Sunday, November 25, 2007

One & Many

Ven Yongjia wrote in his Song of Enlightenment:

"One nature penetrates into all natures;
One Dharma encompasses all Dharmas.
One moon is reflected in all waters;
All the water-moons come from one moon."

In Mahayana Buddhism we always hear about the teaching of Oneness. What is One and what is Many? One refers to the full moon in the night sky. Many refers to the myriad reflections of the moon in all the bodies of water on Earth. The reflections on Earth are our 5 aggregates. The full moon refers to our nature of knowing. The reflections, which are all different in their own way, arise and dissolve endlessly, but the full moon shines on unaffected. When a reflection realizes its true self is the full moon, it achieves enlightenment and is no longer affected by its own arising and dissolving anymore. But the reflection is still the reflection, the full moon is still the full moon; each still follows its own nature as it always has. The only difference is that the awakened reflection no longer suffers like other ignorant reflections. To quote from a Tibetan Dharma riddle:

"How do you prevent a drop of water from ever drying up?
By throwing it back into the ocean."

Among the infinite number of sentient beings, there is not a single being that does not possess the Buddha-nature. This Buddha-nature is our bare naked awareness, the mind detached from all its aggregates, your "original face before your parents gave birth to you". Because we cling on to the aggregates which are by nature unstable and unsatisfactory as ourselves, we subject ourselves to suffering endlessly. How can you prevent your body (rupa) and mind (nama) from drying up again and again? I leave that for readers to contemplate on their own.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Young Man & his Coffin

The Dhammapada says:
"As with force the cowherds drive their cattle out to graze,
in the same way do decay and death drive the life out from all sentient beings."
There is a report in Zaobao on Friday (16.11.07) about a 22 yr old man, Bai Zhixiang, who had been sleeping in a coffin in his room for the past 4 yrs. Apparently, he is a young medium for 2 deities of Hades, "Tua Di Ya Peh" or Black and White Wuchang. According to Taoist belief, these 2 deities are captains of King Yama, the Lord of Death, and are in charge of bringing departed souls of bad people to the nether realm.
Bai is one of the guardians of Lian Tian Gong temple in Woodlands, and had been "chosen" by the deities when he was 13 to become their medium. Since then, he became a disciple of one of the senior masters and started to learn the rituals of mediumship. 4 years ago, under the request of the deities, a temple devotee offered a Chinese coffin to him. He placed the coffin in his bedroom and used it as an alternative bed at times. Macabre as it seemed to ordinary people, the ironic thing is that his girlfriend of 2 yrs split up with him not because of the coffin, but because she was shocked by what he did during one of the deity possession rituals - having 10 steel pikes poked into his back!
Self-mutilation is actually quite normal during Taoist or Hindu religious ceremonies, but for the uninitiated, one can imagine how scary it would be for them to see it in real life. Despite the emotional setback, Bai have to continue as a medium as he has an irresistible karmic connection with the Hades deities.
Who are these 2 deities? There are many versions of their origins, but the popular one in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan is that during ancient times there were 2 sworn brothers by the names of Xie Bi-an (White Wuchang) and Fan Wujiu (Black Wuchang). Once they arranged to meet at a bridge over a river but it started to rain, so Xie went home to get an umbrella. Unfortunately the rain became very heavy and flood waters swelled, sweeping the faithfully waiting Fan into the river to his death. When Xie came back and found out what happened, he was so sorrowful that he hung himself at the bridge (thus he is always portrayed with a long tongue sticking out) to follow his sworn brother to the nether realm. In the hall of King Yama, he was so impressed with their loyalty towards each other that he made them his captains, entrusted with the task of bringing bad people to Hades to be judged. And so they had been doing their jobs ever since. Besides their normal routine, these 2 deities also visit the human realm when they are free to reward the good and punish the evil. As such, they are held in high esteem by many Chinese folks until today. The term Wuchang in Chinese means Impermanence, or Anicca in Pali. These 2 deities personify the law of impermanence, which all of us, whether young or old, rich or poor, noble or lowly must come face to face with at any time in our lives. Yet most people do not see this truth, and continue to live their lives heedlessly, driven by their craving and aversion towards all things. When their time on Earth is up and the Wuchang deities appear before them, it would be too late for them to regret their own deeds. They can cry all they want, but it wouldn't stop the deities from dragging them to Hades to be judged by Yama and his judges. In reality the the Wuchang deities are a reflection of the mind going through the death process, much like the Bardo deities described in Tibetan Buddhism. If your negative karma outweighs the positive, you will see the deities appear in the form that you are culturally conditioned to perceive, ready to take you down to Hades. If it is vice versa, then you will see Devas or Angels coming to receive you instead. Yet whether heaven or hell the tainted mind is still not freed from the ever turning wheel of samsara. Only those Noble Ones who have purified their own minds will see their true self at the dissolution of their bodies, entering Parinibbana there and then, in the footsteps of the Buddhas. This is the goal that all wise men should aim for.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Man who married a Bitch

The Dhammapada says:

"The evil-doer suffers here and hereafter;
he suffers in both worlds.
The thought, 'Evil have I done' torments him,
and he suffers even more when gone to realms of woe."

On Wednesday (14.11.07) I read an article in TNP (above) talking about a certain man in Tamil Nadu, India, marrying a bitch in the hope of lifting a curse on himself for wantonly killing 2 dogs many years ago. This ignorant man is acting under the misleading advice of an astrologer, who told him that was the only way to alleviate his suffering. Unfortunately for him, such a useless act would in no way lighten the negative karma that followed him for the past 15 yrs. These people's total ignorance of the Law of Karma is truly lamentable, considering that the Buddha's teachings once flourished there centuries ago.

