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I Shall Head West

Zen Master Daoyue in the Southern Song Dynasty used to be the abbot of Jiangtian Buddhist Temple in Jinshan, Zhenjiang. He was the eminent monk that Yue Fei, a famous general in the Song Dynasty, revered the most.

Qin Hui recalled Yue Fei back to the capital from Zhuxian Town in the form of 12 gold plaques, and Yue Fei was on his way back when he passed by Jiangtian Temple in Jinshan. Zen Master Daoyue tried to persuade him to be a monk instead of going back to the capital, but Yue Fei clung to his loyalty and insisted on going back regardless of the predictable harm.

Just before parting, Yue Fei asked for teachings. Zen Master Daoyue told him: “Days before the lunar New Year would be insufficient; be alert to the tears of heaven; and watch out for rats, which may harm you ruthlessly.”

Yue Fei did not understand the meaning until he was framed and imprisoned for a false charge. There were only 29 days in December of the lunar year, and in the evening of the 29th day, it began to rain. Hearing the rain outside, Yue Fei realized that a crushing calamity was imminent, which proved the prophecy of Zen Master Daoyue to be true – “Days before the lunar New Year would be insufficient; be alert to the tears of heaven”.

“Rats” turned out to be the treacherous Qin Hui. As was predicted in “which may harm you ruthlessly”, Yue Fei was indeed executed at Fengbo Pavilion that day.

After the execution, Qin Hui asked the executioner what Yue Fei's final words were. The executioner said: "He only said that he should have taken the advice of Zen Master Daoyue in Jin Shan."

Qin Hui then immediately dispatched his trusted follower He Li to Jinshan to arrest Zen Master Daoyue. Just one day before He Li’s arrival, Zen Master Daoyue gathered a crowd and preached to them. In the end, he said: “He Li is coming from the South while I am going to the West. If my Dharma strength were not sufficient, I would surely have fallen into the villain's hands.”

Right after he finished his words, he passed away in a sitting posture. Nobody knew why at that time. The crowd was sad and confused. Only when He Li came with his soldiers did they suddenly understand.

As Zen Master Dauyue was able to predict Yue Fei’s death, undoubtedly he could predict his own death too. Why didn’t he treasure life and escape from death? It is because life and death are unavoidable. Yue Fei was destined by karma, so was Zen Master Daoyue. Zen masters are unavoidably influenced by karma, but after they are enlightened, they will not fear life or death. Life is good, but death is also beautiful.

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