When One is Righteous, Others Will Follow; By Harming the Innocent, One Ends up Harming Oneself
(Clearwisdom.net) Li Guang was a general in the Han Dynasty. He was born in Chengji, Longxi County (which is now part of Gansu Province). General Li was outstanding both in his combat ability and creative talent. He fought Xiongnu more than seventy times and accomplished remarkable feats. The Xiongnu called him, the "Flying General of the Han Dynasty" and dared not invade the central plains because of him.
Li Guang led the army into battles even when he was very young. He served as an official for forty years with a pay rank equivalent to 2,400 stones [a unit of dry measure for grain equal to 100 liters] of grain. He was incorruptible and always shared his bonuses with his subordinates. He always had his meals with his soldiers. He did not own anything that was not essential, nor did he care much about property. Li did not like idle chit-chat, and when he was with others, it was either discussing battle strategies or techniques of archery. When they were short of water or food during a march to combat, if water was found, he would not go near the water before his soldiers had had a chance to drink, and he would not eat if his soldiers had not eaten. People were willing to follow him and toil for him because he was always very tolerant and kind.
The famous historian Taishigong Simaqian took a quote from the book of Zuo, a commentary on the classics, to describe Li Guang: "He who conducts himself righteously, his orders would be carried out without the orders being given; he who conducts himself improperly, people would not comply with his orders."
Both Li Guang and his cousin, Li Cai, served as officials at the same time. Li Cai's prestige and moral character, as well as accomplishments, were all beneath Li Guang's, but his rank was always higher. Li Cai's pay rank was already 2,000 stones of grain at the time of Emperor Xiaowendi, under whom Li Cai served as Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Dai. Later the title "Marquis of Le An" was bestowed upon him, and in Yuanshou Year 2, he was appointed the Prime Minister and ranked among the three top officials. Many officials and soldiers who were subordinates of Li Guang were knighted, but Li Guang was never given a noble title or principality. His rank never rose beyond the "nine officials."
Some practitioners of divination or cultivators may predict the future and foretell good or bad fortunes through observing changes of celestial phenomena. Li Guang knew such a person named Wang Suo. Once, Li Guang asked Wang Suo: "Does my physiognomy preclude me from nobility? Or is it just my fate?" Wang Suo said: "General, please think for a moment. Haven't you done something that you regret?" Li said: "When I served as prefect of Longxi, the Jiang People rebelled. I lured eight hundred of them to surrender. But I tricked them and executed them all in a day. This is the one thing that I lament the most." Wang said: "Nothing is more sinful than killing innocent people who have surrendered. This is why a noble rank has never been conferred upon you."
It is a pity that the illustrious general, Li Guang, did not understand the principle that "fate is determined by Heaven." A person's fortune and position are all obtained by exchanging one's accrued de (virtue). With his one mistake of massacring the innocent, Li Guang lost an enormous amount of de. It would take him a long time to pay back the karma he had incurred; how could he possibly be given a noble title and principality? A few years later, the elderly Li Guang got lost when he was following the Great General Wei Qing on a combat mission, and delays resulted. He was punished and eventually committed suicide in anguish. The several sons he had also died one after the other at rather early ages. His grandson, Li Ling, lost a battle with the Xiongnu and surrendered, and his mother, wife, and children were put to death by the royal government as a result. Li's family henceforth waned and finally vanished. This could only have been retribution for the one big mistake he made in killing the innocent.