Do you believe the ancient saying that good will be rewarded and evil will be punished?
Retribution and Heavenly Principles
Perhaps some people reject the idea of karmic retribution, having seen some evil-doers accumulate wealth and some genuinely good people live impoverished lives or pass away early. However, the principle of retribution as taught by many spiritual ways may have deeper roots, going hand in hand with the idea of reincarnation.
A person’s good fortune, comfort, or wealth can be understood as a manifestation of good karma—virtue accumulated from doing good deeds in previous lives. You could compare it to a savings account, where the benefits are enjoyed at a future date.
On the other hand, if a person lives for momentary pleasures, while not treasuring virtue or one’s conscience, this person may commit all kinds of evils and accumulate bad karma; much like spending hard-earned savings recklessly, future rewards are diminished.
At a future date, or if there would be a 「judgement day」, such lack of virtue would spell bad news for the person ruined with bad karma, as such a being is believed to be doomed to hell—whether one would believe this to be a physical place below, or looking at it in terms of experiencing a lot of suffering.
Karmic Reward for Saving a Baby
In a city called Ningbo, in east China’s Zhejiang province, there once was a man called Yuan Daoji, who lived in poverty. In his youth, he received a gift of several pieces of silver, to give him a chance to take the provincial exams.
As Yuan Daoji set off for his exams, he encountered an abandoned baby on the road, who was crying loudly from hunger—it appeared desperately thin and near its death. Yuan Daoji took pity on the baby and carried it to a nearby tofu shop. He gave the owners his pieces of silver, asking them to raise the child, and then continued his journey to the provincial capital.
Arriving in the capitol, Yuan Daoji found that everybody avoided him, because he looked so impoverished. One Buddhist monk, whom he had known from before, reluctantly accommodated him.
That night, the monk had a dream. The gods overlooking all of the towns that were participating in the provincial exams had gathered together to provide the God of Literature (Wang Wenchang) with the list of participants.
Some names on the list had already been crossed out, and they were discussing the remaining candidates.
Only the God of Ningbo Town could report positively to the God of Literature, saying, 「Yuan Daoji has a good heart and saved an abandoned baby; he is allowed to pass.」
The God of Literature was about to order Yuan Daoji to be presented before him, yet hesitated, seeing that he was so impoverished and his appearance so ugly.
「We can let him borrow the facial hair of the town judge,」 suggested the God of Ningbo.
At which point, the Buddhist monk awoke from his dream.
The next morning, the monk discovered that Yuan Daoji, who had never grown facial hair, had grown a full moustache overnight.
Shocked, Yuan Daoji asked the monk what was happening, and the monk told him about his mysterious dream.
Sure enough, when the exam results were published, they confirmed that Yuan Daoji had passed with flying colors.
This story of Yuan Daoji has been passed down as an example of karmic retribution and immediate reward for virtue. Through the monk’s dream, both parties had come to deeply understand such a principle of good being rewarded by the heavens.
Translated by Fu Ming
Edited by Emiko Kingswell