Stories and lists aimed at helping readers redirect their focus and follow a path of benevolence.
Jaensch (co-author, The Lost Heart of Medicine, 2013) tells the story of a young beggar wandering aimlessly through China. He comes upon a monk who explains the path away from suffering and gives the beggar a new name: Shi Yin Fu. The beggar then separates the beans that generous people have given him into two bags—one full of yellow beans, and one of black. He hangs a third bag around his neck, and whenever he commits a crooked deed, he places a black bean in it; for every good deed, he places a yellow bean instead. This tally becomes his ledger of good and evil that trains him to choose to do good. The author traces the paths of Shi Yin Fu and other men he encounters; all stumble at first, but all find ways to fill their bags with yellow beans. Each pursues a search for his “Heart,” or metaphorical “Centre,” and when they do so with a clear conscience, untethered by the pursuit of personal gain, they find enlightenment; the goodness acts a catalyst, as others witness their deeds and strive to act as they do. Jaensch partners these instructive narratives with two lists, one of 100 “diseases” and another of 100 “medicines.” The diseases include such concepts as such as “[h]aving good intentions but then doing wrong”; however, by following the list of medicines, such as “helping the commoners with your power and position,” one can prevent them. Jaensch writes these parables in a stark manner, which leaves room for the lessons within them to shine. Each of the tales builds upon the last, forming a sort of circle that radiates outward, and the book ends on a hopeful note for humanity: “[Y]our study, observation, contemplation and inevitable cultivation creates a human being who faces the fast-flowing river at peace….Now you are free to swim!” Unfortunately, few women are mentioned at all in these stories, let alone given any focus. That said, the author does provide an informative set of lessons with tangible dedication and a deft hand.
A well-crafted guide for bettering one’s inner life in order to better serve mankind.