Friday, December 31, 2010

The Legend of LP Jamlong

“My name is Long, Long with an L not an R, as Rong means always the second best, I am Jamlong and I will not be second to anyone.” That's what LP Jamlong used to say last time. He is a real adept monk from the old capital and this is certainly not a boast. LP's brief history goes like this - before he joined the Sangha he was a ‘Li-ke Guru’ (Li-ke is traditional Thai opera), and he also knew the ‘Chuchok Spell’ (Chuchok is a beggar king). Other Li-ke bands have to ask people for work, but for his band it was the other way round as they received so many invitations all the time. As long as he used the Chuchok Spell, all the money and necessities of life will keep coming to him without much effort.

Later he got tired of living in the superficial society, so he ordained and went to studied with LP Er of Wat Panomyong. LP Er is the one who taught Thailand’s statesman, Mr. Preedee Panomyong (he was also the one who advised Mr. Preedee to use the last name of Panomyong, after the name of the temple instead using his Chinese family name). After that LP went to practice with LP Pan of Wat Pad Ar. From there he learned to make the ‘Phakod’ (sacred knotted cloth) or ‘Bullet Proof – Gambling House Afraid – Magical Knotted Cloth’. His first try was done by using ‘Bungsukun’ cloth (a yellow robe placed on the coffin before lighting the pyre for performing a requiem by the monks). He tested the cloth by throwing it to the fire, and somehow it won’t burn. I know it sound ridiculous but if you don’t believe it, you can underline this paragraph and go to ask LP himself whether this is true or not.

At one time when LP Tim of Wat Phra Khao was still healthy, some villagers from Ang Thong Province came to worship Luang Por Chao Noi (the famous Buddha statue) of Wat Panomyong. They then paid a visit to LP Tim and asked him for some sacred objects with power for doing business. When LP Tim learned that they had already passed Wat Panomyong, he told them, “You have missed a real deal there; isn’t LP Jamlong there at Wat Panomyong? Why don’t you ask such things from him? He is quite an adept monk.” LP Than Chaokhun Sawat of Wat Salapoon also praised LP Jamlong as ‘one with very powerful mental force’. His Metta was really more intense than LP Sawat when he was younger. These testimonies guarantee that LP Jamlong is one of the most adept Wicha monks in Ayuttaya.

One day LP had a strong inspiration, so he took out some copper foils, rolled them up and bound them with twined rope. He then coated them with black lacquer before tying them around the neck of his dogs. The villagers and his disciples called it ‘Takrut Kor Mah Ayuttaya’ (Dog Neck Charms of Ayuttaya). Those dogs who wore the Maha Amnaj takruts were typical local Thai dogs. One of them dog had a fight with a foreign dog the size of a man. And the result? This Thai dog won without any scratches and the foreign dog had to run for its life. ‘Tam’ was another one of those dogs that wore his takruts. It took a nap at the Sala of the Sleeping Buddha which is situated at the temple’s frontage. Some villagers brought food to make a votive offering to the Sleeping Buddha and also wanted to light some firecrackers. To their surprise, the firecrackers won’t burn at all; they just keep extinguishing. Finally someone realized what's happening and bent down to see Tam lying under the table. They knew right then that it was Wat Panomyong’s dog and had to drive him off. This time those firecrackers burn normally and exploded loudly as they should. Another story was told that some naughty kids used a handmade muzzle-loading gun to shoot the dog but it also won’t fire. Miraculous, right?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

LP Chom of Wat Klang Khun Paen

LP Chom of Wat Klang Khun Paen, Ayuttaya is the successor of the great master of Metta magic LP Sawai Wat Preedaram. I decided to visit this LP to check out his stuff. Above is the Mai Takian shrine at the temple.
The giant gong.
Devotees praying inside the Ubosot.
Front gate.
Side view of the Ubosot.
The main altar inside LP's kuti. Many Lersi buchas. Notice the giant Khun Paen on the left!
Photos of LP visiting devotees in Hong Kong.
LP drawing Yants on my Khun Paen amulets.
LP inscribing Yants onto my Chuchok bucha.
Photo with LP Chom. He is getting more and more popular overseas.
My Chuchok bucha.. it looks "live".
Having LP perform a Nanathong gold foil blessing on my forehead on my 2nd trip there.
Closer view.
LP blessing the small tiger palakits that I chowed.
Blessing the big tiger palakit bucha.
Applying Metta oil.
Blessing completed.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Good Children Bad Children

During the Qing dynasty era there was a rich man in Zhejiang province named Wang Weng, who had inherited much wealth from his ancestors. Wang married at 20 yrs old and in the 10 over years that followed, he had 9 children with his wife. However all these 9 children were retarded or of low intelligence. Despite their condition the parents still loved them very much.

