In the Ming Dynasty, a man named Zhang Weiyan in Jiangyin, of Jiangsu Province, was a skilled writer and he was quite well known in his region. In the year of Jiawu, he went on to the court exams, but failed. After seeing the bulletin of the exam results, he cursed the judges who scored his exam very low, feeling that they did not recognize people who had true knowledge.
At that moment, a Taoist passed by and heard him. He smiled and said, “I can tell that your writings must be bad!”
Zhang Weiyan responded angrily, “Why do you laugh at me? You have not read my articles, how do you know that my writings are bad?”
The Taoist answered, “I’ve heard the key to writing is that one needs to be at peace and maintain a calm heart, but I heard you cursing the judges. You must be a very angry man. How can you write good articles if this is what your character is like?”
Zhang Weiyan thought quietly for a time about what was said, and considered it very rational. So he then sincerely asked the Taoist for help.
The Taoist responded, saying, “Your writings certainly need to be good. However, if you are destined to fail, even good writings will not help you. The fundamental solution is to change your attitude.”
Zhang Weiyan asked, “How can I change my attitude?”
The Taoist replied, “If you can follow the words of heaven and do good deeds, great things will follow.”
Hearing this, Zhang Weiyan sighed, “I’m just a poor scholar. Where can I find enough money to do good deeds?”
The Taoist said: “Be compassionate and cultivate your virtue, what’s most important lies in your heart. It is so essential for us to bear kindness in our heart at all times. We need to be more humble and ready to help others, and the desire to do this must be pure and upright. Always follow the heavenly characteristic, to be truthful, compassionate, and tolerant.
For example, one does not need money to be humble. You can achieve this without being rich. You need to examine yourself instead of cursing the judges. Your action of judgement is a shortcoming to be rid of.”
These words deeply stirred Zhang Weiyan’s being, for which he humbly thanked the Taoist.
From this day forward, Zhang Weiyan was very kind and strict with himself. He cultivated his virtue and became a person with high morality. He established schools and instructed the local people, teaching them to avoid wrongdoing and perform good deeds no matter how insignificant they seemed. He encouraged people to be kind to each other, and because of his selflessness, he was highly commended.
Three years later, Zhang Weiyan had a dream. He dreamed he had entered a large house in which there was a book with many listed names, though there were also many blank spaces. He asked someone standing nearby what this meant.
The person replied: “This is a list of names that will be accepted this fall. If a name appears here and that person has not committed any wrongdoings, his name will be kept. The blank spaces are those who could have been accepted but committed wrongdoings.
Therefore, their names were removed. During the past three years, you have been kind to others, so your name has been added. If you can keep doing well, you will continue to build virtues, and I encourage you to continue to remain mindful and diligent with yourself.”
Later that year, Zhang Weiyan indeed passed the court exams, while continuing to selflessly bequeath many good deeds to his people.
Heaven will shelter kind people; it is natural that those who are kind will be repaid. No matter where you are, which profession you choose, and what kind of environment you are in, you can be a good person. Genuinely doing good deeds without thought of reward, and keeping a kind, humble heart at all times, virtue will develop naturally. And with this, one will have a bright future.