By Doing Good We Benefit Ourselves  

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A broker in the Qing dynasty, Mr. Zhang, crossed the Yangtze River from the north to the city of Jiangning (present day Nanjing), to collect a debt. He planned to return home for the New Year holiday right before the year ended. At the first light of dawn, he got ready to leave the city with his belongings on his shoulder. However, he had left too early and had to wait under the eavestrough of a building in the market for the city gate to be opened.
After waiting for some time, Mr. Zhang felt a wave of fatigue. He put down his cloth bag filled with money, sat on it, and closed his eyes to rest. When the city gate opened, he rushed to the gate with his belongings on his shoulder, completely forgetting the cloth bag he had been sitting on. When he realized he did not have the bag with him, he was already more than one li (about 0.3 miles) away. He immediately hurried back to the site. But the marketplace had opened and was already crowded with people. His bag was gone.
Mr. Zhang frowned and hovered nearby, hoping that someone might return his bag. An elderly man appeared and asked what had happened. He listened, then invited Mr. Zhang to his home and said, “I found an item on the ground when I opened the door this morning. I don’t know if it is yours.” Mr. Zhang replied, “I lost two envelopes, each with a certain amount of silver bullion. The larger one belongs to my boss and the smaller one is mine.” The elderly man checked the items in the bag, which were exactly as Mr. Zhang had described. He thus returned the bag to Mr. Zhang.
Mr. Zhang was moved to tears and wished to thank him by giving him his own silver bullion. The elderly man smiled and replied, “I would not have told you about the bag if I loved money so much. Do you understand?” Mr. Zhang asked the elderly man his name and left for home.
When Mr. Zhang was waiting by the river for the ferry, a strong wind suddenly started up. Many boats capsized, and many passengers were drowning. Seeing this terrible scene, Mr. Zhang had a compassionate thought: “I recovered the lost bullion today. It can be said that I regained my life.” Using all of his own money, he hired people to rescue those who were drowning. Several dozen people were saved by his compassionate thought.
All the survivors came to thank Mr. Zhang for saving them. One of them happened to be the son of the elderly man who had returned Mr. Zhang’s lost bag to him. He was on his way home to Jiangning after finishing business north of the Yangtze River. Mr. Zhang was surprised about this. He then told his own story to those present, and everyone was amazed at the miracle. They realized it must be the heavenly law of good is rewarded with good. Later, these two families became relatives by marriage.
In this story, the elderly man did not keep the fortune he found for himself and did not ask for a reward for doing a good deed. He not only saved Mr. Zhang from his difficulty, but also planted a seed in Mr. Zhang’s heart to do good deeds, thus laying an opportunity for his own son to be saved later.
Can you imagine what might have happened if the elderly man had kept it for himself? Mr. Zhang might have committed suicide over the huge financial loss, and in turn, would not have had the chance to save many people from drowning, including the son of the elderly man. Even if Mr. Zhang did not commit suicide and was compassionate toward those who were drowning, he would not have had the money to hire people to help rescue them. On the other hand, it would have been worse if Mr. Zhang had not cared about those who were drowning because of his own misfortune. An old saying advises, “Doing good deeds without seeking repayment will inspire others to be compassionate and resolve your own tribulation; helping others accumulate wealth to do good deeds and you will receive help from others.
Finally, the following saying provides sound advice, “It is better do small good deeds to build up fortune for the future than to sigh over the decline in morality; it is better to help others every day so that you might be helped in hard times than to sigh over degenerate morals.”
Story from Xi Chao Xin Yu by Xu Xiling and Qian Yong from the Qing Dynasty

行善无求 济人自济

清朝时,江宁府(现在的南京)长江以北有一个姓张的经纪人,过江前往江宁收债。到年关将近,在一天的黎明,肩扛自己的行李准备出城回家过年。由于起身太早,到达城门时城门尚未开启,只能在市场的屋簷下等待。
一会儿张某感到身体困顿难支,便把装金银的布褡裢放下,自己身坐其上闭目休息。比及城门开启,起身肩扛行李急急出城,早已忘记了自己身下装有金银的褡裢。出城一里多远,张某才发现自己所带金银全部丢失,急忙返回原处寻找。但是此时已经是市集开张、左吆右喝,人如云集、比肩继踵,自己的布褡裢早已不知去向。
见此情景,张某愁眉紧蹙,徘徊观望。此时,有一个老者走来询问其情,张某就把自己的情况如实告诉了老人。于是,老人就把张某邀入自己的家中说:“我今天早上开门,捡到了一份别人丢失的物件,不知道与你丢失的物件是否相符合。”张某说:“我丢失的东西共有两封。大的是东家的,小的是自己的。其中每封分别为银锭若干。”老人打开原物验检,与张某所说相同,就原物奉还。
张某感动而泣,对老人说,自己愿意把自己的那份银锭拿出来相谢。老人笑著说:“我如果爱财,刚才不会与你言语此事,你难道还不能理解我的心吗?”张某便与老人各道姓名而别。
到了江边,张某等待渡江。突然江风大起,江中渡舟几多倾覆,溺水者无算。张某站在岸边目睹此情此景,恻隐之心油然而生:“我今天携带的金银失而复得,我的命也可谓是死而复生了。”于是拿出自己的那一份银锭为报酬,让江边的救生者操舟前往江中救人,有数十人因此获救。
获救者都来感谢张某的救命之恩,并互通姓名而别。被救的人中有一个江宁府的少年,正是还给张某银锭的老人的儿子,在江北做生意,回家途中遭遇船倾身溺之灾。吃惊之间,张某把此奇遇告知了现场的人,听到的人都叹事出奇巧,感天理昭彰。后来两家彼此感恩,结为姻亲。
在这个真实的故事里,当初拾到钱财的江宁老人,见财不昧、行善无求,既解了张某的困顿、救人于危难,又在张某的心中种下了行善济人的种子,也奠定了后来儿子得救的机缘。
如果当初张姓的经纪人丢失钱财后,拾到钱财的老人见财昧心,张姓也可能因丢失巨财而死,自然也谈不上后来的江边救人,老人溺水的儿子也会因无人相救而死;纵使张某不会因失财而死,在江边见溺者无数心生恻隐,也无钱为酬救助他人,抑或因自己的遭遇不能生出恻隐之心,岂不悲哉!正是:
行善无求,启他人善心,解自己苦厄;济人困顿,积他人善资,得他人济渡。
感世风日下,不如行善于微行,种福田于未来;叹人心不古,不如济人于平日,植解自我困顿之机缘。
文据(清)徐锡龄、钱泳《熙朝新语》

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