In the reign of Emperor Qianlong, there was a severe famine and many people died of starvation. At this important time, Wang sold all his property and used the money to help with disaster relief in his hometown. Many lives were saved as a result of his generosity. Everyone who had received aid were very grateful and regarded Wang as a living Bodhisattva. What they did not know was that both Wang and his wife were strong devotees of Bodhisattva Guanyin. That was why they were able to perform Dana so readily, without any hint of stinginess. Dana is the foremost of the 6 Paramitas and Wang had indeed followed the Buddhist teachings wholeheartedly.

What happened after that brought a big shock to many people; Wang's eldest son contracted an acute disease and died soon after. In the space of a few years, the rest of his 9 children fell sick and died one after another! Everyone was puzzled and thought, "Wang and his wife made such a big merit by selling all their property to save so many lives; why did they not reap any good fruits for their good karma? Maybe their belief in Guanyin is not efficacious at all?" And there were also the foolish who thought, "Do good deeds and you get evil results. That proves there is no point doing good at all. Better for me to do what I want!"

Wang and wife were of course deeply saddened by their children's deaths, but due to their strong faith in Guanyin, they did not give up their belief even after what happened. They continued to pray to Guanyin everyday without fail. One day they wrote a proclaimation and burnt it in front of their Guanyin bucha to express their pain.

That night Guanyin appeared in Wang's dream and told him, "Good man, do not be sad. The 9 children you had previously were 9 demons, sent by the Heavenly Emperor into your family. As a result of hidden evil karma created by your ancestors, these 9 demons manifest as your 9 bad children to squander away all the wealth that they have accumulated. But due to the great merit that you have made by selling your properties to relief the great famine, he had decided to recall the 9 demons back. Not long after this the Scholarly Star will descend into your family. You have a bright future ahead, therefore rejoice!"

Wang woke up the next morning and told his wife what he dreamt about. To his surprise, his wife said she dreamt of the exact same thing! From then on the couple no longer felt sad and were inspired to continue helping those in need. Soon after Wang's wife conceived again and in the years that followed she successfully gave birth to another 5 children. All these 5 children were very intelligent, had excellent memory and were well-learned in all things. One of them was Wang Wenjian, who became the top scholar of the empire and eventually promoted to a Minister in the imperial court. Even up till today, Wang's descendants continued to be very prominent in their achievements.

This is a true story. The moral of the story is: Do not be happy if you have children; for they may well be your debtors from previous lives coming to claim what you owed them in the past. Do not be sad if your children die also, for they may just be leaving after claiming back the full debt from you. Or they may be your creditors, who will also leave once they have repaid what they owed you previously in full. Most of the time smart children who do their parents proud but die in their prime are such creditors. Complex as karma is, the intricate connections between close relatives can basically be summed up with 3 words - Debtors and Creditors. That's why those who can gain insight into the emptiness of worldly life and relationships will be able to remain calm no matter what happens.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ming Yi reinstated as Abbot

On Monday (22.11.10) there was an article on how the Foo Hai monastery held a grand ceremony recently to reinstate Ming Yi as their abbot, and also to commemorate his 20th year as the leader of that temple. This was followed by a big dinner at Pan Pacific Hotel. Most of the Buddhist community in Singapore felt this was very inappropriate as he had just been released from jail. Instead of keeping a low profile to repent on his moral errors, here the monastery is ironically putting him up on a pedestal once again.

Upasaka Li Muyuan, chairman of the Buddhist lodge rightly criticised that such behaviour was "an exaggeration" and unprecedented in the history of Buddhism. None the great masters of the past ever promoted themselves like that. In the Nirvana Sutra, the Buddha said,

"After I enter Nirvana, you should rely on the 4 Dharmas as your teacher."

What are the 4? Namely:
1) To rely on the doctrine and not the person
2) To rely on insight and not on knowledge
3) To rely on the meaning and not the words
4) To rely on the transcendal meaning and not the conventional meaning
The wise know thoroughly the danger of feeding the ego and thus avoid such ceremonies which serve no purpose at all. Instead of relying on the good doctrine as their teacher, the fans and followers of Ming Yi continue to rely on him for "guidance". He cannot even guide himself.. how can he guide others? It is pitiful indeed, that Ming Yi makes one mistake after another, which will compel him to embark on a path of no return. He is not worthy of the Sangha robe that he clings so dearly to.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Questions & Answers on the Netherworld III

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.

