Monday, August 23, 2010
Coffin Sleeping Ritual in Singapore
Today there is an article in both Shinmin and Wanbao about a reportedly possessed young girl, whose family had to spend around $30K to perform an exorcism ritual for her, done by members of the Yin Fu Dian temple in Bt Batok. It was a very elaborate ritual involving the temple mediums and many helpers, who had to set up a golden coffin, various instruments, food offerings, paper money, figurines and bridge at the Choa Chu Kang cemetery. The girl had to walk through a symbolic Hell setting and lay in the coffin for 3 hours while the mediums recite their prayers. We seldom see such elaborate rituals here, which was why it stirred up such strong interest in the Chinese tabloids.
This ritual is similar to those luck changing rituals in Thailand where the person needs to sleep in a coffin and be "reborn" after special prayers by monks are performed to dissolve his or her old karma. The 2008 movie "The Coffin" is a much dramatized horror film using this ritual as its theme. But the important question that we all want to ask is: does it work? Only those people who have tried it will know. If we talk about possession, we don't really need such a complicated ceremony to solve the problem. Simply using holy water will do. If we talk about black magic, we have to see what kind of black magic and this ritual might only work for some forms of it and not others. If we talk about previous bad karma, then practicing Vipassana meditation and experiencing various painful Vedana (feelings) is the best way to expiate them. So we should not blindly put our faith in such rituals, but always try to use wisdom and mindfulness to scrutinize them well first. As the Buddha said, "Dhamma is the best medicine." Because in reality, we are all sleeping in our own coffin. What is this coffin? It is the 5 aggregates of clinging (upadana khanda). Clinging to form, feelings, perception, volition and consciousness binds us forever to the endless cycle of becoming. The 5 desires, desire for wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep are our coffin. We are constantly buried in the sea of suffering due to the pursuit of these desires. The desire for pleasant sights, sounds, smell, taste, touch are also no different. How can we ever rise up from this coffin and be "reborn"? Only through the cutting off, abandoning, renouncing and giving up of all forms of clinging and desires can it be achieved. Only by letting them die then can one be reborn as an Arya, a Noble one who has seen the end of suffering. Perhaps that is the true meaning behind the symbolism of the coffin ritual.