Translated By Andrew Yang
People have wondered, “From time to time we see good acts get punished whereas evil acts get rewarded. Isn’t this a contradiction to the principle of karma?” My readers, the time varies for one’s erstwhile karma to mature and its consequence to materialize. A person who is doing good now could be receiving a reprisal instead of a recompense, because they have done evil in the past and that evil karma has ripened first. As for the good they are doing, they will get its reward in the future when that good karma ripens.
Conversely, a person who is doing evil in this life may be rewarded now for the good done in a previous life because that good karma carries a potent force, and this force is materializing. As to the karma from the evil being incurred, they can expect its consequence in due course. Hence the saying, “Good acts will be rewarded by good karma, and evil acts will be punished by evil karma. If either situation has not occurred, the time has not yet arrived.” For those doing good now but still facing adversity, that is by no means injustice on the part of Providence. Rather, it is retribution being metered out for their past evil karma, because conditions for it have matured. For the good karma being accrued now, reward is sure to come hereafter.
In the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), there lived a wealthy man in Yangzhou, eastern China, who made a fortune from his grocery store. He had a son and two grandsons, and they lived in affluence. When he was seriously ill and was dying, the man took out a weighing scale from under the pillow one day and solemnly handed it over to the son. “This scale is our family heirloom”, he exhorted. “It’s a tool for us to make money and prosper. My trick was to hollow out the balancing rod and pour mercury into it. So when selling goods, the tail of the scale goes easily up as the mercury inside moves to the head of the rod, to make the goods seem weightier than they are. When it comes to buying, however, the tail goes downward easily as the mercury moves the other way, to make the goods being bought appear lighter than they actually weigh. In this manner, customers think they get a good deal either way. What they don’t know is that I gain an extra advantage at their expense in each and every transaction. That’s how we got rich and you had better make good use of this scale!”
Upon hearing the secret, the son was stunned, wondering what had taken his father to cheat with such a dirty scheme. But as he was dying, the son decided not to speak up. After the father passed away, he had the scale immediately destroyed and tried his best to do good and help the poor. He felt sincerely sorry for what his father had done and wanted to make amends on his behalf. In less than three years, half of his family fortune was gone but he did not regret a bit. However, he was surprised that although he had been doing a lot of good deeds and should have accumulated added blessings, nevertheless, his two sons passed away in succession. In mourning, he could not but feel deeply hurt, lamenting heaven’s obliviousness that doing good had brought his family misfortune instead, and it was hard to quell his bitterness and indignation.
Then one night, he dreamed of an official sitting in a gorgeous palace wearing a headdress decorated with jewels, who was speaking to him. “The fact your father became wealthy was the result of having given away money and stored enough merit in his previous lives. His wealth was thus predestined, not by deception with a mercury scale. Even if he had not cheated, he would still have gotten rich. But your father had evil intentions and used despicable means that added significantly to his sins. Plus he did not wake up until he died and suffered self-inflicted retribution. Such was his delusion after all. Because of his greed, Providence had sent two prodigals as your sons to bankrupt his family. After ruining the household, they would burn down the estate, and besides, you would inherit further misfortune in the aftermath. You would find yourselves not only lacking food and clothing, but living a much shortened life. Alas, your father had assumed that with so much wealth left to his offspring, he had secured their prosperity for generations. Little did he know that he had planted the very seeds of their tribulation so that not only you would not live long, but your sons would squander away all the fortune in the family.”
After a while, however, the god smiled as he went on. “Fortunately, you’ve got a kind heart, and for the past three years, you’ve been acting virtuously to benefit your community, and making meritorious deeds to atone for the past wrongs on your father’s behalf. For this reason Providence has had the lives of your two black sheep recalled but will grant you pious children in their stead to prosper the family and prolong your lifespan. You must continue your acts of kindness and not hold any grudge against heavenly injustice.” Upon waking up, he realized how it had all happened to his family, and so he redoubled his charity efforts to contribute to the community. Sure enough, sometime later he had two more sons born in a row, both growing up to pass the imperial examination and serve the court. They worked with diligence and cared for the people, indeed bringing to their family fame and glory.
Ladies and Gentlemen, good and evil will all get accounted for sooner or later, as the saying goes. Given time, the materialization of karmic consequences is fair and impartial and does not ever come up short. Some think that karma does not exist simply because they do not see how it works throughout their past, present and future lives.
Others, by alleging that good folk do not get rewarded, mislead people into criminal behaviour, into believing erroneously that there is no karmic cause and effect. They do not realize that by so doing they are committing their own sinful karma.
Remember the foundational principle underlying all human life that those doing good will be rewarded and those doing evil will be punished. Only by following this fundamental law may we all avoid disaster and receive blessing.