Success comes from Knowing, Feeling and Doing
by Venerable Shi Fazhao

Success is something that is highly sought after by people throughout the ages. The quest for success is very much part and parcel of the human psyche. The earliest reference to success that I can find in ancient Chinese texts is in the philosophical text Zhong Yong. It describes three ways of gaining knowledge and three motivators which spur a person into action. It concludes that no matter what ways you gain your knowledge if you are successful at it, the knowledge that you gain will all be the same; and regardless of the motivation that makes you decide to do something, if you are successful in your endeavour, the success that you experience will be equal. This text introduces the basic concept of success and guided popular understanding of what constitutes success. Success consists of two aspects – Knowing and Doing. However, would what one knows determine what one does?

A human being is not a machine which runs on a pre-programmed set of operations. His actions are very much under the control of his feelings. For instance, when you have to get something done and you know that in order to accomplish this task you need to seek the help of a certain individual; but you are not doing it. Why is this so? Perhaps you feel reluctant to ask this person for help. And so, in addition to Knowing and Doing, we have to add the element of Feeling as well. If we were to investigate the definition of success from the perspectives of biology, psychology, sociology and scientific history, we will find that their definitions for success basically consist of these three: Knowing, Feeling and Doing. Without any one of these, we would not be able to actualise the full potential of life. And so, these three essential elements for success are also the three essential elements of life. In other words, knowing is like the soil of life; feelings, the nourishment for life; actualisation, the fruits of life.

Einstein said: “A person’s value to society is determined by the extent which his feelings, thinking, and actions can benefit and uplift humanity.” What he said also contained these three elements – Knowing, Feeling and Doing. The defining characteristic of a successful person is such that, in terms of Knowing, they have very unique ideas and understanding about reality; in terms of Feeling, they always have expansive and compassionate ideals; in terms of Doing, they always have exceptional courage and perseverance.


As early as over 2,000 years ago, ancient Chinese sages had a very profound understanding of what constitutes success: “The Wise is not confused. The Compassionate is free of worries. The Brave is fearless.” Being wise is Knowing, being compassionate is Feeling, and being brave is Doing. These can be viewed as three types of persons, but it can also be seen as three different aspects of an individual’s character. When all three are present in an individual, they become the distinguishing traits of a successful person. Yang Chen Ning summarised the concept of Success into the three P’s: Preconception (ideas); Persistence (determination) and Power, which originates from an altruistic and compassionate attitude. Basically, what he is talking about still boils down to Knowing, Feeling and Doing. And so, what we call a successful person is a person who is wise in terms of his Knowing, is altruistic and compassionate in terms of his feelings, and is purposeful and dynamic in terms of his doing.

To be successful, you have to be systematic and principled. If you plan out everything you need to do in advance, you won’t feel hurried. If you have clear principles about what you are doing, you won’t feel confused. And in conducting business, always have a budget for what you plan to do. This will prevent any cash flow problems. If you can walk your talk, you will always be a winner. A lot of people try to get recognition and respect from others through gaining power, fame, and authority. They forget the importance of learning the wisdom of life and being kind to others. In the end, they might win the world but lose themselves instead.

The masters of the past frequently said: “What is the Dharma? The principle basis of the Dharma is Compassion, and the door to enter into Dharma practice is skilful means.” The simple sentence aptly summarised the whole of the Buddha’s Teachings. Compassion is in fact love, but why does Buddhism talk about Compassion but not love? This is because, for people in general, the word “love” is coloured by attachment and discrimination, which are the source of problems and unhappiness. And so in Buddhism, we talk about Compassion, which is a rational type of love directed by wisdom. This is the important difference between the former and the latter which we should all know.

A master once said to me: “if you find out what is love, you would have found the secret to life. When your heart is filled with love, life will be a happy one.” If an enlightened being does not have feelings, how could he understand the feelings of sentient beings? And how could he help them? When such a being is born as a human, he possesses the traits and characteristics of being a human, but his qualities transcend that of humans. This is due to the controlling power of his Wisdom over ordinary human feelings and emotions. Just like the lotus in the pond, it grows in the water but rises above it.

There is a poem which reads: “A pond was excavated on a half-acre plot. The moon and clouds love to linger there. Why is its water so clear and pure? It is fed by a lively spring.” The most important element here is the lively spring. Because of the spring, an empty pit becomes a pond surrounded by beautiful greenery. The clouds in the sky are reflected on the water surface during the day. At night, the moon seems to hover within arm’s reach. No matter whether it is day or night, it is so poetic to spend time around the pond, walking, looking, and quietly contemplating. What happens if there is no spring which feeds the pond?

The philosopher Bertrand Russell had said: “Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life; the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.” These are the springs that fed his life. When faced with the future, we can only move forward one step at a time. Ultimately we will reach our goal. This is also the basic philosophy of mountain climbing. When climbing mountains, no matter how convoluted the path is after you’ve reached the top, you will still have to make your way back down following the same path. And so in mountain climbing what matters most is not the final destination, but the process itself. When you climb a high mountain, you need the cooperation of the elements and your teammates, but most importantly, you need to help yourself. When you have the mountain in your heart, your heart will naturally become relaxed and expansive.


