Perform Extraordinary Miracles With Just One Sincere Thought

Mountain lake with the sun behind the clouds.
With one sincere thought, a person can confound all evil intentions and perform miracles. (Image: Michelangelo Oprandi via Dreamstime)

This is a story about devout thought from the compilations in Liezi, an ancient Chinese philosophical text.

An elderly farmer was named Shangqiu Kai. His family was impoverished and often suffered from hunger. One day, two men from the wealthy family of Fan Zihua stayed at Shangqiu’s house as guests. 

In their chat, they said that Fan Zihua was famous and influential, and he could achieve the feat of making “a living person die,” “a dead person live,” “a rich person poor,” and “a poor person rich.” Shangqiu happened to be near the window, so he overheard their conversation. And this is where his boundless devout thought was formed. So with that, he borrowed some dried food, carried a bag, went to the city, and came to the door of Fan Zihua’s house.

Journey anywhere with one sincere thought and confound all evil and arrogant intentions

The Fan family and their followers were from aristocratic families. They dressed gorgeously, walked in a dignified manner, and had high-spirited eyes. So when they saw the old and frail Shangqiu with his dark face and sloppy clothes, they despised him. They ridiculed, insulted, deceived, and even beat and shoved him. They felt it was all too damaging to let such a sloppy old man join them as a follower of the Fan family.

The other followers thought it was a disgrace to have such a sloppy old farmer in their ranks.
The other followers thought having such a sloppy old farmer in their ranks was a disgrace. (Image: Mengzhang via Dreamstime)

However, Shangqiu came with a firm belief; naturally, he did not care how he was insulted. He firmly believed there must be some secrets of life, death, and wealth, so he waited patiently for something to manifest. Shangqiu mingled as usual with the other followers as if he wanted to become Fan Zihua’s follower, but he was looking for the truth of life.

Sincere thoughts prevail, and nasty tricks backfire

They eventually got tired of making fun of Shangqiu, so they devised other nasty tricks. One instance was when they took Shangqiu to a high platform and said casually: “If anyone can voluntarily jump down from this high platform, they will be rewarded with a hundred pieces of gold.” Shangqiu, without thinking, believed this was the truth, so he took the lead and jumped down. Everyone saw Shangqiu opening up his body as light as a swallow, and he landed on the ground without damaging his muscles or bones. The way Fan Zihua looked at it, he thought it was just a coincidence, as it was not surprising that the wind would have blown and lifted Shangqiu’s frail body.

Then everyone went to the river. Someone pointed to the deepest part of the river and said, “There are jewels there; whoever can swim to the bottom of the water can get them.” Again, Shangqiu thought this was the truth. He swam to the bottom of the flowing water and groped for a while. When he came back up to the surface, he got the jewels. This time, everyone was surprised and felt that the coincidental nonsense had become an inconceivable reality.

From then on, Fan Zihua began to respect Shangqiu, provided him with good food, drink, and accommodation, and treated him as a formal guest.

Impervious to fire and danger

A fire broke out in Fan Zihua’s house shortly after, destroying many valuable items in the warehouse. Fan Zihua was jittery and did not know what to do. Just as Shangqiu came forward, Fan Zihua said to him: “If you can go into the fire and save the brocade, I will give you whatever you want.” Shangqiu did not hesitate as his thoughts were only on the truth. He went in and out of the fire and took out much of the brocade. His body remained intact with no burns or injury.

Billowing smoke and flames of a fire.
He did go in and out of the fire, and his body remained intact with no burns or injury. (Image: Seesea via Dreamstime)

Fan Zihua and everyone at the scene were stunned. They believed that Shangqiu must be a Daoist. They all apologized to Shangqiu and said: “We didn’t know that you are a Daoist, and we even played tricks and insulted you. Please regard us as fools who are just too ignorant. Now, we are willing to worship you as our teacher. May we ask what kind of Daoism you practice?” 

Shangqiu responded: “I am not a Daoist, nor do I know any Daoism. All these events are from my sincere search for the truth. Since you have asked, let me tell you this. Recently, two guests of Fan Zihua’s family stopped at my house. They were talking about the power of Fan Zihua related to life, death, and wealth. When I heard it, I felt confident and had a sincere yearning. So I come from far away with a sincere thought of seeking the truth. Moreover, I took all their words seriously and took every single word as the truth. For fear that I am not pious enough and do not perform well, I let go of all my self-interests, including my body. It’s just that my mind stays the same. External

Deception and doubt are killers

Shangqiu added: “Now that I realized that you people are all deceiving me, making me now feel suspicious and worried, making me more attentive and doubtful and to listen to various situations outside myself, I think back on how I escaped being burned and drowned; painful and sad thoughts torment me and add to my fear and shock. How is it possible now for me to get close to ruthless fire and water?”

After that, the people in Fan Zihua’s family and his followers no longer acted ruthlessly when dealing with others; whether they were distinguished guests or beggars, they still maintained their etiquette and morality.

Words of wisdom from the great Confucius

Later, when Zai Wo, a disciple of Confucius, heard about these events, he related the story to his teacher Confucius. With admiration, Confucius replied: “Those with the most faith can influence everything. They can move the world and encounter ghosts and spirits; there is no obstacle between Heaven and Earth. An ordinary person like Shangqiu Kai can have so much faith and be sincere, let alone us. More so, we need to stick to the way of sincerity.” One sincere thought can create miracles.

Translated by Chua BC

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  • Michael Segarty

    Careers in Web Design, Editing and Web Hosting, Domain Registration, Journalism, Mail Order (Books), Property Management. I have an avid interest in history, as well as the Greek and Roman classics. For inspiration, I often revert to the Golden Age (my opinion) of English Literature, Poetry, and Drama, up to the end of the Victorian Era. "Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labor and to wait." H.W. Longfellow.