Since ancient times, when traditional values and morals have extensively degenerated and collapsed, a deadly plague would invariably strike out across the land. As a result, whenever this happens in any part of the world, many people become ill and perish. It is therefore not surprising that humans are frightened of plagues.
What is a plague? Is there anything or anyone that a plague is afraid of? In fact, a plague is not afraid of anything and it is not afraid of anyone. There is a Chinese saying: “Someone must be held accountable for a wrongful deed, and a debt must always be settled.”
So a plague usually seeks to avenge those “debtors” who deserve retribution for the wrongs they have done in the past. The plague knows what it should do. If a particular person isn’t one of those it is looking for, it may just go past that individual without causing any trouble.
But how do we know if we owe any spiritual debt? Debt in this context here means karma — the black karma generated when people do bad things. Since plagues occur due to the accumulation of huge amounts of black karma, they are very different from any ordinary disease or condition, often with no ready-made medications to cure them.
The Plague: Messenger from Heaven
“Plague is a disease, not brought about by wind, cold, heat, or humidity, but a different kind of energy between heaven and earth.”
Wu Youke (also known as Wu Youxing), a renowned physician in the Ming Dynasty, said in his book Wenyi Lun (Treatise on Pestilence) that “plague is a disease, not brought about by wind, cold, heat, or humidity, but a different kind of energy between heaven and earth.” He called it “li qi.” In modern terms, it could refer to some microscopic substances containing a virus or pathogen.
In the spiritual cultivation community, “li qi” refers to microscopic evil spirits. You need to have extraordinary power to expel these life-threatening low-level spirits.
Magic formula for protection against the plague
Buddhism and Taoism have been an integral part of China for thousands of years. In ancient times, people tended to be truthful and kind, and they paid attention to improving their morality. They lived in accordance with the will of Heaven and Earth. Cultivators, including Buddhist monks and Taoists, often developed supernormal abilities.
If any place maintained good social norms and its people were kind-hearted and faithful, then the Divine would arrange to send capable figures to assist them in difficult situations and in times of tribulation.
If an individual developed faith in God and Buddha, he would have opportunities to be protected and saved in any crisis, and things would turn out for the best.
There was a story in the book Yi Jian Zhi (Record of Yi Jian) in the Song Dynasty, which recorded that there was a place called Shengmidu, several dozens of miles south of Yuzhang (today’s Nanchang in Jiangxi Province), where people could cross the Gan River.
The monk wrote down three sacred characters on a strip of paper
On March 8, the first year of the Qiandao Era of the Southern Song Dynasty, a monk came to cross the river in the morning and told the guarding officers at the Jindu crossing: “Five people in yellow clothes will come here, each carrying two cages on their shoulders. Make sure that you don’t let them cross the river. There will be a catastrophe if they do.”
He then wrote three strange characters on a strip of paper, which looked like symbols but were not exactly symbols. No one understood what they meant. The monk handed the note to the officers and said: “If you find it too hard to stop them, then show them this note.” With these words, the monk left.
The officers didn’t quite believe what the monk told them and found the whole thing pretty strange. However, when it was noontime, five people in yellow clothes indeed came that way. They looked like guards from the local magistrate, each carrying two large cages on their shoulders.
They wanted to board the boat to cross the river, but the officers stopped them. The two sides argued for a long time, ready to get into a fight. Just then, an officer took out the note written by the monk and showed it to the five people. When they saw the characters, they retreated in great dismay and disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving behind the 10 large cages by the river.
The officers opened the cages and found five hundred small coffins in them. They burned all the coffins and circulated the characters among the local people.
Every household in Yuzhang offered sacrifices to the note with the three characters. That year, a number of plagues broke out in Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and countless people died.
The place where people were spared
Shengmidu was the only place where people were spared. It turned out that the five people were envoys from the Plague Section, and the monk was there to save people in that area.
“If any place maintained good social norms and its people were kind-hearted and faithful, then the Divine would arrange to send capable figures to assist them in difficult situations and in times of tribulation.”
This story reveals that people who obtained the Tao from cultivation can foresee disasters. It was most likely that the local people in Shengmidu were honest and kind, and should therefore not need to suffer retribution, so a monk was sent there to protect them with supernatural abilities.