Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The Virtue of Humility
The Book of Changes (Yi Jing) says:
"It is the Way of Heaven to make fullness empty and to make full what is humble; when the sun is at its zenith, it must, according to the Way of Heaven, turn toward its setting, and at its nadir it rises toward a new dawn. In accordance to the Way, the moon when it is full begins to wane, and when empty of light it waxes again. This heavenly law works itself out in the fates of men also. It is the Way of Earth to alter the full and to contribute to the humble. High mountains are worn down by the waters, and the valleys are filled up. It is the Way of the gods to undermine what is full and to prosper the humble. And it is also the Way of Man to hate fullness and love the humble."
Recently there was a top level government official in the news for all the wrong reasons. He is none other than Tan Yong Soon (seen above), an ex-SAF scholar and permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment. Mr Tan wrote an article for the ST talking about his family's trip to learn fine cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, spending a total of $46,500 over 5 weeks. So now we know how rich these top officials are.This is "Chef" Tan's photo taken at the culinary school. Actually there is nothing wrong with him spending money on his own hobby, but the problem lies in the timing of his trip as well as his high position in the civil service. When the world is in the midst of an economic crisis and so many ordinary Singaporeans are facing financial difficulties, it was unacceptable for a top official to do such things and boast about it. This showed that Mr Tan had the good life for too long and lost touch with the world and his fellow Singaporeans. Inevitably, his actions drew criticism from all levels of society, as high up as Minister Teo Chee Hean and Civil Service Head Peter Ho, and as low down as the man in the street. Suffice to say, his career in the Ministry of Environment is as good as buried and he would become the butt of jokes for a long time to come. Just as the Way of Man hates fullness; having become too full, the Way of Heaven is now making Mr Tan's fullness empty as well. It's a pity that such a prominent intellectual like him, who is able to reach the top level of the civil service, yet unable to understand the Way. Perhaps he had never learned from the Book of Changes? It is a good lesson for all of us never to become too full of ourselves no matter how much we have attained in life. Constant humility is the sure path to wisdom and blessings, sadhu.