Throughout China’s 5,000 years of civilization, faith in Heaven and gods, as well as the principle that good would be rewarded with good and evil would incur punishment, have been deeply rooted in the hearts of its people.
Generation after generation, the ancients told endless stories to explain that cause and effect relationship. They sought to remind people not to ignore their conscience and go against their moral values for personal gain because, sooner or later, Heaven would punish them accordingly.
In the story below, we are reminded that it is not possible to make up for one’s wrongdoings after death. It is important to cherish the life we are given and be as good as we can at all times.
Once upon a time, there was a scholar who had always wanted to see a ghost but never had.
On a clear night with a beautiful moon hanging in the sky, the scholar ordered his servant to bring a big jar of wine to the graveyard. He looked around and yelled out, “It’s so boring to drink alone on such a fine night. My friends in the Netherworld, would any of you care to come and drink with me?”
Not long after, he heard murmuring and saw shadowy ghosts some distance away.There were 13 of them.
He poured the wine into a big bowl and set it out between him and the ghosts, who immediately bent down to inhale his offering. One of them liked it so much that it asked for more.
As he poured them more wine, the scholar asked, “Why don’t you reincarnate?”
One ghost replied, “Those of us who still possess good karma will reincarnate, while the ones guilty of the worst crimes will go to hell. Out of us 13, four hope to be reincarnated as humans, while the other nine won’t be able to. They will have to pay for their sinful deeds in the past.”
“Why don’t you repent your wrongdoings so that you don’t have to go to hell?” asked the scholar.
“You can only repent while you are still alive,” said the ghost. “There is no way you can repent after death.”
When the jar was empty, the scholar held it up to show the ghosts that there was no more left.
As the ghosts started to stagger away, one of them turned around and said, “As hungry ghosts, we have nothing and cannot repay you for the wine you have kindly offered us. I can only give you a kind warning: ‘Repentance only works while you are still alive.’” Then it, too, disappeared.
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