The Love of Life

78. Death by Lightning

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Collected Pearls in the Dharma Garden (Fayuan Chulin) tells that during the Tang dynasty, there was a very skillful cook from Ch’anghu, Pohai. His name was Feng Yuan. The King of Khotan, barbarians in the west, came to pay tribute to the imperial court of China. Feng Yuan was ordered to prepare a state banquet for him and his retinue. Everybody ate and ate and ate until they were stuffed. They all said the food was great, but when the banquet was finished, there were almost one hundred goats left over. They had not even been slaughtered yet. The authorities were not quite sure what to do with them. The King of Khotan happened to hear about this, and he requested that their lives be spared.

“It is my sincere wish that these goats be sent to Buddhist temples to live out their natural life spans.”

Feng received the order to let them go, but he figured the King would be going back to his barbaric homeland before long, and after all, ninety some goats means a lot of money! So he did not obey this command. Instead, he sold the goats to a butcher. He was really quite happy about this windfall.

Eventually, he spent all of that money, and as time passed, he probably forgot all about it. He was really a good cook, so whenever the powerful politicians and rich people in the capital wanted a feast, they looked up Feng. He worked hard for his money, but his income was pretty good.

Then, during the summer of 661, Feng was taking a stroll outside the Hsuanjen City Gate. All of a sudden, the wind came up to blow. The skies turned black, lighting flashed, thunder rolled, and rain poured down.

A particularly loud clap of thunder right by the city wall startled all the people around. When they recovered their wits, they saw a man kneeling in the rain. His hair was disheveled. His eyes were popping. His chin was pressing on his chest, like a convict’s before his head is chopped off.

Then people looked again, and realized that his head had been almost chopped off! His head was split wide open, and his brains were dripping out of his skull! He looked like an executioner had cleaved his head.

“Hey, isn’t that Feng Yuan, the famous cook?”

“You’re right, it is,” someone answered. “This must be the result he caused by killing all those goats that were supposed to be let free.”

You can never escape for long from evil that you have brought down upon yourself.


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