Below is a rough translation of a text revealed by the Third Sage Mother in 1905 entitled, “The Third Sage Mother’s Ode for Admonishing Woman Against Entering Pagodas and Burning Incense”
The message of this text is that if a woman wants to find good husband, she must cultivate herself. How should she cultivate herself? By being filial and taking care of her parents. If she does this, then she will be able to find a good husband. If she doesn’t do this, but instead visits pagodas and prays for good luck in finding a suitable husband, then the consequences will potentially be dire.
What I find particularly interesting about this text is that it doesn’t really separate “Confucian” and “Buddhist” ideas. Instead, it sees filial piety as an element of good Buddhism. Praying, on the other hand, is not a good Buddhist practice. Hence, what this text really shows is the way in which what we today refer to as “Confucian” values were really the only values in a place like premodern Vietnam. There was no “Buddhist” alternative to the “Confucian” idea of filial piety. Instead, the only proper human relations (nhân luân) were those which had their origins in Confucian teachings.
Here is a rough translation of the text:
Young girls should live in an upright manner.
In their actions they should focus on cultivating themselves.
One should just think of being filial and caring for one’s parents.
This is earnestly [cultivating] the Buddha in one’s home.
One should not use beauty to flirt with others,
But should manifest the way of proper human relations without err.
This is seeking the Buddha in one’s heart.
What need is there to pray sonorously?
What need is there to enter a pagoda and burn incense?
If you are fortunate then misfortune will not reach you.
As for those vernal sentiments of love,
Be careful that your good fate does not turn to ashes.
Your mother and father will worry all the more.
Who knows but when [your parents] inquire about a future son-in-law,
Your value will have been lost.
I urge young girls in this world to take heed,
And to cultivate themselves night and day.
Gái niên thiếu ở cho đoan chính
Ăn ở thời tu tỉnh lấy thân ta
Một niềm hiếu dưỡng mẹ cha
Ấy là hoạt Phật tại gia ân cần
Không nên thị sắc trêu nhân
Phải nên rõ đạo nhân luân chớ nhầm
Ấy là cầu Phật tại tâm
Lọ là khấn bái rầm rầm tỏ tường
Lọ là nhập tự thiêu hương
Phúc thì chẳng thấy tội vương đến mình
Những cảnh ấy xuân tình lắm lắm
Khéo kẻo mà duyên thắm hóa duyên tro
Mẹ cha ngày một thêm lo
Biết đâu quê quán hỏi dò tăm hơi
Rồi ra mất giá con người
Dám khuyên thiếu nữ trên đời cho hay
Phải nên tu tỉnh đêm ngày