Ancient Cultivation Stories: To Be a Prime Minister or a Deity?

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Li Linfu was the Prime Minister during the reign of Emperor Tang Xuanzhong (713-756 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty 618-905 A.D.). Li did not attend school until the age of twenty. Whilst he stayed at the eastern capital, Li greatly enjoyed hunting, playing games, eagle fights and raising dogs. He could often be found in the city with the Chinese scholar trees with whom he played games daily.

Sometimes, when he became tired from riding the donkey during the games, he would sit or lie on the ground, with his arm as a pillow. One day, an ugly looking Taoist priest sat opposite Li Linfu and said: “What pleasure is there in playing games on a donkey, the game that you indulge in so often?” Li Linfu glared angrily at the priest: “What has this got to do with you?” The priest departed. The priest appeared again the next day, and asked Li Linfu the same question. Li Linfu was highly intelligent and had the gift of reasoning at his young age. He realised that the priest was no ordinary person. Li Linfu stood up, adjusted his clothes, saluted and thanked the priest .The priest said: “Sir, although you are skilled at riding the donkey to play games, if you fall one day from the donkey, you will have deep regrets.” Li Linfu told the priest that he would, from that day on, begin to cultivate his moral character, be prudent and will cease to ride the donkey to play games. After hearing that, the priest smiled and said: “After three days, I will come at the fifth watch (one watch is a two hour period at night, which is divided into five watches) to look for you.” Li Linfu agreed to meet the priest at the appointed place and time

The priest arrived at the appointed time. He asked Li Linfu: “Why are you late?” Li Linfu apologised. The priest made another appointment for three days later at the same time. On the appointed day, Li Linfu was at the appointed site at midnight. He waited for a long time for the priest. On that occasion, the priest was delighted and spoke amicably with Li Linfu: “I have been in this human world for five hundred years and saw your name listed in the register of deities. If you cultivate, you will rise up to heaven in broad daylight to be a deity. If you do not wish to be a deity, you will be a prime minister with great powers for twenty years. You go home today and give it some thought. Three days later, at the fifth watch we shall meet again.” Li Linfu went home and thought about it: “I was born into an imperial family and since I was very young I always had a strong sense of justice and willing to help the weak. What is so great about rising to heaven in broad daylight compared to being a prime minister with great powers for twenty years?” After he made the decision, Li Linfu went to meet the priest at the appointed time and informed him that he would choose to be the prime minister and that he had no wish to be a deity. On hearing that, the priest sighed, lamented and reprimanded Li Linfu: “I have been observing you humans for the past five hundred years and have found you to be the one who could become a deity. What a pity! What a pity!” When Li Linfu heard that he felt sorry and wanted to change his mind. The priest said: “No way! God already knows your intention.” Before parting, the priest advised Li Linfu: “As a prime minister you hold great powers over the life and death of your subjects. Your power will shake the world. However, you must not use your power to harm or murder and have any hidden intentions. You must save sentient beings at all cost. Never kill any innocent people just for the sake of killing. Do good deeds to accumulate credits for your next incarnation. By doing that, you will rise to heaven in broad daylight and become a deity three hundred years later. Your time has arrived to be a prime minister. Go to the capital city and be one. Li Linfu prostrated himself on the ground and wept. The priest shook hands with Li Linfu and departed.

At that time, the paternal uncle of Li Linfu was practising as a physician who had trained in herbal medicine at the capital city. Li Linfu went to the city to pay him a formal visit. Because Li Linfu had always been undisciplined and immoral, his uncle gave him very little guidance and associated with him as little as possible. When his uncle met with him, he was very surprised and asked: “Why have you come to the capital city?” Li Linfu answered: “Your nephew knows he has been wrong and this time I have come to visit uncle with the purpose of turning over a new leaf and to study seriously. If I cannot accomplish that, uncle can give me a good whipping!” His uncle was very astonished, but did not immediately begin to teach him. Instead, Li had to prepare the proper crockery and cutlery to use for banquets. Li Linfu was very conscientious in his work and all the required items were clean and sparkling, and meticulously arranged on the tables. Sometimes, his uncle would let him handle some other work, and even though the snow was more than ankle-deep, he would diligently fulfil his duties. Li’s uncle’s gained a much better impression of him and often talked about his nephew with his colleagues at the royal court. Li Linfu’s name became known far and wide. Later, after the uncle had looked after him for some time, he became a celebrated government official. In less than ten years he became prime minister. He was very shrewd and very well versed in political trickery. He also understood the moods of the emperor very well. The emperor held great fondness for Li. Thus, Li held great powers over the government and the people. All officials in and outside the royal court feared him. A few years later, Li Linfu, to retain his status, put those who did not agree with him to death. These unjust killings continued without any end to them. He had forgotten the promise he had made to the priest.

