In the Yuan Dynasty, a group of scholars went to pay their respects to Master Jung Fung, a very famous and wise monk who resided on Tainmu Mountain. Afterwards, they sat down with the Master asked if they might take this opportunity to ask some questions.
He nodded his agreement and so the First Scholar asked, "Master Jung Fung, Buddhist teachings often speak of a person’s karmic reward for their good and bad deeds. It is said, ‘They are like a shadow, following the body wherever it goes.’ Why is then that there are people who practise kind deeds but their family and their descendants are not prosperous and successful? On the other hand, there are bad and wicked people who do improper things, but their family and descendants do quite well. Where has the Law of Cause and Effect gone? Is there no standard in the Buddha’s teachings?"
Master Jung Fung answered the scholar saying, "Ordinary people are blinded by worldly views and have not cleansed their minds of impurities and cannot see with true perception. Therefore, they look upon true goodness as wrongdoings and mistake true wrongdoings as goodness. This is very common nowadays! Furthermore, these people do not blame themselves for bad perception on their part, but instead blame the heavens for their misfortunes!"
The Second Scholar then said, " Good is good and bad is bad. How can they be mistaken for each other?"
On hearing this, Master Jung Fung then invited each of the scholars to express their thoughts on what was good and what was bad.
The Third Scholar then spoke for the first time and expressed his views as to what was good and what was bad. He said, "To yell at and beat others is bad. To respect and treat others in a mannerly way is good." But Master Jung Fung shook his head and said, "Not necessarily". The Fourth Scholar said, "Being greedy for wealth and taking another's money is bad, not being greedy and abiding by proper ways is good." Again Master Jung Fung shook his head and said, "Not necessarily." The remaining scholars all expressed their own views on what was good and bad but Master Jung Fung still replied, "Not necessarily". So the scholars then decided to ask the Master what is really considered good and what is really considered bad. Master Jung Fung said, " To do things with the intention of bringing benefit to others is good. To do things for the sake of oneself is bad. If what we do is for the sake of benefiting another, then it does not matter if we yell at or beat that person, it is still considered good. If our intention is for self-benefit, then regardless of our appearance of respect and courtesy, it is still considered bad." "Therefore, when we practise kind deeds with the sole intention of benefiting others, this is considered benefiting the public and if it is public, then it is real goodness. If we only think of ourselves while doing kind acts, then that is considered private benefit and this is false goodness. When kindness springs from within the heart, it is real goodness. When we do good just for the sake of doing a good deed, then it is false. In addition, when we do good without expecting anything in return, it is considered real goodness. "When we practise kind deeds for some other purpose than to benefit others, it is false. Those who wish to practise true kindness need to contemplate all these differences."
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