Monday, August 25, 2008

Ghost Marriage

The Dhammapada says:
"Neither of iron nor wood nor hemp is bond so strong,
proclaim the wise, as passion’s yearn
for sons, for wives, for gems and ornaments."
On 23.8.2008 there was also another story about a Penang Chinese family who held a ghost marriage for a daughter who died of kidney failure 31 yrs ago. Apparently this "woman", Xie Mingying, had informed her family through a medium that she had found a suitable partner in the Peta (ghost) realm, and wished to get married. At first they were not very sure, but when they asked another unrelated fortune teller some time later, Xie possessed the man and repeated her wish to them. Only then they were convinced. Incidentally, the prospective husband, Xu Yuquan also informed his human relatives through the same medium of his desire to marry Xie. And so both families met up and a traditional Chinese marriage ceremony was arranged at the temple for the ghostly couple, with all the pomp and celebration of an actual human marriage. Paper effigies of the bride and bridegroom, held by their respective relatives, were used to represent them in the ceremony. All sorts of paper betrothal gifts including a new house were also presented to the bridegroom's family, to be burned for their use in the Peta realm. A wedding feast was also arranged for all the relatives present to witness the ceremony. Stories like these might sound amazing to foreigners, but they are not uncommon among the Chinese populace in this region. I myself had heard similar stories from people that I know. They tell us that death is not the end and ghosts desire love and happiness in the same way that human beings do.
This reminded me of a story told by LP Chob in the Forest Dhamma book "Patipada". At one time LP was meditating in a cave in Chiang Mai. Due to his past paramis, LP was able to perceive supernatural beings more so than any other teacher (except maybe LP Mun). As a result he was always visited by many Devadas, Nagas and Petas during his Dhutanga travels in the wild. When he was dwelling there he saw large groups of Petas moving house with their families from various districts in Isan (Northeast Thailand) to settle in the Chiang Mai hills. Like humans, some of them were seen riding on horses and cattle, holding their children and belongings in a big procession. When these groups of Petas moved passed LP Chob's cave, the leader of the group would always come to pay respect to him. So that gave LP an opportunity to inquire about the conditions of the Petas.
The leader explained to him that they were moving away from Isan because there were many immoral Petas committing all kinds of evil deeds in that region; robbing, plundering and killing one another, making it unsafe to live in. They heard from their ghostly relatives that the Petas in Chiang Mai were more moral in their behaviour, thus making it a more peaceful place to reside. When asked about all the possessions they were carrying, the leader replied:
"Those things that are useful to ghosts and those things that make up their wealth are bound to cause attachment in ghosts. Or to put it another way, there is no real difference between the results of karma in ghosts and in people, nor between those things that make up their wealth when either group have the results of karma inherent with them."
LP then asked how they were going to live in Chiang Mai. The leader explained further saying:
"We are bound to have houses, children, relatives and friends in the same way as people and other beings do. Though we are beings of one kind in the same way as others, our bodies are not visible to human eyes and the eyes of some other beings. However we are quite visible to those who have Deva bodies, and we all experience happiness and suffering in the same way. This is because the hearts of ghosts and the hearts of other beings have karma and its fruits in the same way. So wherever one is born, whatever type of birth one has and wherever one lives, one must experience the fruits of karma in the same way as all other beings."
After that conversation LP Chob realized that it was true that all beings were heirs of their own karma, no matter what realm they were reborn in. Everyone was trapped in this great mess of Dukkha together without exception. From the story of the ghost marriage to the story of the moving house ghosts, one can see that the conditions of the human and Peta realm are quite similar. One repeats the same cycle again and again in the wheel of existence, never quite getting tired of the never ending suffering. If one day we suddenly realize the true state of things, won't we also give rise to a sense of dispassion like all the Noble Ones of the past? Perhaps that is the dawn of the journey towards Nibbana!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting story. Many thanks for sharing.