Di Renjie was from Taiyuan Bingzhou (today's Taiyuan City, Shanxi Province) in the Tang dynasty of ancient China. He was born in the Fourth year of Zhenguan (630 AD) and died in the first year of Jiushi of Empress Wu Zetian (700AD). He was a famous minister during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian. Di Renjie was an uncorrupted official and was always setting example for others. He empathised with the common people and dared to speak for them, defying the powerful and influential. People in later generations called him "the mainstay of the Tang dynasty." Here is story about him when he was young.
Di Renjie's writing style was elegant and he had outstanding looks since early youth. One time, he went to the capital to take the imperial examination and stayed in a tavern for the night. While he was concentrating on his reading deep into the night, there was a knock on the door and the owner of the tavern entered his room. The owner was a beautiful young woman and was newly widowed. When she saw Di Renjie's refined and gentle appearance when he entered the tavern, she couldn't help but admire him and sought an opportunity to be on intimate terms with him.
As Di Renjie sensed the young woman was reluctant to leave his room, he said to her mildly: "You are a beautiful and charming lady. You stay here to share your feelings with me in the middle of the night. It is hard for me to control my wandering thoughts. I am fortunate to have had an elder monk remind me to stay away from lust and committing licentious acts. I always keep it firmly in mind. Even though you are so beautiful, I can still guard myself carefully and not transgress the bounds."
The young woman asked curiously: "What did the monk say to you so that you can restrain yourself at critical junctures?"
Di Renjie said: "The old monk told me that from my looks I would be a highly placed eminent official and would become well known in the future. But I must always remember to forbid myself lust! Since the old monk pointed it out to me, how could I trade my future for a moment of desire?"
But most men would generally have a hard time overcoming their lust to be with a beautiful woman.
I then sought advice from the old monk: "Loving beauty is way of the world. Regarding lust, everyone knows to have respect for oneself. And if something does happen, people will repent later. But when lust is blazing, all consequences are left behind. The person will think that it is all right occasionally and he or she will not do it again in the future. So every time one will think the same way. It will be carried out every time. This way, one will sink into vice. In the end, what method can water down the fire of lust to prevent it from spreading?"
The old monk told me that every time someone stirred up my sexual desire, I should think about it this way: Lewdness is the worst of all sins. It is the demon of lust using a man or woman to seduce another to commit licentiousness by which the demon of lust achieves it purpose. When her beauty and charm or his handsome and debonair manner erode the mind so that it is difficult to free oneself, the demon of lust achieves its purpose. Once one has lost one's mind and does the bad deed, he or she will suffers a long lasting disaster. I value and observe the teaching of the old monk and dare not to have any slight violation."
The young woman listened to Di Renjie's words and thought about it silently. She went on her knees with shame and said: "I want to thank you for your advice and for preserving my integrity. I will know how to extinguish my passion and bad thoughts. I understand for the first time that commanding one's mind needs to be learnt."
Di Renjie became well known later because of not being lustful and became a famous minister in the Tang dynasty. He was wise not to let a moment of trivial pleasure to destroy his promising future. People always say: "A great hero has hard time to get past a beautiful woman." Actually, a person who is able to restrain himself from desire is a true hero.
From the Story of Di Renjie
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