‘He beat me, he robbed me.
Look at how he abused and injured me.’
Live with those thoughts and you will never stop hating…
Abandon such thoughts and your hatred and suffering will cease.
- The Buddha (Dhammapada)
During the Ch’ing Dynasty in China, in Yang Chou, there was a person named Ch’eng Pai Lin. One day he had a dream in which Avalokitesvara [Guanshiyin] Bodhisattva told him, ‘Tomorrow the Ch’ing army will arrive. Out of the seventeen people in your household, sixteen will survive. But you cannot escape your fate. Tomorrow Wang Ma Tze will kill you, because in a past life you stabbed him twenty-six times and killed him.’ Then Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva added, ‘There is still an expedient method that may work. Prepare a fine feast tomorrow, and when he comes, invite him to eat with you. Afterwards, allow him to kill you. Perhaps that will change things.’
The dream was vivid and when Ch’eng Pai Lin awoke the following morning, he went out and bought wine and vegetables, brought them back, and had a feast prepared. Then noontime came, someone knocked at the door. He opened the door and said, ‘Are you Wang Ma Tze?’ ‘How strange,’ said the man at the door, ‘I’m from the north, how did you know my name?’ His host invited him in and said, ‘… You’re welcome; I’ve prepared a feast for you. Won’t you join me?’ Then he related the dream he’d had the night before. ‘Last life I killed you with twenty-six stabs of a knife, and so this life you have come to kill me. After we’ve finished this meal, you can do it.’ Wang Ma Tze pondered over this and said, ‘But if you killed me last life, and I kill you this life, won’t you kill me again next life? It will just go on and on. No, I won’t kill you.’ Then he took his knife and scratched twenty-six marks on his host’s back to represent that the debt had been repaid.
Not only did Wang Ma Tze not kill his host, but afterwards they became very good friends. Wang said to his host, ‘The Ch’ing army is following en masse. They are not reasonable, so the best would be for you and your family to go to Su Chou. It’s safe there.’ So that is what Ch’eng Pai Lin did. This is a case of turning grievance into friendship and reversing the retribution that is due one. From this you can see that it’s possible to alter one’s fate.
- Master Hui Seng