By Cheah Lee Hwa
Translated by Wu Hsiao-ting
Photo by Hsiao Yiu-hwa
Compassion for others drives out discord and animosity.
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” This is a quote from American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). It contains real food for thought.
Everyone has innate compassion. When you learn how someone you are against has suffered in their life, compassion for them arises in your heart. You might let go of your grudges, your dislikes, your differences, your anger and hatred, and you may even desire to reach out to help them, your animosity forgotten.
Dharma Master Sheng Yen (1931–2009) said, “Compassion has no enemies; and wisdom no vexations.” This saying corresponds to the quote from Longfellow and teaches us that we do not need to wait until we get to know the secret history of our enemies to forgive them. When we take good care of our minds and nurture compassion in ourselves, we won’t have any enemies in the first place.
Dharma Master Cheng Yen once told a true story that goes as follows:
A taxi driver pulled over to the side of the road to buy something. When he had stopped his car and was opening his door to get out, a motorcyclist crashed into his vehicle. The motorcyclist was a police officer. Badly injured, he ended up in a vegetative state.
After the tragic accident, the police officer’s family filed a lawsuit against the taxi driver, who lost the suit. The driver was ordered to pay 18,000,000 Taiwanese dollars (US$600,000) in damages. Devastated by the enormity of the compensation, he buckled under the pressure and committed suicide. Following that, it was decided to foreclose on the family’s home for the money to pay the debt.
Tzu Chi volunteers visited the driver’s family to find out if they needed help. The volunteers’ hearts went out to the driver’s wife when they saw that she was thin and wan and yet was now left to raise three young children alone. About to lose their home, she didn’t even know where she and her children would live.
Despite her plight, she wasn’t angry at her husband for leaving a huge debt behind, nor for leaving her and their three young children to fend for themselves. Instead, she felt really bad about what had happened to the police officer. She expressed her wish to visit the officer’s family and deliver to them the 600,000 Taiwanese dollars (US$20,000) that she had received from her husband’s car insurance company.
Tzu Chi volunteers made arrangements so that she could visit the officer’s family. During the visit, they learned that the officer’s wife had just been diagnosed with cancer, and that it was already terminal.
When the officer’s wife saw how thin and wan the driver’s wife was and yet now had to support three young children on her own, she felt deeply for her. Even though she was ill, she decided to forgo all compensation and drop the foreclosure.
The driver’s wife was very grateful, but insisted that the officer’s wife accept the 600,000 Taiwanese dollars she had brought with her. The officer’s wife wouldn’t hear of it; she asked the driver’s wife to keep the money, saying she would need it for her family.
The driver’s wife refused to take the money home. In the end, the officer’s wife withdrew 400,000 Taiwanese dollars (US$13,330) from her own savings, put it together with the driver’s wife’s money, and donated one million Taiwanese dollars (US$333,330) to Tzu Chi to help the foundation rebuild schools damaged in a major earthquake in Taiwan. Despite the misfortune the two women had encountered, they showed amazing compassion and understanding for each other. In them you see the brilliance of human nature.
Master Cheng Yen praised the two women for transforming ill will into love, and bad affinities into good ones. Because of her praiseworthy action, the officer’s wife made a huge difference in the driver’s wife’s life. Not only that—her benevolent decision would undoubtedly fill the remainder of her life with ease and peace. What an inspiring story of compassion and wisdom.