Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great Peacock Queen and Avalokiteshvara

Today 2 strange things happened when I woke up this morning.

1. I remembered the dream I just had. I dreamt that I had gone to a dharma friend’s house and I think there was a visiting Lama. Either him or the visiting Lama gave me a nice looking “sword” – much like Manjusri’s sword. I held on the handle of the sword. But looking further to the “blade”, I realized that there was no blade at all. Instead, it was a long statue of Thousand Armed Avalokiteshvara. This statue is special because it is made of green jade with a handle at the base of the lotus. That’s what made me think I was holding a sword. But the 4 heads at the end, piled one on top of the other, was in their respective colours as depicted in Tibetan Buddhism (i.e. I am sure you know that jade is available not only in its traditional light green colour but also in red, yellow, orange and dark green jade). It was a really beautiful statue. After I got out of his house, I dreamt that I went home happily. I know dreams are just that - DREAMS. But the statue is still beautiful. And also that's one of the clearest dream I had ever had of Avalokiteshvara.

2. I woke up with the Chinese name of the Great Peacock Queen Bodhisattva in my mind – reciting it mentally. That was strange because just a few days ago I had tried to recall her name but cannot remember. Moreover, I do not recite her name at all. Rather I recite her mantra. Furthermore I did not repeatedly recite her mantra before I slept. But I did read some Tibetan Buddhist verses on “The Peacock’s Neutralizing of Poisons”. Thus it was strange for me to wake up repeating her name over and over in my mind. And in Chinese? Why would I be repeating “….Da Gong Que Ming Wang…” over and over? That was right after I dreamt of the Thousand Armed statue. But there was no dream of the Great Peacock Bodhisattva. How strange!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Mantras get their powers?

How does mantra get its powers? How does it generate positive imprints on our mind? Many Buddhists explain it by saying that while we recite the mantras, our mind is turned away from committing anything negative and thus planting good causes for the future. However this does not explain how mantras by itself is able to generate so much postivie potential. It doesnot explain how mantras get its "magic". Many people just explain it by the fact that mantras are the Buddha's words. Recently while studying Shin Buddhism, I got the answer I need on how names and mantras got their inconceivable powers.

Well, take medicine Buddha's mantra for example. If it doesnot heal a person, at the least it is said to be able to build positive merits in the person by hearing or reciting it. And why this is so? It is because of the Buddha's vows associated with the mantras. It functions in inconceivable ways just like how the Vows (especially the 18th Vow) of Amitabha Buddha works in taking sentient beings to his Pure Land. They made these vows to help sentient beings when they were in the causal ground, and now that they are Buddhas, the vows take enormous potential in helping sentient beings, including the vows in the form of mantras. Before Dharmakara became Amitabha Buddha, he cultivated for 5 long kalpas and hence he infused his Vows by that much length of time. That's why reciting Amitabha's name is so effective. Same for his mantra. His mantra is linked to his vows.

That's also why while we are in the causal ground, in the Mahayana we are taught that we should learn to make great vows like these Buddhas did. Then when there is a mantra associated with you, when you become a Buddha, it will have enormous potential too. Hence, not only does doing certain actions (such as offerings of food to monks, donating money to charity, etc) bring merits, reciting mantras too creates postive merits!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Emptiness of the Gay Self

I think gays and homosexuals offer us the best opportunity to understand the emptiness of self. And do you know why I think so? It is because the emptiness of an inherently gay or lesbian self is easiest to understand. (note: From here onwards I will use the word "gay" only but essentially I am also referring to lesbians, transexuals and bisexuals).

If you are gay and you probe into yourself and look for this "permanently gay entity", you will not be able to find it. Is the body gay? Is the mind gay? If it's body, which part of the body is the gay part? If it is a certain part, then others who are not gay but also have the same body part would be gay too...if that's the logic you have. But no...every human have basically the same body parts. Of course, we leave out those who are born deformed or handicapped or other situations where the baby was born out of natural norm.

