Birth and Death Are Determined by Fate; Fortune and Prestige Are Arranged in Heaven
Wang Biao, an official in the imperial palace of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 917 AD) in charge of relaying official orders and documents, said, "Everything a person encounters in his life is related to his fate. His fate and career have long been predetermined. Be it fortune or misfortune, even the timing in which each event will occur is prearranged.
When Empress Dowager Wu Zetian (625 – 705 AD) took the throne, she attempted to exterminate all members of the deceased emperor's family. The emperor’s son was tried at the Dali Temple and sentenced to death. He sighed, "Since I have to die, why stain a knife or saw." At midnight, he used the sleeves of his clothing to hang himself. He passed out but awoke at daybreak.
He chatted and laughed as usual. He ate and drank as if he was at home. When he initially regained consciousness he said, "When I went to the palace of the netherworld, an official there was angry with me. He ordered me to return and receive the punishment of execution. I asked why this was necessary. The official showed me a dossier of events in my previous lives. It was documented that I had killed people in the past and I was to repay the debt."
Because the son knew what was in store for him, he felt no fear when he was executed. It seems that when a person is born into this world, his birth and death have already been arranged. One harvests in this lifetime the seeds sowed in one's past life. One is rewarded for the good things one did or the virtues one accumulated, and is punished for the bad deeds or sins one committed. No one is an exception.
During the Zhenguan era (627 – 649 AD), Zhang Baozang worked in the Imperial Palace Guard. He often returned to the Liyang area when not on duty in the capital. One day, he ran into a young hunter who was roasting the meat of an animal he had just shot. Zhang leaned against a tree, sighed, and said, "I have lived 70 years. What regret that I never had the luck of picnicking on such fresh, tasty meat." Just then, a monk walked by and said to Zhang, "You are to be promoted to a third ranking official in 60 days, why should you sigh?" The monk then disappeared. Zhang was quite puzzled. Instead of going to Liyang, he returned to the capital.
At the time, Emperor Tang Taizong (599 – 649 AD) was suffering from a serious bout of diarrhea. None of the imperial palace doctors was able to cure his illness. Emperor Taizong issued an order to ask all officials in the imperial palace if they knew of a suitable prescription, promising a generous reward for an effective remedy. Zhang Baozang had suffered from the same illness in the past and so he provided an effective recipe of his own. He submitted this recipe to Taizong: long peppers stewed in milk.
Taizong tried the stew and was immediately rid of the diarrhea.He issued an order to Prime Minister Wei Zheng to promote Zhang to a fifth ranking official. Wei intentionally procrastinated. For over a month, he did not draft the appointment. Taizong happened to have diarrhea again, ordered to have the stew prepared, and was again healed.
Taizong wondered why he had not seen the paperwork for Zhang's promotion, as it was Zhang who had provided the effective recipe. When he asked Wei Zheng what had happened, the Prime Minister became afraid. He said he was not sure whether the fifth ranking official was a civilian or military position. Taizong knew that in the past, Wei Zheng had promoted someone who had provided Wei with a prescription to a third ranking official. He told Wei sternly, "Why doesn't someone who treated the emperor get promoted as high and as quickly as someone who treated a prime minister? I want Zhang to be a third ranking civilian official, with additional titles for supervising rituals and diplomacy." The emperor's order was made exactly on the 60th day after the monk's prediction.
It appears that not only are one's birth and death predetermined, a person's rank and wealth are also prearranged. No wonder ancient people often said, "When something exists in your fate, it will arrive in due time. If something isn't in your fate, you can't make it happen no matter what, so why bother trying to make it happen?"
(Stories taken from Taiping Guangji, a collection of stories compiled between 977 – 988 AD.)