Love is an inexhaustible well. When used properly, it becomes the source of unbelievable wisdom and strength. Albert Schweitzer, the African saint, is a unique personality in contemporary history. You might even call him an eccentric. Born in France, he was an accomplished musician, philosopher and theologian. He was very well educated and had a good career. At the beginning of his “promising future”, he suddenly decided to abandon all he had accomplished to study medicine in order to go to Africa to offer his service to the Africans. His story illustrates the infinite potential of a person’s wisdom and strength. The powerhouse that drives the development of wisdom and strength, however, is love. If you do not have a love or liking for something, most probably you would not really be driven into action. If you did not make a start in the first place, how can you enjoy the end results then?

The well of love is inexhaustible and infinite. This might seem like a tall claim, but the Enlightened Beings are proof of its validity. The Buddha’s wisdom and powers are infinite beyond human imagination. However, Buddhas originate from ordinary people like us. Spiritual practitioners of the Zen tradition, with its emphasis on transcending normal thoughts and preconceptions, are able to achieve this in one single lifetime.

Most people underestimated themselves and their capabilities. This is due to a lack of ‘love’ in their hearts’ if we are able to ignite the flame of love and let it grow bright and big, attaining Buddha hood can be as simple as plucking a branch off a tree. It is not that we are incorporate of becoming enlightened. The problem lies with our unwillingness to give it a try. “Love” is the well of our wisdom, capabilities and strength. Everyone has an inexhaustible supply of love, why don’t we uncover this deep well of love, cultivate it and put it to good use?


Love is a variegated (consisting of many different types of thing or person) thing. There is tainted love and there is pure love. Some forms of love are possessive, while others are self-sacrificing. What then, is really Love? Love in its negative aspect can be binding and restrictive like a rope or a prison, taking away from us our freedom and peace of mind. It can make us blind to reality and hurtle towards self-destruction.

In its positive aspect, Love is sacrifice, service, encouragement, and compassion. People always long to be loved. There are also individuals who devote their lives to selfless service due to their great love for people. The emotion of love can be dangerous because love and hate are identical twins – one always follows the other. Love turned sour becomes hate. The definition of “Love” that most people have in mind is limited to romantic love. This does not encompass the love for fellow human beings and all sentient beings in general.


In the introduction of this article “The Loving Life”, the writer Geng Yun wrote: “On the surface of the sun are dark spots known as Sunspots. Sunspot activity can have a potentially disruptive effect to all life on Earth. Even a quality piece of Jade may contain flaws, marring its pristine beauty. A loving life is often marred by the stain of hatred. This destroys the perfection of life and may even threaten the continued existence of humanity. Love is life-giving and creating, while hatred brings death and destruction. Love symbolises light and warmth, while hatred signifies darkness and coldness. Without hatred, humanity will be free from the threat of self-destruction. Without love, there will be no other power capable of helping humanity to further their evolution. Only a life filled with love can we call a true and full-bodied life.”

A society devoid of love is definitely a morality-degenerated society veering towards self-destruction. History has shown that nations and peoples who are capable of great love are the ones who are passionate and full of vitality, able to overcome all odds and strive for a better life. Darkness itself cannot suppress light. It appears only after clouds cover the face of the sun. Similarly, hatred cannot cover great love. It is only after people become lax in their love and concern for others that emotional distance and lethargy sets in, dampening the spirit and enthusiasm for life.


Love is the creative force of the universe. Through the power of love, life is created on this Earth, through the power of love; life becomes beautiful; the world and the universe are also transformed into places of beauty and peace. A person’s spiritual development is also based on his ability to extend his scope of love. When a person is able to extend his love to encompass all living beings, he will become an extraordinary being. Great beings such as Confucius, Meng Zi, Buddha, and Jesus are all extra-ordinary people who had developed their love into extensive and all-encompassing Altruistic Love and are mover by their Altruistic Love to benefit sentient beings.

Since Love is such a vital component of life, how do we cultivate love? Start from loving yourself and your family – your parents, your wife and children. Then extend your love to your neighbours and countrymen; and finally extend your love to encompass all sentient beings. When you are able to fully extend your love to all beings, you would have achieved the ultimate perfection of life, and you would experience a profound sense of oneness with all things in the universe.

Love can fill a person with boundless passion and endow him with infinite wisdom and courage. Without love, life would lose its vibrancy. This is because emotional apathy can lead to depression and a loss of interest in life itself. Since we are blessed with this human life, we should make it meaningful through love and service. If we were to think about it, we are an integral part of the greater community. Without the support of the community at large, it would be impossible for us to sustain our own continued existence. Everything that we need – our food, our clothes, our houses, and our transport – is all supplied to us by the people in our community. Since society is so kind to us, rationally speaking, shouldn’t we feel thankful for what it has done for us and do our bit for the benefit of society in return?