If it is the mind that is gay, which construct of the mind is gay? The eye consciousness? The ear consciousness? The 8th consciousness perhaps? Again, if any of these are inherently gay, then others who have the same mind-part would be gay too. All of us have the same mind-parts, then we all would be gay, right? But no... not everyone is attracted to the same sex.

Or, is there a gay gene in the human body you are born with? There is in fact an intense scientific research into the existence of this gay gene. You only need to google "gay gene" in order to find out the various scientific researches into it. But really, I think (and I am no scienctist, but merely a Buddhist) even if there is a gay gene, if you probe deeper into what the gene is made up of, again I think you will never find the permanent indestructible gay identity. Perhaps genes are made of proteins or chromosomes? Which chromosome/protein is gay then? Looking at it from a longer term perspective, ultimately, you will be gay as far only as this life is concerned. In the next life, you will take another rebirth in another form. Is there a gay ghost? Is there a gay dog? Or gay deva? I dont' think so. Someone tell me please if you know there is. If you engage too much in anal sex and if there is any negative karma resulting from these acts, there is a strong chance of being reborn as an animal or hell (where you will be pierced by a sharp pole through your anus and out of your head). It's scary just thinking about it, right?The conclusion I derive as a Buddhist, and not a scientist, therefore is that we cannot find any cell in your body or parts of your mind that is inherently and permanently gay. Hence, according to the Buddhist emptiness doctrine, the gay self does not exist. However, if you are gay, you will have a problem of eliminating your intense attachments. You really must find a way to reduce it. And one way is to see "your" own emptiness. The "you" that you believe is gay. See that there is no "gayness"; only different attachments and desires.

That's why people who hate gays should not hate gays because the gay entity doesnot exist. It is only their peculiar attachments and intensity of their desires that you probably hate. But it is also because of their intense attachment that gays suffer so much. Hence, don't hate them and give them a chance to love another man/woman if you are straight. There's no need to discriminate against them. I think they are already having so much suffering. If you are straight, never embarass another friend if you know they are gay or bisexual or whatever. If they want to keep their sexual orientation a secret, don't expose it and cause much suffering for the person. It's very very bad! Exercise patience and tolerance.

And gay people should not over-emphasise their gayness more than necessary. For instance, there's no need to have those annual gay parades or something. In the US, they usually have these, if I am not mistaken. Basically, it means not over-doing your sexuality. Just deal privately with your attachments and desires (i.e. reducing it gradually). I feel that a man can still love another man.. or a woman with another woman...and even hug and kiss him/her. But try to cut down on anal sex. Heterosexuals too should cut down on anal sex. There is a strong likelihood that anal sex causes rebirth as animals or hell as mentioned earlier.Thus, the gay self is only an illusory self-belief which is a "self" that existed in the first place based on ignorance. And this explanation of the emptiness of the gay self can be extended to see also the emptiness of the heterosexual self and other types of "self" or "ego" that we believe exists. If there were ever any gay Buddha or Bodhisattva that manifests just for the sake of the gay community, he/she will probably teach them exactly this. For whatever that is incorrect, I do take it back. But please ponder upon it carefully.

I think I like what I have written here. When I started to write this, I have only a small idea what I was going to write. But it ended up this long. I hope it's my small contribution towards fostering understanding towards the gays, bisexuals and transexuals. And in the process I hope this community themselves will be able to understand themselves better by not clinging too much to their sexuality. Hence they can contribute to their society in a more positive manner by not letting the society look down upon them as some weird humans that are neither man nor woman. Instead these community can be more confident about themselves by behaving to the norms of society, being able to practice dharma but yet able to love the man or woman they are attracted to. Do you like this post? I hope you do.

1. Tsong-kha-pa. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. Vol. III. New York. Snow Lion Publications. 2002.

2. Rabten, Geshe. The Essential Nectar – Meditations on the Buddhist Path. Boston. Wisdom Publications. 1992.

3. Biology and sexual orientation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_gene. Wikipedia.

4. “Is there a gay gene?”.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Taste of Zen

A Christian friend of mine who have some Buddhist knowledge (but more than many Buddhists) quoted a Zen saying to me in our conversation.

