The Record of Water Mirror Turning Back Heaven
By Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
From the 2008 issues of Vajra Bodhi Sea
Translated by the International Translation Institute
His surname was Bao, and his first name Zhen; he also had another name, Xiren. Bao was from Hefei in the Northern Song dynasty. He was upright and outspoken and did not casually joke around. There is a saying, “Once Bao Zhen laughed, the Yellow River would be clear.” With a black face and red heart, he was proper and righteous in his work. Like a bright mirror suspended high up, he saved beings from sufferings. That’s why he was called ‘Upright Magistrate Bao’.
He had a vow that if he ever wrongfully judged a case, the karmic retribution will fall on his children in the future, or on him right away. He was a successful candidate in the highest imperial examination and was later appointed a righteous scholar in the Imperial Cabinet by Emperor Ren in the Song dynasty. Resolute and steadfast in the imperial government, he didn’t avoid the authorities and was impartial and incorruptible without giving in to human sympathy.
If the prince violated the law, he would be condemned the same as if he were a civilian. Each and every one was equal before the law. Therefore, treacherous court officials were afraid of him, obsequious officials avoided him, loyal officials respected him, and righteous officials emulated him. He was an honest and upright official in history.
There were always loyal officials and treacherous ones, and obsequious officials and righteous ones in each and every dynasty. The loyal officials were loyal to the country, and the treacherous ones were wicked and harmed the civilians. The obsequious ones always lied and flattered without being straightforward, trying to curry the favor of their superiors.
Bao Zhen had a unique appearance with his black face, and he had an inimitable background. That’s why he was different from others. He was a noted official in the Song dynasty and was appointed a righteous scholar in the Imperial Cabinet, which would be like the chief justice of the Supreme Court or the head of the department of Justice. He judged cases with great accuracy, just like a bright mirror that could reflect everything; no one could deceive him.
His name Zhen meant “to save” as in to save people. His other name Xiren meant “hoping whatever he did would accord with humaneness,” that one could understand the humaneness in his verdicts. He was from Hefei in Anhui province. Many famous people were from Anhui, for instance, Hongzhang Li in the Qing dynasty was also from Hefei, and he was also a high-ranking official with great influence in Qing dynasty.
Bao Zhen had an upright and outspoken nature. He didn’t talk or laugh casually. He was a serious person with an honest and frank temperament and his actions were decisive. Upon hearing people talk, he would immediately know what was going on and no one could deceive them. That’s why there’s a legend that “Once Bao Zhen laughed, the Yellow River would be clear.”
Why wasn’t the Yellow River clear? It was because Bao Zhen didn’t laugh. His face was black, and his heart was red. It also meant that he was enthusiastic, and his actions were solemn and just. It’s like a bright mirror hung up high that can reflect everything and save the civilians from sufferings and difficulties.
Anyone who had been wrongly accused would get their case cleared up after it came before him. That’s why he was called, “Upright Magistrate Bao.”
He made a vow that if he ever wrongfully judged a case, the karmic retribution will fall on his children in the future, or on him right away. He was a successful candidate in the highest imperial examination, and later he was appointed a righteous scholar at Imperial Cabinet by Emperor Ren in the Song dynasty. Resolute and steadfast, he was impartial and incorruptible. In the imperial court, he didn’t follow the crowd, avoid the authorities, or submit to human sympathy. He said, “A prince who violates the law will be condemned just the same as if he were a civilian.” Each and every one was equal before the law, and one should be impartial and selfless. Therefore, the treacherous court officials were terrified of him, obsequious officials avoided him, loyal officials respected him, and righteous officials learned from him. He was an honest and upright official in history.
The proper energy in the universe,
An impartial and selfless person in the minds of the people,
Praised and revered by the multitudes throughout the four seas,
Black-faced and unselfish,
He exerted himself to the utmost with a sincere mind.
Honest and frank without flattering,
He penetrated ancient and modern times with proper energy.
The Honorable Bao represented the proper energy in the universe. This kind of person only existed when there was such a proper energy. He was an impartial and selfless and unprejudiced person in the minds of the people. Praised and revered by the multitudes throughout the four seas. He was praised everywhere as an honest and upright official; all the people respected him. Black-faced and unselfish, he exerted himself to the utmost with a sincere mind. Even though he had a black face, he was not selfish. He served the emperor with a sincere and loyal heart and with reverence. He exerted himself to the utmost till the day he died. Honest and frank without flattering, he penetrated ancient and modern times with proper energy. He was an honest and frank person and did not flatter at all. His proper energy could pass through ancient and modern times.
Upright magistrate Bao hung a bright mirror up high.
The populace loved and esteemed him for clearing up wrong charges.
After he heard a dispute, the dispute would cease, for he distinguished right from wrong.
He’d investigate the case and sort out true from false.
Erroneous ideas were checked at the outset to prevent future disasters.
His comprehensive administration of the laws brought peace and security to the nation.
Chief among the renowned officials of the Song dynasty,
His political prominence was well known worldwide.
Upright magistrate Bao hung a bright mirror up high. It was like a bright mirror hung up high when Honored Bao tried a case, for everything was judged clearly without any error. Wrongful judgments got sorted out like the sun revealed through the clouds. The populace loved and esteemed him for clearing up wrong charges. He resolved all unjust judgements for the people.
After he heard a dispute, the dispute would cease, for he distinguished right from wrong. Confucius said, “Listening to a dispute, I was like the others. The dispute must be put to rest.” His meaning was, “I would be like the others if I just listened to a lawsuit. I had to stop people from going to court after this one time.” Therefore, after he listened to a dispute, no more disputes would arise. The Honorable Bao was like this too. He stopped civilians from going to court after one trial, for right and wrong would be very clearly distinguished.
He’d investigate the case and sort out true from false. He would be able to straighten out the right and wrong no matter what the injustice was. No matter who was wrongfully treated, he would be able to investigate and find out the truth to resolve the injustice for the civilians. Erroneous ideas were checked at the outset to prevent future disasters. In managing state affairs, he would put an end to trivial confusions and stop them from developing into disasters and chaos. Calamities were thus prevented imperceptibly.
His comprehensive administration of the laws brought peace and security to the nation. He applied the laws to govern the country. He fully understood the methods of law. Chief among the renowned officials of the Song dynasty. Among all renowned officials of the Song dynasty, Upright Magistrate Bao was the best official and the foremost honest and upright official. His political prominence was well known worldwide. In the political world, Upright Magistrate Bao was a worthy and virtuous renowned official who understood all the principles. All countries worldwide knew of his virtuous conduct.