The origin of his suffering is like this: 15 yrs ago this man happened to see 2 dogs in the act of mating. This somehow caused anger to arise in his mind, and in his anger the man stoned the canine couple to death. As if that was not enough, he even hung their carcasses from a tree as if to humiliate these animals. Soon after his evil deed, his hands and legs became paralysed, and he also became deaf in one year. He had been living with the fruits of his negative karma ever since.

Unknown to him, the ghosts of the 2 dogs he slain are still hounding him up to this day. They have been biting his hands and legs everyday in revenge, causing the paralysis. They are also barking loudly into his ear to express their hatred for him, causing his deafness. But nobody except this man can feel such karmic effects. Although he had enough pain and started to regret what he did, but foolish as he is, he believes that by marrying a dog he could make amends for his past deeds. This would of course in no way appease the hatred of the 2 ghostly canine tormentors feel towards him.

What he should do is to ask for repentance from the Triple Gems and sincerely seek forgiveness from the 2 dogs for his sins against them. This would offer him temporarily relief from his paralysis. After that he must practice Samatha-Vipassana meditation for 7 days and dedicate the merits of his practice to the dogs. Only in this way can his karmic tormentors be completely appeased and liberated from their current state into a realm of happiness. As such, the paralysis and deafness suffered by the man for such a long time would also be gone forever. I pray that this man would have a chance to hear the Dhamma and be freed from his suffering, otherwise his days of woe would not only continue for the rest of this existence, but into the next existence as well. Fearful indeed.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Strange photos taken in Paris

In the Doctrine of the Mean, Confucius said:

"The abundant virtue of spiritual beings is truly amazing! Looking for them, they cannot be seen; listening for them, they cannot be heard. Yet there is nothing that they do not embody. They cause the people of the world to fast for purification and wear grand clothes in order to perform sacrificial ceremonies. They are overflowing, seeming to be above, seeming to be on the left and right. The Book of Odes says: 'Trying to perceive the presence of the spirits, yet we cannot grasp them. How could we not respect them?' The manifestation of the subtle and the inconcealability of sincerity is also like this!"

For the whole month of October, I was in Paris for a training program organized by my department. The classes were only half-day, so in the afternoons I took the opportunity to do some sightseeing. Paris is a truly beautiful city; there were historic monuments, cathedrals, museums, palaces, squares, gardens & statues everywhere. Being in Europe for the first time, I was quite overwhelmed by the rich history & culture of the city. But one place was particularly interesting for me as I managed to take some unusual pictures there. This place is none other than the Invalides Army Museum (seen above), which besides being a museum for a large number of military relics from the medieval times until WW2, also houses the Tomb of Napoleon, his brothers & other great generals.

Emperor Napoleon died in 1821 after being exiled to the island of St Helena by the British, following his defeat at Waterloo in Belgium. His remains were moved back to France in 1840 and entombed in a sarcophagus at Les Invalides.

This is the big red sarcophagus containing Napoleon's remains. Notice that there is a translucent white orb at the base of the sarcophagus. If you zoom in on this photo, you can also see another small white orb at the side of the sarcophagus. I didn't notice it when I took the picture, but only when I reviewed it later. Could the spirit of Napoleon still be hanging around his tomb?

Then there is also Jerome Napoleon, his youngest brother, the Marshal of France who died in 1860 at Villegenis and buried in Les Invalides later.

When I took a picture of his sarcophagus, immediately I saw this bright bluish orb obscuring the face of Jerome's statue. On closer examination, it is actually 2 orbs joining together at the level of his face. I thought this was very strange. If you zoom in on the picture, you can also see a faint but big white orb at the base of the statue. On the right of the base, as well as on the sarcophagus itself, you can also see 3 other faint & smaller white orbs. Jerome's spirit? Devadas or Petas? Whatever they are it convinced me there there were definitely many invisible beings inside this Invalides museum.

And this is Joseph Napoleon, his older brother and King of Spain for a short period. He died in 1844 at Florence, Italy and was moved back to Paris to lay beside his brother inside Les Invalides.

Again when I took a picture of Joseph's sarcophagus, I noticed the 2 big white orbs on the top left corner of the picture. These 2 orbs are not as bright as those in Jerome's picture, but still clearly visible. If you zoom in on the picture, you can also see 2 other fainter & smaller white orbs on the upper right side of the picture, one beside the statue & the other on the pillar. I was getting to be quite amazed at the number of invisible beings showing up there. But there were no other orb sightings seen in the subsequent photos I took at the museum.

Some time later I travelled to Brussels in Belgium. Above is the Arc De Triomphe in Brussels. Behind the monument is another military museum similar to the one in Paris.

When I asked my colleague to take a picture of me standing beside this big artillery gun, I was shocked to see a big & bright white orb above my head! On closer examination you can see that it is actually 2 bright orbs joining into 1. If you look really close, you can almost make out a face in those orbs. Man, just who are these "guys"?

The final odd picture will have to be this beautiful shot of the Eiffel Tower in Paris at night. You can immediately see one small but bright white orb on the right side of the tower, as well as at the bottom. There is also another smaller but visible white orb on the right side of the photo. If you zoom in on the photo, you can actually see many other faint white orbs all around the tower. Interestingly enough, this shows that the Eiffel Tower is not just teaming with loads of human tourists, but spirit ones as well. I realized that the Dhamma is such that no matter whether you are Human, Deva or Peta, we all share some common activities, likes & dislikes. Perhaps the tower is so attractive that even the Devadas & Petas come to visit? Hmm.. I leave readers to ponder about that themselves.