Poem to awaken the world – Part 2

Continuing from previous article…..

The second prose continue with the master’s earnest advice to his disciples.


The second part goes like this.


and it can be roughly translated as follows;

休將自己心田昧 –  keep your achievement to yourself


Put simply, it is an advice to be humble. In todays world, many people take to the internet to broadcast their latest achievements, their latest car, their latest apartment, their latest designer watch etc.

In addition to materialistic achievements, people also broadcast their charitable achievements. Sharing of achievements in charitable activities and spiritual activities may inspire others to engage in such activities. However, if the intention is to gain fame, then such egoistic attachment would be bad.

In the Buddhist world, one’s spiritual practice can also become a tool for fattening one’s ego. For example people boasting about the long duration they sit for meditation, their view of the world is “emptier” than others, the vast numbers of sutra that they can memorise, possessing special talisman and amulets, the number of initiations they have attended, wearing special costume to signify they have taken certain “elite” precepts, wielding special ritual object, etc. The list is soooooo long. It is kind of an irony that while the Buddha taught us to let go of ego, Buddhist still find ways to bolster ego through the spiritual system.

In order to be truly humble, we must reduce our ego. Thus the advice to hide one’s achievement is a good training for reducing ego.

莫把他人過失揚 – never broadcast another’s fault.

This line must be read in conjunction with the previous verse. It is an advice to refrain from badmouthing others so that we look or feel better. It is not an advice that we should keep silent when we know of a crime or misdeed.

The action of badmouthing others is borne out of malice. A person habitually search for faults in their victims and “share” their “concerns and observations” to “benefit”  others. (behind heir victims’ back).

In the worst scenario, one becomes paranoid and keep imagining the worst in others. That leads to vicious rumour mongering.

In any community, such actions promotes mistrust and cause disharmony amongst people. Many great masters had observed such behaviour and warn us of its grave consequences. (especially in a Buddhist community)

The sutra also recorded people doing that when the Buddha was physically present. For example, a monk was criticised for eating loudly by chewing his food with opened mouth (like a donkey). The criticiser opined that the monk must be non mindful during his meal. Unknown to him, that monk had already attained Enlightenment.

Reading the 2 stanzas together, it is an advice to his disciples to remain humble of their achievements and not to critique others out of bad intention.


謹慎應酬無懊惱 – mindful living prevents anxiety and regrets

In this prose, the master starts to advice his disciples on their daily social engagements. Translated literally, the words 謹慎 means cautiousness and 應酬 means worldly engagement.




I think the advice of being cautious in our daily engagement really boils down to mindful living. As mentioned in previous article, this poem is meant for wide circulation in olden China (1500s) . Not everyone is well educated in Buddhism, not to mention meditation jargons.

Therefore I believe the compassionate and wise master skilfully uses the word cautious instead. To be cautious, one needs to be aware and be mindful of the task at hand. In our daily engagements, we make decisions, perform actions and communicate with others.

Without mindfulness, many things can go wrong. Without mindfulness, we always ponder “why did I say that?” or “what made me do that?”

Therefore with mindfulness in our daily life, we become fully conscious and responsible for our decision, speech and actions. Thus there is less room errors and regrets which leads to anxieties.

Another layer of meaning is to advice us to indulge in sense gratification (應酬) sparingly (謹慎) so that it will not lead to sufferings.

This is in line with the Buddha’s teaching towards lay person. According to Buddha, over indulgence of entertaining one’s senses through shows, musics, sensual pleasures, foods and drinks causes heedlessness and sufferings.

Unlike the monastic communities, the Buddha did not forbid his lay followers from attending performance and shows, dance and music. However he did caution the ill-effect of over indulgence. In order to know when to stop, mindfulness in one’s life is very important.

耐煩作事好商量 – patience generates harmony 

Continuing his advice on social engagements, Master De Qing encourages his disciples to practice patience and forbearance in their daily encounters in life. (situations and people)

When faced with a challenging situation, a patient person is able to think and act correctly for the benefit of others and themselves.

In a work place, if everyone is quick tempered and egoistic, nothing gets done and the cohesiveness of a team is broken.

In a family, impatience cause disputes and quarrels amongst family members.

The word 好商量 translate to opportunity for negotiations.

Read together, the entire stanza seems to be saying that if one is patience with others and one’s situations, it enables better opportunities to be negotiated.

I think it means that one should wisely face and resolve situations in life with patience and forbearance. That way we allow possibilities for better opportunities and situations to materialise.

That’s my limited translation and interpretation of the 2nd prose. (to be continued…..)

醒世歌 (poem of awakening)



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