At that time, anyone wanting to see him had to dismount from his horse a great distance from his mansion and walk there. One day, at mid-day, someone suddenly knocked on his door. The door-keeper was surprised and quickly opened the door. He saw an emaciated Taoist priest who asked to see Li Linfu. The doorkeeper shouted loudly berating the priest and even tied him up and sent him to the local authority. The priest smiled and walked away. At the same time the next day, the priest came to Li Linfu’s mansion again. The door-keeper could only inform Li Linfu who said: “I do not recall knowing any Taoist priest. Let him in.” After the priest entered the house, Li Linfu suddenly realised that the priest was the one he had met so many years ago at the grounds with the scholar trees. He immediately felt ashamed and frightened and did not know what to do. He thought about the prediction of the priest about his being a prime minister for twenty years. At that moment, it was exactly twenty years from the day he began his watch as prime minister. He had not kept the promise he had made to the priest. Li Linfu became very tense, as if he were ill. He immediately bowed to the priest. The priest walked towards him, smiled and said: “Is the prime minister well? You did not listen to any of my warnings. I asked you to accumulate credit for your next life, but instead you have killed many people. Heaven knows clearly what you have done. Are you not afraid of the punishment that you will receive?” Li Linfu just kept kowtowing to the priest.

Li Linfu sent all the servants from the room and allowed the priest to stay in the central room. He slept in the same room, each occupying a separate bed. The priest only took a little refreshment. Late at night Li Linfu asked the priest: “You mentioned that I will rise up to heaven and become a deity. Would that still be possible?” The priest answered: “You have behaved abominably in this human society. It runs contrary to the Tao and hence three hundred years had been added to the time before your predestined time arrives for you to become be a deity. Your becoming a deity is now delayed by six hundred years. Only after six hundred years will you become a deity.” Li Linfu asked: “My life time in the human world is about to end. Since I have committed such great sins, what will happen in the future?” The priest replied: “Do you really want to know? I can show it to you!” Li Linfu immediately got off his bed and thanked the priest. The priest said: “You sit there, calm yourself, and quietly meditate. Get rid of all distracting thoughts. Be like a withered tree. That is the state of mind you have to be in.” After quite a while, Li Linfu said: “There are no more distracting thoughts in my mind.” The priest got down from his bed and exclaimed: “Let’s go!” Li Linfu followed the priest in a trance. The door of his house and the Chang’an City Chunming gate opened automatically. Li Linfu held on to the clothes of the priest and followed him. Li Linfu had lived a good life. After walking a small distance he could no longer walk. They had only covered more than 10 li (Chinese measure of distance, equal to half kilometre). The priest knew that, and asked if he required to rest for a while. They both sat at the roadside to rest.

After a while, the priest gave Li Linfu a bamboo pole and said: “Ride on the pole. It will stop when we arrive at the destination. But you must not open your eyes during the journey.” As soon as Li Linfu got on the pole he felt his body being lifted into the air and he was flying across the sea. He could hear the sound of the wind and waves passing his ears. After the time it takes to eat a meal, they arrived at the destination. Li Linfu opened his eyes and saw a big city before him. At the City gate stood a few hundred soldiers. Seeing the arrival of the priest, the soldiers came forward and greeted him respectfully. They also bowed to Li Linfu. They walked through the city until they reached the door of a government office. On entering the door, they saw two rows of imperial bodyguards. They climbed a flight of stairs and reached the main hall. In the hall were beautifully decorated canopy beds. Li Linfu was feeling very tired and thought about taking a rest. The priest quickly dragged him away from the bed and said: “You are not allowed to sleep. If you fall asleep, you may not be able to return to the human world. This is the place that you will come to when you are dead.” Li Linfu said: “If this indeed is my final resting place, I shall die with no regrets.” The priest smiled and replied: “This place is not as beautiful as you imagine it to be. There are illnesses and diseases, and also much suffering.” Both of them walked through the main door and mounted on the bamboo poles again. After a short time, Li Linfu returned to the human world. He entered the house and went into the central room where he saw his human body sitting on the bed with both eyes closed. In that instant, the priest called out: “Prime minister! Prime minister!” At that moment Li Linfu woke up. He was weeping, kowtowed and thanked the priest.

The next day the priest bade farewell after Li had given him extravagant gifts. The priest did not accept a single item, waved his hand and said: “Keep them for yourself. I will see you again in six hundred years.” Having said that, the priest walked out the door and disappeared. No one knew where he went.

Li Linfu was a person of good morals. Because of that he had the predestined opportunity to be a deity. But he was enticed by power and fortune in the human world. He had forgotten that the Taoist priest had given him the opportunity to save sentient beings as well as having given him the forewarning about doing good deeds, so he would accumulate credit for his next life. He lost the opportunity and was punished by having to wait for an additional three hundred years to become a deity. If, in the process of re-incarnation, he still did not awaken and change his ways, he could lose his opportunity to be a deity. I sincerely hope that the people of the world today will take heed of the punishment imposed on Li Linfu.

When you hear people asking you to quit the Party for the sake of your safety, do not hesitate to do so! Once you lose the opportunity, no amount of regret will change anything once it is too late!

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