Q41: Between ghosts and humans, whose numbers are greater? Humans are afraid of ghosts, are ghosts also afraid of humans?

A: The number of ghosts in the netherworld are more than humans. Coming and going, here, there and everywhere. Humans walk in the middle of a path, ghosts walk at the sides. Humans like to walk in the light, ghosts like to walk in the dark. Ghosts are also afraid of humans; they usually move away when they see humans approaching. If the person is a righteous gentleman, ghosts will also respect him. Those people harassed by ghosts are usually of crooked character or down on luck. As such from the afternoon till the night, try to avoid walking at the sides of a path or where it is dark. When going out at night, don't walk so fast or cough a few times to let the ghosts know you are approaching. If you accidentally bump into them, you will feel a sudden chill. When Yin and Yang energy clash, both will feel uncomfortable as a result.

Q42: Is there a difference in how ghosts walk as compared to humans?

A: The feet of ghosts can't be clearly seen. It is as if they were walking in smoke. They move much faster than humans.

Q43: Why are ghosts afraid of roosters crowing?

A: Because that means that sunlight is coming soon and they have to hide. This is similar to humans avoiding the heat emitting from an oven. However for ghosts who have virtue and merit, they won't be afraid of sunlight.

Q44: Sir, your past karma must be quite exceptional and different from ordinary people. Will you be freed from the wheel of rebirth in the future?

A: It's easier said then done. I cannot avoid it even in my next life. I asked my "colleagues" to check my future destination for me and they told me I will be reborn in the Nanyang district of Henan province. However decades have passed since then and I know not whether there are any changes.

Q45: Do the officials in the netherworld get reborn also?

A: Of course. Like those officers in the civil service who find it easier to switch to a better job than ordinary people due to their positions, the netherworld officials are no different.

Q46: When ghosts head for rebirth, do they enter at the moment of conception or at the moment of child birth?

A: Both scenarios can also happen.*

*If according to the Buddhist scriptures, the consciousness to be reborn is drawn into the new being at the moment of conception.

Q47: Since there are so many ghosts staying indefinitely in the netherworld, why don't they seek to be released from that state ASAP?

A: Because there are more ghosts than humans and thus there is not enough supply to meet the demand. Furthermore the family which the ghost will be reborn into must have some past affinity with each other; otherwise it won't work out. If the ghost had a wide social circle when he was alive, then he would find it much easier to be reborn. But if he was a poor person who remained in his hometown his whole life, knowing very few people, then it would be very difficult. This kind of ghosts would have to wait very long to find a family that may have some affinity with him.

Q48: Of the 3 main (Chinese) religions of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism, which is most respected in the netherworld?

A: They respect all 3. However Buddhism is the most revered.

Q49: Buddhists get reborn in the Pure Land, Taoists get reborn in the celestial realms; where do Confucianists go to?

A: Also in the celestial realms. They won't just disappear.

Q50: Why did you give up on being a judge later?

A: I didn't want to do it on the long term, and had asked to resign several times; but they did not approve it everytime. Later I was taught by a colleague to recite the Diamond Sutra. I followed his instruction and after I finished reciting the Sutra for 2,000 times, I was no longer drawn to the netherworld.

Q51: Sir, are you able to see ghosts at normal times?

A: When I was a judge, I could see them all the time, no matter whether my consciousness was with my body or not. I started to see less of them after 1911 and after 1921 I stopped seeing them altogether.

Q52: How were you notified the first time you went to the netherworld?

A: One night I dreamt of a man in ancient attire visiting me and asking whether I could help him with some task. I replied, "What is it that you need me to help you with? I'm afriad I might not be capable enough to do it?" The person said, "As long as you agree, there is nothing you can't do." I did not know why he was here, but seeing that he was sincere and polite, I agreed tentatively. He appeared happy and told me he would come back to fetch me in a few days. Then I woke up and thought it was just a dream, so I did not think much of it. However after 4-5 days the person really came back and said, "Thank you for you cooperation. I have specially prepared a horse carriage to fetch you." I saw the carriage outside the door, so I hopped on. Later we arrived at some magistrate building and there I alighted there. The person brought me inside into a side room. After a while I was asked to preside over a court and pass judgement. A prisoner was brought before me and the jury officers related his case. When they asked me to sentence, I replied that I have never done this before and did not dare to pass judgement haphazardly. The officers said, "As long as you sincerely evaluate the evidence, you can make a decision according to your wish." I thought about it for a while and said, "Ok let's pass such a sentence." The officers agreed and asked me to sign on the judgement book. The prisoner was then taken away and I was taken back home using the same carriage.

