“Sincerity and truth are the basis of every virtue.” – Confucius
This is a story from the compilations in Liezi, an ancient Chinese philosophical text, about how having a heart of sincerity can create miracles.
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There was an elderly farmer with a heart of sincerity named Shangqiu Kai whose family was impoverished and often suffered from hunger. One day, two men stayed at Shangqiu’s house as guests.
One man said to the other that Fan Zihua was famous and influential, and he could achieve the feat of making a living person die, a dead person live, a wealthy person poor, and a poor person rich. Shangqiu happened to be near the window at this time and overheard their conversation. And this is where his boundless devout thought was formed and his heart of sincerity opened wide. So with that, Shangqiu borrowed some rice and carried the bag to the city to the door of Fan Zihua’s house.
Journey anywhere with sincerity and confound all evil and arrogant intentions
The Fan family and their followers were from aristocratic families. They dressed gorgeously, walked in a dignified manner, and had high-spirited eyes. So when they saw the old and frail Shangqiu with a dark face and sloppy clothes, they despised him. They made fun of, insulted, deceived, and even beat and shoved him. They felt that it was all too damaging to let such a sloppy old man join them as a follower of the Fan family.
However, Shangqiu came with a firm belief, and naturally, he did not care how he was insulted and did not get angry. He firmly believed there must be some secrets of life, death, and wealth, so he waited patiently for something to manifest. Shangqiu mingled as usual with the other followers as if he wanted to become Fan Zihua’s follower, but he was looking for the truth of life.
Sincerity prevails, and nasty tricks backfire
They eventually got tired of making fun of Shangqiu, so they came up with other nasty tricks. There was one instance when they took Shangqiu to a cliff and said casually: “If anyone can voluntarily jump off that cliff, they will be rewarded with a hundred pieces of gold.”
Shangqiu, without thinking, believed this was the truth, so with such sincerity in his heart, he took the lead and jumped down. Everyone saw Shangqiu opening up his body as light as a swallow, and he landed on the ground without damaging his muscles or bones. The way Fan Zihua looked at it, he thought it was just a coincidence, as it was not surprising that the wind would have blown and lifted Shangqiu’s frail body.
Then, everyone went to the river. Someone pointed to the deepest part of the river and said: “There are jewels there; whoever can swim to the bottom of the water can get them.” Again, Shangqiu thought this was the truth. He swam to the bottom of the flowing water, groped for a while, and when he came back up to the surface, he had the jewels. This time, everyone was surprised and felt that the coincidental nonsense had become an inconceivable reality.
After that, Fan Zihua began to respect Shangqiu, provided him with good food, drink, and accommodation, and treated him as a formal guest.
Impervious to fire and danger
A fire broke out in Fan Zihua’s warehouse shortly afterward. Fan Zihua did not know what to do as its held many valuable silks. Just as Shangqiu came forward, Fan Zihua said: “If you can go into the fire and save the brocade, I will give you whatever you want.”
Because of his heart of sincerity, Shangqiu did not hesitate as his thought was only on the truth. However, he did go in and out of the fire and carried out all the brocade, which was undamaged. His body also suffered no burns.
Fan Zihua, along with everyone else at the scene, was stunned. They believed that Shangqiu must be a Daoist. They all apologized to Shangqiu and said: “We didn’t know that you are a Daoist, and we even played tricks and insulted you. Please regard us as fools who are just too ignorant. Now, we are willing to worship you as our teacher. May we ask what kind of Daoism you practice.”
Shangqiu responded: “I am not a Daoist, nor do I know any Daoism. But all these events are from my sincere thought toward the truth. Since you have asked, let me tell you this. Recently, two men who knew of Fan Zihua’s family stopped at my house. They were talking about the power of Fan Zihua related to life, death, and wealth. When I heard it, I felt confident and had a sincere yearning. So I come from far away. Moreover, I took all their words seriously and took every single word as the truth. Then, for fear that I was not pious enough and did not perform well, with a heart of sincerity, I let go of all my self-interests, including my body. It’s just that my mind stays the same: external.”
Deception and doubt are killers
Shangqiu added: “Now that I realize that you people were all deceiving me, It makes me now feel suspicious and worried, and it makes me more attentive and doubtful. I am now listening to various situations outside myself. I reflect on how I escaped being burned and drowned; painful and sad thoughts torment me and add to my fear and shock. How is it possible now for me to have a heart of sincerity and get close to ruthless fire and water.”
From then on, the people in Fan Zihua’s family and his followers no longer acted ruthlessly when treating others; whether they were distinguished guests or beggars, they still maintained their etiquette and morality.
Words of wisdom from the great Confucius
Later, when Zai Wo, a disciple of Confucius, heard about these events, he related the story to his teacher Confucius. With admiration, Confucius replied: “Those who have the most faith can influence everything. They can even move the world, encountering ghosts and spirits; there is no obstacle between Heaven and Earth. An ordinary person like Shangqiu Kai can have so much faith and be sincere, let alone us. Even more so, we need to stick to sincerity.”