Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Messed Up Death Rite (乱七八糟的超度法)

It is important for me at least to know what the doctrine of my religion is about. In this case, most Buddhists lacked the knowledge of their own Buddhism. This is a worrying situation and it is not surprised to say that true Buddhism will disappear in near future.

I have attended and seen many messed up funeral services. One of those was of my grandma's some 10 years ago.

It was arranged by my uncles that there shall be 3 nights of deliverance services. The first night being the chanting session by local Buddhist center and the subsequent two nights were dedicated to Taoist dead rites.

"What is wrong with different dead rituals?" You may ask.

Well, practically none logically speaking because the dead won't be able to wake up and complaint of course. Such action is not acceptable logically speaking...

First, my grandma's soul (if she could hear) would be asked to listen to some Buddhist chanting and mantra and probably asked to follow the Amitabah Buddha to the Pure Land on the first day. So be it. At least she can now rest in peace happily in Amitabah's land.

Then, on the second day, my grandma's soul was summoned from the Amitabah's care back to her body and that she had to go through all the hassle of Taoist ritual of hell breaking ceremony etc. and then enjoy her life with all those burnt offerings of cars, houses, flower gardens and maids...

So is it logical then may I ask you to first send your love ones to the Pure Land, then asked he/she to return from Pure Land and to go to hell, and then broke the hell and send the person to underworld into a house?

I have even saw people performed Buddhist, Taoist and Christian funeral rites because the descendants were followers of different religions. So the poor dead soul had to travel from Pure Land to the hell and then out of hell to underworld; and then to heaven to meet with God?

Assuming that those dead rites worked as they are meant to be.

Perhaps it is not a problem still if the rituals are authentic at least the dead souls would end up somewhere for heaven's sake...

I have come across some cunningly edited deliverance rites of Vajrasattva taken from Guhyagrabha Tantra. The tantra was transmitted by Dudjom Rinpoche and the dead rite is complete by itself.

Someone who does not understand that the Vajrasattva rites led the dead soul to 'emptiness' and added a mantra of Amitabah Buddha. Perhaps the editor hoped to give the deceased a 'bonus'.

Without his/her knowing, this editor is asking the dead soul first to go into emptiness and then return from emptiness and then into Amitabah's Pure Land!

So, even though the dead cannot complaint, we as the living cannot make such a mistake that defied our religious doctrine.

A Long Discourse About Buddhist Deliverance Ritual (长论佛教超度)

1. Introduction

While we looked at some of the blind spots in Buddhism, it maybe worthwhile to have a walk through of how dead ritual is developed within Buddhism to understand more about if we have really understood the Buddhism that we think that we know.

Below is an attempt to bring us back to the beginning of history till today...

2. The Beginning

In order to understand Buddhist deliverance ritual, we must first start from Brahmanism, which is an ancient Indian religion.

The ancestor of Indian today, the Aryan race perhaps was influenced by the belief of Dravadian people and created the Brahmanism together with the law of reincarnation.

According to the teaching, after a man died, his soul will transform into a subtle body known as 'suksma sarira'. Buddhists convert it to antarabhava or bardo (中陰身) or better known as the 'in between body'.

This in between body will be reincarnated according to the karma it accumulated in its previous lives: be it to the heaven,reborn as man or be cast to hell etc.

According to Brahmanism, this subtle body (or soul) shall linger within a certain realm before being reincarnated. The period is 49 days in Buddhism.

If the deceased family can pay Brahmin priests to recite Veda on behalf of the deceased as a means of deliverance, then this subtle body shall be benefited and it shall be reincarnated to a better realm without the worry of becoming an animal or being cast into hell to suffer.

The Buddha later adapted this idea of subtle body and formed the primitive dead rites. Such rites started to flourish around 5BC to 6BC.

During 5BC or so, Buddhism took shape in today's Nepal and then transmitted to the Ganges River Basin. At that time, the Buddha did not participate wedding ceremonies nor funeral ervices. Because the Buddha felt that human must engage in self practice so as to be liberated from cycles of reincarnation, hence free from the sorrow of life and death.

The Buddha felt that deliverance ritual is useless to salvage; and the deliverance ritual contradicts with the law of karma (In Buddhism, a person should be reincarnated according to the good or bad karma he accumulated in previous lives hence the karma cannot be cancelled by simple chanting of mantas).

So said, in early years; most Indian folks still employed Brahma priest for dead rituals.

3. Post-Buddha Era

After the Buddha has achieved 'nirvana' (died), Buddhism immediately be subdivided into two schools and then broken into many sects...

It was not until around 300BC to 1AD that Indian Buddhism has been divided into 11 sects of conservative Sthaviravada/上座部 (Sanskrit) or better known as Theraveda (Pali). And about 9 sects of Mahasamghika (大衆部). Both of the schools were later known as 'Hinayana' by the later formed 'Mahayana' School.

