"Do Not Blame!" 不怨人！
The past few days, weeks, and months have been difficult ones for many of us, at least in the United States where I currently live, as we witness horrific events in our local communities, the country, and around the world. So much violence, rage, pain in this crazy year of the Fire Rooster! Like many of my clairvoyant, wise, or just empathetic friends and colleagues in the field of Chinese medicine, where the virtue of brightness or vision (míng 明) is the distinguishing mark of the sage, I have been finding the nearly constant onslaught of tragedies hard to digest and have had to consciously force myself to take breaks from the news and allow the soothing calmness of the Puget Sound to heal my heart and spirit. For me personally, a daily swim in the sea has been a life saver, in spite of the dropping temperatures, and I am extremely grateful to be in a position where I get to do that. Let us be consciously kind to each other, come together, and support each other as best we can with unconditional love while we grieve and squint our tearful burning eyes! I need to write a blog about kindness but am too raw emotionally to go there right now. Instead, I want to share an insight by Liu Yousheng from his book "Let the Radiant Yang Shine Forth," inspired by Wang Fengyi's teachings on the toxicity of blame.
Apparently, it is a common human tendency for many in the initial moments of agony and confusion to look for a cause, place blame, and demand punishment. At this particular moment, the newspapers are full of articles that explore the possible motives behind the biggest mass shooting in US modern history. In addition to the grief, there is also a lot of anger and blame flying around, on both sides of the Grand Canyon of political division that is currently tearing this country apart. Given that the main perpetrator is dead, calling out the unspeakable "evil" of this "long wolf" only takes us so far. In addition, we see completely innocent relatives of his being threatened and we read stories of angry fathers or husbands who heroically grabbed their guns and rushed to the scene as soon as they received the news, in the hope of shooting the shooter. bBt we also read accusations along the lines of "If only YOU had not stopped US from passing gun control legislation after Sandy Hook, this would not have happened."
In a completely different situation, a couple of weeks ago my former neighbors and friends in the Columbia River Gorge had to evacuate their homes due to a raging forest fire that actually engulfed my former home on beautiful Larch Mountain. Amid the shock and grief and fear, again there were many voices of anger and of blame, and of calling for revenge and punishment. It turns out the fire was started by a couple of teenagers with fire crackers, whose identity law enforcement has refused to reveal, for good reasons. In a summer of record droughts and high temperatures, with fires raging all over the Western US, is it really helpful or necessary to punish a couple of kids (or their parents, as many angry residents have been demanding) for a bit of stupidity? Couldn't this fire have been started by any of us, or our teenage kids? Then there is of course the case of Carrot Top blaming the mayor of San Juan for the horrible devastation in the aftermath of the hurricane in Puerto Rico. And regardless, even in cases of obvious and horrific culpability, like the mass shooting in Las Vegas or the death of Heather Hayes in Charlottesville, is is really the most beneficial response, in the sense of healing the wounds and preventing something similar from happening, to focus on blame and punishment?
Of course events have to be studied and understood, actions have to be taken, and emotions have to be processed. And anybody who has ever met me knows that I am a huge advocate of gun control, of seriously addressing hate crimes and racism and white nationalism, and of environmental legislation to counter global warming. That is not my point here. My point with this blog post is to question the usefulness of laying blame and passing judgment in situations that call on each of us to look inward, stand strong and upright in the light of our highest truth, and let our Heavenly Nature shine forth without the occluding clouds of our lower emotions. Righteous anger, while powerful and purifying and perhaps necessary, is a dangerous flame to kindle in the year of the Fire Rooster if you lack the inner cultivation to contain it as needed. In this year in particular, I have found great inspiration in the work and words of Congressman John Lewis:
So I want to present a different angle on how each of us might respond to and process these kinds of events in a way that may be more beneficial and less harmful for the health and harmony of our local, national, and global community. What follows is an excerpt from my translation of Liu Yousheng's book "Let the Radiant Yang Shine Forth: Lectures on Virtue" (Lecture Three: The Causes of Illness and the Methods of Treatment).
