(Minghui.org) For thousands of years, the Chinese have revered Buddhas and gods. They believe that if a person diligently cultivates virtue, their fate will be changed for the better. In a similar vein, if a person does evil, their blessings in life will be reduced due to the karma they've accumulated.

Life Shortened by 30 Years

This story is from Taishang Ganying Pian (Treatise of the Most Exalted One on Cause and Effect), a well-known book related to Chinese Taoism.

There was a man named Qi Tianzong who prided himself on his talents from the time he was young and so his behavior was often arrogant and immoral. Worst of all, he did not believe in divine beings and swore at them frequently. When studying at a temple, he once instructed his servant to use the wooden statue of a guardian god as firewood. That night, Qi dreamt about a red-bearded man holding a whip.

The man reprimanded him, “Because you studied hard in your previous life, you are smart and knowledgeable in this lifetime. If you were to follow this course naturally, you would have passed the imperial exams and been given a high position while enjoying a long and prosperous life. But, instead, you've chosen to be arrogant and disrespectful to the divine. Your evil deeds have already been recorded. Whatever blessings given to you this life will be reduced by half. If you do not repent, you will be punished even more severely.”

After waking up from the dream, Qi did not regret anything and instead boasted in front of others, “Even divine beings are afraid of me!” He even burned the Buddha statue that his mother worshipped at home when she was asleep.

By the time Qi was in his 40s, he had taken the imperial exams many times but always failed. He indulged in alcohol and women.

One day, he dreamt that he was taken to the underworld. The god of the underworld told him that if his life had gone according to plan, he would have become a a juren (first-degree scholar) at the age of 29, followed by a jinshi (imperial scholar) at 30. He would later have been given a high ranking position and live to be 78. But because he was arrogant and debauched in his youth, his life was shortened to 54 years, and he'd be given a position of lower rank. Yet, he continued to be wicked in his 40s, so Heaven stripped him of all his blessings. In addition, he had to spend 10,000 kalpas in hell.

When Qi woke up, he told his family about his dream and died afterwards. “It is too late for me to even regret anything!” were his last words.

Life Extended by 30 Years

Here is another story from Taiping Guangji (Extensive Records of the Taiping Era) that shows the other side of the coin. In the fifteenth year of the Kaiyuan Period (727 A.D.) of the Tang dynasty, the emperor gave an order to shut down all of the Buddhist temples in the villages. The small ones were to be demolished and the larger ones closed.

At that time, the magistrate of Xinxi County of Yuzhou was Li Xu. Li was a stubborn man with a bad temper and a love for alcohol. Li happened to be very drunk when he received an order to destroy all the Buddhist temples in his county in three days. He became enraged and told his subordinates, “Anyone who dares to destroy a Buddhist temple shall be executed!” As a result, all the temples in Xinxi County were saved.

Li Xu died a year later due to illness. The family wept next to his coffin the night before he was to be buried. Late into the night, they heard a knocking sound from inside the coffin. When they opened it, they saw that Li Xu was alive.

Li Xu told them that he was taken before the god of the underworld, who looked at Li's record of bad deeds and saw that there were many. Just when the god was about to order his punishment, Li asked in desperation, “The emperor decreed that all Buddhist temples be destroyed last year. Only the ones in my jurisdiction were not destroyed. Could this deed offset my sins?”

The god was very surprised. He asked for the record of Li's good deeds. There was only one piece of paper that read, “The deed of saving Buddhist temples shall cancel out all the sins in this life. He shall have 30 more years to live, followed by a human reincarnation in his next life.” The god of the underworld thus sent him back to life.

Different attitudes toward the divine will lead to different paths in life. Please keep this in mind.