The Theraveda becomes the contemporary Buddhist school in Southeast Asia and the Mahasamghika became the Mahayana School that we see today in China, Korea nad Japan.

The most powerful sect within Theraveda is the Sarvasti-vada Sect (說壹切有部) and this sect flourished during 2AD during the period of Kanishka.

The Indian Sarvasti-vada Sect adapted the 'subtle body' of Brahmanism and converted it to 'in-between' (中有). The Sarvasti-vada is the same as Brahmanism believed in the theory: After human died, the dead soul becomes intermediate body and then passes through the reincarnation process.

But there was no agreement between the intermediate time: Some thinks it is 7 days while the others think more. Finally the period was fixed as 49 days.

This concept was adapted by Mahayana Buddhism between 2AD to 3AD in India and later this concept was brought to China.

3. Into China

Generally speaking, around 1BC the Chinese Buddhist has already performed dead ritals. However, not many detals were recorded because many of the records were destroyed by Mongolian and Islamic invasions in 12th Century.

Buddhism started to vanish from India and together with historical records. It is safe to assume that Chinese Buddhist deliverance practices started around 6AD during the rule of Emperor Wu.

Emperor Wu invited monks to perform deliverance ritual in his palace. According to records, Amoghavajra (不空金剛) brought 500 tantric ritual books to Cangan, China during 746AD. A few years later he started to build altar to perform dead rituals.

Also around the same period, another monk authored a false sutra 'Ulambata Sutra' (盂蘭盆经) and this Ulambata Sutra started to become popular among Chinese folks.

Those old practices are carried forward to our modern time: 

The Buddhist adhered to the 7 day period memorial service (七日忌) and further added the 100 day period, annual, three years, century and etc. It has become a custom that monks must be employed to perform deliverance rituals during those timings.

4: Modern Day Critics Of Master Jingkong (净空法师)

Buddhist dead rituals begun by Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty.It was after the An Lushan Rebellion and many people died. The emperor built the Kaiyuan Temple (開元寺)to perform deliverance ritual so as to pacify those restless souls.

During that time, the deliverance rituals were just as our memorial service. Buddhist monks were employed to recite sutras, repentance and dedication of merits. The purpose was just remembrance of those died during unrest.

Since the deliverance rituals were advocated by the emperor, folks started to copy and follow. Perhaps this is the beginning of Buddhist deliverance ritual among the Chinese.

There was no such a thing beofre 713AD. The development has mutated until today.
Why say the purpose of Chinese deliverance ritual is distorted?

Well, originally, deliverance services were incidentally service done by the Buddhist temple. Further it is rarely done, at most once or twice a year. The main practice was still dharma talks and practices. Hence temple was then known as 'bodhimanda' or 'place of mind awakening'.

Let us make it clear that Buddhism is for salvation of human beings not to save ghosts! Buddhism is for the living and not for the dead!

This is why it is important that we must make it clear that a temple is only meant for 1: dharma talk and 2: dharma practices.

5. Conclusion

a. Deliverance ritual is against original Buddha teaching. Hence it is a no go.

b. Buddhism is for the living and not for the dead. So no use to talk about where one should go after death.

c. The law of karma is in conflict with dead rituals. So Buddhists today is in conflict with the original teaching of the Buddha.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Cursed Of Blessed? (祝福或诅咒)

A few years ago, Lisa and her husband together with some business friends went to Lhasa for pilgrimage. There were around 20 odd people then.

Once they entered a temple, their tour guides were all pretty ladies and handsome men said to be from religious studies graduate from Tibetan universities. 

Each person was then advised to make offerings of 9 pieces of incenses. Of course, those incenses were not free... The price for one piece was around RMB200. Everyone MUST made those offerings or else he will not be blessed by the Buddha.

After the incense offering or RMB1800 (of ransom money), the tour guides then suggested that the His Holiness Rinpoche has just returned from India bring a lot of precious and powerful amulets.

When asked, the price for an amulet plus the empowerment by HH Rinpoche would cost around RMB1000 at least.

Of course those loaded and faithful businessmen and businesswomen didn't ask too many questions and bought those blessed amulets. Some even purchased a few for their family members.

When those tour guides saw those loaded tourists could spend willfully, they started to push out more expensive items. It was only at that time that Lisa and her group found that they had fallen into spending traps and at least guarded the rest of their money more carefully. But then most of the folks had nearly exhausted their money.

Later, Lisa met with a tourism reporter and he told Lisa that what Lisa and her friends experienced was the techniques used by local tour guides to fish money from tourists. Their targets were mainly Chinese tourists from Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong because tourists from these places are more willing to spend. On the other hand, those cunning guides would not approach westerners as westerners would not buy in with their tricks.

