(Clearwisdom.net) I have often heard people ask, "I worship gods and Buddha every day. Why don't they protect and bless me?" The answer to that question was clearly explained in an article in Shuoyuan, a book written by Liu Xiang of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). The following is a plain text of Liu Xiang's relevant article.

Among those who believe in ghosts and spirits, some may fail in their schemes; among those who govern their actions according to certain auspicious days, some may still miss opportunities. What are the reasons? The truly wise are considerate and careful, so when they set out to do something they will succeed even though they don't bother to pick a lucky day for it. They live by the law and are willing to work hard for the good, so they don't need to go to a fortune teller and will naturally have their way. They are kind to people, respectful of Heaven, and reasonable in doing anything, so they don't have to ask for help from gods and Buddha in a worship room at home or a temple, but still have their protection and blessing. With the bad people, however, even though they repeatedly have their fortune told, pick lucky days before doing anything, observe fasting rules, supply fat sacrificial livestock, use exquisite worshiping instruments, and pay careful attention to religious rites, they still cannot avoid disasters because their every deed is against the Heavenly Law. If one worships gods because he believes that gods know everything, and yet he acts wantonly and then seeks protection from gods through worshiping, gods will despise him and are sure leave him unprotected!

In ancient times, people went to have their fortune told and lucky days picked in seeking advice from gods and Buddha only to supplement their righteous deeds or to help make hard decisions, rather than for self interest. They would not beg gods and Buddha for assistance for peace of mind, because they never committed bad deeds.

Confucius said, "Seeking protection and blessings from spirits when intending to do illegal deeds is an act of fawning." Yi Jing, also called the Book of Changes, advised, "Sacrificing a cow to gods and ancestors as done by the neighbor on the east side is not as desirable as regular, simple offerings all year round as done by the neighbor on the west side." To gods, honesty is more important than offerings; substance is better than surface. A good man who shows his virtue everywhere will be popular everywhere.

Thus, when saints look at a person when he is worshiping gods, they will study his heart and see if he is sincere.


The above is a passage from the article "Fanzhi," Volume 20, Shuoyuan by Liu Xiang. What Liu Xiang meant can be summarized into three points. First, a person who truly worships gods will not be selfish; second, he will not act wantonly against the Way; and third, in the eyes of gods, the heart, rather than the surface, is more important.

Liu Xiang was an insightful scholar in the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC--9 AD), accomplished in economics, bibliography, and literature, author of many works. His words above are as valid today as they were when first written. In fact, the most important self-help in a person's life is a change of conviction-from disbelief that good and evil will be returned in kind, to a resolve to refrain from doing any wicked deeds and to do only kind ones. As the ancients said, "Heaven will not cover one particular person, Earth will not carry one particular person." The four seasons change, and they change for all beings; all things grow, and they grow for all beings. That is why Liu Xiang said that the ancients "supplement righteous deeds" and "refrain from being selfish."