There are many sayings from ancient times. One is: “When going about one’s business, one must abide by heavenly principles.” Another is: “To expand one’s field of fortune, one must act according to one’s conscience.” This implies that people must follow heavenly principles in order to accomplish tasks effectively. To enable good fortune to grow, people must cultivate their hearts. The ancients believed that they could accumulate virtue by protecting lives and being sure not to have sexual affairs.
The King of Wenchang (文昌王) is a Taoist deity known in the West as the Chinese God of Culture and Literature. In his text Hidden Good Deeds, he said: “Following lustful thoughts is the action of an unrighteous person. Lust corrupts one’s compassionate character, moral integrity, and reputation. Lust violates heavenly principles and that person must be punished. The Heavens often bring swift retribution to those people. If a person does not fear retribution and does not restrain themselves and correct the evil acts, they will suffer ongoing misfortune. Only those with a clean body and good virtue who guard their bodies like precious jade can receive Heaven’s good fortune.”
Since ancient times, those who can abstain from lust have received good fortune. However, those who desire lust and indulge in sensual pleasures will experience turmoil and disaster on a regular basis. This is enough to harm one’s quiet acts of merit and one’s future. Once you have a lustful thought, even if it is not carried out, it is already sinful. For those who commit such acts, not only must they experience disaster, but they will bring disaster to their descendants. In doing so, some people rapidly lose their good fortune, some peoples’ families are torn apart, and there are people who lose their lives. It may be that a person was supposed to have wealth, position, and honor, but because of such acts, they became impoverished for the rest of their life. Or a person would have had a long life and good fortune as vast as the ocean, but because of such acts, they would encounter misfortune and die young.
If a person crosses this line, they have ruined their integrity and betrayed Heavenly principles. As there is no place for such a person in Heaven or on Earth, how can one not take this seriously? Ancient literature contains many examples that demonstrate the process of reward or retribution with regard to this situation. Below is one such case.
During the Northern Song Dynasty, Lin Maoxian from Xinzhou District of Jiangxi Province was a learned person. As his family was extremely poor, he focused on his studies and did not waste any time idling. One day, he received an award of acknowledgment from the village. The wife of a rich neighbor disliked her husband because he didn’t have an education and secretly yearned for Lin Maoxian’s academic reputation. After he got the award, this woman became infatuated with Lin Maoxian and one night went to his house. Lin Maoxian told her sternly: “There are differences between men and women, and this behavior does not conform to the rules of Heavenly etiquette. Heaven, Earth, good and evil are all around us as if we’re in a forest. How can you corrupt my moral conduct?” The woman felt ashamed after hearing this and left his home.
In the second year, Lin Maoxian passed the highest imperial examinations. As he was very talented with outstanding achievements, he was placed in an important position in the imperial court. He became the minister of ceremonies in the capital and had the second highest rank. Later, all four of his sons also passed the highest imperial examinations. They were honored with praises and the title “A family of imperial graduates” or “A family of honorable nobles.”
One of noble character needs to discipline themselves even in private.
The Doctrine of the Mean, a notable Confucian text, begins by saying that one of noble character needs to discipline themselves even in private. When commenting on morally inferior people, they are said to fear nothing. Discipline requires reverence and fear. One must revere social etiquette or fear the consequences, as was demonstrated by Lin Maoxian’s strong self-discipline.
The ancients respected Heaven and the Divine. One of noble character, even in a dark room, knows that divine beings are watching, and doesn’t dare indulge in lust. They can restrain themselves, cultivate compassion, and accumulate good fortune, and will be blessed by the Heavens and admired by both humans and gods. Those with inferior morals do not believe in karmic retribution; they are impertinent. Their low morality inclines them to believe that no one will know if they conceal their bad actions. They don’t realize that while their thoughts and actions can be concealed from people, they cannot be concealed from the divine, and so they will incur great karma, angering the heavens.