Reflections on the Pandemic with Reference to Journey to the West
(Minghui.org) The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus pandemic is raging across the world, with sharp daily increases in cases of infection and deaths. The situation is devastating, putting the lives of a huge number of people at risk.
Facing such a catastrophic reality, I cannot help but remember the story of the Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture in the novel Journey to the West.
Recalling the Story of the Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture
In Chapter 87 of the novel Journey to the West, Tang Monk and his three disciples arrive in the Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture and are confronted by devastation: The prefecture, rich and affluent in the past, had been suffering severe drought and famine for three years. Two-thirds of its population had died of starvation.
Seeing the people suffering, Pilgrim Sun Wukong (the Monkey King) decided to help and summoned the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea to make rain.
However, the Dragon King could not do so without being authorized by the Jade Emperor in the Celestial Palace. So Sun Wukong went up to Heaven to request a decree from the Jade Emperor.
The Jade Emperor refused his request because the Prefect of the Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture had offended Heaven three years earlier. He had pushed over the sacrificial offerings intended for Heaven when he got angry with his wife for doing something bad. What's worse, the Prefect fed the offerings to dogs and uttered obscene words.
Out inspecting the myriad heavens at the time, the Jade Emperor had witnessed it all.
Angered by the offense, the Jade Emperor immediately set three conditions that had to be met before any rain would be allowed to fall on that region.
The Jade Emporer pointed out a rice mountain about a hundred feet tall with a tiny chicken pecking at the bottom grains. Then there was a mountain of wheat flour about 200 feet high with a puppy lapping up some of the flour. Lastly, there was a huge square lock, at least 15 inches in length, hanging on an iron rack. Beneath the key to the lock was a small lamp, its tiny flame barely touching the key.
The Celestial Masters who showed Sun Wukong the three things explained to him, “Because that fellow has offended Heaven, the Jade Emperor has ordained that not until the chicken has finished pecking up the rice, the dog has lapped up all the flour, and the lamp has burned through the key of the lock will there be rain in that region.”
When Sun Wukong turned pale with alarm, the Celestial Masters told him not to be overtaken by fright, as there was a solution.
“This affair can only be resolved by virtue, for if there is a single thought of kindness and mercy to stir up Heaven above, the rice and flour mountains will topple, and the lock key will snap at once,” they told Sun Wukong and encouraged him to persuade the Prefect to do good.
After Sun Wukong returned to earth, he challenged the Prefect concerning his offense to Heaven. The Prefect immediately admitted his wrongdoing and showed deep remorse.
Sun Wukong suggested that he repent and return to virtue by worshiping Buddha and reading scriptures. The Prefect agreed and arranged for Buddhist and Daoist clerics of his region to begin performing services for three days, about which they had to write up detailed documents, burn them, and send them to the Heaven above. He also led his subjects in worship and burned incense to appease Heaven and Earth and do penance.
Seeing the change in the Prefect, Sun Wukong decided to go to the Jade Emperor again to beg for rain for the region.
Heavenly deities were also delighted to know that the Prefect had repented his wrongdoings and his people had started to accumulate faith and virtue. Documents recording their deeds of repentance and penance had also been presented to the Jade Emperor.
When a person has a virtuous thought, Heaven will strengthen him. One wish born in a person’s heart is known throughout Heaven and Earth.
The local spirits, the city deity, and the spirits of the land and grain in the Prefecture of Phoenix-Immortal all bowed to the Jade Emperor and begged him to be merciful and allow rain to fall in the region.
A decree was kindly issued, and all relevant deities went into action with their divine powers. In no time at all, clouds and wind joined and rain descended in torrents!
Talking Points to Help Clarify the Truth Today
The story of the “Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture” is very relevant to the situation we are facing today. I would like to share some of my understandings about it and provide some insights so that this fable can be used when we clarify the truth.
Sins Committed Against the Divine
When we encounter a huge catastrophe that endangers the lives of many, the reason must be that unforgivable sins have been committed against the divine and gods are angry.
In the story above, the Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture had been suffering from a severe drought for three years and two-thirds of its people had died from starvation, simply because the Prefect had pushed over the sacrificial offerings, fed them to the dogs, and uttered dirty words, thus offending Heaven.
A Turnaround after Repenting
In the face of a catastrophe, passively “waiting” will not resolve the issue. The only way to turn things around is to truly repent one's wrongdoings, denounce evil, return to virtue, and sincerely venerate the divine.
In the story, no rain would come to the Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture until the three conditions established by Heaven had been met, but no one would have survived that long. And yet, when people in the whole prefecture returned to virtue, sincerely worshiped Buddha, and read the scriptures, the rice and flour mountains collapsed, the key snapped, and what had appeared to be unsolvable was resolved.
The Universe Has Rules: Respect for Gods
The Jade Emperor was inspecting the heavens and witnessed the disrespectful deeds and words of the Prefect of the Phoenix-Immortal Prefecture.
This indicates that the universe has rules and order, that beings live on different levels and carry out their own specific responsibilities. When human beings respect gods, gods protect them in return.
If people stop respecting gods, it amounts to undermining the universal rules and order, and those who do wrong are considered to be the worst beings.
Even though the Prefect got angry and did wrong because of his wife's ill behavior, he was the cause of the disaster, not his wife.
This is because, of all crimes, insulting gods is the most serious because human beings were created by gods, and all the blessings they enjoy were also bestowed upon them by gods, who protect human beings at all times. So when human beings are disrespectful toward gods, they will be punished and have to suffer the consequences.
Atoning for Wrongdoing Brings Forgiveness
The leader of a country or a region represents the people in that place. If the leader offends the divine, the people in that area will also suffer the consequences. For the same reason, if the leader can atone for his mistakes, he can also lead the people to do the same to ask for forgiveness from the gods.
Opportunities to Make up for Mistakes
Gods may punish people, but they always offer people opportunities to make up for their mistakes. However, many people don't understand why they suffer tribulations.
People who cultivate serve as a link between gods and humans and are messengers for the divine. The only way they can help people out in a catastrophe is by following the will of the gods and guiding people to distance themselves from evil, observe virtue, and show due respect to the divine.
Heeding Good Advice
Only officials who have people's well-being at heart can possibly repent and return to virtue and thus be able to lead their people through disasters. If the Prefect in the story had no concern for the lives of his people, he would not have invited enlightened monks to pray for rain. If he had not listened to Sun Wukong’s advice and repented his wrongdoing, he and his people would all have perished.
Respecting and Believing in Gods
Gods treasure people's hearts above all else and are aware of their every single thought. Gods love people, and people, in return, need to respect and believe in gods. Gods will help people when they change their degenerate thoughts and have faith in gods.
Humans Are Unaware
Human beings are unaware of this balance. If they witness miracles themselves, they become more respectful of the divine.
The Buddha School focuses on cultivating compassion. Practitioners in this school guide people towards kindness and offer salvation during their cultivation.