"When you see the Buddha, kill him!"

He has a mistaken interpretation of that Zen quote. To let him think and correct his mistaken view, I have this to respond:

"If I see Jesus, I will not kill him,
Instead I will embrace him;
But for you,
if you see the Buddha, neither kill nor not-kill,
What are you going to do?"

Answer me now! Hitting the table sound - "KATZ!"
I am no Zen Master, but I think that's enough to give him a taste of Zen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Great Peacock Bodhisattva Part 2

Mahamayuri is depicted in many images from two hands to twelve hands.

The Tibetan image of Mahamayuri is green with 8 arms and 3 heads. Her faces are white, green and blue. Her eight hands display: Right side -- varadamudra, a sword, vajra and jewel; left side - a bowl, a treasure jar, a bell and a flower. Seated on a lotus throne, she wears all the ornaments and celestial garments of a bodhisattva.

There is a rare Mahamayuri (as above) depicted with six heads and twelve hands but is not unheard of. The very name of the goddess Mahamayuri is suggestive of her close connection with the bird mayura i.e. the peacock. This connection seems to be very logical in the view of the fact that the goddess is believed to be the deification of the magical formula, called the Golden Peacock Charm, used by the faithful to ensure protection from snake bites. Seated in a relaxed posture atop the peacock, she raises two hands in abhaya and varada mudra respectively and the rest ten hands hold various weapons. The bird is shown with its natural poise and grace, delicately carved.

Maha-Mayuri became in Japan, a male figure called Kujaku Mi-o. Mi-o is translated as "Ming Wang" in chinese. This Buddhist wisdom deity associated with the peacock (whose call is believed to herald the rain) protects against calamity, especially drought. There are depictions of her as an unusual form of a Myo'o (Vidyaraja), descending from Heaven on a peacock accompanied by clouds. This figure, with its three faces and six arms, differs from the other Japanese style of her, which usually has one face and four arms. In contrast to the central face, which suggests a merciful disposition, the side faces appear fierce. According to
http://www.onmarkproductions.com/ "...the Myō-ō 明王 are warlike and wrathful deities who represent the power of Buddhism to overcome the passions. Five of the Myō-ō are emanations of the 5 Buddhas of wisdom (Skt. Dhyāni Buddhas, Jinas), and in this role they guard the four cardinal directions and the center. It was introduced to Japan in the 9th century by Japan’s Shingon and Tendai sects of esoteric Buddhism". According to Wikipedia, "Wisdom Kings are usually represented as wrathful deities often with many faces, many arms and even many legs. They hold weapons in their hands and are sometimes adorned with skulls, snakes or animal skins and wreathed in flames. A notable exception is Mahamayuri (Jp. Kujaku), the "Peacock Wisdom Queen", who is usually presented with a peaceful expression. She is easily identifiable as she usually rides a peacock" It further says, "....Mahamayuri had the power to protect devotees from poisoning, either physical or spiritual".

In the anime world of Manga, there is even Mahamayuri. Check this out:

Within that site, it says: "In 1989, Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest (嘉禾) in collaboration with Japan’s Toho-Towa (東宝東和) Studios adapted 「孔雀王」 into a live-action film re-titled as 「孔雀王子」 (
Peacock King), with some minor tweaks: there’s two “Peacocks” in the movie. The lead role went to Yuen-biao (元 彪), who played the Tibetan Lama called 孔雀; Hiroshi Mikami (三上博史) became the Japanese Shingon-sect monk known by the name Lucky Fruit (吉祥果) in the original release. But in the version for the Japanese audience, the Japanese monk was renamed 孔雀 [Kujyaku] to stay faithful to the typecast. However, the Tibetan monk character also retained the name ‘Peacock’ but read in Chinese as Kong Que. Its awesome when they invoked the 九字真言: 臨、兵、闘、者、皆、陣、列、在、前 followed by 破 !!"

