Be Clear about Cause and Effect: Good Will Be Rewarded with Good
(Clearwisdom.net) The ancients believed that one's fate--misfortune or blessings--were all connected to karma, and all resulted from one's actions; everything was arranged according to the heavenly principles. Heaven always blesses the good and often looks after and helps kindhearted people, as if gods are assisting them in accomplishing what they do. There have been countless examples since ancient times to show how one's fate took a good turn as a result of one's virtuous acts. The following is the story of Zhao Xiong in the Southern Song Dynasty.
Zhao Xiong was a kind and honest person since childhood. He was not very clever in his studies and was not very articulate. His parents thought it was good enough for him just to know a few written characters. Zhao Xiong could not remember many of the stories from classical works that the teacher taught him, but he did remember one such story. In the story, Wang Zeng's father respected paper with characters on it all his life and did a lot of good deeds. One day he saw Confucius in his dream. Confucius said to him, "You have respected paper with characters on it all your life and done many good things. You have accumulated many merits and virtues and should be rewarded with a precious son to glorify your household." Indeed, he later had a son, Wang Zeng, who became the number one scholar in the imperial examination. Zhao Xiong thought, "I'm so dumb. It is most likely that I did not cherish paper with characters written on it in my previous life and I mustn't have done enough good things. I must do more good things from now on." He held such a good thought and was very sincere and committed. Of course he was rewarded. His writing became better and better, very much different from what it was like before. One day, Zhao Xiong was getting ready to go to Lin'an for the imperial examination. Several people made fun of him, but he did not take it to heart.
As he traveled to Lin'an, he saw a skeleton by a grove. He thought of King Wen in the Western Zhou Dynasty, who would always bury the bones he came across. So he asked his servant to dig a hole and the two of them buried the skeleton in the soil. When the examination results were published, he was a successful candidate at the provincial level. When it came to the time for all successful candidates at the provincial level to take the examination in the capital city, Zhao Xiong was reluctant to attend, thinking, "I was lucky to be successful in the provincial examination. I'm not good enough to sit this exam with all other successful candidates." But his servant kept urging him to take the examination, so in the end, he went reluctantly. Unexpectedly, the candidate next to his booth suddenly got sick and kept moaning. Zhao Xiong was the only one who went to help him. After he got back from helping the sick man, he quickly finished his exam paper. The examiner thought his writing was very good for its ancient style. As a result he was again successful in the examination. On the day of the imperial examination at the imperial court, Zhao Xiong remembered a few of his early writings and he wrote even more smoothly. When results came out, he was ranked fifth. When the news of his achievement spread to his hometown, his parents and all the local people were surprised. They said, "Zhao Xiong's writing must have been very good in the first place, but we were not good enough to see this. Now that he has gone to the capital, his talent has gotten recognized." People knew that the examiner would reward those successful candidates whose writings were good. What they did not realize is that things are decided by the gods, and Zhao Xiong's success resulted from his fate and his virtuous actions.
Zhao Xiong was first appointed to be the head of a county and was later promoted to be the head of West Shu. He was aware that he received his official post as a result of accumulating virtue, so he never dared to do anything that defied Heaven and reason. He humbly learned from others and appointed people on their merits only; he never embezzled any public funds and personally led people to build dikes and dams so that people would not have to worry about floods. In the five years that he served in Western Shu, Zhao Xiong did countless things for the people. At that time, Emperor Xiaozong had very strict regulations about reporting to the Emperor in person. Even though Western Shu was thousands of miles away, Zhao Xiong still had to go and report in person. Emperor Xiaozong cherished people with merit and respected scholars. Even if they were successful candidates in the imperial examinations or had been recommended based on their moral conduct, Xiaozong still called them to the court to talk to them. He would either ask them about classical works or about knowledge or things both from ancient times and the present. Only if his answers were satisfactory would the person be given the post. There was a well-known scholar called Zhen Longyou, who was recommended as a person of talent. Zhen Longyou was usually very clever and was always eloquent in speech and wrote with ease. However, when Emperor Xiaozong asked him, "Your name is Longyou. What is the meaning of it?" this time, he could not think of anything to say. Seeing that he was speechless, Xiaozong asked him again, "Your name is Longyou; it must have some meaning. Tell me about it." Still Zhen Longyou could not think of anything to say, and he felt as if he had become dumb. The officials present all urged him to say something, but Zhen Longyou simply could not say anything in reply. Seeing that he could not answer the question, Xiaozong ordered his guards to help him out of court. As soon as Zhen Longyou had left the court, he suddenly remembered what to say and his voice returned as well. He was very annoyed with himself and said, "It means that I wish Your Excellency, like King Yao and King Shun, and I, as your subject, can make friends with the dragon-like animal and the dragon. What's so difficult about saying that? I'm really ashamed." One has to believe in fate.
