Greeting at Ghost Gate
3) Doctor and Fate
In the early last century, there was a wealthy
man surnamed Guo living in the west district of Beijing.
Guo believed in fortune
telling and befriended a Daoist. One day when the two
discussed about fate
and destiny, Guo asked the Daoist to calculate when he
would die. The Daoist replied that fortune telling focus
on one's life not death, and now as Guo talked about death,
it might not be a good sign; however, since Guo had already
asked this question, he would help him to find the answer.
After a complicated reckoning, the Daoist told
Guo he was going to die in three years of time at the hand
of a doctor surnamed Wang. But Guo still had time to alter
his fate by negotiating with the related parities. On hearing
that, Guo gave a dismissive laugh. "Big deal! From now
on I just won't consult any doctor surnamed Wang."
Returned home, Guo ordered that under no circumstances
a Doctor Wang should be allowed to step into his household,
and no family member should go to see a doctor surnamed Wang.
Later, Guo suffered a severe asthma attack.
By then there was an asthma specialist from southern China
paid working visit to Beijing and his surname was not Wang,
so Guo invited the doctor to see him. After diagnosis, the
doctor informed Guo that his illness was not as serious as
it appeared, and that as long as he stuck to the doctor's
prescription and followed the directives, he should be fine.
Soon, the doctor returned to the south and
Guo slowly recovered from the illness. But when the summer
season arrived, his asthma worsened, and even after taking
20 packs of the prescribed medicine, the condition did not
improve. In fact it is common for asthma symptoms to appear
more severe during the summer, since the Five
Agents for the hot season is Fire while lung belongs
to the Metal category, and Fire conquers Metal. But Guo didn't
know that, and when he realised the time was fast approaching
to the end of the third year since the Daoist predicted
his death, he was alarmed. Still, for fearing he might meet
a doctor Wang, he decided to stick to the old prescription
and sent his son to get more packs of medicine.
In those days, prescriptions were all written
on thin rice paper, and after being passed through many hands,
the paper were easily got damaged with holes. So the son
asked a duty doctor in the medicine store to hand copy the
prescription, as Chinese prescriptions normally contain characters and
marks that are not intelligible to layman.
The doctor read the prescription, and raised
doubt about an ingredient that is classified as being warm
in nature. "How can your father keep taking this hot
element in the summer?"
The son explained to the doctor that his father
believed in no one but that particular doctor from south,
so insisted to stick to his prescription. "On the
whole it's a good prescription," the doctor told the
son. "Your father can keep using it. I just make a few
minor changes with some ingredients."
The son was very happy and brought the medicine
to his father. However, four or five days after taking the
medicine that was modified by the duty doctor, the old man's
condition suddenly deteriorated, suffering from short breath
with his face turned purple. Within just one day, he died.
Later the son discovered with horror that the
duty doctor's surname was no other but Wang.
Lao Tze noted in The Book of Virtues: "Heaven
and Earth remain unmoved, regarding every thing as part of
illusive games". Doctor Wang was merely sent by fate
to end the old man's existence. In this regard, all doctors
play a role in their patients' life assigned by destiny,
and they can only save people who are fated to be saved.
That rich man did not really believe in destiny,
nevertheless, which is why he thought he could avoid the
doomed outcome by not to consult Doctor Wang. But in the
end he still died at the hand of Doctor Wang no matter how
hard he tried.
In fact, the Daoist had advised the rich man
to negotiate with the parties involved, sadly the rich man
rejected the idea, thus lost the last chance to escape the
A wise way to deal with our destiny, I think,
is to acknowledge its existence, to face up to the consequences
of our past actions and to do things differently so as to
create a more desirable future.
In the past there was a man named Yuan Kunyi
(袁坤仪) who lived a life that was predicted by a Daoist master
down to tiny details including the date of his death. When
he approached the end of his year, he met a Buddhist monk
called Cloudy Valley Zen Master (云谷禅师) who taught him how
to change his fate. Yuan faithfully followed the monk's advice
and eventually amended his own destiny, as well as his life
expediency. Before his death, he wrote a book telling his
fate-altering story titled "Liaofan's Four Lessons" (《了凡四训》).
Excerpt of original Chinese text by 池草
Rays - A Doctor's Story (4)