In ancient China, someone who passed the lowest level of the civil service examination, usually at the village level, was known as Xiu Cai.
There was once a man in China's Changzhou area who was smart enough to pass the test and became the Xiu Cai. One day he called upon a friend and exchanged writing skills. He wrote an essay titled, “Wise Men Take Delight in a River.” He took great pride in his work. His fellow intellectuals also praised the essay. He was overcome with joy and was vain as a peacock. After he got drunk and returned home, the Xiu Cai sat idly and let his fantasies run wild. “When I pass the next level of civil service examination, I will take the neighbor's young maid Ageng as my concubine. I shall build a luxury mansion and buy extravagant frocks for her.” After midnight, he was still having fantasies about his life with the beautiful Ageng. When his wife hurried him to go to bed, he spat the tea in her face and shouted insults. “You are a vat of vinegar! A vat of vinegar!” [In both ancient and modern Chinese expression, vinegar is a metaphor for jealousy.]
There was another man in the same village who made a living by transcribing books. One day he had a dream about a divine being who was recording sentient beings' karmic retributions. He looked at the record and happened to see an entry about the Xiu Cai in his village. The entry said, “Although he was just having sexual fantasies, he still harbored the desire for something that was not his. If he really passes the next level of civil service examination, he will make his fantasy come true. Therefore, he will have to suffer retribution. He will suffer from cold and hunger in Songling Harbor for one full day on January 17th.”
After the book transcriber awakened from the dream, he recorded what he had seen. On the next day, he paid a visit to the Xiu Cai, who was in the middle of dressing up to go enjoy the plum blossoms in Xishan upon the invitation of his father-in-law.
He left for Xishan. When the boat he took was passing by Jinqiao, it crashed with another boat, owned by the river police. Everyone except him was arrested because he wore civilian clothes. However, he was tied to the bow while the boat headed for Wujiang. He was not released until the boat stopped by Songling Harbor. He nearly froze to death and died of hunger. The book transcriber's dream came true!
When a person commits a lustful sin, he or she will suffer a great loss of virtue and ruin his future. The Xiu Cai in the story suffered from karmic retribution simply because he had a wild sexual fantasy arisen from his vanity and arrogance, without actually committing a sin with the neighbor's maid. It proves that Heaven will record and judge our every thought. A cultivator must work very hard to guard each and every thought and immediately rectify any improper thoughts.
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