Treatise of the Exalted One on Response and Retribution
Translated from the Chinese by Teitaro Suzuki and Dr. Paul Carus
THE Exalted One says:
Curses and blessings do not come through gates,
but man himself invites their arrival.
The reward of good and evil is like the shadow accompanying a body,
and so it is apparent that heaven and earth are possessed of crime-recording spirits.
According to the lightness or gravity of his transgressions, the sinner's term of life is reduced. Not only is his term of life reduced, but poverty also strikes him.
Often he meets with calamity and misery. His neighbors hate him. Punishments and curses pursue him. Good luck shuns him. Evil stars threaten him; and when his term of life comes to an end, he perishes.
Further, there are the three councilor, spirit-lords of the northern constellation, residing above the heads of the people, recorders of men's crimes and sins, cutting off terms of from twelve years to a hundred days.
Further, there are the three body-spirits that live within man's person. Whenever Keng Shen day comes, they ascend to the heavenly master and inform him of men's crimes and trespasses.
On the last day of the month the Hearth Spirit, does the same. Of all the offences which men commit, the greater ones cause a loss of twelve years, the smaller ones of a hundred days. These their offences, great as well as small, constitute some hundred affairs, and those who are anxious for life everlasting, should above all avoid them.
The right way leads forward; the wrong way backward.
Do not proceed on an evil path.
Do not sin in secret.
Accumulate virtue, increase merit.
With a compassionate heart turn toward all creatures.
Be faithful, filial, friendly, and brotherly.
First rectify thyself and then convert others.
Take pity on orphans, assist widows; respect the old, be kind to children.
Even the multifarious insects, herbs, and trees should not be injured.
Be grieved at the misfortune of others and rejoice at their good luck.
Assist those in need, and rescue those in danger.
Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and regard your neighbor's loss as your own loss.
Do not call attention to the faults of others, nor boast of your own excellence.
Stay evil and promote goodness.
Renounce much, accept little.
Show endurance in humiliation and bear no grudge.
Receive favors as if surprised.
Extend your help without seeking reward.
Give to others and do not regret or begrudge your liberality.
(Blessings of the Good.)
Those who are thus, are good: people honor them; Heaven's Reason gives them grace; blessings and abundance follow them; all ill luck keeps away; angel spirits guard them. What ever they undertake will surely succeed, and even to spiritual saintliness they may aspire.
Those who wish to attain heavenly saintliness, should perform one thousand three hundred good deeds, and those who wish to attain to earthly saintliness should perform three hundred good deeds.
(A Description of Evil-Doers.)
Yet there are some people whose behavior is unrighteous.
Their deportment is irrational.
In evil they delight.
With brutality they do harm and damage.
Insidiously they injure the good and the law-abiding.
Stealthily they despise their superiors and parents.
They disregard their seniors and rebel against those whom they serve.
They deceive the uninformed.
They slander their fellow-students.
Liars they are, bearing false witness, deceivers, and hypocrites; malevolent exposers of kith and kin; mischievous and malignant; not humane; cruel and irrational; self-willed.
Right and wrong they confound. Their avowals and disavowals are not as they ought to be.
They oppress their subordinates and appropriate their merit.
They cringe to superiors to curry favor.
Insentient to favors received, they remember their hatred and are never satisfied.
They hold in contempt the lives of Heaven's people.
They agitate and disturb the public order.
They patronize the unscrupulous and do harm to the inoffensive.
They murder men to take their property, or have them ousted to take their places.
They slay the yielding and slaughter those who have surrendered.
They malign the righteous and dispossess the wise.
They molest orphans and wrong widows.
Disregarders of law they are, and bribe takers. They call crooked what is straight, straight what is crooked, and what is light they make heavy.
When witnessing an execution, they aggravate it by harshness.
Though they know their mistakes they do not correct them; though they know the good they do not do it.
In their own guilt they implicate others.
They impede and obstruct the professions and crafts.
They vilify and disparage the holy and the Wise.
They ridicule and scorn reason and virtue.
They shoot the flying, chase the running, expose the hiding, surprise nestlings, close up entrance holes, upset nests, injure the pregnant, and break the egg.
They wish others to incur loss.
They disparage others that achieve merit.
They endanger others to save themselves.
They impoverish others for their own gain.
For worthless things they exchange what is valuable.
For private ends they neglect public duties.
They appropriate the accomplishments of their neighbor and conceal his good qualities. They make known his foibles and expose his secrets.
They squander his property and cause divisions in his family.
They attack that which is dear to others.
They assist others in doing wrong.
Their unbridled ambition makes for power, and through the degradation of others they seek success.
They destroy the crops and fields of others.
They break up betrothals.
Improperly they have grown rich, and withal they remain vulgar.
Improperly they shirk without shame.
They claim having done acts of favor and disclaim being at fault.
They give away evil in marriage and they sell wrongs.
They sell and buy vainglory.
They conceal and keep a treacherous heart.
They crush that which is excellent in others.
They are careful in hiding their shortcomings.
Being on a high horse they threaten and intimidate.
With unrestrained barbarism they kill and stab.
Recklessly they cut cloth to waste.
Without festive occasions they prepare cattle for food.
They scatter and waste the five cereals.
They trouble and annoy many people.
They break into others' houses to take their property and valuables.
They misdirect the water and light fires to destroy the people's homes.
They upset others' plans so as to prevent their success.
They spoil a worker's utensils to hamper his efficiency.
When seeing the success and prosperity of others they wish them to run down and fail.