Q53: Did your parents know about this then?

A: At first I kept it secret and did not dare tell anyone. But later my parents saw me alone in the reading room quite often and heard me talking to people, thus they gradually know what I was doing. After I became a netherworld judge, sometimes friends from there would come to visit me. However only I could see them and hear them talking. Others could only hear me talking.

Q54: When your ghostly friends came, did you have to prepare food for them?

A: A cup of tea was all the hospitality required.

Q55: Do they have holidays in the netherworld?

A: No different from the human world. During all the traditional festivals like Chinese New Year and Mid-autumn festival, we were given a few days off. However there was no Sunday rest day in the netherworld.

Q56: How come ghosts are able to shape-shift?

A: All ghosts have that ability, but they must be given approval by the netherworld authorities.

Q57: Have you judged any important cases?

A: They were all quite routine. There was hardly any case that was beyond reason. The sins were always obvious and the evidence clear cut. I've not come across complicated and hard to understand cases.

Q58: Have you toured around the netherworld?

A: No.

Q59: Are Ox-head and Horse-face* for real?

A: They are only masks, used to scare those fierce spirits. For those good-natured people they don't use them.

*Netherworld soliders tasked to bring the dead down to the courts to be judged.

Q60: Do animal and bird spirits appear in the same form in the netherworld?

A: They belong to the juristiction of another department. I'm not too sure about it.

To be continued..

Friday, November 05, 2010

Prison of Anger: Death of Darren Ng

The Dhammapada says:

"He whose conduct is very bad,
Is like oak tree choked with ivy;
So does he inflict upon himself,
what enemies would wish for him."

A young boy's life was lost for nothing, all because of a staring incident between 2 groups of youths. Those 4 guys who killed him are themselves charged with murder, their own lives ruined. The root cause for all this violence and tragedy is none other than their own Anger. Anger is their prison, for it binds and burns these kids, reducing them all to ashes in the end. Even the friends of the victim show themselves to be full of anger at the funeral; little do they realize what consequences such behaviour will bring for them in the near future.
Young people today have no education in the Dhamma, and as such they have no control over their base emotions. Unrestrained, these emotions drive them to do all sorts of foolish deeds, leading to their own ruin. If Darren and his friends could suppress their anger and just walk away from the other group's "challenge", it would not have ended up in bloodshed. There is a time to fight and there is a time to just walk away. Those wise in the Dhamma avoid conflict even before it can materialize into action, by shutting one's eyes and ears from external bad influences. Ignorant people think that to walk away from a fight is cowardice, but it takes true courage to overcome your own ego and do the right thing. If we have to fight, it will be for a just cause; to protect the weak and the innocent. Never to support our own egos or out of anger for those who offend us. This is the way of the Dhamma warrior. Hope all the angry young people out there can learn a lesson from this tragedy.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Live Crab Dispenser Machine in Nanjing

Well the Chinese have done it again.. a seafood business in Nanjing have come up with the world's first live crab dispenser machine and placed it in one of their subway stations. Crabs of different sizes are packed in small containers and kept live in near freezing temperatures. Consumers simply have to insert their money and the crab of their choice would be dispensed out. The vendor even gives a guarantee that if anybody gets a dead crab, they will compensate them with 3 live ones. How creative.. one can only imagine the suffering that those crabs go through, frozen and trapped in a tight container, conscious but unable to move.

The Dhammapada says:

"When evil karma is immature
the fool thinks it is honeyed,
but when the evil has matured
then to the fool comes suffering

The hunger of the Chinese for live seafood knows no bounds. As are result this hunger, millions of sea creatures are slaughtered everyday to satisfy their hunger. Of course, this also applies to land animals as the Chinese eat everything with their backs facing the sky. There are some well-known inhumane ways to slaughter and prepare seafood, and now they have thought of another inhumane way to sell them to consumers. It is appalling indeed that they have such scant regard for the welfare of animals. But of course, nobody will think of protecting crabs or other sea creatures from cruelty in China, since everyone thinks of them as "food" like chickens and pigs. Businesses that are built up from taking lives and being cruel to animals can never prosper, for the evil karma accumulated will have serious consequences for all those in the business. As Buddhists, even if we cannot be vegetarians, we should at least not contribute to the demand for live animals, but settle for dead ones. The craving for fresh and tasty meat is something that leads many to the states of woe. By weakening the demand for live animals, we also reduce the cruelty perpetrated towards countless animals everyday. The world will be a better place if the Chinese can learn to have more respect towards all life.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ajarn Wutai of Wat Wihan Sung

