Translated by Andrew Yang
Merit of vegetarianism for sale
During the early Qing dynasty (1636-1911), there lived a gentleman named Wang in Macheng, Hubei Province of central China. Having heard that not eating meat would bring health and longevity, he vowed to and stayed vegetarian. One day three years later, however, he had a malignant sore developing, and began to wonder that, as he had consistently remained vegetarian why was he having this ill-boding growth? Why did doing good end up with such an outcome? So regretful was he all day long that he could hardly contain his ire.
And this is what a Buddhist monk said to calm him down,
“Vegetarians are indeed blessed by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but it’s also important to know that karma have different times to mature, in the present or next life or in lives after the next. For example, when a melon seed and a peach stone are planted at the same time, the melon seed grows to bear fruit in the same year, while the peach stone may take two to three years to do so. Good people may be suffering because the evil causes they planted in the past are maturing given appropriate circumstances, and what’s why sometimes good people are suffering. Even if one has done some good in this life, they may have to wait for the good consequence to realize in the future. The relationship between the making of karma and its karmic consequence materializing is extremely complicated, while at the same time it is methodical and precise to a fault.”
Wang, however, was unimpressed, and in frustration he snapped, “That said, I haven’t eaten any meat for three long years, yet look this is what I get paid back. So, what’s the use of being a vegetarian?”
A lay person, not making much of Wang’s complaint on hearing it, said to him jokingly, “Since you don’t believe there is merit in practising vegetarianism, you might as well sell it to me so you wouldn’t suffer any loss”.
Wang asked, “How would that work?”
“Well, if you stick to a vegetarian diet for one day, I pay you one qian (five grams) of pure silver, and for three years you get a total of ten and half taels. How does that sound?”
That set Wang thinking, “I’ve been vegetarian for three years and yet have received no obvious benefit, nothing but a malignant tumour. You now offer to buy the merit from my being vegetarian, but as there’s no real merit, getting some money for compensation is better than nothing. So why don’t I sell it to you!” And thus, he signed a receipt for “ten and half taels of silver in exchange for three years of vegetarianism”, took the silver and gladly set off.
The very next day, Wang decided to stop being a vegetarian and start eating meat right away. A few days later, he had a bad dream where two ghosts were berating him, “Ten months ago your lifespan was coming to an end, but because you had been a vegetarian for three years by then, you were able to extend it. However, now that you’ve sold the merit of doing that and started eating animal meat again, we’re afraid your lifespan has exceeded its limit at last and we’re now taking you into the underworld”. Horrified, Wang pleaded to delay it for one day so he could return the silver and swore to keep meat off his diet from then on.
Before the night was over, he hurried to repay the silver and get back his receipt. Unfortunately, the lay Buddhist had already burnt his receipt in front of a Buddha’s statue the day he received it, and besides, he would not take his silver back whatsoever. Wang deeply regretted what he had done before he passed away a few days later.
Men and Women, is it not weird that merit could be sold for a price, and is it not incredible that ghosts should have come to claim a life so swiftly! Wang had kept his promise to be a vegetarian for three years, and without knowing, that good deed extended his life, but instead of keeping its merit, he was in doubt and only saw what he could supposedly see. Once there was adversity, he became bitter and traded off his merit. And in the end, it became too late for him to repent after all. It shows that if one cultivates compassion, there will be merit, and Karma never comes up short on its reward or retribution.
This tale is recorded in A Casual Collection of Incidents Realizing Karma by Master Jie Xian published during early Qing.
Evil lust gets reckoning
And in early Republic of China, a battalion commander stationing in Shaanxi of north-central China, who was married and with children, lived a dissipated life and was given to dallying with women. He soon took a fancy to the newlywed wife of a subordinate officer, and fell head over heels in fascination for her charm.
If one is consumed with erotic passions night and day, and lacking in good sense and sobering advice, they are likely to make a foolish move. The commanding officer, in order to win over his clerk’s wife, tried hooks and tricks until he finally levied on his junior officer an allegation of treason in the name of collaborating with an enemy nation. As a result, the poor clerk was executed without being cleared of the framed accusation.
Wasting no time, the senior officer immediately proposed to his subordinate’s spouse, but knowing that he was married, she did not want to get involved in a polygamous relationship. Seeing that his own significant other and their children had now become an obstacle to an eventual union with his sweetheart, while his captivation for the woman kept growing, he completely lost his mind and got on to poison all of his family to death.
On the day of the wedding, the commander had a photo taken of him with the bride and a few guests at the banquet. Weeks had gone by but the photo studio had not delivered the picture. The man felt strange, so went to pick it up in person. But as soon as he saw what was in the photo, he turned ashen and started sweating all over. It turned out that behind the newlyweds and guests in the photo were five ghosts of different ages. One of them, the very clerk who had been executed, appeared in a military uniform he used to don when alive, and he was standing closely behind the bride, with a bloody, bullet-pierced hole visible on his forehead and looking frightfully wretched. Behind the groom himself stood a female ghost, his ex-wife, with scattered unkempt hair, protruding eyes, blue bulging veins on her forehead and a gaping mouth without a jaw. Also standing behind the man were three little ghosts, all his own children and all looking dreadfully hideous. Panic stricken and trembling, the battalion commander took the photo and hurried off.
Later, some busybody in the studio made copies of the photo and gave them away. When the military department learned of this, it immediately carried out an investigation and found that the dead clerk had not been in cahoots with any enemy against his own country but had been framed. Consequently, the chief commander was sentenced to death, and the poor bride hanged herself in shame and indignation.
The Collected Writings of Master Yinguang points out in Volume 3, “There are extremely tragic and exceedingly impactful disasters in the world that easily take the lives of perpetrators, while many are willing to partake and die in them with no regret. Women as an object of lust are often victims.” “(Eventually) by ignoring law and morality, they bankrupt their family, to whom they bring humiliation and destruction, and their notoriety spreads among the villagers. When alive they are unable to live out the years of their lifespan, and upon death they are forever committed to the evil pathways of existence.” The battalion chief, because of the temptation of lust, caused the deaths of seven lives and the scourge he brought was nothing but horrendous.
This story is included by Tang Huqing in his True Accounts of Karmic Reward and Retribution.