The Record of Water and Mirror Turning Back Heaven
--Translated by Disciple Bhiksu
The Dharma-realm is not large; a mote of dust is not small. Why? The totality is identical with one, one is identical with the totality. Yet there is something more wonderful, subtle, and difficult to believe than even this: the netlike interweaving of karmic responses, and the wheel like spinning of cause and effect.
For example, the karmic feelings between countries are interwoven; their causes and effects compel them to engage in senseless quarreling. It becomes difficult to end the murders and massacres, which increase endlessly until the final destruction of the countries and the annihilation of the race when everything is eradicated and brought to an end. There is a saying, "Plant good causes, reap good results; plant bad causes, reap bad results.
There is also this interweaving of karmic feelings as well as the turning of cause and effect between families. When there is kindness, there is harmony, but when enmity arises there is revenge. The participants do not understand, and continue to rail at each other for life. Who awakens from this?
A sutra text says, "If the deeds done in a hundred thousand aeons are not eradicated, the retribution will be experienced when conditions become ripe." In all our actions, how can we possibly not be cautious and attentive, "as if standing on the edge of a deep abyss, as if treading on thin ice!"
To find interwoven threads of causal relationships, it is not necessary to delve into obscure and ancient accounts. The following anecdote deals with a well-known event which occurred at the end of the Ch'ing Dynasty at Tuo Huan Chan, a mere ten miles or so from the author's home in northeast China.
Among the various herbs known to Chinese pharmaceutical science is the particularly valuable panacea and tonic called Ginseng, a variety of mandrake. So prized is this root for its rejuvenating powers that the mountains of Northern China and Korea, where the best quality root is often found, were home to many 'prospectors' in search of rare finds worth more than their weight in gold.
The Ginseng plant is peculiar, and its human attributes go further than its mere physical resemblance to the human trunk. When a wild root has been exposed to the energies of sun, moon, and other natural forces for many years, it may manifest its own life faculties and develop a certain magical intelligence. This is true only for roots which have managed to grow to at least a pound in weight; anything less than this is merely extremely high quality medicine. Roots of sufficient size to have the magical potency required take a minimum of three thousand years to mature, and some may take as long as ten thousand years. Consequently such roots are extremely rare finds, one of which will set a man up in incredible wealth for life.
In addition to their rarity, such roots are hard to find because they are clever enough to sense a prospector, and will burrow underground at his approach. The man with skill and luck enough to trap and seize them before they flee is a rare one indeed.
There were once two Ginseng prospectors who had sworn an oath of brotherhood before an image of Kuan Kung. They were wandering through the mountains at the end of a three—year expedition, which had yielded little of value, and were reduced to three cups of rice as their total provisions. As they were on the verge of death by starvation, their years of wandering in the mountains paid off as they managed to find and trap the most incredible Ginseng root known one that weighed in all a full pound and a half.
As visions of untold wealth exploded in his mind, the older of the partners, Ming Wu Yeh, was so moved by greed that he pushed his sworn brother over the edge of a high cliff to his death.
Taking the root as his own, he set out for home with eventual goal of presenting it to the emperor, the only one worthy of such a rarity. There remained, however, the problem of boarder guards and various inspectors who would prove as scrupulous as he if faced with a pound and a half Ginseng root. Hoping to deceive them, he obtained a large coffin and stored the root in it, hoping that respect for the dead would keep the inspectors from opening the coffin.
The curiosity of officials will not be stopped by a mere corpse, and just as he feared, the customs men came at the box with a crowbar. The prospector was terrified and expected to be robbed of his treasure if not his very life. But when the lid was pried off, rather than the shriveled manlike shape of a dried root there was the bearded body of an old man in a shroud. The coffin passed and the prospector continued on his journey.
When the root was proffered to the emperor our protagonist found himself so amply rewarded that he was able to purchase all the land on either side of the road from the capital to his home, a full three hundred miles, and thus was able to 'drink from his own wells on his travels. He build a mansion in which every brick had four bronze coins baked into it. The pillars rested on silver supports, and the mortar holding the bricks together was made of silver dust. With such an exterior, there is no need to attempt to describe his style of life. He was perfectly established, but lacked only one factor to complete his life, a son.
One day, while his wife was far along in pregnancy, Ming Wu Yeh was seated in a pavilion in his courtyard when he suddenly saw the form of his sworn brother striding towards him and laughing. He disappeared, and within a few moments a servant brought the news that his wishes had been fulfilled, his wife had given birth to a son. The birth, unfortunately, had killed his wife.
The child, Ming San Ch'eng, grew up most unusually, He would always cry frantically until given something breakable which he would then smash amidst spasms of laughter. He spent an entire lifetime destroying things until his father finally passed away, his fortune greatly depleted by his son's eccentricity. On his deathbed, the father instructed his son to attempt to maintain the family fortune, and that if he were ever destitute, he should remember the wealth hidden in the walls.
The father died, and the profligate son continued to drink and gamble the fortunes away until he was penniless, nothing remaining but the bare walls of his father's mansion. This he sold to a stranger at roughly the cost of the bricks alone, and thus, within a short time, the ill—gotten fortune was dispersed.
While this story is an unusual and somewhat exotic embodiment of the principle of karmic retribution, such stories are quite commonplace throughout the world. In light of this principle, the astute reader might well reinvestigate matters, which have seemed obscure and puzzling to him for some time. Karmic retribution is indeed interwoven, and the mesh we weave ourselves ultimately is the snare, which catches us.