With Wisdom, There Is No Discrimination

Master Cheng Yen’s Teachings
Translated by the Dharma as Water Team


Long time ago in Japan, a wise elder of high social status sought
to help his nephew gain better skills as a leader. He felt that his nephew should form deep connections with his people and understand their situations. Thus, the elder dressed up as a farmer wearing straw shoes and brought a few attendants to accompany him to different places.

One day, the group reached an inn. It was a chilly winter day, and it was snowing continuously. Walking through the snow in his straw shoes, it had taken the elder much effort to finally find this inn. So, the whole group went in to rest. As the floor was covered in tatami mats past the entryway, the group needed to wash their feet before they could step onto the mats.

Usually, the servant at the inn would bring water to the guests for them to wash their feet. But this time, when the servant saw this group of people who looked like regular day laborers, he gave in to his prejudices. If they had been businesspeople or people of high status, he would respectfully bring them water and place it by their feet. However, this group of people did not look wealthy. Thus, the servant nonchalantly remarked, “Do you need water? There are a few buckets of water over there. Someone just used it to wash their feet, so it is still hot. You can take that and use it!” Hearing this made the elder’s attendants very angry. Clenching their fists, they wanted to rush forward and strike the servant. However, the elder gestured to them to stop, so they relaxed their fists.

At ease, the elder said to his attendants, “One of the purposes of our trip is to tour scenic spots and enjoy ourselves.” He continued, “This is not bad! The water is still warm and usable!” So, the elder took off his straw shoes and placed both of his feet into the warm water, which had already been used by others. He washed his feet until they were very clean. His feet felt warm and comfortable as he soaked them in the water.

From this story, we can see an example of wisdom. With wisdom, there is no discrimination. The man did not put in any effort to endure the situation; indeed, to “endure” things means that we still feel a sense of suffering. Instead, the elder was completely at ease. Although the water had been used by someone else, it was still warm. The elder did not get angry, and so, naturally, there was no need to “endure” anything. Without putting effort into enduring or being angry, he could enjoy soaking his feet in the hot water.

In life, ordinary people tend to take issue over things. They know the basic workings of daily interactions and are able to discern whether people’s facial expressions are mean or friendly. This kind of discernment brings suffering. Instead, we should constantly be joyful. Although forgetting the past is very difficult, if we can embrace hope and look toward the future, we will surely be joyful! 


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