During the Age of Right Dharma, there exist four kinds of good men in this world. The first kind of good man, when he hears about people suffering due to an illness or hardship, or even death, upon learning about someone suffering from old age, illness and death, he will immediately feel a sense of fear (that induces a sense of fear in him). Then he will diligently practise according to Right Dharma and Intention (just like the horse that can be tamed on seeing the shape of a whip or its shadow, it will gallop forward). This is the first kind of virtuous man in this world. This is the analogy used by the Buddha. Those who can tame themselves, or will immediately think of correcting their own shortcomings upon seeing other people in bad shape, will be considered a virtuous man.
The second kind of man on in this world, on hearing about people suffering from illness, hardship or even death, he doesn’t have a sense of fear (that means when he hears someone has died or has fallen ill and in pain, he doesn’t take it seriously). He doesn’t cultivate diligently. He must see it with his own eyes. Only when he sees his colleagues and family members gradually experiencing the pain of ageing, illness and death, will he strive hard out of fear. This person is like what the Buddha described as the horse which can be tamed only when its skin is grazed with a whip, only then will it follow the rider’s wishes. This is the second kind of virtuous man, who is able to tame himself in the Age of Right Dharma. Some people will change as soon as they were informed. I sometimes tell you young people, “Look at those who are experiencing misfortune, you must take heed of it”. Some people have no sense of urgency until something happens in front of their eyes, “It’s true! My classmate has fallen ill”. Then they take heed. This is the second kind.
The Buddha continued, if a virtuous man is unable to heed what he hears or what he sees, the suffering from birth, ageing, illness and death fails to induce fear in him and prompt him to cultivate diligently. He must see someone in his neighbourhood or community, someone very close to him, or his friends suffering or dying, only then will he feel a sense of fear. And only then will he cultivate diligently in accordance with the Right Dharma and Right Intention. He is like the third kind of good horse that will not be tamed or be diligent unless its flesh is lashed by a whip. This is the third kind of virtuous man.
What is the fourth kind of virtuous man? It is the kind who is oblivious to ageing, illness and death of others. He turns a blind eye to their suffering. So when people tell him “So and so has died,” he will say, “what’s that got to do with me? It’s not me dying”. When people say, “This person is going through a rough patch”. “What’s that got to do with me? It’s not me suffering”. Only when something happens to him, when he suffers and gets old, or when he is on his deathbed will he realise the urgency to renounce the world. “I am afraid, I don’t want to die”. It is only at this time that he will cultivate with diligence. Just like many people who are diagnosed with cancer before they begin to perform recitations every day. This is like the fourth kind of good horse. He has to go through a traumatic agony before he can be tamed. That is, he will not change unless he experiences the pain himself. He won’t change even if his wife falls ill; Even if his children fall ill, he still won’t feel any pain; Only when he experiences the pain himself will he think of going on a vegetarian diet and perform recitations. This is the fourth kind of virtuous man. In fact, only when he experiences the suffering himself, will he correct and tame himself in accordance with the Dharma. These are the four stories which contained in the Agama sutra.
I told you this today in the hope that you will all tame your minds, cultivate the mind until you reach a higher level of spirituality, so that you can gradually liberate yourself from suffering and gradually understand others, understand their suffering, only then will you not speak ill of others; You will know their sorrows and you will not rub salt into their wounds. Some people will never work hard and stop criticising others until they got deeply hurt. For example, you got into a quarrel, you cursed at the other party, you cursed at their ancestors, so you got assaulted. Only when you were afflicted the pain did you realise that you shouldn’t curse at other people’s ancestors. The idea is the same, why do you have to experience suffering before changing yourself? This indicates a lack of wisdom. Hence, those without wisdom will experience suffering and sadness. My wish is for all Buddhists to possess wisdom. We must learn Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s great mercy and compassion. Practise compassion towards all beings and you will be rewarded with a happy life.