When Zhao Xiong arrived at the capital city to report to the Emperor after his appointment expired and after hearing the story of Zhen Longyou, he thought, " Zhen Longyou is today's number one scholar, who can give ten answers to one question, and yet he was unable to say a word in front of the Emperor. I have little talent and less learning and am not very articulate. How am I going to cope?" He put on the court dress and gauze hat and got ready for the meeting. He saw that it was still early, so he bent over on the desk and fell asleep. He seemed to see a heavenly being descending from the sky, who was wearing a multicolored gown, with an eight-treasure jade belt around his waist. There were also two servants behind him. Zhao Xiong courteously welcomed him. The god said he was Wenchang Emperor and told Zhao Xiong, "The Heavenly King knows that you cherish paper with characters on it and are good at accumulating virtue. During your term of office, you cared about the people and took pity on them regarding everyday issues, so he ordered me to come to help you today. At the court when the Emperor asks you, 'Did you travel through the gorge? What's the scenery like?' you can say, 'The mountains and trees on both sides are in harmony, and the cuckoos are singing all day long.'" The god and his servants then stepped on a cloud and went back to heaven. Zhao Xiong suddenly woke up and showed courtesy to heaven. He could still vaguely see the figures in the far distance. When he went to court, the Emperor indeed asked him, "Did you travel through the gorge? What's the scenery like?" Zhao Xiong immediately replied, "The mountains and trees on both sides are in harmony, and the cuckoos are singing all day long." The Emperor was very pleased with his answer and kept nodding his head.
Afterward, Emperor Xiaozong said to his prime minister, Jiang Yushan, "Yesterday, Zhao Xiong from Shuzhong came to court to report. When I asked him about the scenery in the gorge, he cited two lines of a poem by Du Fu. I could see the view right in front of my eyes. He did it really well. You can give him a ministerial post." When Wang Yushan came out, he said to Zhao Xiong, "You did well with the two lines of poetry. You really have a quick imagination." Zhao Xiong told him about how he cared about the people and accumulated virtue and how Wenchang Emperor came to help him as a result. Wang Yushan said, "So this was what happened. Now the Emperor wants you to have a ministerial post. If you are in such a position, the Emperor will call to see you very often. If he asks you again, what can you say? It's better that you return to Shu Prefecture." Zhao Xiong agreed. The next day, Wang Yushan reported in court, "I passed the message from Your Excellency, but he did not want to stay here." Xiaozong said, "This man can step back in such a quiet manner. His conduct is really praiseworthy. You can let him be a Jie'anshi." Then the Emperor approved of his appointment. A few years later, Zhao Xiong became a prime minister. He thought that he had little talent and less learning, so he tried to give the position to someone else several times. But the more he wanted to step back, the more the Emperor would not allow him to.
One day, when Zhao Xiong was about to go into the court, he saw the head of a prefecture, surnamed Xi. The court entrance official asked him, "How come you have such a strange surname?" Xi replied. "There was Xi Wei in the Warring States Period, and there was Xi Fugong in the Han Dynasty. How can you say it is a strange surname?" Zhao Xiong heard this and remembered the answer. After Xi finished reporting, Zhao Xiong happened to have something to report to the Emperor. Emperor Xiaozong said to him, "Just now there was a prefecture head reporting. His surname is Xi. How come there is such a strange surname?" Zhao Xiong immediately said, "There was Xi Wei in the Warring States Period, and there was Xi Fugong in the Han Dynasty. So Xi has always been a surname, not a strange one." The Emperor was very pleased to hear his explanation and said, "You have so much knowledge. We really need scholars to be prime ministers." Zhao Xiong told the Emperor that he had only just heard about this himself. Emperor Xiaozong was even more pleased with his honesty. Afterwards, whenever there were questions from the Emperor, he always got hints beforehand or from dreams. He never made a mistake. He was really fortunate. When he served as a prime minister, he often reminded Emperor Xiaozong not to forget the shame of Jingkang and that the masses of people in central China were still suffering. He held the view that it was important to recover central China and to put those who wanted to fight for the lost territory in important positions. He also protected loyal officials. He was tolerant and generous towards others and was keen to recommend talented people. Numerous people of outstanding worth benefited from his recommendations, and he was duly respected and praised. Later he resigned from his official post and went back to Linquan to spend his retirement. Everyone said he had enjoyed complete blessings on earth.
Since ancient times, those who have understood cause and effect and were sensible all regarded moral character and good deeds as of primary importance, and they regulated and adjusted their conduct to conform to the heavenly laws. Thus it has always been that people have all along reminded others to do good deeds.