Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Questions & Answers on the Netherworld IV

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.

Q61: In the netherworld are there cultivators who recite Amitabha? If reciting and chanting Sutras have such great merit, why don't all the ghosts quickly practice so as to be liberated from their state of woe? If they don't know how to chant, why don't they learn from the human world?

A: Once a person enters the netherworld, his mind will be blocked by his own negative karma; as such he won't know how to do recitation or chanting. Even if we humans recite and chant, they also won't be able to see or hear us. That's why if we want to cultivate, we must do it while we are still alive. Once we die and go to the netherworld, it will be very difficult to do it.*

Q62: Since ghosts can see and hear what is invisible and inaudible to humans, then how come they cannot see or hear us reciting or chanting?

A: As I said, this is due to their own karmic obstacles. Look at the people in this world - some are without religion, some are oppressed by cold and hunger; they too cannot hear us reciting or chanting. Even if they do hear us by chance, they will be too caught up with their own desires, disbelief or lack of will. So at the end of the day, they also won't cultivate or chant; how are they any different from those ghosts who can't see or hear?

*However on Uposatha days, the Teachers of the Netherworld like Phra Malai and Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva will appear to the ghosts, and through their supernormal power, these beings will be able to hear the sacred verses and learn to chant. But this only applies to those ghosts whose negative karma are not very severe.*

Q63: How do the voices of ghosts sound like?

A: They sound sharp and short-breathed.

Q64: From the perspective of the ghosts, humans and ghosts are living mixed with one another. But from the perspective of humans, both worlds are separate and distinct. How do we really define the borders of both worlds?

A: That appears to be a border, yet it cannot be clearly defined. The exact situation is very difficult to be explained with words.

Q65: The spirits of the living and the ghosts of the dead - are they different in form?

A: I have not paid much attention to that. But of course there is a slight difference.

Q66: How does it feel to be a ghost?

A: They feel that they are suffering a lot. Thus what they talk about is mostly sad and tragic stuff.

Q67: When the ghosts are send for rebirth, does the Lord of the Netherworld admonish them to give up evil and cultivate what is good?

A: No. Except for those destined to be reborn as animals. Those ghosts won't know where they are heading, and the womb or egg will be made to appear like attractive men or women, palaces or pavilions so that they will be happy to enter it.

Q68: When the sky is clear and the sun and moon are shining brightly, how come their light won't reach the netherworld? Is there something blocking out the light? If the human world is separate from the netherworld, then how can humans and ghosts walk side by side?

A: Because the netherworld is always covered by clouds and fog, sun and moon light cannot shine on it. But ghosts can roam freely in the dark regions of the human world, especially at night. That's why they can walk side by side with humans.

Q69: What calendar is used in the netherworld? Are all the official documents dated?

A: During the Qing dynasty, we used the Qing calendar (xx year of Emperor so-and-so's reign etc). Basically no different from the human world.

Q70: If humans are reborn from ghosts, then what are the children of ghosts marriages reborn from?

A: They are reborn from the residual Chi (energy) left over after people die.

Q71: Can the ghost children be reborn as humans when they grow up?

A: They can't.*

*Ghost children possess no independent sentience apart from their ghost parents - they are like muppets or robots. That's why they cannot be reborn into other realms.*

Q72: Is there bad weather in the netherworld like wind, rain, hail and snow?

A: Didn't see any, but whenever there is such weather in the human world, the ghosts will somehow also suffer from the cold, coiling up and shivering in great unease.

Q73: Are there social gatherings for ghosts like marriages, birthdays and funerals etc?

A: Yes, no different from the human world.

Q74: What are the uses for joss sticks and candles during offerings?

A: Candles provide ghosts with light, and joss sticks are for summoning them with the smell.

Q75: What about fire crackers?

A: Ghosts are afraid of the exploding noise, so it is no advisable to use them.

Q76: Chanting Buddhist Sutras produce great merit, then what about Confucian texts?

A: They have merit too.

Q77: The guardian deity of Buddhism is Weituo, and for Taoism is Wang Ling Guan. Does Confucianism have any guardian deity?

A: No, because Confucianism is not established from the belief in gods. However their classics are also protected by good deities, no doubt about it.

Q78: Where do the salaries of netherworld officials come from? Do they collect taxes of money and grain as well?

A: I once asked my colleagues about that, but they told me not to ask. Thus I also have no idea.*

*All those hell bank notes and paper money burned in the human world end up in the netherworld government treasury.*

Q79: The light rays emitting from human heads; which are good and which evil?

A: Red, white and yellow come from good people and black comes from evil people.

Q80: Ghosts are reborn from humans, and humans from ghosts. So which came first in this world, human or ghost?

A: There are 2 aspects to look at this. In the far ancient times when heaven and earth have just separated, and where the atmosphere of innocence still prevailed, naturally there were humans first before the ghosts. But in the later eras when humans become more corrupt, ghosts come before the humans.

Q81: Do ghosts miss their previous spouses and kids in the human world?

A: Quite a lot. But as time goes by, they will slowly forget them.

*This is the final installment of this series.*

- The End -

1 comment:

Harry Leong said...

Thank you for translating all 4 parts. I enjoyed it very much.