Stories from Ancient China: Fill Your Heart with Compassion

According to the Historical Records, Li Shizhen was a famous physician from the Ming Dynasty of ancient China. Li Zhizhen loved medical books and was a brilliant physician. He was considered a sage among physicians. In his home town, there was another ignorant and mediocre physician who pretended to know everything. The foolish physician bought a lot of medical books to show that he had a supposed wealth of knowledge.

One year, after the rainy season, this physician told his servants to put his collection of medical books in the courtyard to dry. He paced back and forth like a peacock displaying himself. When Li Zhishen happened to see it, he got such an impulse that he loosened his clothing and lay next to the book racks. The physician saw that Li had his chest and belly exposed to the sun and asked, "Hey, what are you doing here?"

Li said, "I also want to get some sunshine for my books."

The physician asked, "Where are your books then?"

Li patted his belly and said, "All my books are in here."

Li Shizhen was being sarcastic, of course, but his remark told us that a person's knowledge depends not on how many books one owns but on how many books one has digested. Reading is an activity for the mind. Books, good or bad, can affect a person's temperament or even change it. Actually, one's temperament and spirit are connected. Good books can enrich one's mind and also help to refine a person with elegance and grace.

As for cultivators, when they have compassion in their heart, they will be kind and peaceful. No matter where they go, they bring with them a field of kindness and peace. Someone once asked the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni, why people who had noble characters and liked to cultivate their hearts seemed to be so peaceful and joyful? Sakyamuni said, "They are not saddened by the past or anxious about the future. They are content with the present and, therefore, they are happy and joyful."

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