THROUGH MANY LIVES
A Chinese Story
translated by George
Some people remember every incident
of their former existences; it is a
fact which many examples can prove.
Other people do not forget what they
learned before they died and were born
again, but remember only confusedly what
they were in a precedent life.
Wang The-acceptable, of the Yellow-peach-blossom
city, when people discussed
such questions before him, used to narrate
the experience he had had with his first son.
The boy, at the time he spoke of, was
three or four years old. He did not say
many words, and some people thought he
was dumb. One day, The-acceptable was
writing a letter, when he was disturbed by a
friend. He put his writing-brush down on
the table and left the room. When he
came back, his letter was finished, and
written much more correctly than he
would have believed himself able to do.
Besides, he did not remember having
finished it. The puzzle did not trouble him
Another day the same thing occurred;
he left the room, leaving a letter unfinished
on the table; when he came back, the
letter was nearly ended. Nobody but the
boy had been in the room. Troubled and
suspicious, he rose and feigned to go away;
but he came back immediately and noiselessly.
From the door, he saw his boy
kneeling on the stool and writing the letter.
The little man suddenly saw his father
and asked to be forgiven. The father of
"We all thought you were dumb; if
you are such a learned man, the family
happiness will be great! How could we
From that date he had good lessons
given to the boy, who very early passed
successfully his third degree examination
and became one of the most celebrated
"Entered among the learned" of his time.
When his father asked him whether he
remembered what he had been before being
what he now was, the boy said that the
first life he could remember was that of
a young student; he lived in a monastery
to save as much as he could of his income.
When he died, the King-of-the-Darkness
punished him for his stinginess and condemned
him to become a donkey in the
same monastery he had lived in.
He wanted to die, but did not know
what to do; the priests loved him and
were very careful. One day he was on a
mountain road and was tempted to throw
himself downhill; but he had a man on his
back and was afraid of the punishment
the King-of-the-Darkness would inflict upon
him if he killed that man. So he went on.
Many years passed; he died at last, and
was born again as a peasant. But, as he
had forgotten nothing of his former lives,
he was able to speak a few days after his
birth. His father and mother judged the
thing highly suspicious and killed him.
After that, he was born in the family of
Wang The-acceptable. Appreciating the
surroundings, and bearing in mind that he
had last been killed because he spoke too
early, he was very careful this time not
to utter a single word. But when he saw
the paper and ink he could not resist his
love of literature and finished the letter.