‘Gods See All Your Evil Thoughts’

Burning incense sticks in front of a Buddha statue.

When a patron donates some beautiful fabric to a temple so a new robe can be made for the statue of the town's god, the Abbot decides to keep it for himself instead. (Image: Kuruneko via Dreamstime)

There is an ancient Chinese saying: “Gods see all your evil thoughts.” In July of a specific lunar year, an altar master in Shizhu County was passing through the township of Fengdu and decided to visit the temple of the town’s god. While offering his prayers and burning incense, he raised his head and gazed reverently at the statue of the god.

After leaving the temple he endeavored to meet with the Abbot who informed him that on July 15th the town’s annual procession was taking place. The statue of the town’s god would be paraded around the town. The altar master noticed the disheveled state of the robe on the statue of the god and saw that it was coated with a thick layer of incense ash.

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Since the altar master had a devout belief in the Divine he took it upon himself to show a little piety and reverence towards the town’s god. He planned to make a decent robe for the statue. After visiting many shops, he finally selected a piece of pure blue cloth, believing it to be more appropriate for the statue of the town’s god and for the upcoming parade.

That evening, the altar master came to the temple. After respectfully acknowledging the statue of the town’s god he handed the fabric to the Abbot and relayed his intention. Upon the altar master’s departure, the Abbot unfolded the cloth, finding it to be exquisite in both color and texture. Lured by the fabric’s beauty, he selfishly thought: “Making myself a robe with the fabric would be far better than using it for the statue of the town’s god.” So, he secretly put the cloth into his closet and locked it securely.

Dark blue fabric folded back on itself sits in a pile.
That evening, the altar master came to the temple, respectfully acknowledged the statue of the town’s god, and handed the fabric to the Abbot. (Image: Ganna Aibetova via Dreamstime)

There was a tailor shop near the temple’s rear door and this day, a tall, well-built gentleman came to the shop. Upon entering the door, he shouted: “Master, make me a robe from this piece of cloth!”

The tailor immediately measured his body length, sleeve length, and waist circumference; finding that the fabric fitted him perfectly. After jotting down the measurements, the tailor asked him: “Do you wish to pay upfront or when the robe is ready?”

The gentleman said: “Bring it to me when you complete it.”

The tailor asked: “Where do you live?”

The man responded: “Take it to the temple and hand it over to the Abbot.” Having conveyed that, he left instantly.

After completing the robe, the tailor took it to the temple as requested. At the temple, he shouted: “Master! Master!” 

In response, the Abbot came out and asked: “What can I do for you?”

The tailor asked: “Are there any guests in your temple?”

“No!” replied the Abbot somewhat puzzled.

“Oh! A tall gentleman came to my shop with some fabric and he asked me to make him a robe. So, at his insistence, I have brought it to you and request the payment.”

The Abbot felt a little strange and hurriedly asked: “Will you show me the robe?”

Upon seeing it, the Abbot was shocked. He thought: “The textile’s color is the same as that sent by the altar master. Could this be a divine intervention? But I have put that piece of cloth in my closet and locked it up. How could anyone take it away?”

He told the tailor: “Wait a minute. Let me check it out, and then I will pay you the fee.” 

The monk went to his bedroom and saw that the box was in its original place and still locked. He opened it immediately, only to find that the piece of pure blue cloth was gone. He turned pale with shock, and his heart started beating wildly.

When the Abbot came back, he found the tailor looking quizzically at the temple god’s statue. Surprised, the tailor told him: “Do you know, it is strangely uncanny that the man who brought the fabric to me resembles the statue of the town’s god completely and the two of them are about the same size. If you don’t believe it, place the robe on the statue and I can guarantee it will fit perfectly.”

In that instant, the Abbot fully understood what had transpired. So he hurriedly paid the money and sent the tailor away.

At that instant, the Abbot fully understood that Gods see all your evil thoughts.
At that instant, the Abbot fully understood what had transpired, so he hurriedly paid the money and sent the tailor away. (Image: Bubbersbb via Dreamstime)

That night, a sudden, severe storm brewed sending heavy rain accompanied by peals of thunder. The Abbot was so terrified that he huddled up on his bed. His thoughts were racing and he could no longer keep his mind peaceful. So he got up and dressed, lit three incense sticks, and knelt in front of the statue of the town’s god, begging for forgiveness. He said: “I regret what I have just done. I swear I will never do shameful things from now on.” As soon as he sincerely repented, the thunderstorm gradually subsided.

Gods see all your evil thoughts

The next morning as the Abbot got up to burn the morning incense, he saw six words faintly appearing on the white wall of the Temple: ‘Gods see all your evil thoughts.’

Upon seeing this, the Abbot felt even more ashamed. Initially, he intended to erase it secretly, but later, he thought it was not a good idea. So after finishing the morning ritual of incense worship, he ground an ink stone pool of thick black ink. Using a brush pen. he highlighted each character with thick, black ink, stroke by stroke, and left them on the wall to act as a reminder and a warning to him and others who witnessed them. 

From then on, people could see the six prominent words – Gods see all your evil thoughts – when they entered the temple. The Abbot also told people about his previous disgraceful actions with deep regret.

Translated by Joseph Wu

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