Wang Yang Ming O-yo-mei And A Thief

One evening when Wang was giving a lecture to a number of students on

his famous doctrine that all human beings are endowed with

Conscience, a thief broke into the house and hid himself in

the darkest corner. Then Wang declared aloud that every human being

is born with Conscience, and that even the thief who had got into the

house had Conscience just as the sages of old. The burglar,

overhearing these remarks, came o
t to ask the forgiveness of the

master; since there was no way of escape for him, and he was

half-naked, he crouched behind the students. Wang's willing

forgiveness and cordial treatment encouraged the man to ask the

question how the teacher could know such a poor wretch as he was

endowed with Conscience as the sages of old. Wang replied: "It is

your Conscience that makes you ashamed of your nakedness. You

yourself are a sage, if you abstain from everything that will put

shame on you." We firmly believe that Wang is perfectly right in

telling the thief that he was not different in nature from the sages

of old. It is no exaggeration. It is a saving truth. It is also a

most effective way of saving men out of darkness of sin. Any thief

ceases to be a thief the moment he believes in his own Conscience, or

Buddha-nature. You can never correct criminals by your severe

reproach or punishment. You can save them only through your sympathy

and love, by which you call forth their inborn Buddha-nature.

Nothing can produce more pernicious effects on criminals than to

treat them as if they were a different sort of people and confirm

them in their conviction that they are bad-natured. We greatly

regret that even in a civilized society authorities neglecting this

saving truth are driving to perdition those criminals under their

care, whom it is their duty to save.

It is not conscience in the ordinary sense of the term. It

is 'moral' principle, according to Wang, pervading through the

Universe. 'It expresses itself as Providence in Heaven, as moral

nature in man, and as mechanical laws in things.' The reader will

notice that Wang's Conscience is the nearest approach to