Soong Tse-wen (aka T.V. Soong) was born into a wealthy family and grew up in the lap of luxury. He pursued his studies intently and became proficient in both English and Chinese. Upon graduation, he took an official post and reached the highest ranks in government. It is most regrettable that, although he was already endowed with great riches and honor, he was still insatiably greedy. Soong Tse-wen hoarded the whole nation wealth and appropriated it as his own, either depositing the funds into foreign banks or investing them in various business enterprises to make enormous profits. He racked his brains and used every unscrupulous means, simply scheming for his personal advantage. This called down the wrath of heaven and the resentment of the people upon him. He was no longer tolerated by his fellow countrymen. He never performed a single iota of good, nor did he benefit the world and its people in any way. He merely possessed colossal wealth, the total sum of which would be hard to reckon even with computers. How muddled! How confused he was! In the end, he died from choking on a piece of meat and departed empty-handed, owning nothing. In that way he manifested a body to speak the Dharma so that we would quickly awaken to the impermanence of everything and not be so deluded by money anymore!
Soong Tse-wen was born into an affluent household that possessed both money and power. Coming from a well-established family of repute, he enjoyed a pampered life of honor and extravagant luxury. The Soong clan has played a critical role in the developments of Asian and global history in the recent century. Their members are all well-known to every home. They accumulated what is reputed to be the greatest fortune of this era. Soong Tse-wen may have been the richest person on Earth. For this reason, the Encyclopedia Britannica stated that Soong Tse-wen was reputed to be the world's richest magnate.
Soong Tse-wen was short and stocky, with a cheerful and outgoing personality. His special talent in memorizing numbers was nothing short of incredible. His face was as round as an American coin, while his facial expression was friendly and solemn. He had the appearance of a recluse who always had a lot on his mind. When his father sent the children to study in America, Soong Tse-wen attended St. John's High School. After graduating, he entered Harvard University and majored in economics. He was very diligent in his studies, so he became fluent in both English and Chinese. He spoke impeccable English. In 1915, Soong Tse-wen graduated from Harvard University, and at the recommendation of his sister, became the Finance Minister for the Kuomingtang (KMT).
He understood the ins and outs of fundraising, and his style of doing things was completely Westernized. At that time, China's finances were in a state of complete chaos, so when his term began, he applied his talents and balanced the budget of China for the first time. However, most regrettably, despite his great affluence, he was still greedy to no end. He embezzled the entire wealth of China and raked it into his own pocket, turning it into his personal fortune. Furthermore, during wartime, vast amounts of American military supplies and relief aid were auctioned off on the black market within two hours of arriving in China, sometimes never to be seen again. Consequently, the supplies received by the soldiers on the field were meager and few.
Such selfish, corrupt, and malicious practices were the reasons China became so impoverished. Compared to Wen Tianxiang, Soong Tse-wen was certainly worthless and undeserving. During times of national calamity, Wen Tianxiang heroically sold his personal possessions in exchange for supplies and weapons and formed troops to defend the Song Dynasty.
Soong Tse-wen's estate covered vast areas; there were oil fields, mines, stocks in shipping and cargo industries, as well as huge capital gains from investing in corporations. He utilized all of his mental capacity and exhausted all means available for the sole purpose of personal profit. He stole 750 million dollars out of the 3.8 billion dollars of American aid to Chiang Kai-Shek, investing the money in real estate properties in St. Paul and some in New York. He became the most powerful Chinese industrial tycoon in the United States.
Because of this, he enraged the gods and infuriated the people; he could no longer show his face before the Chinese citizens. He did not perform any deeds of charity, nor did he help in the betterment of humanity in the world. He possessed immeasurable fortunes of unknown origins. Even with the help of computers, it would be difficult to figure out exactly how much his wealth was worth.
How foolish and muddled! All his father's efforts to raise him went to waste, and his many years of study were all in vain. Yet, the law of cause and effect never errs in the slightest. During a banquet with relatives in San Francisco in April of 1971, when Soong Tse-wen was seventy-seven, he suddenly stopped eating after several courses had been served. With an expression of panic, he stood up and gasped for breath and finally fell to the ground. Within moments he was dead. The autopsy showed that a small piece of food had blocked his bronchial passage. The nerves in his neck sent an emergency signal to the heart, but his heart was so weak that it did not hold out long. He died without taking a single cent along. He left empty-handed, having created an enormous amount of evil karma in vain. In this manner he taught Dharma through his example. We should quickly awaken and realize that nothing lasts, and not be enchanted by money into an inverted existence.
A verse says:
He did not love China, but he did love money.
He scraped all the fat from the people, amassing gold and silver.
He moved to the Mountain of Gold* to evade trial by court.
He swam in an ocean of jade, thinking it surpassed the lotus dais.
He choked to death on a piece of meat, the retribution for his greed.
His soul fell to the bitter destinies, undergoing its just deserts.
