Good and Evil


It was in 1935, in the mountainous region of Lai Chau, on the Sino-Vietnamese border, under the crumbling roof of a mud house, presumably abandoned. Nguyen Te Cong, impassive, took the time to fasten the last button of his overnight mission suit before addressing the intruder:
- How did you find me?

Nguyen Minh, without answering the question, said :
- The Grand Master requires that you return to the Temple to justify your actions to him. The rumor runs over the rivers and the lakes (1) that you commit killings and that your staff, the one he offered you during the ceremony of the descent of the Mountain, has now become the color of blood. My brother, you have seriously violated the teachings of Buddha and tarnished the image of the Diamond Temple!

Te Cong burst out laughing, the hoarse and resonant sounds shaking the dark, thick forest of the late hour:
- My wise little brother, in the domains of "the green forests of brigands", even the temple gates must be well closed. Also, I am mandated by Heaven for the promotion of the Way: "help the poor and save those who are in danger". Where is my mistake? Show me, among the corpses I left behind, who is not an evil land lord, or a corrupt mandarin.

- The Way of Heaven, recalled Nguyen Minh, advocates the instinct of survival and, moreover, that human nature is good originally. Why, my big brother, did you not give them one last chance according to these principles? While good and evil reside in each of us, it is difficult to distinguish them as long as one remains mortal, with eyes of flesh, and acting according to one’s weak emotions. As a result, extreme measures are not always the best, or even essential.

Te Cong hung up his double knives on the wall behind a curtain of severed rattan. He uttered a long sigh:
- Well! Out of respect for the Grand Master and taking into consideration your wise words ...

Straddling the threshold of his temporary shelter, he took Nguyen Minh's hand and invited him:
- Come with me, my little brother. You will understand that in a beautiful garden, there is no room for wild grasses.

It was summer but the air was very cold. On the leaves shone water droplets under the moonlight.

A few hours later, in a remote place deep in this virgin forest, Te Cong confronted his enemy and, for the first time, decided to leave him still breathing, which he almost regretted nine years later ...


Grand Master Nam Anh, 1999


(1) Rivers and lakes: The world governed by the law of heaven. Outlaws and heroes living there are not subject to government laws.

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