(Minghui.org) Vows have always been taken seriously in traditional cultures, both in the East and the West. Once a vow is made, one is bound by that vow, and fulfilling the vow or failing to do so will lead to corresponding consequences.
There is such a story recorded in Taishang Ganying Pian (Treatise on Response and Retribution), a well-known book related to Chinese Taoism.
In the story, Yan Dian’s wife stole a handkerchief from a neighbor and committed adultery. When the neighbor scolded her for her wrongdoing, Yan Dian defended his wife, saying, “If my wife stole your handkerchief and committed adultery, may I be struck and killed by lightning. If not, may you suffer the same fate.”
Not long after, Yan Dian was indeed struck and killed by lightning, and on his chest were the words: “Silly man protected his wife.”
His wife was also killed by lightning soon afterward, and on her chest were the words: “Adulterer and thief.”
Without knowing the facts, Yan Dian made a reckless vow on his life and ended up paying with his life—just to save face.
In ancient China, people took their words very seriously, as the many sayings on the topic that have been passed down attest to: “A word once said cannot be recalled even by four galloping horses,” “A man’s word is as heavy as nine tripods (A promise made is a promise kept),” “A king does not make casual remarks,” and “A promise is worth one thousand taels of gold (One is as good as his word).”
Most people today do not seem to understand why the ancients took their words so seriously and tend to make casual promises or even false vows out of self-interest. Here is such an example.
A man was cheating on his girlfriend. When she found out and confronted him while they were dining with friends, he denied it and swore, “I really have nothing to do with that woman. If I am lying to you, my father will die and my mother will be sent to a forced labor camp!”
Hearing such a serious oath, his girlfriend stopped arguing with him and believed what he said. All their friends present witnessed his words.
Three months later, the young man got a phone call that his father had died. He rushed over and was told that his father died of a heart attack in the kitchen a few days before. He was already dead when the ambulance arrived.
Not long after the funeral, the police stopped the van his mother was driving and found it full of counterfeit cigarettes. She was sentenced to two years in prison.
This story was widely circulated among their friends, who shook their heads and remarked how true it was that “there are gods three feet above one’s head!”
The Story of Pang Juan Breaking His Oath
During the Warring States period (475–221), Sun Bin and Pang Juan studied military strategy together guided by the hermit Guiguzi. Pang Juan was later recruited by the Wei state.
Before Pang left, he and Sun burned incense and Pang vowed: “If I do well, I will send someone to come get you to share my glory. If I violate this vow, I will die with arrows through my heart!”
Pang’s military achievements were, indeed, brilliant, and King Hui of Wei state honored him with the title of general. But Pang did not invite Sun to share his glory as he’d promised, because he was jealous of Sun’s talents.
When King Hui heard of Sun’s talents, he ordered Pang to invite Sun to the Wei state. Pang did so reluctantly.
Pang plotted to kill Sun after Sun arrived in Wei by falsely accusing him of treason. Sun was punished by having his kneecaps chopped off and a criminal mark tattooed on his face.
An envoy from Qi state helped Sun escape to the Qi state, where he was offered the position of military strategist to assist general Tian Ji.
Later, during a battle between the states of Qi and Wei, Pang fell into a trap and was killed with arrows through his heart, just as he’d vowed to Sun years earlier.
In ancient Chinese traditional culture, making an oath or a promise is a very solemn and sacred matter. When a couple married, they bowed to heaven and earth and vowed to be kind to each other for the rest of their lives; when friends became sworn brothers or sisters, they would burn incense, kneel down, and swear to an oath. By performing these sacred rituals, the participants were asking the gods of heaven and earth to hold them to their words and punish them if they failed to live up to their words.
In The Romance of Sui and Tang Dynasties, Qin Qiong and his cousin Luo Cheng promised to teach each other the “Qin Family Mace” and the “Luo Family Spear” and vowed not to hold back any secrets.
Qin Qiong vowed: “If I keep anything to myself, may I vomit blood and die!” Luo swore: “If I have any reservations, may I die from arrows piercing my body!”
However, they each held back one single secret of their family’s specialty, and, consequently, one died from vomiting blood, and the other from being shot by arrows.
Emperor Qianlong Kept His Promise to Prolong Life
Gods of heaven and earth determine good and bad in the human world, so to live up to what one promises is no laughing matter. All beings, including emperors, generals, high-ranking court officials, heroes, and the general masses, are measured against the same law. “Every single thought one has is known to heaven and earth,” and this is true for everyone.
Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty reigned for 60 years; he was also the longest-lived emperor of the last dynasty in Chinese history. In disguise, he made six private visits to places south of the Yangtze River to check on the lives of the locals.
It was said that on one of the trips he came across a fortune teller in Nanjing, who claimed that he knew Emperor Qianlong’s past and future and why he was engaging the fortune teller. He even told the emperor that he would only live for another “three months.”
Emperor Qianlong thought he was just talking through his hat and left with a laugh. Then he thought that the fortune teller was up to no good, so he ordered his assistants to go back to kill him, but by then, the fortune teller had already left, leaving behind a message: “I am a star god from heaven. When you ascended the throne, you said you would not reign longer than 60 years. This is the 60th year of your reign. If you fail to abdicate and pass the throne to your successor, you will reign longer than your grandfather. If you as an emperor do not live up to your words, you will be condemned by heaven! Please respect your promise and watch out!”
Long before, Emperor Qianlong had indeed vowed in front of all his court officials that he would not reign longer than his grandfather Emperor Kangxi, who was on the throne for 61 years.
The fortune-teller had only reminded the emperor of his vow, so after Emperor Qianlong returned to the capital city, he passed the throne to the fifteenth prince Yong Yan, known as Emperor Jiaqing.
Quitting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) to Be Safe
Many people from China may recall that they, too, made vows when they joined the Chinese Communist Party organizations, such as the Young Pioneers, the Youth League, or the Party itself. They swore to “struggle for communism all their life,” and that they would “give their life to the Party and never betray it.”
The CCP caused the deaths of more than 80 million people during its political campaigns and is utterly corrupt. It persecuted people for their faith, such as Falun Gong, and killed many innocent practitioners for their organs.
But as the sayings go: “Killers must pay with their lives” and “Good is rewarded and evil is punished.” Those who have joined the CCP’s organizations are implicitly involved in the CCP’s corruption and its killing of innocent people. When people take an oath to “dedicate their lives to the Party,” they have forever bound themselves to it. When the divine settles scores with the CCP for its crimes—which could take the form of natural disasters or plagues—those people will be implicated.
Those who have joined the CCP organizations can protect themselves by quitting the CCP organizations with all due sincerity—not just going through the motions.
Anyone who has participated in the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners or colluded with the CCP regime out of self-interest or for political advantage needs to stop doing so and find ways to make up for what they’ve done.
Revoking the vows one made to dedicate one’s life to the CCP can by no means be lip service. It is a truly vital step that will determine one’s fate at the most critical moment in history.
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Category: Traditional Culture