Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Karmapa's 3 million HK dollar blessing

The Dhammapada says:

"Sons have I, wealth have I",
thus the fool is fretful.
He himself is not his own,
how then are sons and wealth?

On 26.7.2008 there was a report in the Chinese papers saying that HH the Karmapa went to the hotel where the newly wed HK celebrities Tony Leung and Carina Lau were staying, in order to "bless" them with a son. It wrote that the "blessing" took 21 hrs, or in other words he resided in the 5-star Radisson Delhi hotel in New Delhi for that amount of time. At first I was suspicious of the story, but later it turned out that what the paparazzi reported about the Karmapa visiting Tony and Carina was true. Above is the posh 5-star Radisson Delhi hotel where they met up.
The Karmapa arriving at the hotel amidst heavy security. Dozens of plainclothes officers were protecting his holiness. It was verified that he went there on 24.7.2008 to perform a special blessing for the HK celebrity couple. Reports say that Carina Lau spent 3 million HK dollars to invite the Karmapa to do the blessing for them. Other than for official duties, HH the Karmapa very seldom left his monastery in Dharamsala; but it would appear that the couple's 3 million worth of sincerity "moved" his holiness to personally come all the way to Delhi to see these 2 faithful patrons. Some followers say that he was in Delhi for medical check-ups and just happened to drop by. Whatever's the case, it is not good to have Dharma and sincerity linked with large sums of money.
The Karmapa led the blessing puja to fulfill the couple's wish to have a son. This event proves that the rich and famous do enjoy more privileges - including favors from enlightened beings, no less. Or is that really the case? Should we admire Tony and Carina's good karma? Or should we rejoice in his holiness' special compassion for these 2 HK stars?
Carina wears a Mala on her left wrist, a token of appreciation from the Karmapa, whereas Tony sports a holy yellow string on his wrist. In their car also hangs a 5-colored lucky charm. Such good stuff they got! I wonder if I could get the same stuff for 3 million? But I doubt so since I'm a nobody with little money, hehe.. Still, who are Tony and Carina, that the Karmapa needs to go to the hotel personally to see them? They may be famous in Asia, very important to their fans and the news-chasing paparazzi, but they are merely ordinary beings. I think it should be they who must go seek the Karmapa's wisdom, not the other way around.
Spotted in Carina's luggage by reporters - wrapped up gifts of Thangkas, said to be those of Green Tara. The couple flew back to HK on 26.7.2008. Some believe Tara to be the fulfiller of wishes, so in this case it would probably help Carina to pray to her if she wanted a son. In the ideal world all beings are equal in the Dharma, but in the real world, some beings are still more equal than others, just like in Orwell's Animal Farm. I only hope that Tony and Carina will put their "superior equality" to good use, for the benefit of less equal beings. Otherwise it will all come to nothing in the end as that is the nature of all worldy merit.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Travels in Yala - Wat Lam Phaya

Near to Wat Muang Yala is Wat Lam Phaya, the temple of Portan Krai. Portan Krai is the famous "Beast-subduing Arahant" of Yala. Take note, this is not the same as Portan Klai of Pattalung. Above we see the Ubosot. There's also no soldiers guarding this temple as it is in town.
The Sala.
The Vihara, built in 2509 BE (1966 CE).
Inside the Vihara, PT Krai is the main deity worshipped. Typically he is depicted in a seated position with a Tiger and 2 Cobras laying in front of him. Besides PT Krai, there's also statues of LP Tuad and LP Ong Dam (the Black Buddha).
Inside PT Singh's kuti, we see an oil potrait of himself. He is the current abbot of Wat Lam Phaya.
After receiving a blessing from PT Singh, I asked my driver to take a picture for us. Interestingly, PT wanted to view this pic and even commented about the price and convenience of digital cameras nowadays. He is actually quite friendly! This is another temple worth visiting as there are lots of good PT Krai and LP Tuad available for chow here.
This is the 5-inch LP Tuad bucha I obtained from the temple. It is made of polished black bronze material. It is special in the sense that it looks fiercer than the LP Tuad images in other temples. The newly up temple shop when I went there in Jan 2009.

The new temple counter.

The 4" PT Krai bucha that I obtained there in Jan 2009, made of 108 kinds of Wan material. The PT Krai Katha is:

Namo Tassa (3x)

Chant Buddhaguna, Dhammaguna & Sanghaguna (3x)

Buddhang Nakak Phayakkang Heum Ham Itinamo Sugato Buddhang Attho. (3x)

Travels in Yala - Wat Muang Yala

When people talk about "Phra Sam Tuad", they are reminded of the 3 famous LP Tuad temples of Wat Changhai, Wat Saikow & Wat Muang Yala. On 15.7.2008 I had the chance to visit Wat Muang Yala for the first time. It lies in the heart of Yala town, where security is relatively tight. Not surprisingly, there were no soldiers guarding this important temple.
The Ubosot. The "PPR" emblem we see on the roof indicates the royal patronage that this temple had received.
This is the huge Phra Sangkachai statue under the uncompleted Chedi building.
The Vihara where they keep all the good stuff.
Inside the Vihara there's an altar worshipping Phra Buddha Chinaraj, LP Tuad, Somdej Toh and others.
A small LP Tuad bucha I got from the temple. It is made of Wan (herbs) powder material.
The altar inside the Sala.
Inside Portan Chin's kuti, I saw this precious Dhamma fan presented by the Crown Prince to PT.
The rest of the stuff inside PT's kuti.
After receiving a blessing from PT Chin, I asked an old auntie (who was his assistant) to take this photo for me. PT was also very kind to give me a bullet takrut for my own protection.
The kind auntie also treated me to some simple temple food when she learned that I had not taken my lunch. I ate moderately and thanked her for generosity before I left. Such good people.. I'll definitely be back in the future to visit PT & the old auntie.
The newly built LP Tuad Vihara cum temple shop when I went in Jan 2009. The 5" LP Tuad bucha I obtained in Jan 2009, made of Wan (herbs) material.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Luang Nui the Jatukam Priest

