Friday, August 21, 2009

Asking Favors from Ghosts

The Dhammapada says:

"Though month after month for a hundred years,
one should offer sacrifices by the thousands,
yet if only for a moment one should
worship those of perfected minds;
that honor is indeed better than a century of sacrifice."

Yesterday night was the 1st day of the 7th lunar month, which is believed to be the ghost month by the Chinese. Scores of people went to the Choa Chu Kang cemetary at midnight to burn various offerings, joss sticks and joss paper to the ghosts as they are released into the human realm, in the hope of getting protection, good luck and lottery (4-D) numbers from them. They have been following this tradition of theirs for quite a few years. On the other hand, thousands of Chinese families across Singapore today also burned similar offerings to their ancestors and the wandering spirits to make them happy.
But can those people get what they want? I seriously doubt so. What they are doing is no different from taking refuge in the ghosts; but unfortunately most of these ghosts are in a worse state than us humans. How then can they give us protection and good (money) luck? Although there are indeed some ghosts of great merit like Tua Ya Pek (White Wuchang), who have the power to shower deserving devotees with wealth; but ultimately they themselves are subjected to the wheel of birth and death that is called Samsara. What more for those ordinary ghosts, who are forced by their own karma to go through many unspeakable sufferings everyday? How can these poor beings offer humans any help?

Thus that is called taking the wrong refuge in the eyes of the wise. As long as one take refuge in those that are not yet free from the defilements of craving, anger and ignorance; those that still have to be born again and again, one will always be disappointed sooner or later. In the end when your time is up, none of those beings could offer a good word for you even as you stand before King Yama in the Halls of Hades. By then it will be too late to blame yourself for your own ignorance.
So what is the true refuge that one could depend on without fail? It is the blessed one, the perfected one, the fully enlightened one - "Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhasa". This is something chanted by pious Buddhists everyday, yet they do not know what it means. Most people think it is paying homage to the historical Buddha, or the golden Buddha statues that they worship in the temples or at home. But the truth is those are only the external forms of the Buddha, not the real Buddha. The real Buddha is the quality of pure awareness within you. The mind that knows the good and bad of all things that arise and pass away, but does not identify with any of them. The mind that is unmoving, yet does not abide in anything at all. Such a mind is the field of merit for the entire world, worthy of the most precious offerings. This is what we should all pay homage to and take refuge in. If one can abandon all craving, anger and ignorance in the mind, it will be the ghosts who come and make offerings to you during the 7th month and not the other way round!


lum said...

Well said, brother! All of us should become a better person everyday

Anonymous said...

Would appreciate if Wayne can tell me how to get to Wat Ambhavan from Bangkok and Ajahn Jarun's daily activities. Would like to pay homage to this master.

My email:

Anonymous said...

Years ago I did the offerings.
Those offering you mention might be sourced from the gamblers who wish for good luck or numbers.

For me "that" never came to my mind. What I do is to have pity for the hungry. To ask for forgiveness IF they are here for revenge or wrecking havoc. Just so as to let them have their meals and on their way.