PureInsight | November 1, 2004
[PureInsight.org] Emperors in feudal China and dictators in contemporary China have had unchecked powers. The Chinese emperors had their subjects call them "people who live for ten thousand years". The life span of a man, however, is not up to his will. None of the emperors lived for longer than 100 years. Most of them lived rather short lives. In contrast, those who lived longest were villagers and farmers in the mountains and remote places who had no power or strong desires. The ancient Chinese had a saying, "The plans a man makes can't measure up to the plans made in Heaven." There is also another Chinese saying, "life and death are predestined; wealth is arranged by heaven."
Ms. Wang was a friend of mine. She used to live in Tianjin City, China. She was divorced when she was middle-aged. When she was in her 50s, she came to Singapore to start a new life by herself. She was an excellent cook. She had unique family recipes that had been passed down for generations. She adopted a son from an orphanage. The two of them started a restaurant. After more than a decade of hard work, her restaurant became quite prosperous. Although she was my father's age, she preferred that I call her Sister Wang. One day after dining at her restaurant, we had a talk. We discussed the issue of how much money would be enough for an elderly person to live a decent life in Singapore after retirement. I said, "With a moderate lifestyle, 80,000 to 100,000 Singapore dollars should be sufficient for retirement." Sister Wang said, "How can that be enough? I owe 800,000 Singapore dollars on the mortgage for the two new apartments that I just purchased. Besides, medical costs are quite high nowadays. I am not sure if two million Singapore dollars is even enough for retirement. I am over 60 and have some heart problems, but I would like to work 10 more years before I can think about retirement."
Three days after our talk, her son called me unexpectedly: Sister Wang had passed away from a sudden illness. It is true that in nature, there are unexpected storms; in life, there are unpredictable vicissitudes. I could hardly believe my ears: just a few days ago she had been talking about working for 10 more years. How could she have passed away so quickly? Her son said that Sister Wang used to have heart problems, and that she always took emergency heart medication with her. Unfortunately, on that particular day she got up late and ran out of her heart meditation. She could not breathe, and was too weak to open a container in her house that contained unopened boxes of heart medication. She called her son immediately. But by the time he got home by taxi, she had passed away.
Sister Wang left this world unexpectedly, leaving behind a property of one million Singapore dollars without a will. According to Singapore law, her son would inherit her estate. But her relatives in China could not accept this and filed a lawsuit against her son to fight for the money. The son and the relatives are enemies now, something that Sister Wang would have never anticipated.
We humans can never predict our life spans. Pursuing wealth blindly will only increase our mental burden. During our short lives, our attitude should be to purge our mind of desires and ambitions, do kind deeds, and endure hardships. Then we will be able to live with the grace and clarity that we deserve. There is only one path to truly leave the cycle of birth-sickness-aging-death behind - cultivating to return our original, true selves.
Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2004/9/25/29260.html