That's the Indian custom, to always run to the seat of the saints. They believe that saints are like the sandalwood tree, transferring to every tree around it the fragrance of sandalwood. Yes, this is true.
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai,
the San Jose Ashram, Costa Rica,
June 2, 1991 (Originally in English)
Relocating for a Child's Sake
In China, there was a story about Meng Tzu. Meng Tzu was a very wise man of China, one of the saints. But he had a saintly mother, so that's why.
When he was a child, his house was next to a slaughtering house that killed animals. So he went to see the people who slaughtered the animals. When he came home, he began to catch all the small animals, like frogs, cats and dogs. And he also began to slaughter them, because he imitated what he saw.
Children imitate everything, good or bad. I didn't; I did not imitate. I remember many of my cousins and the neighbor's children always went and fetched birds, and would roast them and eat them. And they killed all kinds of insects, making them become like their toys. I never did this; I never liked it. But most children imitate things, whether good or bad.
So when the mother saw that the child had developed this very bad habit due to their neighbor's influence, she moved, because of him. She said, "This is not a good place for my child." She was a saintly mother. And they were not wealthy. I think she was alone. Her husband wasn't there; maybe he was dead. She raised the child alone as a weaver, weaving cloth. She was very poor and didn't earn much money weaving cloth. Even then, she sacrificed her time, energy and money for her child. Can you imagine how saintly that is? That's why I say she was a saintly mother. And in ancient China, moving was not easy. There's no transportation, no one to help you, only the mother and the child. You can imagine how difficult that would be.
So she moved to another neighborhood. Some time later, she discovered that her child came home every day wailing and crying, making a ceremony for the dead. He was making a funeral service every day. And then she discovered that they lived very near a funeral home; that's where he learned it. So she said, "This is not a place for my child."
She moved again, for the third time. Then, at last, she moved next to a school, where they taught about Confucius and all the saints' teachings. And the child came home behaving like a saint! He had all the manners of a good scholar and the thinking of a saint-very polite, very noble and very saintly. So the mother said, "Wow, this is the place for my child."
And then, when this child grew old enough, of course, he went to school. He liked going to school. He said, "I like it!" He liked to be like the scholars, so he went to the school. But one day he became fed up with the school for some reason. Probably the teachers had scolded him or his roommate wasn't nice, or else he was lazy. So he went home and went to sleep, in the middle of his classes. He didn't want to go to school any more.
A Cut in the Cloth
The mother used all her logic to persuade him to go back to school that day, but he didn't. He said he didn't want to and was very insistent and stubborn. The mother was weaving a piece of silk at that time. After he had been so stubborn, she took a knife and cut across the piece of silk she had woven. And then she asked the child, "Can we use this piece of silk now? Can it be useful?" And the child said, "Of course not! Why did you destroy it? Why did you cut that piece of silk when it was so perfect?" And the mother said, "Well, it is like your education. If you don't continue, it's of no use. If you break it in the middle, what is the use of before and after? Something broken in the middle is of no use."
It's the same with our practice. We should also continue every day. Otherwise, even though it's beautiful before and it might be beautiful after, if it's broken in the middle, it's not a continuous flow. And we will experience some kind of difficulty or obstacles or uneasiness in our life. We cannot expect things to go smoothly and easily, the way we want, all the time. We must learn to take and to give, to be strong and also to be flexible, when the situation requires. Otherwise, we will have a lot of trouble during our life, and we will never grow up.
The Forgotten Mother-saint
If the mother of Meng Tzu had been a very ordinary mother, then today we would never have heard of the name Meng Tzu. He would never have left his name in the history of sainthood. And in China, there are so many people, a vast number of people, with vast lands. To be listed in the names of these vast people and vast lands-as one of the handful of saints-is not easy. To make a name for yourself in China, where there are so many people that you cannot count them all-to make a name distinguished from these masses-it's not easy! And they have four or five thousand years of history; to be distinguished as one of the few is not common.
But people have forgotten his mother. They don't know who she was or what she did, only that she cut pieces of silk and moved three times. But her actions were worth more than all the lectures that Meng Tzu ever offered to the public. She is worthy to be a master, a master of all time. She was master of all mothers, of all the masters! If she weren't a saint and a wise woman, she could have never sacrificed so much in her situation and in her poverty.
Can you imagine what Meng Tzu would have become without such a mother-a brilliant saint who would have been contented with killing animals every day for a living? So you see how saints are made. We can make saints out of stones. I think I will start a manufacturing plant for building saints. We could! Just give them good examples, a good environment and good lectures, and they will become saints.
The Importance of Childhood Education
The Tibetan people train their monks from childhood. Most of the monks learn from childhood. They come into the monastery when they are young, mostly as orphans or poor children whose parents cannot afford to raise them; they get offered completely to the temple and never go back home. So they are trained from childhood, and that's how they grow up. Even if we don't say anything about their levels of sainthood, at least their manner and behavior are very sweet.
So everything we were taught in childhood is very important. I guess my grandmother and my father were good teachers for me. My grandmother used to make me read a lot of books to her because she couldn't read; she was very old. I read her all the philosophical books that were meant only for adults, but she was very fascinated by them. And I loved her; I was always sticking around her, so I was the one who read a lot for her. And I was more fascinated than she was. Sometimes she went to sleep or she was busy, and I would read them all by myself. So I read all the things that a child should not read, like Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu and all kinds of Chinese and other cultures' philosophies. In the evening when I slept, I would fly around meeting saints and things like that. And I had all kinds of magical powers in my dreams. Anyhow, I guess that's what made me become what I am today; it had an influence. In the world today, people teach pregnant mothers to read good books and imagine beautiful faces, or hang beautiful pictures in the bedroom or around the house, just to make a beautiful baby, to plant noble ideas into the fetus. It helps.