Upon returning from Lhasa trip, Lisa's husband kept wearing the amulets blessed by HH Rinpoche but her husband was not blessed as expected for he died of heart attack three months later.

Most of those businessmen and businesswomen were either lost a lot of money or even experienced business closures due to recessions.

So Lisa sighed: "After we have spent so much money and to have experienced such a consequences... If it was not due to the mindset of wanting to create merits, we would not have been cheated all those money!"

The Merit Issue (功德问题)

Being once attached to one of those charity organizations, I know that asking for donations for orphanage and old folks home and the like is a huge problem. But if I would turn the table and said to the donors that they will receive huge merit and that they will be reborn in Amitabah's Pure Land, then the rich ones would be willing to fork out million of dollars.

I once approached a rich businessman for donation for the poor in view of approaching festive season. The person stays in a multi-million house with servants and maids. He had a record of donated a million dollars to a Buddhist center to build a building in Penang.

When I approached him for donation, the businessman said: "Mr. Liew, it is not that I do not care for the poor. But I personally think that the salvation of my soul is much more important. I want to create enough merit so that my family and I can secure places in Amitabah's Pure Land. That is why I am willing to continuously donate to build temples..."

I was baffled and looked at the businessman. I wanted to ask the businessman that how sure can he be by donating to build temples will create merit for him? Isn't that by building temples we also caused those animals, insects and plants to be killed and destroyed as well. I thought killing is prohibited in Buddhism?

My point is that if we want to create merit through donation, at least we donate to the things that are in front of us and that they are tangible. By donating to the poor, orphanage and old folks home etc. will physically help those less lucky ones to be happier and healthier especially during festive seasons.

If we donate to intangible issues such as merit creation, then we are just burning our money for nothing. Also by building more big buildings, we need to ask for more donations just to maintain their operations. That also cause energy wastage not to mention a waste of donors' money continuously.

That is the reason why whenever I pass by a huge Buddhist, Taoist or any charity organizations with tall and huge buildings, I wouldn't want to look at them. Because those money could be used to help a lot of precious lives.

Unresolved Constant In Buddhism (佛教未解的定数)

Probably it is fair to say that the Buddha has left a very important unresolved constant in his teaching: the final resting of human life.

It is obvious that the Buddha himself has not anticipated that his teaching would revolved to become a religion hence the omission of the matter after death.

This omission has actually opened to various interpretations that have given rise to various Buddhist schools:

In Theravada, disciples are thought to follow the Buddha teaching and the aim is to achieve nirvana or enlightenment. Or simply 'Rest In Peace' without referencing to the Pure Land or Hell. If one is unsuccessful, try again next life perhaps until success.

In Sutrayana of Mahayana system, the view of heaven, hell and Pure Land are brought in somehow. Disciples are thought to believe in the existence of Pure Land of Amitabah Buddha.

The case is more complex in Mantrayana of Mahayana system however. The Mantrayana can itself be subdivided into Lower School and Upper School.

In Lower Tantric School, the practice is mainly termed as 'karma yoga'. The practitioner will follow a deity called 'yidam' and it is hoped that this deity will bring the practitioner to its pure land wherever it might be.

The Upper School is also be subdivided into three systems: the Mahayoga, Anuttara Tantra and the Great Perfection.

The practice of Mahayoga and Anuttara are almost the same. Having said so, the Anuttara Tantara or the Unsurpassed Yoga is rarely practiced now a days due to its complexity. There are two parts to the practice: the generation stage and completion stage.

In the generation stage, the yidam acts as if in the Lower School, it is just imaginary.

In the completion stage, the practitioner transforms himself into the illusion body of the yidam through 4 to 6 stages of yoga exercises.

Of course, the final result is the formation of yidam body and dwell in the yidam's pure land.

It is interesting to point out that so far from the Sutrayana till the Anuttara practices, the law of karma is the main backbone: the cause is the process of visualization of yidam and the effect is the resultant of visualized yidam.

In short, the law of karma is used to 'create' an illusion that is not real. So, yidam is only our mind work. Nothing is true or too holy.

Now if we leap into the practice of Dzongchen or Great Perfection, we shall see that the final resting place for our human mind is the empty space or the realm of Dharmakaya. The same thing as those of Theravada School. Only that the name is grander.

Since Dzongchen only teaches about the nature of our mind, it does not depends on the law of karma. So, some scholars think that Dzongchen is a totally independent system from Tibetan Buddhism.

In this sense, Dzongchen is almost the same as Zen Buddhism except the Dzongchen teaching is stages while Zen has none. 

