Celebrating the Legacy of Our Ancestors

13 April 2010 - 1:19am Comments Off

Last weekend was Qing Ming, the annual traditional Chinese festival similar to All Souls’ Day, where Chinese the world over return to their hometowns to clean their ancestors’ graves; it is also known as Tomb Sweeping Day. In line with this, at Manjushri Class that day, David Lai spoke about spirits and how they relate to us in the Buddhist context.

Peter, a new guest at Manjushri Class, first contributed an explanation about the origins of Qing Ming, which  comes from the Confucian tradition of filial piety. He also explained the story of the festival which dates back to the time of the Buddha. Once, Maudgalyayana, one of the main disciples of the Buddha, discovered through his meditations that his deceased mother was suffering greatly in hell. Distressed, Maudgalyayana sought the Buddha’s advice on how to help his mother. The Buddha then advised him to make food offerings to those who had passed away. By doing this, Maudgalyayana managed to relieve his mother and also many other souls. From this incident, people have been making food offerings to the deceased ever since.

David then went on to talk about the spirit realm as one of the three lower realms out of the six realms of samsara. David also shared his own brush with spirits where he would often experience them pressing down on him. He had told His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche about it and Rinpoche told him that it was indeed real; that there was something following him. Rinpoche then conducted a divination to check if what David felt was real and whether it was harmful. It turned out to be real but not to be harmful. Although this was reassuring, David freaked out when he first heard it.

Over time, Rinpoche told David that he did not need to be scared of the spirits. Spirits are just like us – there are harmful people and harmful spirits, good people and good spirits. Spirits suffer for extremely long periods of time and are often misunderstood. Therefore, instead of being scared of them and reciting mantras to drive them away, we should be compassionate to them.

Rinpoche advised David to recite the Heart Sutra and White Umbrella (also known as Dukkar in Tibetan), which is a female deity like Kuan Yin. White Umbrella has 1000 hands, 1000 legs and 1000 faces, and is quite a complicated deity! Her mantra is OM SITA TAPA TREY HUM PHET;  “Sita tapatrey” is Sanskrit for white parasol, where “Sita” means white and “tapatrey” means parasol.

David diligently did the recitations as advised by Rinpoche, who told him to do it regularly to bless the spirits. Rinpoche had told him that it would get worse for a bit before dying off. David noticed that the experiences did get worse when he started the mantra recitations. For a while, there were more of the spirits at night. Instead of just pressing him down, he would even feel hands holding his wrists. Sometimes, he would even see forms like a face during daytime. Then, as he persevered with his mantras, these encounters eventually died down and disappeared – just as Rinpoche had said it would.

Rinpoche has recommended White Umbrella for many people who suffer from these kinds of spirit attacks.

One of the Manjushri Class regular attendees, Ng, asked David why having an altar didn’t protect him. David explained that it was because he had the karma to receive these attacks and that karmically, the spirits had a connection with him. The altar didn’t help because he had a lot of negative karma! Rinpoche had also told David that he was sensitive to spiritual realm. However, with the mantra recitation as advised by Rinpoche, the disturbances stopped.

David also advised that an altar is just a statue and offerings. It is how you put your energy into it that will make a difference in its effectiveness and power. It all depends on you – your practice and sincere wishes that will make the connection to the Buddhas.

Manjushri Classes are held every Sunday, 2pm to 3:30pm at Kechara House 1. No previous knowledge of Dharma is necessary and all are welcome to attend. For more information, contact Jamie Khoo at jamie.khoo@kechara.com or +6016 323 9567 .

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