Life exists due to the power of love. If we were to live life following the guidance of love, life will naturally become increasingly better and better. We should start from ourselves. Truly love your work and responsibilities, your studies and your career. Enjoy what you do. What you do should come effortlessly and naturally. If you are able to do this, you will enjoy the happiness that comes from a love-based life. Whatever work you do, as long as it is something proper, you should put your heart and love into it. Be confident that with devotion and focus, your efforts will definitely bear beautiful results one day. A loving person is surely a person who is rich in feelings and has great aspirations. Such a person is capable of accomplishing great things in life. The love in his heart will endow him with patience and determination, and the courage to persevere in achieving his dreams. The path to success might be long and fraught with difficulties. However, the longer it takes the more experience he will gather. The more effort he has to put in and the more difficult the challenges are, the final success when ultimately accomplished is definitely going to be fantastic.

Love brings us happiness and helps us to create the life that we desire. But when we finally taste the fruits of success, beware of becoming proud and complacent. Pride is a dangerous thing – it can undo your success in a single stroke. If you can pour your heart out and love into your goals, and put in the time and effort to do what is required, success will be a natural outcome. It is nothing miraculous. In fact, when you pour your heart and love into what you do, there is no need to worry about success or failure. However, one thing is certain – the highest success and the greatest victory belong to the person who possesses the strongest, most extensive, and most persistent love.


During the Buddha’s time, there was an elder known as Sudatta, who was a philanthropist well known for his generosity towards the poor and destitute. His great kindness won him the name of Anathapindika, which means the one who gives to the needy. One day he met the Buddha. After listening to the Buddha’s teachings and carefully investigating its meanings, he was touched by its profound wisdom and appreciated its value for alleviating the suffering of the world. He was inspired to make the teachings more widely available for all his countrymen and so he offered his wealth to the Triple Gem, building the famous Jetavanna Grove, which became an important venue for the Buddha’s teaching activities. With this act of generosity, he had also created the cause for a happy rebirth in the god realms.

Through his wisdom and keen observations, the elder Sudatta was able to utilise his wealth in the best possible way to benefit the poor and support the Triple Gem. Not only was he able to offer the greatest amount of benefit, his actions also helped him accumulate an immense amount of merit. If we want to give to charity or help the poor, we should first check and make sure that our gifts can really benefit the recipient. If we wish to make offerings to the Triple Gem, we should make sure we do so at places that uphold the genuine teachings and practices of the Buddha. When we give, we should give with sincerity and humility, but this must be accompanied by wisdom. If we can do so, our giving will really benefit sentient beings.


In terms of my own spiritual practice, I prefer to recite the sutras. The benefits of sutra recitation are many, it helps us to:

  1. Understand the sublime qualities of the Buddha.
  2. Understand the sequence of the teachings.
  3. Maintain purity of speech.
  4. Exercise and unblock the energy of our lungs and chest.
  5. Be fearless amongst the crowd.
  6. Enjoy a long life.

Sutra recitation helps to cultivate wisdom and develop the strength of concentration; both are important elements for spiritual development. It also purifies obstacles and negative karma, helping us to be free of suffering and achieve happiness. In addition, it also helps us to create a positive connection with countless unseen beings. Sutra recitation not only benefits ourselves but also benefits many others as well. The Buddha’s teachings expound the nature of reality. Through reciting the sutras we familiarise ourselves with the wisdom of these teachings. Through constantly reflecting on the meaning of these teachings, we will gradually make changes to our behaviour and thinking. Over an extended period of time, we will naturally possess the wisdom to transmute our delusions and attachment. It is important to note that the Buddha’s level of accomplishment and understanding is beyond our ordinary minds to fathom. And so, a lot of his teachings have to be accepted on faith. However, faith has to be based on correct understanding and not blind faith, misunderstood faith or uncritical faith.

Culture and religion have always been closely connected throughout human history. Without the altruism and morality brought about by religion, cultures will not be able to arise and grow. When the influence of religion gradually fades away, human morality disappears, leading to a prevalence of immoral and anti-social behaviour. Religion is important. Without the presence of a true religion, we will not be able to enjoy a peaceful, harmonious and united society. Without a peaceful and harmonious society, we will not be able to enjoy a happy and harmonious family life. Not only can religion help us to establish a common value system and provide a network for people to support and help one another, it is also capable of unifying the people into a powerful force.

Modern developments in the world have brought humanity to a critical point where humanity’s higher nature and baser qualities vie for supremacy. There is an urgent need for us to insist on maintaining a loving heart and work on helping ourselves and others. We have to overcome our egoistic minds and tame the wild delusions of those drawn to the path of negativity. It is only through taming these uncontrolled delusions that we can maintain the dignity of humanity. The courageous ones who are committed to taming their own delusions are indeed true disciples of the Buddha. Let us learn together the means to pacify our wayward minds. I pray and hope everyone enjoys mental peace and happiness!

Ven Fazhao 1.