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Chairman Mao and A Monk

7 April 2009

China's late leader Chairman Mao is a legend with many legendary tells, one of them was told by himself to his most trusted chief of security guards, Li Yinqiao (李銀橋), on 9 April 1948, and later it was recorded in Li's memoir published in 1989.

It is said that on a summer day in 1917 when Mao was just a 24-year old student in Changsha, the capital of Mao's home province Hunan, he took a bush walk with his friend Xiao (蕭子升) and entered a Buddhist temple on their way. During the visit, Mao intoned: "He who can found pleasure in the hardship will be able to accomplish great tasks. The ancient said before a Heavenly mandate falls on the shoulder of a man, he will be put to various test to see if he can endue spiritual torments and physical ordeals (安貧者能成事,嚼得草根百事可做。有道是,天將降大任於斯人也,必先苦其心志,勞其筋管,俄其體膚,空乏其身)...".

When the abbot of the temple heard what Mao intoned, he was quite taken and closed his eyes to contemplate for a while. After he reopened his eyes, the abbot urged Mao's friend Xiao to be immediately ordained as a Buddhist monk. Xiao refused. He had a high aspiration for life and believed he had a mission for China.

The monk shook his head in pity, and said, "I'm afraid if you don't find yourself a place in the monastery today, you may find no place for you in China."

The monk then turned to Mao, "I have a question for you. Please tell me why the Buddhism is able to prosper in China for over two thousand years?"

"Because it has a large number of followers," replied Mao.

"Your answer is over simplistic." The monk wasn't impressed by Mao's response. "The truth is, firstly, it has provided an integrated philosophical system to explain human conditions on earth and all occurrences in the universe; and secondly, most Chinese emperors in history had an inborn urge for probing into deep spiritual meanings of life."

Mao snubbed. "I don't think that is their inborn urge, but a realistic measure to serve their political objectives."

"Not so," the monk insisted. "Take the emperors of Tang Dynasty: they honoured Confucian as the king of all scholars, crowned Laozi as the founder of Daoism and sent Xuanzhuang to Indian to learn authentic Buddhism. In doing so they've fostered an environment that allows all three major teachings in China to coexist peacefully, which is quite different from many other countries where people suffer from constant and endless religious wars."

Mao thought of that, and said, "Well, peaceful coexistence for all teachings, which is not a bad thing for the nation."

"O Mi Tuo Fo," prayed the abbot, looking steadily in the eye of Mao. "I hope you won't forget what you said today."

Mao was puzzled. "What do you mean by that?"

The abbot lowed his eyes and returned to his meditation. He said no more.

15 years later, Xiao fled China when he was charged with crimes of stealing treasures from the Forbidden City and died overseas; 32 years later, Mao became the supreme leader of China.

Prev: Mao's Prophecies
Next: Mao Mysterious Number (1)


Chinese Pay Tributes to the Spiritual Guardians

Little Beijing kids in traditional Chinese custom visited former Imperial College established by Mind emperors during the Tomb Sweeping Festival

And pay tributes to Confucian.

(Source of info & photo: 新社发 廖攀 摄)

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