Ajarn Wutai of Wat Wihan Sung in Pattalung is famous among the Malaysians for his powerful takruts. So I decided to pay him a visit to chow some as well. Above we see the temple gate.
Standing Deva statue on the wall of the Ubosot.
The bell tower.
The Chedi in front of the Ubosot.
Ajarn Wutai's kuti.
The yet to be completed Vihara housing Ajarn's casket, which we thought was strange since he was still young.
The large Jatukam statue in Ajarn's kuti.
The Phra Sivali and Phra Pang Umbat statues.
The rest of the statues.
Portraits of Ajarn and his masters.
Ajarn reblessing the takruts for us.
Having a photo taken with Ajarn. He usually shows his serious Samatid posture for photos. There were a lot of interesting weapons and staffs kept behind him. However they were not for chow.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wat Kok Don in Pattalung

Wat Kok Don is an old temple in Pattalung founded by Ajarn Kaew. It was recently renovated with new wooden structures by the current abbot Ajarn Satian. Most of the buildings are built from wood, thus giving the temple its name "kok don".
The monks' quarters.
The hall with a small display counter.
A low wooden tower.
The old Sala.
The new wood Sala.

Short clip of the interior of the new Sala.
The main altar, even the Buddha statue and Disciple statues are made of wood.
Having our photo taken with Ajarn Satian.
The catalog of the new batch of amulets to help build up the temple. It will be consecrated together by Ajarn Satian and Ajarn Pachuab next month.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

PT Wong of Wat Huay Raya

PT Wong of Wat Huay Raya in Nakhon Si Thammarat is a little known master with a very high level of Wicha knowledge. His Nanathong gold foil blessing was very simple, yet extremely powerful. Whereas it took effort for other masters like Ajarn Prasoot to blow 9 pieces of gold foil into your forehead, PT Wong magically sends them into you with an almost effortless tap of his font. We were not allowed to wash our face before the sun set and each person can only do this blessing once in their lifetime. Past friends who did it experienced various effects after the blessing. Some felt giddy, some felt feverish, others felt ok. I was one of those who felt alright. Those who did not, as I understand, had some Yin energy in them; which was why they did not feel so well. PT did not make any amulets and his altar was filled with golden Buddha images as well as the various powerful Lersi. He did not allow people to take photos of him or his altar as he did not want any fame or too many devotees to come and look for him. I respected his wishes, so I only took a short video of the surroundings standing outside PT's kuti. PT Wong is indeed one of the hidden dragons in this part of Thailand.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Ajarn Pon of Wat Khao Huay Haeng

Arriving at Wat Khao Huay Haeng in Trang. This is the cave temple of the upcoming master, Ajarn Pon.
The Cobra shrine outside the cave temple.
Close up of the Cobra deity.
Coming batch of Jao Sua and Buddha roops to be made by Ajarn Pon.
The main Buddha altar inside the cave temple.
Ajarn Pon's talking mynah. It's a very smart bird!
The temple counter.
Altar of Jao Sua Jook, a power Kumanthong spirit residing in this hill. Jao Sua Jook means "son of the tiger king".
Another altar for Ajarn's masters.
Their big Jaukam statue.
Chedi on top of a rock.
Ajarn Pon drawing Yants on his hand-carved Jao Sua Jook buchas, made from fragrant wood.
Ajarn had just came back from the hospital after an operation. That's why he was resting on the couch. However, he still kindly draw Yants on the buchas for my friend and bless them personally for him.
Having our photo taken with Ajarn. These KMT buchas are very "saksit" or effective. My friend's hairs stood on end when he received them from Ajarn. When Ajarn invited Jao Sua Jook's spirit down, I could hear all the dogs howling even though it was in the afternoon. Later that night when they brought the buchas back to the hotel, there was another incident. We left the buchas in the hotel room and left for dinner, switching off all the lights and air con. However when we went back to the room, the lights and air con was on again. Who switched them on? It was the KMT's way of telling us they were there. Nowadays it is difficult to get these hand-carved wooden KMT buchas. But I did not chow any as I'm not a KMT collector.
Outside Ajarn's kuti, preparing to leave.