To sum up, the Theravada, Dzongchen and Zen ask us to Rest-In-Peace. While the rest of Mahayana system relies on one illusive Pure Land..

So as far as I can see, unless a Buddhist knows where his final resting place is; he has practically nowhere to go. Unfortunately speaking too, this issue remains one of those unresolved constant in Buddhism people like to turn their blind eyes on.

Fazhugong Vs Feng Shui Master (法主公对风水师)

This is a story told among the Feng Shui communities in Fujian (福建) occurred somewhere around the 1900's.

A Feng Shui master, Lim was hired by a wealthy merchant Ong to look for a good Feng Shui land for Ong's deceased parents.

After Master Lim searched for 3 years, he finally found a very ideal land but the land was so auspicious that Master Lim felt some hesitation to hand it over to Ong. But since the deadline for Master Lim was approaching, he has no spare time to look for another land for Ong. Further, the greedy Master Lim didn't want to return the hefty amount of money paid to him by Ong.

So Master Lim thought of an idea to give the land to Ong but he would cast a spell known as 'coffin on coffin' so as to enjoy the luck that the new land will bring to him and his family. There was a catch however, the catch was that Master Lim must find a piece of bone from his bloodline to be buried into Ong's newfound land.

So happened that Master Lim's daughter has fallen very ill and passed away. He thought that it was the best time to cut a finger from his newly deceased daughter to be buried in Ong parent's new grave.

With some strategy in mind, Master Lim went to Ong and told him that he has found a very auspicious land for Ong's parents. Ong was very happy and he rewarded Master Lim with more money to handle the burial process.

As soon as Ong parents' remains were safely transferred into the newly found Feng Shui land, Master Lim quietly returned to the grave with a small crystal coffin and buried in the grave, on top of Ong parents.

All went on pretty well unknown by anyone but Master Lim himself.

As it had expected, One year after the new grave was done; Ong's business gradually took a sudden dive and he lost a lot of money. 

At the same time, Master Lim suddenly became rich overnight.

Within 3 years, Ong became a poor man and he had to bag for a living while Master Lim had become a super rich, as rich as the previous Ong family.

Then on the 4th year, during the birthday celebration of deity Fazhugong (法主公), a spirit medium suddenly possessed by Fazhugong and proclaimed that there was evil inside Ong parents' grave.

The announcement by Fazhugong caused a stir within the followers and the crowd decided to go to Ong parents' grave to find out. The procession reached the grave very quickly and under the medium's guidance, a person took a spade to dig at the center of the grave.

Soon a small crystal coffin was unearthed and within the coffin was a small red snake.

Now the medium pronounced that the evil has been captured and the evil doer will receive the punishment from the gods.

Not long after the crystal coffin was unearthed and destroyed, Master Lim suddenly lost all of his fortunes in a fire and robbery. He later became insane and died of unknown causes.

Old Feng Shui masters would retell this story to new learners so as to practise Feng Shui with ethics. Customer's money and instructions should be respected and honored. Of course, a practitioner should never touch black magic such that of the 'coffin on coffin'.

Refer to:


Fallacy Of Karma (因果的谬论)

The theory of karma (因果论) is one of the core teachings of Mahayana Buddhism. It is said that the concept of karma is adopted from Hinduism with a different interpretation by the Buddha.

Personally speaking, I think the law of karma does not exist. A very direct real life example is that your good deeds do not always being repaid with good deeds. Of course, bad actions certainly will not be responded with good actions.

In another example, if you kill a chicken and the chicken will return to take your life in next life. But the fact according to karma is that it was that the chicken owed you a life that you take its life this life. This is equal and null.

Even Buddhist teachings from various schools contradicting with each other. 

In Diamond Sutra it is stated that:

一切有为法, 如梦幻泡影
All actions with intentions are as if illusions.

Since according to the above saying, all actions are empty in essence; the theory of karma does not hold here. So, the Zen Buddhism does not believe in the belief of karma.

In the teaching of Great Perfection (大圆满), everything in this world is the reflection of our mind: the calm, happy and sufferings. There is no saying about 'karma'.

If we continues to hold theory of karma as true, then there are many things we cannot do this life. We would be too afraid of doing anything in fear of bad karma in next life.

According to Great Perfection, if we were to define 'good' and 'bad' then we would be termed as grasping on sides (执边). Grasping on sides is an obstacle to the path of enlightenment.

So the saying of Mahayana Buddhism: "Good deeds yield good karma" is certainly hold not true. In another aspect, we could argue that the Great Perfection and Zen are not true Buddhism?

Hence, as you can see... Even Buddhist schools contradicting with each other on the view of karma. 

The conclusion is that: do what you want and accept the consequences but forget about karma. It is demoralizing.