Morality of the Mind Part 2 - Endurance, Perseverance, and Patience

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

Endurance, perseverance, and patience are the manifestations of a strong will. People who are successfulare not always the smartest ones, but they are always the ones who are patient and who persevere. People who are really wise do not use wisdom only to guide their thinking, they also use it to govern their personalities. Through cultivating these three elements you will gradually build up a profound mind, which is the key to the deepest essence of learning. If you know how to use your mind to ponder as you train, it can lead you to a deeper stage of understanding. If you can manifest this understanding in your actions, you will be able to surpass others.

Of all the stories that my master told me, my favorite one is about the boy who carved the Buddha. Once upona time, there was a twelve-year old boy whose parents had been killed during a war. He came to the Shaolin Tempe and asked to see the Head Priest. When he was led to the Head Priest, the boy knelt down and said, "Honorable Master, would you please accept me as your Gongfu student? I will respect, obey, and serve you well, and I won't disappoint you."

As the Head Priest looked at the boy, he felt that he had to give him a test before he could accept him as astudent. He said, "Boy, I would like to teach you Gongfu, but I have to leave the temple for one year to preach. Could you do me a favor while I am gone?" The boy was glad to have a chance to prove that he doulc be a good student, and so he said, "Certainly, honorable Master! What do you want me to do?"

The Head Priest led the boy out of the temple and pointed to a big tree. He said, "I have alwayswanted agoodcarving of the Buddha. See that tree? Could you chop it down and make a Buddha for me?" The boy replied enthusiastically, "Yes, Master! When you return, I will have finished the Buddha for you." The next morning the Head Priest departed, leaving the boy to live with the monks. A few days later the boy chopped down the tree, and got ready to make the Buddha. The boy wanted to carve a beautiful Buddha and make the Head Priest happy. He worked night and day, patiently carving as carefully as he could.

A year later the Head Priest came back from his preaching. The boy was very anxious and excited.He showed the Head Priest his Buddha, which was five feet tall. He hoped to earn the Head Priest's trust, and he eagerly waited to be praised. But the Head Priest looked at the Buddha, and he knew that the boy had sincerely done his best. However, he decided to give the boy a further test. He said, "Boy, it is well done. But it seems it is too big for me. It is not the size which I was expecting. Since I have to leave the temple again to preach for another year, could you use the time to make this Buddha smaller?"

The boy was very disappointed and unhappy. He had though that when the Head Priest say the Buddha, he would be accepted as a student and he could start his Gongfu training. However, in order to make the Head Priest Happy he said, "Yes, Master. I will make it smaller." Even though the boy had agreed, the Head Priest could see from the boy's face that this time he did not agree willingly, from his heart. However, he knew that this time the test would be a real one.

The next morning the Head Priest left, and again the boy stayed with the monks to fulfill this promise. The boy started carving the Buddha, trying to make it smaller, but he was disappointed and very unhappy. However, he forced himself to work. After six months had gone by, he found that he had carved an ugly, unhappy Buddha.

The boy was very depressed. He found that he couldn't work on the Buddha when he was so unhappy,so he stopped working. Days passed days, weeks passed weeks. The date of the Head Priest's return was getting closer. His chances of becoming a student of the Head Priest were getting slimmer and slimmer, and his unhappiness was growing deeper and deeper.

One morning, he suddenly realized an important thing. He said to himself, "If completing the Buddha is the only way I can learn Gongfu, why don't I make it good and enjoy it?" After that, his attitude changed. Not only was he happy again, he also regained his patience and his will was stronger. Day and night he worked. The more he worked, the happier he was, and the more he enjoyed his work. Before the boy noticed it, the year was up and he had almost completed his happy and refined Buddha.

When the Head Priest came back, the boy came to see him with his new Buddha. This carving was two feet tall,and smiling. When the priest saw the Buddha, he was very pleased. He knew that the boy had accomplished one of the hardest challenges that a person can face: conquering himself. However, he decided to give the boy one final test. He said, "Boy, you have done well. But it seems it is still too big for me. In a few days I have to leave the temple again for another year of preaching. During this time, could you make this Buddha even smaller?" Surprisingly, this time the boy showed no sign of being disappointed. Instead, he said, "No problem, Master. I will make it smaller." The boy had learned how to enjoy his work.

The Head Priest left again. This time, the boy enjoyed his work. Every minute he could find he spent athis task, carefully making the carving more lifelike and refined. His sincerity, his patience, and his growing maturity became expressed in the Buddha's face.

One year later, the Head Priest returned. The boy handed him a Buddha which was only two inches tall, and which had the best artwork one could ever find. The Head Priest now believed that this boy would be a successful martial artist. The boy had passed the test. He went on to become one of the best students in the Shaolin Temple.

As mentioned earlier, we have two kinds of minds. One comes from our emotions, and the other is generated from our wisdom and clear judgment. Do you remember times when you knew you should do a certain thing, but at the same time you didn't want to do it? It was your wisdom mind telling you to do it, and your lazy emotional mind saying no. Which side won? Once you can follow your wisdom mind, you will have conquered yourself and you will surely be successful.