Seeing the wealth of others, they wish them bankrupt and ruined.
They cannot see beauty without cherishing in their hearts thoughts of seduction.
Being indebted to others for goods or property, they wish their creditors to die.
When their requests are not granted they begin to curse and wax hateful.
Seeing their neighbor lose his vantage they gossip of his failure.
Seeing a man imperfect in his bodily features they ridicule him.
Observing the talent and ability of a man worthy of praise, they suppress the truth.
They use charms for the sake of controlling others.
They employ drugs to kill trees.
Ill-humored and angry they are towards teachers and instructors.
They resist and provoke father and elders.
With violence they seize, with violence they demand.
They delight in fraud, they delight in robbery, they make raids and commit depredations to get rich.
By artful tricks they seek promotion.
They reward and punish without justice.
They indulge in comforts and enjoyments without measure.
They harass and tyrannize over their subordinates.
They terrify and threaten to overawe others.
They accuse heaven and find fault with man.
They blame the wind and rail at the rain.
They stir up party strife and law suits.
Unprovoked they join factious associations.
They rely on their wives' and other women's gossip.
They disobey the instructions of father and mother.
They take up the new and forget the old.
Their mouth asserts what their heart denies.
Shamelessly greedy they are for wealth.
They deceive their father and their superiors.
They invent and circulate vile talk, traducing and slandering innocent men.
They slander others, yet themselves feign honesty.
They rail at spirits and claim to be right themselves.
They reject a good cause and espouse a wrong cause, spurning what is near,
longing for the distant..
They point at heaven and earth to make them witnesses of their mean thoughts.
They even call on bright spirits to make them witness their degrading deeds.
When they ever give charity they regret it afterwards.
They borrow and accept without intention to return.
Beyond their due lot they scheme and contrive.
Above their means they plot and plan.
Their lusty desires exceed all measure.
Their heart is venomous while they show a compassionate face.
With filthy food they feed the poor.
With heresies they mislead others.
They shorten the foot, they narrow the measure, they lighten the scales, they
reduce the peck.
They adulterate the genuine, and they seek profit in illegitimate business.
They compel respectable people to become lowly.
They betray and deceive the simple-minded.
They are greedy and covetous without satiety.
They curse and swear to seek vindication.
Indulging in liquor they become rebellious and unruly.
With the members of their own family they are angry and quarrelsome.
As husbands they are neither faithful nor kind.
As wives they are neither gentle nor pliant.
As husbands they are not in harmony with their wives; as wives they are not respectful to their husbands.
As husbands they delight in bragging and conceit.
Always as wives they practice jealousy and suspicion.
As husbands they behave unmannerly toward their wives and children.
As wives they lack propriety to their father-in-law and their mother-in-law.
They make light of the spirit of their ancestor.
They disobey and dislike the commands of their superiors.
They make and do what is not useful.
They harbor and keep a treacherous heart.
They curse themselves, they curse others.
They are partial in their hatred and partial in their love.
They step over the well and they step over the hearth.
They jump over the food and jump over a person.
They kill the baby and cause abortion of the unborn.
They do many clandestine and wrong deeds.
The last day of the month and the last day of the year they sing and dance.
The first day of the month, the first day of the year, they start roaring and scolding.
Facing the north, they snivel and spit; facing the hearth, they sing, hum and weep.
Further, with hearth fire they burn incense, and with filthy fagots they cook their food.
In the night they rise and expose their nakedness.
On the eight festivals of the seasons they execute punishment.
They spit at falling stars and point at the many-colored rainbow.
Irreverently they point at the three luminaries; intently they gaze at the sun and at the moon.
In the spring they hunt with fire.
Facing the north, they use vile language.
Causelessly they kill tortoises and snakes.
(Punishments for Evil-Doers.)
For all these crimes the councilors of destiny deprive the guilty, according to the lightness or gravity of the offence, of terms from twelve years to a hundred days, and when the lease of life is exhausted they perish.
If at death an unexpiated offence be left, the evil luck will be transferred to children and grandchildren.
Moreover, all those who wrongly seize others' property may have to compensate for it, with wives or children or other family members, the expiation to be proportionate up to a punishment by death.
If the guilt be not expiated by death, they will suffer by various evils, by water, by fire, by theft, or by robbery, by loss of property, by disease and illness, and by ill repute, to compensate for any unlawful violence of justice.
Further, those who unlawfully kill men will in turn have their weapons and arms turned on them; yea, they will kill each other.
Those who seize property, are, to use an illustration, like those who relieve their hunger by eating tainted meat, or quench their thirst by drinking poisoned liquor. Though they are not without temporary gratification, death will anon overcome them.
(Good and Evil Spirits.)
If a man's heart be awakened to the good, though the good be not yet accomplished, good spirits verily are already following him.
If a man's heart be awakened to evil, though evil be not yet accomplished, evil spirits verily are already following him.
Those who have hitherto done evil deeds should henceforth mend and repent.
If evil be no longer practiced and good deeds done, and if in this way a man continues and continues, he will surely obtain happiness, and felicity. He will, indeed, so to speak, transform curses into blessings.
Therefore, blessed is the man who speaketh what is good, who thinketh what is good, who practiceth what is good. If but each single day he would persevere in these three ways of goodness, within three years Heaven will surely shower on him blessings.
Unfortunate is the man who speaketh what is evil, who thinketh what is evil, who practiceth what is evil. If but each single day he would persevere in these three ways of evildoing, within three years Heaven will surely shower on him curses.
Why shall we not be diligent and comply with this?