The famous Qing Dynasty scholar, Ji Xialoan (1724 – 1805 AD), documented a couple of incidents that created great harm to people in chapter 14 of his book Caotang Review Notes
. The stories still have meaning in today’s society. They are translated below.
In Northern China, the bridges all have railings on the sides to prevent pedestrians from accidentally falling off. In Fujian, a southeastern province, downpours are frequent and thus shelters with roofs were built on the sides of bridges to shelter pedestrians from rain. A person named Qiu Ertian mentioned a shocking incident:
A person was walking on a bridge at midnight when rain began to fall. He sought refuge in one of the available shelters. After a while, an officer carrying an official booklet appeared with several guards and prisoners in the same shelter. There were sounds of shackles and handcuffs, and the person deduced that they must be guards escorting prisoners who happened to pass by the bridge during the rain. He kept quiet and withdrew to the corner of the room to observe their actions.
One prisoner began to wail. A guard snapped, “Now you learn to be afraid. What’s the point of crying! Why did you do evil deeds when you were alive?” The prisoner said, “I listened to my teacher by mistake. He often ridiculed those who believed in gods. He said that good and evil retribution was absurd and preposterous. After hearing this for a while, I began to believe him. After that I began to be opportunistic for self-gain, indulge in my selfish desires, thinking that there is no judgment, no retribution and no punishment after I die. I can do whatever I want when I’m alive to harm others for my own benefit since there’s nothing to be afraid of. I had no idea that once I died, I went to hell. The king of hell is real. Only then I realized that I was deceived by that teacher. That’s why I’m so sad and remorseful!”
After hearing this prisoner’s account, another prisoner cried, “You were misled by that teacher. I was tricked by a shaman. This shaman told me that when a person does bad deeds, all he needs to do is burn incense (pray) and donate to accumulate virtue and that will eliminate karma. Even if a person goes to hell after death, he only needs to hire a shaman to chant scriptures for salvation. Hearing this, I was no longer afraid. I thought that I just need to accumulate as much wealth as possible. While I am still alive, I pray and donate. After I die, I will tell my family to hire a shaman to chant for me. This will give me the freedom to do whatever I want and there’ll be no retribution in the future. I had no idea that once I went to hell, the king of hell specifically inspected a person’s number of good and evil deeds performed, as well as the level of selfishness, to assign punishment and blessing. The amount of donation was not considered important. When I was alive, I donated a lot of money but they were all for selfish reasons. I was punished severely in hell. If I hadn’t been deceived by that shaman, how would I dare to overindulge in my selfish attachments to end up like this?” The rest of the prisoners wept upon hearing this.
The person hiding in the corner then realized that these were all spirits of deceased people. The lessons they learned were truly life-and-death changing, yet it was too late to regret.
Nowadays, some people commit crimes without any remorse on one hand, yet they enter monasteries and temples to pray to gods and ask Buddhas for forgiveness. Their intent is to eliminate disaster and punishment. Their actions are truly daydreams. For those who maintain atheism, they should awaken from the sound of warning bells and deeply reflect on their beliefs.