Right and Wrong

by Dr. Pran Rangan


Normally, it is our knee-jerk reaction to turn our back on someone who commits a crime or does something gravely wrong. Instead if we try to find out the reason why one has done so, we might be able to help the person out with the tendency to do so. And, in addition, we will be able to avoid harboring ill feelings about the fellow.

This parable highlights the same.

A Zen master held a session of two weeks of meditation in Japan. His pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings, a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to the master with the request that the culprit be expelled but he ignored it.

Later the pupil was caught in a similar act and again he disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave en mass.

When the master read the petition, he called everyone before him. "You are wise, brothers," he told them. "You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave."

Tears began to overflow the eyes of the pupil, who had stolen. All his desire to steal had vanished.


Though the story seems to be a simple one, it imparts great lesson. It does make us think differently than the rest because we have been repeatedly told to shun the person, who does something wrong, since our childhood. In contrast, we have not been told to think why a person is doing something wrong. Therefore, how can we help such a person realize one's wrong doing without hurting one's sentiments?

How quickly would most people turn their back on those who commit a crime like stealing, just as the rest of pupils did? But delving deeper, we might just see another human being, who simply needs to be shown the path.

We shouldn't write people off so easily. Those people, who commit such crimes, are often people that need help with the most basic human principles such as right and wrong. We may have loved ones, who have committed a crime. We don't throw them out just because they did something wrong at some point. As we need to keep order, so they should be disciplined for their behavior. But we also need to take the time to teach them right and wrong. Similarly, instead of writing others off, we should strive to lift them up just as we strive to lift ourselves up and our loved ones.

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