Interesting? You bet.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Peacock's Prayer (for Protection)

This is the Theravadian version of the Peacock protection prayer. Not a mantra, rather it's a Paritta...nonetheless still for protection. And below is the story of the peacock. Indeed, the peacock is a symbol of protection aganist illness, poisons and many other negativities not only in Buddhism, but also in other cultures and religions, such as Hinduism. So, it goes back a long long time, not confined to Buddhism.

The Peacock's Protection Prayer (Mora Paritta)

The Great Being (the Buddha-to-be) was born as a peacock,
fufilling the necessary requirements for obtaining Enlightenment,
and having arranged protection for himself by means of this protective discourse.
Him, the Great Being, although the hunters

Strived for quite a long time, they were not able to capture.
This was prescribed by Lord Buddha as an Exalted Charm.
Oh thou! Let us recite this protective discourse.

"There he rises, the thousand-eyed king,
Making the world bright with his golden light.
Thee I worship, Oh glorious wing, with thy golden light, making the world bright.
Keep me safe, I pray, through the coming day.

"The saints, the righteous, wise in the entire holy lore,
They may protect me and to them I adore
Honour be to the wise, honour be to wisdom
To freedom, and to those who had achieved freedom.

Having made this protection
the peacock went about to seek food.

There he sets, the thousand-eyed king,
He that makes the world bright with
his golden light.
Thee I worship, On glorious wing,
With thy golden light making the world bright.
Through the night, till the next day; Keep me safe, I pray.

The saints, the righteous, wise in the entire holy lore,
They may protect me, and to them I adore.
Honour be to the wise, honour be to wisdom.
To freedom, and to those who had achieved freedom.
Having made this protection, that peacock rested happily at home,

Another version:
The One King, rising, with Vision,
Golden-hued, illumining the Earth:
I pay homage to you,
Golden-hued, illumining the Earth.
Guarded today by you, may I live through the day.

Those Brahmans who are knowers of all truths,

I pay homage to them; may they keep watch over me.
Homage to the Awakened Ones. Homage to Awakening.
Homage to the Released Ones. Homage to Release.

Having made this protection, the peacock sets out in search for food.

The One King, setting, with Vision,
Golden-hued, illumining the Earth:
I pay homage to you,
Golden-hued, illumining the Earth.
Guarded today by you, may I live through the night.

Those Brahmans who are knowers of all truths,

I pay homage to them; may they keep watch over me.
Homage to the Awakened Ones, Homage to Awakening.
Homage to the Released Ones, Homage to Release.

Having made this protection, the peacock arranges his nest.

MORA SUTTA (The Discourse on the Peacock's Prayer, the story)
The birth-story of the Buddha as a golden peacock was narrated by the Lord at Jetavana monastery when it was reported that a disciple monk had been enchanted by a woman.

Our Buddha-to-be was once born as a golden peacock, residing on the golden hill of Dandaka in the Himalaya mountains. When day dawned, the golden peacock used to sit upon the summit watching the rising sun, composed a prayer to protect himself safe in his feeding-pasture. He then recited worshipping the past Buddhas and all their virtuous glories. Uttering this charm to protect himself from dangers, he went a feeding.

In the evening when the sun went down, the bird came back to the hilltop on which he rested to watch the setting sun, and he meditated to utter another prayer to protect him from dangers during the night time. He then went to sleep.

There was then a hunter who had seen him and told the wonders of the bird to his son. At that time queen Khema of Benares had a dream which pushed her to demand the king to bring the golden peacock to the palace. She wanted to listen to the discourse of the bird. The king sent the hunter to catch the bird. But by the power of the prayer and charm the snare would not work to catch him. After seven years the unsuccessful hunter died followed by the demise of the queen.

There upon the old king was angry with the bird and left an inscription saying that whoever eats the flesh of the golden peacock shall ever be young and immortal. So six successive rulers of the kingdom attempted to capture the bird but all in vain.

The seventh successor king sent a clever hunter who had a charming peahen which could sing very sweetly. Early in the morning the hunter set up the snare with the peahen which sang very enchanting before the golden bird could recite his usual prayer and charm. The bird was tempted, and approached her; and was caught in the snare. The happy hunter caught hold of the golden bird and hurried back to the palace to present it to the king.