II.3 Bu Yuan ren (Do Not Blame Others!)
Wang Shanren said, “Not to blame others is the root of the great path towards enlightenment.” When cultivated persons lack virtue, they blame their own lack of cultivation, but when small-minded people have faults, they blame others. If they don’t blame with their mouths, then they blame in their heart, and as this blame lodges in the heart, it turns into illness. Just think about it. If you continuously butt heads with an individual above you, trample an individual under your foot, carry an individual in your heart, hide something from a person behind your back, how could you not fall ill? Because others are always wrong and you are always right, you will invariably make your illness grow. Regardless of whether you encounter a good situation or a bad situation, do not turn your blame towards the outside but search within yourself for any shortcomings, look at yourself to see whether you might have done wrong. Events can get turned upside down, logic can get flipped around. So always consider other people’s hearts in comparison with your own. Wang Shanren often lectured: “If you always blame others, no matter what happens, does that make you right?” If you are annoying to other people and they are irritated by you, you will not feel comfortable. In reverse, if they are annoying to you, will they be able to feel comfortable?
A manager from Dalian once told me the following: “Before I turned thirty, my entire body was diseased. Could I really let this happen? If I were to die, my whole large family business would be finished. And since then, whatever I deal with, I do not allow myself to get angry or to blame others. I have to start with my own actions, by looking inside and examining myself.” And not only did he speak like this, he also acted like this. And ever since, regardless of whether an affair turns out good or bad, he never blames others. When something is done wrong, he simply says: “For this situation, I do not blame you, I only blame myself. It is all a case of me not guiding you well, of me not handling this affair correctly.” After three years, the diseases all over his body were gone. Currently, he is in his fifties and his health is still excellent. The three words “bu yuan ren” 不怨人 (Don't blame others!) work miracles. The practice of not blaming others has limitless strength.
I have experienced the truth of this teaching not only directly on my own body but in my family as well. In 1992, my oldest son was involved in a tragic car accident in Changchun. He was hit in the head by a Dongfeng-model car that cracked open his skull and very nearly took his life. The accident happened at eleven at night and I was quickly notified by telephone. At that time, I told my wife: “This son of ours, he cannot die, just like true wealth cannot be lost. Let us prepare ourselves well in our minds. And one more thing, if the driver who caused the accident fled the scene, we will just treat our son ourselves. And if he didn’t flee, we cannot hold him responsible either.” And then we rushed off by train to Changchun that same night. When we got there, we were unable to find the right hospital. After searching for a long time, we finally met my younger son and his wife. They wanted to take us straight to the hospital but I told them that we should not do that. They responded: “What else did you come here for? Your son is in very critical condition right now!” I said: “We still shouldn’t go to the hospital right now. First, let us eat a little and sleep a little, and only then go.” When they asked why I was so determined, I told them: “Regardless of whether I am there or not, he will be in the condition he is in.” So we slept first and only afterwards went to the hospital. At the time we arrived, our oldest son was still in the emergency room. Even though he had undergone brain surgery that had removed any shards from his skull, he still had not regained consciousness. For nine days, he stayed like that in Critical Care. On the tenth day, he finally woke up and was able to speak but still did not recognize anyone.
