Here is the latest podcast. It is about Yelui Chu Tsai 耶律楚材 (1190-1244), a Buddhist Confucian Taoist, who was an enlightened politician in a period of war, genocide, oppression and chaos.
Somebody has asked me to tell the story of Yelui Chu Tsai, who was mentioned in a previous podcast. Yelui Chu Tsai was a member of the Khitan people who had been conquered by the Chinese, and Yelui had been taken into the Chinese civil service.
He lived in time of Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan was invading the Chinese lands, and Yelui Chu Tsai was in Beijing at the time when Genghis Khan’s horde arrived at the gates.
Nobody believed that anybody could conquer Beijing because its fortifications were so enormous and impressive. But Genghis Khan laid siege to the city.
At this time Yelui Chu Tsai went on a Buddhist retreat. So, here he is, in retreat, in the city surrounded by the Mongol forces on the outside of the wall. Difficult times. I guess you’d practice quite intensively in those kinds of conditions.
Anyway, two startling things happened more or less simultaneously:
One was that Yelui Chu Tsai had a great dawning of faith. His mind opened up to the Dharma.
At almost exactly the same time, Genghis Khan, who was something of a military genius, Genghis Khan’s forces broke through the walls of Beijing and the city was conquered.
Now, when the Mongols took over a city, their practice was to sort out the population into various groups: some who were going to be killed, some who were going to be sold into slavery and some who could be useful.
Now, somebody like Yelui who had education and talent and had operated in the government service, might be useful; and since he had become moderately senior, he found himself in an interview standing in front of Genghis Khan himself. Can you imagine it? Standing there before Genghis Khan? The impregnable city has just fallen to his army, he has the power of life and death, and you’re standing there.
And the Khan says to Yelui: “You must actually be not totally displeased that the Chinese have been defeated, considering that they overran your people.”
Yelui looked at the Khan and he said: “Sir, it would be very disrespectful for me to say anything against the people who have so recently been my employers.”
It took a bit a nerve to say something like that. I think you had to have a kind of faith that transcended the fear of death to stand before Genghis Khan and say such a thing. However, Genghis was impressed. This is no ordinary person!
He recruited Yelui Chu Tsai into his government. Chu Tsai became a significant member of the Mongol administration. He sat in at all the great councils of state. When the Mongols were deciding whether they should exterminate the Chinese race and use the land for grazing their horses, when he was asked his opinion, he said: “Dead men pay no taxes.”
He was very persuasive with things like that. They wanted to destroy the Confucian shrines. Yelui said: “If you want a subject people who obey the law, you don’t destroy their shrines and religion.” He was a Buddhist, but he protected the Confucians.
In many ways he was like that. He argued for sound principles and a humane way of life – even in the midst of the Mongol horde - and he didn’t do it for his own gratification, for his own reward, to make himself rich. He wasn’t corrupt in any way. This was the expression of the Buddhis faith that he had found.
Namo Amida Bu
Thank you very much