When this happened, all of the children were so scared and they did not know what to do. Some of them were so afraid that they immediately ran away. Si Ma-Guang, however, without hesitation picked up a big rock and threw it at the cistern and broke it. The water inside flowed out immediately, and the child inside was saved.

This story teaches that when a crisis occurs, in addition to wisdom and a calm mind, you must also be brave enough to execute your decision.