The king was delighted at the bird's golden beauty and placed the bird on a royal seat to exchange a dialogue with him.

The golden peacock related the story of his previous life as a pious king in the same kingdom and also explained the power of his prayer and charm to the king. He also advised the king to excavate the golden charriot from the royal lake to prove his narration. When all the truths were revealed, the bird was released to fly back to the golden hill of 'Dandaka. And the story ends happily.

Hence this Mora sutta has been chanted as a charm or wardrune to protect the subjects from snares or to be released safely if arrested by the enemies. It is usually "uttered by Burman Buddhist to keep the entire family safe and sound through out the entire day and night.

According to the Burmese version of the Mahaparitta pali text, this sutta is composed of six stanzas only.

End note: Remember to read my "experience" with the Mahamayuri mantra in the previous post.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Peacock King Bodhisattva - Mahamayuri (Part 1)

Quote from a discussion forum:
"Mahamayuri has three heads. Mahamayuri is green in colour and her three faces are green, white and blue in colour. Mahamayuri is eight armed. One of her four right hands displays varadamudra while the other three hands hold a sword, vajra and jewel. In her four left hands she holds pindapatra, a jar showering jewels, a bell and a flower. She is seated on a lotus throne. She wears all the ornaments and celestial garments peculiar to a Bodhisattva. According to the Mahamayuri sutra of Pancaraksha, there was a bhiksu called venerable Svati. He was newly ordained in the Buddhist community of monks. He was unfortunately bitten by a poisonous snake and fainted. On seeing his condition venerable Ananda reported this incident to Buddha Shakyamuni. Lord Buddha, out of compassion for the newly ordained monk and the future ones, disclosed a dharani which was capable of eliminating poisonous harm and malignant diseases. This was the dharani of Arya Mahamayuri.

There is another story about this deity. There was a golden King peacock in the Himalayan mountain who used to recite Mahamayuri dharani with great devotion. It so happened one day that this king went along with his family to travel in the mountain forgetting to recite the dharani that day. He was caught by hunters. Thinking of his forgetfulness of the dharani he immediately began to recite and was able to free himself. The Buddha told Ananda that the peacock king called Suvarnavabhasa (i.e. golden coloured one) was none other than Buddha Shakyamuni himself. Thus this dharani is believed to be efficacious in all cases of dangers as well as for relieving poisonous harms. "

More pictures of the Great Peacock King can be found here in this link.

The heart mantra goes like this: Om Mayura Krante Svaha.

There is a longer version. But I need to check and confirm it first. I just came from the temple. They arranged 20 over Sanghans to come over to do a 3-day Peacock King puja. It was broken up into 3 sessions for each day. So, for each day, one whole book was completed. The delegation was led by an elderly 80+ monk who was said to have been practising the Mahamayuri for decades. So, to be blessed by him is considered super good because we know that his recitation is definitely effective. After all, he was said to be the specialist in this Peacock King practice. The puja was led by another younger monk but when it came to the last part, it was the elderly monk who blessed each and every one with two bunches of peacock feathers on the head. Packets of food were distributed just like tibetan pujas. We can see prayer flags and victory banners and parasols hanging around the altars. It appeared that the monk even taught the hand mudra of Mahamayuri on the 1st day. Many people went and from what I gather, it was really beneficial. It was the first of such event held in Penang. I have never seen anything like it before. The crowd was the largest on the last day. But of course, there was no need for any initiation or stuffs like that as found in Vajrayana. As long as the monk thinks it will benefit the people, he teaches the mantra and mudra to them. I really like the happiness I saw written all over the face of those who went. Sometimes when we see these non-Tibetan Buddhists benefiting so many people, and we compare that with the reluctance of Tibetan Buddhists to teach people on a wider scale, we can't help but think wther the Tibetan Buddhists are paranoid about their "secrecy". For example, one Tibetan Buddhists cannot even tell this practice is practiced in which lineage of the Tibetan tradition. Neither is he sure whether he can share a picture of the tibetan version of the Mahamayuri image. Hence, you can understand what I mean by Tibetan Buddhists being paranoid about the secrecy. It's ridiculous if it is done to this extent.

