Repentance for Killing Eels 殺鱔悔悟

Long ago a person named Wang something had an eating house and was a very skilled cook, specialising in killing eels. A Buddhist priest arrived at the restaurant and bought a bowl of eel for ten copper cash. When it arrived, he pressed his hands together and prostrated himself in greeting, and did not eat but left instead. This happened for several days. Shopkeeper Wang thought this strange and questioned him, at which the priest said: “You have mastered the preparation of eel but not yet attained the way, and therefore I do not eat. I will come again tomorrow; if you can sell a bowl of perfectly straight eel, I will repay double your money without hesitation.” Wang so-and-so said: “How can one make it straight?” The priest said: “You need to hold the eel with your hands, [99] right up until the stock boils, and then you can make them straight.” Wang laughed and said: “Won’t that hurt my hands?” The priest said: “Your two hands will know pain; what of the tens of thousands of eels’ lives?” Wang so-and-so then achieved a sudden enlightenment, abandoning his livelihood and never again opening his shop. Restricting himself to a vegetarian diet and chanting the name of the Buddha, he lived little more than a month before passing away.

Anon, Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi, 前2.98-99 (tale 168):

殺鱔悔悟

昔有食店王某,善於庖饌,專殺鱔魚。有一道人至店,以銅錢十文買鱔一碗。及至,則合掌頂禮,不食而去。如是數日。王店怪而問之,道人曰:「你修事鱔魚尚未得法,所以不食。我明日再來,你賣一碗條直鱔魚,倍還你錢不妨。」王某曰:「何策得其條直?」道人曰:「你須以手握鱔, [99] 致之沸湯,即能條直。」王笑曰:「如手痛何?」道人曰:「爾雙手知痛,況鱔魚數萬命乎?」王某即頓悟,捨業不復開店,持素念佛,不逾月而亡。

Yuan Haowen 元好問, Chang Zhenguo 常振國 (ed), Xu Yijian zhi 續夷堅志 (Continued Records of the Listener), and Anon., Jin Xin 金心 (ed.), Huhai xinwen yijian xuzhi 湖海新聞夷堅續志 (Continuation of Records of the Listener with New Items from the Lakes and Seas) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1986).

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Author: Geoff Humble

Hobby translator of mosty 14th century Chinese texts. Enjoys strange tales. Image is my doodle based on an element within this work: http://archive.asia.si.edu/collections/edan/object.php?q=fsg_F1938.4

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