Deceiving Heaven and Cheating One's Neighbors - a Thief's Oath Dictates His Own Retribution
(Clearwisdom.net) In the Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1912), a farmer in his 60's by the name of Li lived in a small village in Sichuan Province with his two sons. The father and sons were honest, hard working people who barely made a living. In the sixth or the seventh year into Daoguang's reign (1821 - 1850), the father borrowed 100 rolls of coins (each roll is equivalent to 1 ounce of silver) from Chen Liangdong, a rich man in the same village.
The Li family was quite thrifty, and in a few short years they started to accumulate some money. Suddenly, the father got ill. When he was about to pass away, he told his two sons, "The money we borrowed from Chen Liangdong has to be returned immediately, paying back both the principal and interest. Chen is not a decent man despite his wealth. You need to get back the original promissory note to avoid any trouble in the future." The two sons followed the instructions and returned the money. However, Chen Liangdong lied to them saying he could not find the original note to return to them. The father asked his sons to ask for the note again, but Chen simply refused. Not long afterwards, the elderly Li passed away. His two sons worked even harder, and their wealth continued to grow.
Chen Liangdong put aside his conscience and came to Li's home demanding money while holding the original promissory note in hand. The two sons argued that they had repaid the debt long ago. Chen rebutted that he held the promissory note and insisted on getting the money. He threatened that he would turn the Li family over to the authorities if there was any delay. The two sons were worried about getting into a lawsuit. In the end, they asked Chen to make an oath, with heaven as his witness. Chen knelt down on the steps, and declared, "If I collect your debt twice, in my future life, I will turn into a horse or an ox to pay you back." The Li's family had to pay the debt again based on the terms of the note, and only then did they get the note back.
About a year later, Chen Liangdong died from a sudden illness. Before he died, he told his wife, "I'm on my way to Li's family to pay back the debt I owe them." He died as soon as he said those words. At the same time, a cow in Li's family suddenly gave birth to a small ox. On the forehead of the ox, there appeared to be a few characters. The characters were quite illegible. A year later, the characters turned legible, and they read, "Chen Liangdong."
Chen's wife dreamed that Chen begged her to redeem him, but she did not believe her dream. Only when she learned that the little ox in Li's family had the characters on its forehead did she go to Li's family. It turned out that what she dreamed was true. The ox knelt in front of her, apparently begging her to buy it from the Li's.
Chen's wife was very sad. She told the Li family that she was willing to return the overpayment back to the Li brothers in exchange for the ox, but Li's family did not agree. Despite repeated requests from Chen's wife, the Li brothers turned down her offer of tons of money to buy the ox. Chen's wife filed a lawsuit with the authorities, and the county commissioner judged that Chen's wife had to pay 1200 ounces of silver in order to buy back the ox. Still the Li brothers refused to comply. The county commissioner's judgment did not help Chen's wife.
In the eleventh year of Daoguang, a county-level official named Li Sizhi went by this village. He thought this story was quite marvelous and went to take a look himself. He found out that the characters on the ox's forehead were quite clear. As a result, he truly believed in the retribution of cause and effect. He also considered the Li brothers' insistence on not letting Chen's wife pay for the ox was also a wrong deed, which went against kindness and forgiveness. If this ill will went unresolved, it could even give rise to new grudges. If, for example, the Li brothers over-punished the ox, how would they pay it back in the future?
From this story, we learn that we should not commit wrong deeds, and that forgiveness is the best recipe to settle grudges.
December 2, 2006