The Dhammapada says:

"Those who mistake the unreal to be real, and the real to be unreal;
dwelling thus in wrong thoughts, (they) will never arrive at reality."

Malaysia's New Life Post paper on 2.7.2008 did a report on Luang Nui, the celebrity monk of Wat Korhong in Hadyai. The 51 yr old Ajarn Luang Nui is famous for his mediumship of the guardian deity Jatukam Ramathep, and invited to participate in many consecration ceremonies involving the deity. The Jatukam shrine of Wat Korhong. Although there are quite a few other famous Jatukam priests after the demise of Khun Phan, he stands out from the rest as he is a monk and all the others are white-robe laymen. A few years ago at a big consecration ceremony, he shocked everyone present when he did a long deity dance under the possession of Jatukam. However, the Vinaya forbids monks from deity mediumship and priesthood. A close up of the Jatukam statue in the shrine. According to Thai Buddhist tradition, this role is reserved solely for white-robe priests or Lersi ascetics. Because of that Luang Nui came under a lot of criticisms, but at the same time there are many fans who support him as well.
People started to support him since 2004 after they witnessed a miracle during a Jatukam ceremony at Wat Korhong. The skies were originally clear and sunny, but soon after Luang Nui started chanting to invite Jatukam, storm clouds quickly gathered out of nowhere. A great downpour with strong winds followed, but the miraculous thing was that it only rained heavily outside the temple; within the temple there was no more than a light drizzle, as if the gods were sprinkling everyone there with holy water. This story spread like wildfire and soon many people started to become very interested in Luang Nui. So much so he was even invited to Bangkok to meet with the Princess as well as Phra Sangharaj. Phra Sangharaj heard of Luang Nui's unconventional behavior during consecration ceremonies, but he did not censure him; instead he just advised him to exercise more caution and be mindful of his position as a monk in public. Luang Nui took it as encouragement and continued to do what he believed was right.
So in future ceremonies, not only were there wind, rain and deity dances; more and more exciting stuff started to get featured, like slashing himself with a sword, shooting with bow and arrows, chanting on elephants etc. But Luang Nui's performances does not come cheaply - he asks for 500,000 baht (21,000 SGD) for every performance! During the peak of the Jatukam craze he was virtually earning millions of baht everyday. Some thought of him as a mercenary monk and shunned him. Despite the controversy, he explained that he does not keep any of the wealth for himself, but spend every cent to help charities, schools, hospitals and temples (including his own of course). In fact, he even owe many people money due to this overspending.
When he was invited to Singapore earlier this year, I went down to take a look and saw that he was still quite popular here, at least among Jatukam fans. Either people took no notice of all the negative comments towards him or they are ignorant of them. Now he is invited to Penang and I suppose the same thing would happen there. Despite his controversial behaviour nobody can deny that he is favoured by Jatukam and the amulets he consecrated does give "good vibes" to many a wearer. Putting the Vinaya aside one can say Luang Nui makes a great Jatukam priest, but by that very same fact he would always remain a "Luang" but never a "Luang Por", one that can be a refuge for the world of gods and men. Perhaps it is better for him to disrobe and become a lay priest instead?
A Vihara which pays homage to the chedi of the past abbot of Wat Korhong.
A tent with various Buddha images for people to give donations. When I was there on 16.7.2008 it happened to be Khao Pansa, so there was a lot of people praying in the temple. I asked for Ajarn Nui, but the temple assistant replied he was not feeling well and could not receive visitors. Have all the Jatukam blessing ceremonies taken its toll on him?

Zen & Chi-gong

Some people ask why Zen does not have any special meditation, chi-gong, yoga or cakra activation techniques like Taoist or tantric traditions. They have an impression that Zazen is incomplete as a system due to its no frills simplicity. Regarding the cultivation of chi or chakra energy, Taoists have a very famous adage that goes "To refine the Essence (semen) into Chi, to refine the Chi into Spirit, to refine the Spirit into the Void." Each stage involves specialized chi-gong techniques that leads the Taoist yogi to deeper union with Heaven and Earth.
However, when it comes to Zen, all these practices are not necessary for they are already inherent in the Buddha-nature. One might as well ask "Who" is refining the Essence into Chi, into Spirit and into Voidness? If one realizes what is "Who", one will also see that Essence is "Who", Chi is "Who", Spirit is "Who", and Voidness is also not apart from "Who". Nothing is really apart from it. That's why when Yinzong asked Huineng what other teachings did he received from Hongren, he replied there was only "instructions on seeing one's own nature, but nothing on meditation and liberation." And although Huineng never practiced any formal meditation, chi-gong or tantra techniques, yet he automatically developed various psychic powers all the same. How can this be possible if Zen is not complete? I leave this for your wise consideration.