On the last day, after the blessing by the elderly monk, everyone was given a stalk of peacock feather to take back and a Mahamayuri photo. Typical of Tibetan empowerments, the lama would bless everyone and give them photos, and other things to take back. It was a special experience I'll never forget.

My experience with the Peacock King mantra
What was extraordinary about the Peacock King Sutra and mantra was that I had the fortune to feel its effect almost immediately. Everytime the elderly monk touches my head with the bunch of peacock feathers, I felt as if a burden had lifted off my shoulders. It was a magical uplifting energy. I can sense from those people there, that they felt the happy energy too. At the end of the puja and chanting, the presiding monk spoke a little about the benefits of the mantra/Sutra. It not only help in easing and eliminating diseases, but also natural disasters, robberies, snatch thieves, and even sleep better. He also said that anger can be appeased immediately if you recite silently the mantra three times in front of the angry person. I have not tried this, but on the part of being able to sleep better, I had the most amazing soundest sleep that night. When I woke up the next morning, I did not have that “hang-over” or “I want to roll-back to sleep” feeling. My mind was so fresh and ready to jump out of bed. That morning, I reached my work place earlier than usual. Amazing? Not only that, I had dreamt of listening to the teachings of some Tibetan lamas. I have forgotten what it was, but I am sure it is somewhere in my mental continuum. However, it depends on yourself too. Another person who went there, did not have as peaceful sleep as I did. So, for me, I have only good things to say about the Peacock King Maha Mayuri.

I'll tell more about this great Mahamayuri and who she is in the next few days.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Clinical vs Actual Death

According to Tibetan Buddhism, a person does not really die upon cessation of the breath or pulse alone. Often when the doctor pronounces the clinical death, we assume the person is dead. But I heard a teaching that the person is truely dead only if you see either a white or red (or combination of both, so it may appear brownish) liquid flows out from the person's nose, mouth or private parts.

I have heard of a true story where a person who had been pronounced dead clinically. Then her relatives and family members proceeded to wash her face with a cloth. Suddenly she wakes up while they were doing so. So you see the danger of not checking for this white/red liquid. You could be burying or burning the person alive. And that's committing the karma of killing... even though there is no intention on your part. So, be careful about this.

I didnot know of this previously, so if you were like me too, please share this piece of info with your family members, relatives and friends. It could save somebody's life from premature death.

About organ donation, it naturally mean that the person had not yet died, but only clinically dead. But as required in a organ donation, the organs need to be taken out as soon as possible to preserve it. Hence when the doctor is cutting up your body without the use of sedatives, the process of mind and body dissolution is still happening. It means your consciousness may not completely left the body, in fact, the indestructible drop may not even open yet. It is only when the indestructible drop opens that the consciousness is said to leave the body. The Tibetan Buddhists are very advanced in the science of death and dying, and they know the subject inside out. They are so good at it that they are able to use death and the process in it for achievement of Buddhahood.

So back to organ donation. You better think carefully before you sign up for organ donation. Before I heard this teaching I also support organ donation. Now I also support but would like to add a CAUTION. You really need to seriously have true bodhicitta before deciding to pledge your organs. Otherwise, if and when the doctor cuts up your body and there is a possibility that there could arise anger in your mind at that time. Then you could be doomed to a lower rebirth. You better not have any REGRET at that time. If there is any regret or anger, any great merit that would have otherwise generated is now gone down the drain. Not gone totally (i.e. if the organ is able to benefit somebody after successful organ transplant), but not in the immediate future. This is because, due to your anger and regret, you will be reborn in the lower realms.

