Prayers for pretas

24 August 2010 - 4:45am 1 Comment

Lili Ng won a Setrap pendant!


During a time like the Hungry Ghost Festival, local custom dictates that people do favours for the wandering hungry ghosts. These are beings who have been “set free” from hell to roam the human realm for a month. Walkways and kerbs are lined with lit joss sticks and flickering candles, as well as the token sweet cakes and drinks. All this is amidst a bonfire made of a mountain of hell money.

Some clan houses organise Chinese Opera performances on makeshift stages to entertain their unseen guests, who have the honour of occupying the first row of empty seats in the audience. In fact, even this tradition is fading as quickly as local appreciation for Chinese Opera – they are now sometimes replaced by pop performances by not-so-decently-dressed singers!

Beautiful flower offerings for Lama Tsongkhapa and Setrap

Come to think of it, if hungry ghosts could really partake of and enjoy all these gifts and offerings, why would they ever want to go back? Why return to the hell realms when life on earth is so good? Why not roam around here forever?

There is no logic or compassion in such offerings, which are perhaps no more than attempts by fearful people doing the ghosts a favour in the hopes of not being disturbed by them. According to the Lamrim, the hungry ghosts (or preta) cannot partake in such offerings – what appears as delicious food and drink to you and me will appear as nothing more than pus, mucous and faeces to a preta. In their rebirth, they are bound by their karma to remain hungry, thirsty and in an extreme state of suffering.

Families came to create merits for their ancestors and all sentient beings, their kind mothers

Instead of making offerings that cannot help them, would it not be more beneficial to offer them something to help end their state of suffering?

Prayers to pretas are ill-advised because as unenlightened beings, they are governed by the same delusions and wrong views that we sentient beings hold. So instead of praying to them, let’s pray for them – THAT would be an act of compassion towards these very unfortunate beings, who lack the karma to create the causes for their better rebirth. It is on this logical basis that Kechara House organises pujas during the Hungry Ghost festival.

Lama Tsongkhapa, as resplendent as ever

The four-day Setrap Puja was held at Kechara House from 21st to 24th August 2010. On the occasion, people came to make offerings (to nobody but Setrap and other enlightened beings of course!) of incense, pearls, flowers, food and water…others, grateful for the opportunity to engage in such pujas, also offered monetary donations towards the running costs of the gompa. To encourage offerings, there was even a lucky draw for those who bought pearl offerings. The lucky winners were

  • First Prize – Any Loke who won a mala made out of tiger’s eye beads
  • Second Prize – Lili Ng who won a Setrap pendant
  • Third Prize – LT Loo who won a pewter Setrap tsa tsa
  • Fourth Prize – Grace Leong who won a Tsongkhapa box set

The pujas were fun, but there was also much fun to be had afterwards when many adjourned to the nearby and newly-opened Kechara Care! It is always nice to have a comfortable place for a drink and chat…and what better place to do that than a location that carries the Kechara name! For the Kechara family, any occasion is a great reason to get together to celebrate and have fun, while helping out, contributing and engaging in dharma practice.

Any Loke won first prize!

LT Loo won a highly coveted Setrap tsa tsa...in pewter!

There were people coming at all hours of the day to make offerings

One Response to Prayers for pretas

  1. Remind many old generation and educate new generation about the tradition…