The Difference Between Giving and Taking

There is a story that was told during the Ming Dynasty. It goes like this.

Although two brothers grew up together, they had very different personalities. The elder brother was gluttonous and lazy, and he fought over the smallest things. The younger brother was diligent and dutiful, and he valued establishing connections with others.

On one occasion, the two brothers set off by carriage. Unfortunately, it rained and the road was slippery. The elder brother was unable to control the reins; so the two brothers fell down the mountain and died. The spirits of the two brothers went to the door of the netherworld. The beings that were there waiting for them at the gate of the netherworld took them to meet Yama.

Yama said, "When you reincarnated as humans during your last life, you did not behave too badly but you didn't do anything too good either. So you can continue to keep a human body during the next life. Judge, can you check to see which family needs a child to reincarnate?"

"Yama, there are two families that have the karma of having sons, and their surnames are Zhao and Xie. The person who will be born in the Zhao family will have to constantly offer help and give his belongings to others. However, the person who will be born in the Xie family will receive others' dispensation all his life." The judge turned over the roster of life and death carefully. On the roster there were thickly dotted records of each person's karma and their returns in three lives.

Yama said, "Such being the case, you will reincarnate into the Zhao family and the Xie family!"

Hearing Yama's judgment, the elder brother thought, "If I go to the Zhao family, I will have to work hard to earn money to give to others. That would be hard. It would be better and easier to accept others' dispensation." Making his decision, he hurried to kneel and kowtow, saying, "Yama! It will be so painstaking to bestow to others all my life. I beg you to show your mercy and let me reincarnate into the Xie family and receive others' dispensation." Yama asked, "Who will reincarnate into the Zhao family and offer help to others?" The honest and sincere younger brother had until now remained quiet, but after hearing Yama's question, he respectfully said, "Yama! Let my elder brother reincarnate into the Xie family. I would like to reincarnate into the Zhao family and bestow my belongings all my life to help others and build good karmic relationships with others."

Yama put down his worries and let them reincarnate into the Zhao family and the Xie family according to their karma. The younger brother made an oath to help those in danger and relieve those in distress, so he reincarnated into the Zhao family-- a family that was very noble and wealthy. He became their only child and was very smart. In addition, he had a good heart and amicably helped others. Whoever needed his help; he would assist them. His parents saw that their son was very kindhearted, so they decided that they also would like to help others with their wealth. His good reputation for benevolence had been widely spread.

The elder brother who was looking forward to accepting others' charity reincarnated into the Xie family. The Xie family was utterly destitute and made a living begging. He begged for leftovers for his whole life, and he accepted other people's dispensation and sympathy.

There is an old saying: "It is more blessed to give." Kindheartedness is commendable. Heaven awards goodness and punishes evil. It is inevitable that one will receive good returns as a result of his charity. It is not only benevolent, but it is also wise to be concerned about others' suffering and to treat others benevolently. At any time and in any situation, it is the wisest choice to treat others kindly because "If people make good vows, heaven will bless them"

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