However, many Buddhists (especially the Theravadin Buddhists) will tell you they donot believe in the state of bardo after death. But if what the Tibetan Buddhists say is true, you seriously got to give yourself some time to think over whether you are really that benevolent to give your organs at "death". Will you regret or feel disturb if people start cutting you up at death. Or, would you not mind going to lower rebirth (even if eons and eons) but is able to benefit one human? I really have no answer and I am not trying to discourage organ donation. However we really got to think the consequences properly. Sometimes the answer is not really that clear cut as others would have us believe it to be. Sometimes it is we ourselves who are fooling ourselves. Sometimes we are simply ignorant or merely not wanting to accept the truth.

Having said that, think carefully and do what's best for yourself and others!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Hungry Ghost Month

This is the traditional month of the Hungry Ghosts. It is celebrated not only in chinese societies aroudn the world but also in Japanese, Vietnamese and other cultures. Wikipedia mentioned that some people refer it to as the "Chinese Halloween". There are several youtube videos that show you what this celebration is all about. You can also read about "Ghost festival" in Wikipedia although the information there about Ullambana story is not the version I had read. Perhaps the Ullambana story is different under Theravada and Mahayana tradition? I need to check on this. But anyway, it had been my family's tradition (as is many other who observes this festival) to burn the folded paper money as well as printed fake "hell notes" to those hungry ghosts who are supposedly "released" from hell for a one month reprive. This part of it is seriously , I believe, only of cultural origin. There is no truth in hell beings getting a short "holiday".

I have been following my family tradition in observing this practice. On the 1st, 15th and 30th day (last day) of the month, my family will burn the paper money (and other paper stuffs as representing the real things) , light some candles and joss-sticks as offerings outside our gates. I still go to the make-shift prayer "tents" and pay my respects to the deities there, especially to the Lord of Hades who is supposedly the controller of the hell-beings released so that they donot create trouble for humans. Some Buddhists might be taken aback and surprised why I still do continue with this practice. I know many Buddhists have given up on this traditional chinese practice for reasons of it being unbuddhistic. My explanation is simple: why can't I turn it into a Buddhist practice? Is it that difficult? If we understand the Buddhist principles, it's not that difficult. By turning it into a Buddhist practice of great liberation, I am not only not abandoning my Buddhist faith but also not abandoning my culture.

So why do I call it the Great Liberation practice? I treat this one month as a dedicated month to practice compassion to liberate the beings of the lower realms. Of course we can practice it anytime of the year, but this is like a special period chosen to do a concentrated practice to liberate them. For whatever reasons it was chosen in the 7th lunar month, I can only be grateful for those who conceived of this tradition.

How do we practice it the Buddhist way? Well, first visualise all the folded paper money, hell notes, the paper clothes, paper shoes, etc as real and then together with the biscuits, food, incense and all the other offerings, we first offer these to the Buddhas and the rest of the Arya Sanghas in our field of merit. Do this as a Great Offering. Secondly, we say "Om Ah Hum" and burn them. But not normal burning. We treat it as a fire puja. We can also visualise all the demerits and offenses of the lower realm beings coming out from these beings and goes into the fire. Then visualise these beings karma as completely purified. Third, the merits are transferred/dedicated from the offerings to the Buddhas and merit field and also the fire puja to the beings of the lower realms (not just hungry ghosts). Finally, then make an aspiration that they no longer engage in negative actions that will bring them to the lower realms and that they be forever guided in the Buddha Way. For this, visualise the beings as liberated and goes to Amitabha Pure Land.

Even though I am a Buddhist, there is no reason why I should not give my respect to these spirits, deities and Lord of Hades (King Yama). It's not the same way we regard the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. But it's still the same respect, just as we respect our fellow humans.

Externally, people may think I am doing the same practice as others, but secretly, I maintain my Buddhist practice. I can't go around and tell my neighbours and others how I practice, because not everyone is receptive to it. Anyway, it can backfire if the listener is not spiritually ready to be guided by the Buddhist way. Anyway I donot go around proselytising the Buddhist way. However I should not keep it a secret either. Therefore, at the least I publish it here for fellow Buddhists to consider. If it is in accord with Buddhadharma, you can accept it. If not, please disregard this ignorant mind.