Earth Store Sutra, Preface, with commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

One of China's 24 paragons of filiality was Dongyong, also known as Dongan, a very filial person. One of his neighbors, Wangji, was the richest man, while he himself was the poorest. Dongan's mom, because of her son's filial devotion, was well-nourished and plump. Though advanced in years, she felt happy day and night.

On the other hand, Wangji's mom was made of money and ate only the finest delicacies—poultry, seafood, assorted meats—but she was thin as a rail. She was unhappy and worried all the time.

One day, when both sons were away, the skinny mom inquired of the plump mom, "Your family lives hand to mouth and can't put anything nice on the dinner table, yet you're all chubby and round. How is it that you get so plumpish in your old age?"

Dongan's mom said to the skinny mom, "My son is very filial. He stays out of trouble, behaves himself, and works hard at his job. I've got absolutely no worries and I'm very happy. As the saying goes, when the heart is carefree, the body plumps out. I'm happy at heart, so I plump out."

She went on to ask the skinny mom, "You live the good life and there are plenty of nice things to eat in your house. Yet why are you all skin and bones? Is there something wrong with you?"

The skinny mom replied, "Sure I've got money and eat well, except my son is a roughneck. He gets in trouble with the law day in and day out. He's either wanted by the police for questioning, or there'd be some warrants to appear in court. I worry about him all the time. No matter how well I eat, I don't feel happy. I'm stressed out. I get skinnier by the day because there's no way I can put on weight when I'm all worried."

While the two moms—one skinny, one chubby—were chatting up a storm about their sons—one filial, one disobedient , the disobedient one returned and overheard their conversation. After the moms had said their goodbyes and went home, Wangji went to Dongan's house and roughed up the chubby mom good. "You blabbermouth! Why did you feed my mom all that crap?" he yelled.

When Dongan came home and saw his mom upset, he asked why. She told her son, "Wangji was here and beat me up. He accused me of speaking ill of him to his mom."

Dongan did not say anything to that but simply comforted his mom, "Please don't be mad. That's just how he is. Don't mind him."

However, after his mom got beat up and called down by that hooligan, she got sick and died.

Upon his mom's death, Dongan blew his top, "When my mom was alive, I shied away from fights with you to keep her from worrying. Now you've done her in."

So he picked up a knife and killed Wangji. The skinny mom had always worried that her son might get himself killed one day, and sure enough, he got killed. Afterwards, with Wangji's head in hand, Dongan went to his mom's grave and set the head on an altar table. He lit incense, bowed, and said, "Mom, please don't be mad anymore. So he beat you up, right? Now I have avenged you. I killed him to offer his head to you."

When he finished with the rite of offerings—guess what happened next? He took the head with him and turned himself in, confessing, "My mom died after the beating. So I killed him and made offering of his head to my mom. Do what you will with me. I'll accept the court's verdict, and won't dodge the law."

The county prefect handed down a life sentence and he was put in jail. It just so happened that the emperor then issued an imperial pardon which exempted all criminals of their past crimes, and he was freed. After his release, he was later appointed to high offices in the government--all because he was a filial son.

The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva, Preface, with commentary by  Venerable Master Hsuan Hua