During the Han Dynasty, there was a poor young man named Cai Shun. His mother loved mulberries, so he often went to pick them for her. It was his custom to go mulberry picking with two baskets. Unfortunately, this time he ran into some robbers. Seeing that the young man had nothing on him except the two partially filled baskets, they were baffled and asked: “The baskets aren’t full! Why do you have two?” Cai responded: “Because I need to separate the ripe ones. The ripe mulberries are sweet and for my mother, while the ones in the other basket are for myself.”
The robbers were moved hearing his explanation and decided to let him go. Why would vicious robbers do that? It was because Cai’s devotion to his mother brought out their conscience. It’s a display of how a virtuous life can change the lives of others.
Before releasing him, the robbers offered to give him some of their looted rice and vegetables to bring home for his mother. Cai thanked them, but declined the offer, as he reasoned: “If I took the looted things home, what would happen when officials came and saw them in my place? I would have no proof of my innocence, and that would affect my mother’s livelihood in the end.”
Cai’s line of thought demonstrates the guidelines proposed by Confucius that:
“A genuine gentleman should think from all perspectives before he acts. One such perspective is to think, is what I am about to receive in life what I have rightfully earned? If not, then that thing is not for you to take.”
Translated by Cecilia and edited by Derek Padula