Monday, September 13, 2010

Questions & Answers on the Netherworld I

The following is an interview of Mr Li Shu by his good friend Lin You Xiang. It is called "幽冥问答录" in Chinese. Mr Li had worked as a Judge in the Netherworld in the beginning of the previous century, and wished to share his experiences with his close friends. This interview was written down many decades ago and gives a very detailed, first-hand account of life in the ghost realm.

Q1: Sir, is it true that you have worked as a Judge in the Netherworld in your younger days?
A: Yes it's true. Most people in this world find this very strange, but to me it was very normal.

Q2: When did this happen?
A: In the Geng Zi year of Emperor Guangxu's reign (1900). At that time I was only 19.

Q3: What was your position, who were you under and how many subordinates did you have?
A: I was under the Lord of Taishan*, but I never had the chance to meet him. All I did was submit my verdict after every judgement. At that time I was a Judge in one of the sub-courts and had 4 jury members to help me. As for the little ghosts handling the menial tasks, there were too many to count.

*The Lord of Taishan was equivalent to a Prime Minister in the ghost realm, in charge of the whole East Asia region. One term lasted 500 yrs, after which he would be replaced by another person. In terms of rank he was the 2nd highest authority, right below King Yama.*

Q4: How long did you work as a Judge? Did you work everyday and what region were you in charge of?
A: For 4-5 yrs. Yes I went everyday, and was in charge of 5 provinces of Northern China.

Q5: Why did "they" invite you to be a judge in the netherworld?
A: I asked my colleagues about this and the reason was because I had worked as a judge before in my previous lives. So as a result of past affinity, there I went again.

Q6: Is there written law in the netherworld? If not how could you judge without making any mistakes?
A: There isn't any. We judged according to the case and could naturally grasp the crux of the matter. There was no need to ponder at all.

Q7: What cases were you in charge of?
A: I judged the good and evil deeds within the first 10 months after a person's death. Beyond that there were others in charge.

Q8: Have you met King Yama?
A: Never did*.

*In the same way that provincial officials in China hardly have a chance to meet the Prime Minister or President, so it was not easy for Li to see King Yama or even the Lord of Taishan.*

Q9: How is it possible for the spirits to see all the good and evil deeds of humans, and record everything down without fail?
A: The spirits could see and hear things that humans could not. Thus all the thoughts and actions of humans are very clear for them to perceive and record down in detail. They could also tell the good and evil thoughts in a person's mind just by looking at the colour of the aura emitting from his or her head.

Q10: Were there sinful ghosts who refused to admit their guilt and tried to argue?
A: Many. Most of them would try their best to argue their case. Only when the solid evidence was brought before them that they had no choice but to bow down and admit their misdeeds.

Q11: After a person died, are they in a dream state or are they in a normal conscious state?
A: Normal conscious state*.

*Li was referring to after a person had been reborn as a ghost. If the person was still in the "in-between" or bardo state, then his consciousness would feel like it is dreaming.*

Q12: What time did you go to the netherworld everyday? What was the working hours like?
A: At first it was in the evening; later I could even go in the day, but it had to be in the afternoon. The journey to and fro took place in a sedan which moved very fast. Usually I judged for a few hours but there were also complicated cases which took a few days to reach a verdict. Thankfully cases like these were rare.

Q13: When you went to the netherworld was your physical body asleep?
A: Yes I was lying on my bed as if in a deep sleep. There was no need to eat or drink and one would not feel hungry or thirsty either. Sometimes when my consciousness was in the ghost realm and relatives came to visit me, I had to talk to them with my eyes closed. I could answer their questions but could not ask any myself. After the dialogue I would have no memory of what we talked about anyway.

Q14: After you come back from the netherworld, did you feel tired?
A: Yes slightly, like when you did not have a good night's sleep.

Q15: Was there food and drink in the netherworld?
A: Yes, but they did not allow me to consume them*.

*Because it was not suitable for human beings*.

Q16: What was the working attire there like? What was the format of the official documents and how were they processed?
A: When I was a judge there, we were still under the Qing government rule. As such the attire, format and processing of the documents were no different from the Qing officials. But after the revolution and birth of the Chinese Republic, I believe the system there had changed accordingly as well*.

*The netherworld is a close reflection of the human world*.

Q17: Did the netherworld judges receive a salary?
A: Yes, but the money is totally useless for humans*, so I did not take it.

*Paper money or Hell bank notes cannot be used to buy anything in the human world, as such they are useless.*

Q18: How many different types of punishment are there in the netherworld?
A: Too many. And they are all hundreds of times more terrible than those in the human world. In the modern context they would be viewed as extremely brutal. But from my personal experience, it is better to take the punishment in the human world as it will end after you die. In the netherworld you have to suffer it again and again! For example, a sinner who murdered 10 people will have to be tortured to death 10 times in hell. Then he would be sent to be reborn 10 times and be murdered by others in every life. Tortures such as the saw mill, the grinder, the mountain of knifes and the wok of boiling oil are all real. The fruits of evil karma are truly frightening indeed!

Q19: What virtues are most valued in the netherworld? And what evil deeds are most detested?
A: For men, the virtues were loyalty to the country and filial piety. For women, it was fidelity and filial piety*. These men and women could have their punishment reduced even if they were guilty of other wrongdoings. For evil deeds, killing and sexual misconduct were most detested. Killing is the heavier of the 2 and if a person killed another due to sexual misconduct, his punishment would be doubled as a result. Thus the ancients say, "10,000 evils originate from lust".

*In accordance to the conservative values in those feudal times.*

Q20: Since there was no written law in the netherworld, how do you judge whether an evil deed was light or heavy?
A: It all depends on the person's motivation in doing the deed and the effect it had on others. We used reasoning to come up with an appropriate sentence for each wrongdoing by considering all the circumstances.

**To be continued..**

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read this Taiwanese book on journey to Hell by a well known monk and effects of bad deeds on life in Hell. It was very enlightening.

However I am also troubled because I am afraid some people might think the ability to astro travel is proof of Buddha status (or arahantship) which I do not think is right.

To believers, astro travel is real and certainly some achievement but to a scientist or doctor, they will say it's hallucination. Problem is, how do we differentiate astro travel from hallucination.