Three Baby Swallows and Mr. Zhou's Three Sons

Hu Naiwen from Taiwan

PureInsight | May 30, 2005

[] There is a Chinese saying, "A fault confessed is half redressed." There is a story in a Chinese novel titled Sou Shen Hou Ji that illustrates this Chinese idiom.

Once upon a time, there was a literary man surnamed Zhou in Pei State. He had three sons in their early 20's. They appeared very healthy. But other than being able to utter some sounds, none of them could speak.

One day a man passed by Zhou's house and asked for a cup of water. He heard strange noises inside the house, so he asked Mr. Zhou, "What is that noise?"

Mr. Zhou replied, "My sons. They cannot speak. They can only utter some sounds."

The man said, "Perhaps you should search inward and ask yourself why such a great misfortune had befallen upon your sons."

Mr. Zhou was amazed by the man's advice. He thought to himself, "This is by no means an ordinary man."

After a long while, Mr. Zhou came out and told the man, "I don't remember I have done anything wrong."

The man said, "Why don't you try to recall things you have done in your childhood?"

Mr. Zhou entered his room again and thought hard about his childhood. After a long time, he came out and confessed to the man, "When I was very little, a swallow built a nest at the head of my bed. After the swallow hatched three eggs, she started flying out daily hunting for food for her baby swallows. The baby swallows would open their big mouths and ate everything the mother swallow brought them. I watched the mother swallow feeding her babies every day. One day I put one of my fingers into the nest, and the baby swallows tried to eat my finger. I took three large thorny seeds and gave each baby swallow a thorny seed. They died shortly afterwards. When the mother swallow returned and saw her dead babies, she wailed sadly and flew away. To this day, every time I think of it, I still regret killing the three baby swallows."

After having heard his confession, the man turned into a Tao. He told Mr. Zhou, "Since you have confessed your crime, I will stop the punishment."

Suddenly Mr. Zhou's three sons could speak like normal people. Then the Tao disappeared into thin air.

It is truly admirable for a man to correct his faults once he finds them.

According to the Buddha school, when someone beats others or curse others, he will ultimately be punished for his sins. Killing animals or human beings is an even greater sin. Mr. Zhou in the story created a terrible sin for himself by killing three innocent living beings, so he had to suffer for his sins. He paid back his sin by painfully watching his sons unable to speak for twenty years and by honestly confessing his childhood crime. It is true that a fault confessed is half redressed. It is truly important for us to search inward for our faults and attachments when we encounter tribulation and immediately correct them.

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