Sunday, July 31, 2005

Plague Demons on the loose again in China

There is such a Buddhist saying:

"Demons originate from one's own mind,
And they are also conquered by the same mind."

As we all know, currently there is a contagious virus spreading from pigs to human in Sichuan, China, and it is showing signs of expansion. This is reminiscent of the past SARS epidemic, which originated from civet cats to humans as well. What about the Bird Flu virus, which is still rampant in certain Southeast Asian countries? If not controlled properly, all these viruses could easily spread from animals to humans and to other humans, resulting in another great plauge that would kill many. What is the cause of such large scale negative kamma, one may ask? None other than the sin of killing.

In Buddhist doctrine, there is a Chieftain among the Ghosts, one of many in the Ghost realm, who is in charge of spreading plauge in our world. However, it is not this chieftain who decides who or when to punish humans with viruses, but rather human beings themselves. In other words, it is humans who create such negative karma and the chieftain merely delivers the fruits. Whenever the collective sins of killing in one place reach a certain level, the chieftain would send out the plague demons under his command to spread viruses among those people responsible for such unwholesome deeds. For those who refrain from killing, the demons would bypass their dwellings even if they live in the same area as those responsible. So it is no surprise that for the current plague in Sichuan, those who are struck down first are the pig butchers, followed by those in close association with them. In the past, during the SARS epidemic, those who died first were also butchers who slaughter civet cats and other wild animals in Guangdong for a living. Butchers kill animals everyday and the more they kill, the worse karma they create for themselves. In this life they suffer sudden and painful deaths and in the next existence they are reborn in the Hells to suffer more of the terrible suffering they imposed on other sentient beings. Naturally, people who enjoy eating freshly slaugtered meat would also share this type of karma. This is especially evident in certain regions of China, especially Guangdong province, where many animal related epidemics are known to have originated.

But putting the Chieftain of Plague and his demonic servants aside, what does the Buddha actually wanted to teach us? The teaching that evil comes from our own minds. Because of the thought of craving for fresh meat that arises in the mind, humans have slaugtered countless animals to satisfy their hunger since time immemorial. Those who are slaugtered hate those who butcher them and when they are reborn, they take revenge on their killers. This create an endless vicious cycle of kiling and getting killed. Thus war, plague and famine, all resulting in massive loss of lives, have never once disappeared from human history. All because of the craving to devour the flesh of other beings.

Realizing the cause and effect behind such death and destruction, the only way for human beings to gain lasting peace and safety in the world is to curb the craving for meat. When one developes compassion for the lives of other sentient beings, especially the animals, he will no longer kill and when the sins of killing are no more; the karma of war, plague and famine will also become non-existent. When that time finally comes, one will realize that the chieftain and his plague demons are really Bodhisattvas showing us the path of the Dhamma.

All sentient beings are one in the Dhammakaya (truth-body); all beings crave life and fear death, all seek happiness and shun suffering. So let compassion arise in your heart and transform our world into a Pure Land, sadhu.

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