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 The Two Kinds of Harmony and Humility


       The “two kinds of harmony”—speaking kindly and being gentle in demeanor; and the “two kinds of humility”—being humble at heart, and yielding to each other.

The Two Kinds of Harmony

       In Buddhism, one of the most valued principles is “harmony”. Although the word may appear to be simple and ordinary, its significance and meaning are profound and far-reaching. The highest state spoken of in Buddhism, Nirvana quiescence, can be aptly captured by the concept of “harmony”.

       Nirvana can be understood from several angles. For instance, when viewed through the lens of “extinction and liberation”, it means eradicating greed, wrath, and ignorance, and breaking free from samsara. As the fires of greed, anger and ignorance are extinguished, a state of “tranquility” ensues.  Shakyamuni Buddha once said, “There is no peace in the three domains, like a house on fire, filled with suffering, extremely terrifying.” The house on fire symbolizes the cycle of the six realms, with its root causes being greed, anger, and ignorance.

       Nirvana can also be described as a state of non arising and non ceasing, a state of tranquility and stability, being unmoved by the effects of the “eight worldly winds” of praise, ridicule, joy, suffering, decline, gain, fame, and disgrace - four positive and four negative experiences. If a practitioner’s mind remains unaffected by these eight winds, his mind resembles the calm and undisturbed water in a cool pool, devoid of any ripples. Even when faced with strong winds, the water surface remains calm - this epitomizes the essence of “harmony”.

       “Speaking kindly” refers to speech karma; “being gentle in demeanor” refers to bodily karma. Both these two karmas originate from one’s mind, the mental karma.

       Speaking kindly indicates that the person’s heart is also kind. Having a gentle demeanor indicates that the person’s mind is rational, calm, unemotional, and free from worries.  Such a person, of course,  will not criticize, blame, complain, or judge. Therefore, speaking kindly and behaving in a gentle manner both focus on the aspect of “harmony.”

       The first paragraph of “The Doctrine of the Mean” in the “Four Books" states:

When joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure have not yet arisen, it is called the Mean (centeredness, equilibrium). When they rise to their appropriate levels, it is called harmony.

Equilibrium is the great foundation of the world; harmony is the universal path to be pursued.

When equilibrium and harmony are achieved, Heaven and Earth occupy their proper positions, and all things are nurtured.

       This shows the importance of "harmony."

       Even when expressing emotions like joy, anger, grief, and pleasure, one should be moderate and appropriate, as this aligns with the path of equilibrium and harmony. This not only shows a person’s superb character and cultivation, but also indicates that he can live in harmony with the people, events, and things around him.

       It is not easy to achieve harmony between people, but at least we should be able to get along with each other peacefully; if we cannot even do that, then at least we should be able to coexist without conflict. Why do I emphasize “harmony” so much? In fact, it is not just me personally. In the time of the Buddha, he also stipulated that the monastics should not only be together in harmony but also respect each other. This is called the “six harmonies and  respects”—living together harmoniously in body, speech, and mind; cultivating precepts together; sharing the same understanding; and sharing benefits equally.

       If people are close family members, then “blood is thicker than water,” and parents, children, brothers and sisters will love and cherish each other. There is also a saying, “Brothers will fight tigers together and catch thieves together,”  meaning that when encountering difficulties, others may stand by, but brothers will definitely come to help and take care of each other, and not quarrel.

       If some people are not family members, such as a couple who gets married, they might be loving and affectionate at first, vowing to grow old together and be united forever in life and death, but they may get divorced soon after and even hate each other. Would they behave like that if they were mother and son or brothers and sisters? No, because of the blood relationship.

       If this is the case for couples, what about monastics? I often think about how monastics leave their loving parents, their dear children, siblings, and relatives, and enter a bigger family whose members are not blood-related. Due to different personalities, education, and upbringing, they have different ideas and ways of handling things – yet these different people gather together, live under the same roof, and have to interact with each other daily. If they cannot get along, they may not be able to pass one day in peace.

       So why do people choose monastic life? There must be an underlying reason, perhaps driven by the noble goal of preventing the deterioration of sacred teachings and alleviating the suffering of all living beings. Of course, we monks don't need to dwell on such grand aspirations, as we might not possess the ability to fulfill them; we simply need to find satisfaction in our chosen path, focus on our spiritual journey rather than material concerns, understand our role, and embrace our responsibilities as a monk, without tarnishing the Buddha's reputation or undermining Buddhism – achieving that would indeed be a blessing! As for myself, I remain on high alert, as I might not even be capable of reaching that level.

The Two Kinds of Humility

       Humility means being modest and humble. It is the cornerstone of a person’s character. Regardless of one’s talents, capabilities, or accomplishments, it is crucial to remain humble. In fact those with greater knowledge and skill are often naturally more modest, as the adage goes, “ a gentleman cultivates himself with a humble attitude” and “With profound knowledge comes a calm temperament.”

       Ancient wisdom also teaches us that “Humility reaps benefits, while arrogance invites losses.” In our school’s attributes, there are many reminders to stay humble, so everyone should cultivate humility. We shouldn’t be aggressive  or overbearing in our speech, nor should we display arrogance or conceit when we are successful or feel high-spirited. Instead, we should maintain a calm and collected demeanor - embodying true humility.

       The root of our inner afflictions is the “three poisons” or the “five hindrances” - greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and doubt - that cloud our Buddha nature and obscure our innate wisdom. Arrogance stems from anger, so it is important for us to overcome arrogance.

       “Humbly yielding to each other” means giving credit and success to others while taking responsibility for our own losses and failures. This practice goes beyond self-cultivation, showcasing the Mahayana spirit of a Buddhist practitioner - being considerate of others, and sacrificing oneself, offering benefits to others, and dedicating oneself to their well-being. Thus in both actions and principles, we must remain humble and willing to yield.

       Yielding in actions means “giving credit to others,” while yielding in principle involves admitting that we are wrong and others are right, essentially taking a step back.

       I remember two stories from my elementary school days. One tells of a black dog and a white dog attempting to cross a narrow bridge.  When they met in the middle, neither dog would yield. They got stuck there and began to fight. Consequently, neither could cross the bridge, and both fell into the water below.

       Another story is about a black sheep and a sheep: when they met midway on a bridge, the white sheep said, “I am sorry. I will step back.” The black sheep also said, “I will step back.” By yielding to each other, both crossed the bridge.

       Though these are short and simple stories meant for young children, they convey valuable lessons that can impact their later lives. If the education of young children is inadequate, they may grow up with flawed characters, a propensity for arrogance, and a penchant for conflict, losing the sense of propriety they should possess as decent human beings. Therefore, embracing humility is of paramount importance.


(Translated by the Pure Land School Translation Team;
edited by Householder Fojin)



Master Huijing

Master Huijing

Master Jingzong

Master Jingzong

Guiding Principles

Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings