There once was a family of three. The man of the house was honest and good, while the lady was hardworking and clever. They had a 17-year-old daughter. It should have been a family that was admired by others. But just as the old Chinese saying goes: “Every family has its own troubles.” The family told me the following story.
The wife told me that both she and her husband grew up in the village, but didn’t know each other before their marriage. When her husband was introduced to her, she felt he was a very timid and quiet man. But she felt he must be very reliable and agreed to marry him.
However, once they were married, she realized he had many bad habits that she could hardly bear. He never closed his mouth while eating, and if he was eating noodles, all their neighbors upstairs or downstairs could hear the disgusting noise he made.
Whenever it happened, she would be very embarrassed. But he just didn’t care at all. Sometimes she was so annoyed that she would call him the “elm pimple” — who cared about nothing and wouldn’t change for anything.
They kept on fighting about these things. She was so ashamed of herself, because she felt her husband was willing to be laughed at by their neighbors and both she and her daughter were looked down on by others. She fought for a divorce many times. But every time, she was stopped by her family and friends.
Whenever she saw him, she would feel upset, as if being suffocated. It was the same with her daughter, who always complained that her father didn’t care about her at all. He never took her out or even hugged or kissed her. She seldom communicated with him. Though they were father and daughter, they felt more like strangers.
Sometimes the mother and daughter talked joyfully at home, but once the father came into the room, there would be a very embarrassing silence. The mother and daughter just didn’t know what to talk to the father about.
The mother and her daughter later converted to Buddhism and were able to deal with many things with ease. But whenever her husband was mentioned, she still became annoyed. She had hoped, via cultivation, to forget and relieve all the sadness this marriage had brought to her.
However, since converting to Buddhism, she could hardly bare the smell of her husband. So they separated and refused to say a word to each other.
After three years of separation, she made up her mind that once her daughter finished her college entrance examination, she would get divorced from her husband. Because of all the sadness and trouble, she had recurrent headaches.
I felt sorry for my friend and wanted to help her. So I called a monk who had the ability to know a person’s fate and could tell past life relationships between people. After listening to their story, the monk slowly told me what he saw with his third eye. It was the relationship between this lady and her husband.
He said the lady was a very poor man in one previous life, and he earned his bread by digging and collecting herbs from the forest and mountains. Once, he went to sell herbs at the pharmacy at the foot of the mountain and the shopkeeper told him:
“Do you know there is a millennium elm on the mountain whose bark can be used for medicine?
“However, because it is hiding at the top of the mountain, nobody dares to go there to get it. If you can peel all the bark off the elm and sell it to our pharmacy, you will be very rich.”
The poor man was very happy, figuring that once he earned that money, he would have enough to take a wife. So after much time in preparation, climbing the mountain, and wading the rivers, he finally found the millennium elm.
It was such a big tree that even three people couldn’t encircle it. Overjoyed, he started to peel the bark from the tree with his axe. But owing to his tiredness from looking for the tree and climbing the mountain, he soon fell asleep.
In a dream, he saw a young man in green who knelt in front of him, saying:
“I am the old elm who has cultivated for a thousand years. I will be able to obtain the Dao and be a God in three more years. If you peel off all my bark, all my effort will be in vain.
“Please wait for three more years and then you can come here to peel the bark from me. If you can follow my instruction and change your mind about peeling my bark, I will pay you later with my gratitude.”
But the man shouted in his dream: “No, No — I can’t do that. I want to get a wife and I can’t wait for three more years.”
When he awoke, he looked around, but didn’t see anybody in green. So he kept on peeling the bark of the elm. Carrying the heavy elm bark, he went back to the pharmacy. The shopkeeper of the pharmacy was very pleased to see him again and immediately put the bark on the scales to weigh it.
The poor man couldn’t read the scales and said:
“Don’t deceive me with your scales, as it took me so much effort to get all this elm bark.” The shopkeeper promised: “Of course, of course, if I deceive you with the scales, let me be your son in the next life.”
The old monk said the lady was the poor man in that life, her husband was the poor old elm whose bark was peeled off by him in that past life, and their daughter was actually the shopkeeper, who did deceive him in that life.
So just as the lady scolded her husband for being an elm pimple who cared for nothing, he was indeed the elm tree, whose bark was peeled off by her in another life. So she was forced to suffer so much from him.
The old monk also said the temper and habit of a person can actually be traced back to experiences from a previous life. As the shopkeeper of the pharmacy did deceive the poor man, though he didn’t reincarnate as his son, he did become the daughter in this life.
It was because of the shopkeeper’s inducements, which ruined the old elm’s cultivation, that in this life he reincarnated to be the daughter of the family. But her father, the reincarnation of the old elm tree, didn’t care for or love her at all. This was the reason for the indifference between the father and daughter.
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