It was not until the eleventh or twelfth day that his mind began to clear up and he was able to ask me to help him get up. But as soon as I began propping him up, he immediately yelled out in pain to make me stop. When I asked him why, he responded, “Pain in the waist!” My intuition told me right away that this was bad news, that he had to have some broken bones in his waist. So I found the doctor and had him do a physical examination and take X-rays. As expected, the X-rays showed that the small bones on both sides of his body above his waist were all broken. The doctor wanted us to sign immediately to prepare for another operation. At that point, I wondered whether my son would really be able to handle another operation right then. He had not regained full consciousness yet and if, after the completion of the surgery, he were unable to follow instructions, he could cause paralysis in his lower body with a mere twist of his body. So I consulted with the doctor: “Let us wait another two days, until he has fully regained consciousness before we take action. Is that an option?” The doctor understood my reasoning and left without saying anything else. At this point, the following thought came to me: “This is no big deal! These bones will grow back together quickly.” The first time I had tried to help my son get up had been in the morning. At noon, after he had had the x-rays taken and returned to his room, he asked me again to help him get up. But the nurses would not allow me to do that, worried that if I propped him up, this might compress nerves and cause even more serious injury. I told them that it couldn’t possibly be that serious and went ahead, helping my son to sit up. After he sat up with my support for two minutes, I made him lie back down. After what seemed like an eternity, he could not stand it any longer, so when evening came, I once again helped to prop him up. At this point, an old man who was standing nearby came over in fear and, grabbing my hand, tried to stop me from supporting my son. I told him: “Old grandfather, I know that you are concerned for him. But please rest assured. Everything is fine.” Then I once again propped up my son, this time allowing him to sit up for half an hour. When I asked him how he felt, he told me that he merely felt a little numbness but no pain. So I told him that everything was going to be all right. Now I knew with certainty that we should just let the bones heal naturally. Around midnight, he got up all by himself. Lifting his feet, he sat up in bed and spoke: “Father! Just look at me. Am I awesome or not?” I asked him what he meant and he replied: “This morning, when you tried propping me up, I could only howl in pain, but now I feel no pain at all. I am able to sit up all by myself, and I am even able to walk.” I told him not to walk, though, and to only sit a while and then lie back down. This time he sat up for an entire hour before I could make him lie down again. On the morning of the following day, he was able to sit up by drawing his feet back and promptly asked me to help him go for a walk. So with my support, he went for a walk along the corridor, covering a distance of more than a hundred meters.
After my son had stayed in the hospital for a total of nineteen days, the doctor would not let him stay any longer and insisted that he go home with us. I said: “The other patients here next to my son have also sustained head trauma, and some of them have been here for two months, some even for three months. This old man here, who was run over at the department store, has been here for four months and is still lying there. How come you are making my son leave the hospital?” The doctor answered: “I am the head of the department of Brain Surgery here and have worked in this hospital for forty years. In all this time, I have never seen any other patient like your son. He is truly extraordinary! He has been recovering so rapidly from one day to the next, you tell me, what point is there in me giving him more medication? It makes no sense to prescribe more medicine so I may as well just make him leave the hospital.” After the doctor had spoken in this way, there was nothing I could respond, all I could do was ask him: “Fine, so we will bring him home. But would you please give us some medication to take with us?” The doctor thought this over for half a day and then gave us twenty sleeping pills. Taking the medication from him, I asked the doctor: “Director Wang, why did you choose to prescribe this medication for him?” And he replied, “When your son is unable to sleep, give him one tablet at a time, in this way his brain will be able to recuperate.” After such a serious traffic accident, I certainly hadn’t expected to come home just like this, without any medication or anything.
What would we give him to eat when we got home? I suddenly had a stroke of insight: Eat fruit. What fruit should he eat? Peaches! So I asked my son what fruit he might like to eat. He initially responded that he didn’t feel like eating anything, but when I listed one fruit after another and finally got to peaches, he replied: “Yes, peaches are delicious. I will eat peaches.” So I made him eat peaches, five jin of peaches a day, so for two whole months he was never without peaches, eating them continuously. When we had first brought him home, he had still been a little foggy and incoherent in his mind. But after eating peaches for two entire months, both his waist and his skull were fully healed. Thinking about this situation afterwards, I found it a little strange myself. We had paid 3,400 yuan in hospital fees for my son, while among the other patients on his ward one had spent 40,000 yuan and another 170,000. The old man who had gotten run over at the department store had spent 320,000 yuan, and had already stayed there for four entire months, still not ready to go home. How could my son have recovered so quickly? Later on, I found the answer: Bu yuan ren - Do not blame others! This situation truly serves as the perfect testimony for how great the power of bu yuan ren is. If we are able to not blame others, the poisonous qi is unable to enter into our body, but can only exit out of our body. And in that case, how can recovery from illness not be quick? In our modern times, there are so many people, where all you have to do is bump into them once, and they will blackmail you, force you to pay them a large sum of money, make you deal with them for any number of years. These kinds of people indeed lack conscience. They think that they are taking advantage of you, but in reality they have planted an evil seed, and an evil seed will invariably end up with an evil fruit. In addition, there are so many people who fall ill and end up in the hospital. Their relatives go there to serve them and take care of them, but they not only fail to feel gratitude, they even harbor resentment. Doesn’t this mean adding illness on top of illness?
