There is an ancient Chinese saying, “Every thought of man is known to Heaven and Earth; they will make sure that good is rewarded with good, and evil met with evil.” This saying shows that this heavenly principle cannot be hidden nor altered, that the Divine knows everything and differentiates good from evil at all times.
In ancient China, it was thought that people were duly rewarded for kind thoughts, and punished for evil ones. In fact, everything came down to the moment of that thought. In Chinese traditional culture, there were many references in the writings of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism that all sages and people of virtue since ancient times regarded honesty and uprightness as the main virtues of conduct.
The ancients respected Heaven and Earth and treated other people’s scrutiny seriously in case they would fall short and offend Heaven and Earth by conducting themselves improperly, even unknowingly. They were always careful and maintained a pure and calm mind even when no one else was around, to make sure that they would never do anything against their conscience. However, there were also people who thought that if they did bad things in secrecy, nobody would know. However, they would never be able to escape punishment for their wrongdoing.
There were many such stories in ancient books. The following is just one of them.
A man named Chen Jun lived in Rugao County of Jiangsu during the Jiajing Reign of the Ming Dynasty (1522 – 1566 AD). He was appointed as a teacher in Wangjiang County School in Anhui.
He had a dream on the night of June 11 when he was 39 years old, in which he came to the Jizo Temple south of Rugao County. An official in black clothes took him to the main hall, which was permeated with the smell of incense, with stern-looking servants lined up along the corridor.
Chen Jun knelt down at the bottom of the stairs. He then heard a Bodhisattva announce, “Your family has been loyal and honest for generations, especially your mother, who was pure and chaste, filial to her parents and respectful to deities and Buddhas. You were originally blessed with being a candidate who would successfully pass the first grades of the examination system, and you were also destined to have an opportunity to pass the imperial court examination. However, because you have been up to all kinds of evil and have never done good deeds, your good fortune has long been taken away by the Divine. After your 40th birthday, you will gradually suffer for the sins you have committed. The most unpardonable is that not long ago, someone gave you a book of compassion to pass to others. You were not only disrespectful to the book but also failed to pass it on. You prevented others from taking a path towards goodness. This is most sinful. You will die a sudden death in August. You cannot be spared!”
Chen Jun was deeply disturbed and woke up immediately. He remembered when he went to Jinling for the triennial provincial exam, the son of Huang Rongzeng, a teacher in Anhui, gave him a book that taught people the principle of cause and effect, and asked him to pass it to two candidates who were sharing the same inn with him.
Due to his tight schedule, he didn’t have time to pass the book, took it home, and put it in a box. He had forgotten about it for a long time. Now he remembered, but there was nothing he could do about it. Also, he thought that it was only a dream and it might not be real. However, on the morning of August 16, Chen Jun suddenly felt cold throughout his body and became dizzy. He was sweating heavily. Half conscious, he finally believed that his dream was real.
He thought: Although I’ve committed serious sins, I might be spared if I correct myself. With this thought, he felt a lot better. He got up and wrote a deeply felt plea, in which he expressed his remorse for his wrongdoings and vowed to make a clear break with his past errors. He also pledged that he would distribute books about cause-effect and karma, and asked divine beings to examine his heart.
That night he saw a divine being in his dream, who took him to a grand palace. A divine guard went inside to report Chen’s remorse. A little while later, the guard came out to tell Chen Jun to go back, as if he had been spared death. The divine guard also reminded him, “You must be firm on your pledge and fulfill it with care. Don’t ever be slack!”
The next day after he got up, he felt freshened and gradually recovered from his illness. From then on, Chen Jun encouraged people around him to do good deeds and made great efforts to promote books that teach people the principle of cause and effect.