Why did he have to be so muddled and so turned by states,
Making King Yama toil so hard in sentencing him?
* "Old Gold Mountain," that is, San Francisco, California.
A verse says:
He did not love China, but he did love money. From Soong Tse-wen's point of view, money was far more important than China. By observing the politics of the recent decades and the sufferings endured by the common people, one can easily appreciate the magnitude of influence exerted by government officials who are honest versus those who are corrupt. Therefore,
The Great Learning states, "One of benevolence utilizes fortune to expand well-being; one who lacks benevolence utilizes well-being to expand fortune." Mencius also said, "Those who seek fortune lack benevolence; those who seek benevolence lack fortune." Whether or not one is greedy for money greatly affects the benefit and happiness of others. Thus, to gain wealth by improper means is an offense; to turn away from greed can create good fortune. By trying to make his own household singularly affluent while ignoring how other families fared, Soong Tse-wen demonstrated his utter lack of mercy and justice. Not only must he endure his own karmic retribution, he will also have to undergo other auxiliary retributions.
He scraped all the fat from the people, amassing gold and silver. Soong Tse-wen completely scraped clean the people's "fat and marrow" (their hard-earned savings), extracting profits from it to increase his own illicit fortunes.
At that time, China was ravaged by war: her people endured lives of toil and her soldiers were inadequately supplied, yet Soong was not concerned about the survival of the troops at the front line. He either auctioned off the supplies or hoarded them in his own warehouses. Thus his victims were all the Chinese citizens and their entire country. Why has China suffered so many calamities and adversities? It is simply because there have been too many corrupt government officials whose selfish greed resulted in domestic instability and foreign aggression.
He moved to the Mountain of Gold to evade trial by court. Soong Tse-wen took advantage of his position and used devious schemes to strip clean the national treasury, secretly adding to his personal profit. While he made himself overwhelmingly rich, he refused to help alleviate the troubles of China. He thought that by escaping to America, he could evade judgement. The general populace had no choice but to tolerate his crimes, since not even the law could reach him. It could be said that he won the chess game.
He swam in an ocean of jade, thinking it surpassed the lotus dais. He enjoyed a life of extravagant wealth and luxury in the United States, thinking that he could be free and at ease, beyond the reach of the law.
He choked to death on a piece of meat, the retribution for his greed. However, heavenly justice would not allow him to win. On behalf of the people, it took on the role of his adversary. With one small move, it caused him to be dumbfounded in the chess game and drove him to complete defeat. He choked to death while swallowing a piece of meat, which was the retribution for his greed. There is a saying, "Men have a thousand schemes, but heaven has only one scheme." Just as he once took liberties with the finances of China, strangling the Chinese people to death, he himself also died by choking on a piece of meat stuck in his throat. Soong Tse-wen's fortunes were enormous, and he was well aware that Chinese civilians and soldiers were dying from famine, yet instead of trying to relieve the situation, he took advantage of it and swindled more money. From a moral perspective, he was basically committing indirect murder. To amass the greatest wealth and hold ample resources yet refuse to contribute any of it is only makes the crime of killing more severe.
His soul fell to the bitter destinies, undergoing its just deserts. The Medicine Master Sutra states, "At that time, the World Honored One again spoke to the Pure Youth Manjushri saying, "Manjushri, there are living beings who don't distinguish good from evil, who indulge in greed and stinginess, and who know nothing of giving or its rewards. They are stu pid, ignorant, and lack the foundation of faith. They accumulate much wealth and many treasures and ardently guard them. When they see a beggar coming, they feel displeased. When they give without benefiting themselves, they feel as though they were cutting a piece of flesh from their body, and they suffer deep and painful regret.... At the end of their lives, such sentient beings will be reborn among the hungry ghosts or animals..." People can overcome heaven; heaven can overcome people as well. The laws of heaven are absolute. The laws of yin and yang serve to maintain just equality. Soong Tse-wen's excesses disturbed the balance of justice. His mind violated the equilibrium regulated by the laws of yin and yang, thus setting off a reaction where he was disciplined under those laws. Eventually all must return to the state of just equality. As it is said, "When heaven commits evil, we may get away from it; when we commit evil ourselves, there is no escape." Causes are inevitably followed by their corresponding effects, which are never mistaken.
Why did he have to be so muddled and so turned by states? People always believe that by accumulating money to acquire more estates, they can ensure that their descendants will never go hungry, so they do anything they can to earn wealth. Little do they know that those who are stingy and miserly are bound to have descendants who will squander and gamble the family fortune away. Clever and scheming individuals are bound to have foolish and idiotic descendants who will be tricked by others. Alas! Why must we be infatuated with things that we cannot take with us in the end, being deluded by the fantasy of worldly fame and fortune?
Making King Yama toil so hard in sentencing him? Since Soong Tse-wen committed enormous karmic offenses in his life, the Ten King Yamas will certainly be stunned and have to spend considerable effort in sentencing him.