A COPY of the T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien had been handed down in the family of Wan Teh-Hsü from one of his ancestors as a very precious heirloom. Four successive generations had reverently read and recited it, and now when it came into the possession of Wan Teh-Hsü, he kept it in a place of honor in the Middle Hall; and he, and all the members of his family, had many merits recorded in their favor, for they vied with one another in living up to the moral principles laid down in the sacred document.
One day a Taoist priest visited the home of the pious man and was cordially received. Wan Teh-Hsü presented his guest with gifts and requested him to discourse on the mystery of religion, whereupon the stranger expounded the Tao, that divine rationality which pervades all things.
"The soul," he said. "is Tao, and the Tao is soul. The soul and the Tao are not different in essence. If the Tao is separated from the soul, you will transmigrate through the six domains and keep on the three paths, but if the soul and the Tao are united, you will finally reach paradise and the land of immortals. Hell and heaven are in your own heart. Unless heaven reside within you, the mere reading or reciting of sacred books profiteth nothing." Then looking around in the Middle Hall he added: "You have a rare gem in your house; for when I entered I saw the radiance of a holy light. Where do you keep your treasure?"
The host answered: "In this poor dwelling there is nothing worthy the name of a treasure."
The priest then took Wan Teh-Hsü by the hand and led him to the place where the Kan Ying P'ien lay, saying: "This holy book is the treasure. All the holy men of the three religions selected and compiled it to point out the way of virtue on which every one should walk. If a man disciplines himself according to its instructions, the truth will shine forth in all
[1. The six domains are those of (1) the gods, (2) human beings, (3) animals, (4) asuras or fighting demons, (5) hungry ghosts, and (6) denizens of hell. The three paths are lust, wrath, and greed. The three paths and the six domains constitute the wheel of Samsara.]
its glory, and every letter in the sacred writing will emit rays of divine light. But if you recite the sacred text with a secret desire for profit or reward, selfishness will darken its native glory, and the writing will show no illumination. To my vision the glorification of the holy book is perfect. Its saintly atmosphere has ascended to heaven, resulting in an harmonious blending of your heart with the will of the Lord on High. Your immortality is assured and I bless you. But keeping in sight the heavenly station that awaits you, you must continue to exercise still more self-control in your dealings with your fellow men. Be diligent and fail not to fulfil the work so auspiciously begun."
In accordance with the words of the Taoist priest, Teh-Hsü practiced the teachings of the Kan-Ying P'ien with even greater zeal. For thirty more years, he did everything in his power to benefit others and to promote general welfare. One day his neighbors heard heavenly music resound from above, and saw the entire family of Wan ascend to heaven in broad daylight, surrounded by a host of celestial beings.
Later the villagers built a monument to Wan on his own homestead, where they paid
him homage and offered prayers which were answered and granted.
[Our illustration shows Ti Chün, the Lord Superior (also called Wen Chang, the patron god of the Taoist religion) accompanied by two attendants, welcoming the good man and his family as they are carried up to heaven. Below we see the neighbors, some of them on their knees, witnessing the scene.]