The Parents' Sacred Mission
Actually, the parents are commissioned by God to teach Hiers children. But most parents do not remember their duty. They love the children but they think of the children also as property, that the children should grow up and make a name and make money for them, to repay them for their kindness. So most of the time, they emphasize more to the children that they have to go to school, they have to learn a craft, or they have to do this and do that. There's really no moral motive behind it at all, just a monetary motive. This is just most of the time; I don't mean all families are like this. But the people who are like that teach each other-that you have to spend 10 years or 20 years in education just to get a position, to earn good money, to get a good husband or wife and to be secure in life. This is always emphasized in our society. And then if they have a religious background, they send their children to the priests, and the priests know nothing.
So that's how we are left alone to struggle for ourselves spiritually in this world. If we are not lucky enough to happen to stumble into a saint or the saintly teaching of a living Master, can you imagine how we carry on with our life? You're born and you die and you have only one ideal in your head: making money, gaining position, and raising children, like raising ducks, pigs, or any other animals. If we as humans don't have a higher ideal about life and God, we are just like the animals. But how do you find a teacher who will teach you anything like this? We have been brainwashed for 15 or 20 years in school, just for money! Let's face it; that's the only motive. It doesn't matter how much flour they put around it or pepper and chili on top to cover it, it is all for monetary purposes, nothing else. And not only to earn enough money for a living; sometimes money tricks people into selling their dignity and forgetting all their moral standards.
That's how the society teaches us, even our family members. Of course, not all families are like that. Thus, we should earn money or have a position to take care of ourselves, but not to the extent of forgetting everything else. That's why we are very far away from God. If we are near God, it must be a money god, or a banker god!
A Thief's Story
There was a story about a thief, a very, very great thief. He committed so many crimes and killings that the government decided to hang him. So, before a person is executed, he is entitled to one last personal wish. He was very famous; they had hunted him for many decades before they caught him. He was a big robber, without any repentance and without any conscience. He killed people like chopping bananas.
Now his last wish was that he wanted to see his mother. Everyone was surprised that he even had affection for his mother. But they thought, "Well, in the whole world no one probably loves him, so he must have love for the mother. And the mother is the only one who loves him, so it's natural that he wants to see his mother."
So the mother was fetched to see him. And many people came to see his execution because everyone knew about him. It was a big gathering, and he was in the middle. Then the mother came, and he embraced her. Suddenly, the mother began crying very loudly and then fainted on the ground. On the side of her head, she was bleeding. Then people saw that in his mouth there was her ear. And the people rushed up to him, saying, "What happened? Why did you bite your mother's ear off?" So he took the ear up and pointed to the mother and said, "She is the real criminal, not I. You made the wrong judgment."
And he started to tell the story. When he was a young schoolboy, his family had enough to live on; they weren't poor but weren't wealthy. One day, he forgot his pen and he borrowed one from his classmate. But he forgot to give it back, and he brought it home. And he told his mother, "Oh, look, I forgot to give back my classmate's pen that I borrowed! I must go back and give it to him now because otherwise he will miss it."
And the mother said, "No, no! You keep it! Keep it! Tomorrow you borrow ink and then books, and don't give them back. See what happens. Then I won't have to buy them for you. If they forget, it's good. What's in your hands belongs to you. What you can take is yours." But when some of the classmates wanted their things back, the child didn't know what to do. So he came home and said, "Mother, they want their things back! Can I give them back? Is it OK?"
And his mother said, "No, no! Next time you have to punch them! Say, 'No, it's mine!'" She taught him how to steal by force, even in childhood. So slowly he stole bigger and bigger things for himself and for the mother, at the mother's command. First he bit people, then forced them, and later he killed. He killed even when it was not necessary; it became a habit.
Seek the Company of Saints
So you see, originally he was a very honest child; he wanted to give back the things that he borrowed. He was even better than Meng Tzu, the Chinese saint; he was better! In childhood, he could already discriminate between good and bad, and Meng Tzu could not. Meng Tzu just imitated everything, but this child knew what was good and what was bad. Meng Tzu just had a good mother, that's all, who turned a bad child into a good saint.
Therefore, our company is very, very important. In Vietnam we say we have to pick our friends, meaning we have to be careful in choosing friends. But how can we choose our family members? That's very unfortunate. Therefore, it takes a strong will to get out of the influence of the family. And if we don't happen to stumble into some saintly person, we will never know anything better. You can see from the examples of these two children: One was an ignorant, bad, stupid child who turned into a brilliant saint, and one was a very honest, pure child who turned into a vicious, deadly criminal. Therefore, sometimes if we want to judge a person, we also have to know their background. And we cannot know that unless we are enlightened.
That's why in the Bible it says don't judge people so you won't be judged. But when you are enlightened, you don't want to judge anyone. You only want to help. That's the good part about enlightenment. If we want to have good judgment we must be enlightened, and when we are enlightened we don't have any judgment. We look at everyone as erring children, lacking in good information, and we try to provide it. And that is the very good part of enlightenment, if there is nothing else.
That's why in India people tell you that we should always seek the company of the saints. That's because in India, saints are very precious; everyone runs after them. In the West or in other countries, people run after money, but in India they run after saints. They hunt for the saints until all the saints are scared. Sometimes they have to run away. They do; they hide! They're scared of people.