In 1996, a mentally ill person came to our home. Can a mentally ill person behave normally? Whenever his insanity would erupt, there was nothing we could do, and nobody was able to control him. One day at the time of the afternoon nap, my older son was squatting on the ground, repairing a shovel. Out of the blue, this mentally ill patient took an ax and hit my son on the back of his head five times, to the point where the left side of his skull collapsed. This time, I really got scared stiff. For the first time ever, my wife got angry with me and yelled: “Old man! This time, you are really going to be our ruin.” We rushed our son to the county hospital, hoping that they would suture up his wound. But when we got there, they did not dare to touch him at all but immediately had him transferred to the municipal hospital in Bei’an City for a CT scan of his skull. The results showed that the left corner of his head had collapsed by the width of a finger. In addition, my son was missing a piece of bone on the right side of his skull. Fortunately the five ax strikes had not all hit the hole in his head. If they had, would he still be alive? After Professor Zhang from Bei’an hospital evaluated my son’s condition, he told us that he would have to operate and cut open the skull. As soon as I heard him mention opening up the skull, I received such a shock that I was on the verge of fainting. Opening up his skull yet again? Wouldn’t that cause his skull to collapse? At that time, I thought that if my son really had to undergo another surgery, we wouldn’t have his skull opened at that hospital but would take him back to Changchun to find the doctor who had treated him there previously. We stayed in Bei’an that night, and as soon as I woke up the next morning, I was quite shaken. While I personally thought that this head injury was not that serious after all and shouldn’t cause problems, I still had to explore my son’s and his wife’s attitude. It turned out, though, that as soon as I spoke to them, they did not have a single word of blame for me. They did not resent me and did not tell me that if I hadn’t been explaining illness to people (translator's note: This refers to Liu running a free clinic out of his home where he treated anybody by means of Wang Fengyi's method of "virtue healing," by storytelling and confession) for my son wouldn’t have gotten injured. Any ordinary daughter-in-law would have been yelling insults at me at this point and would never have been able to forgive me. But my relatives didn’t say anything, not a single word. When I asked my son how he had slept that night, he responded that he had slept through the night without any pain and had no complaints. So I said to them: “Please talk it over between the two of you. Will it do if we do not go ahead with the surgery? The doctor did say that if you do not have this operation he is afraid that you might develop epilepsy in three years.” Being a wood-type personality, my son is very obstinate. He responded: “It’s nothing! I don’t feel pain or itching, so why would I develop epilepsy? Father, if you say that I shouldn’t have this operation, let’s just go home.” I agreed, so in this way we just went home. And three days after his return, my son was planting and tilling right along with everybody else as usual. Why was he able to recover so quickly without any surgery? This is one more example of the power of not blaming others (bu yuan ren). After this incident, the relatives of the person with the mental illness wanted to give us money but I refused to accept their gift. I told them that my son had recovered and that this was a cause of great joy. Furthermore, the mentally ill patient also recovered after he returned to his family, perhaps because the incident had frightened him into recovery. Whenever his illness did break out, it would be utterly strange: He would perform somersaults, thrash around, and twirl.
...For this reason Wang Shanren once said: “Bu yuan ren (not blaming others) has limitless power. Bu yuan ren enables you to reach enlightenment.” No matter who we encounter, no matter what situation we are faced with, we must never blame others but instead focus all our efforts on deeply transforming ourselves, on deeply criticizing ourselves. This is precisely how we can reach enlightenment.