This is a mystic story and it happened in Taiwan during the 1980s.
A mother of two beautiful daughters just settled into her new apartment. She decided that an altar dedicated to Guanyin or Kwannon would bring blessings into her new home. (for easy reference, I will name her Sister Ai)
Sister Ai went shopping and bought a nice figurine of the Bodhisattva of compassion.
Having no formal Buddhist knowledge or education, she believed that the spirit of Guanyin must be invited into the idol so that it will be spiritually alive.
Being Buddhist, we know that it doesn’t work in this manner.
A Buddha or a Bodhisattva is beyond form and liberated from Samsara.
Moreover, even the celestial beings seek advice from Buddha and Bodhisattva. Therefore how is it possible for a mortal to contain a supreme Buddha or a Bodhisattva into a statue or painting?
It is obvious that this woman had wrong views and intended to engage in idolatry. (Which is not what Buddha taught)
Being clueless, sister Ai’s friend recommended a psychic spirit medium to help “invite the spirit” of Guanyin and she paid a hundred dollars for that service.
Everything was fine for the first week. She offered flowers and fruits, lit incense and worship her Guanyin at her family altar daily. The family was happy.
However, she started having a recurring dream from the second week. Every night, at around 3 to 4 am, she would dream a beautiful lady dressed in white.
This white spirit claimed to be the Guanyin that is being worshipped by sister Ai.
“she” wished to impart mystical knowledge to sister Ai.
Naturally, Sister Ai felt special and proud to become a disciple of “Guanyin” Every night, she would learn different incantations and mystical diagrams in her dream.
This continued for a month until one night, her spirit mentor demanded sister Ai to practice self mutilation. The spirit assured sister Ai that the mystical knowledge would protect her. Accordingly, sister Ai was to boil a pot of cooking oil, chant incantations to enchant the boiling oil. Then she was to stick her hands into the boiling oil! The spirit assured her that no harm would befall her.
That was when sister Ai started to doubt the spirit. This resulted in the spirit turning furious. It was angry with sister Ai for not follow its instructions. Its behaviour also became uncouth, demanding and threatening in the dream.
Subsequently, the blissful dream of spiritual training became a nightmare as the spirit demanded sister Ai to follow its command. Sister Ai was tormented every night.
Fortunately, Sister Ai’s apartment was close to a Buddhist nunnery. At her wit’s end, she visited the nuns and related the entire incident to them. They were very understanding and immediately offered to visit her apartment.
They brought along a memorial tablet (for containing the spirit) plus some other ritual implements. One of the elder nun was psychic and she communicated with the spirit.
It was soon revealed that the spirit intended to “groom” sister Ai into a spirit medium so that it can possess her body.
The nuns were able to educate the spirit of its errant ways and caused it to repent. They performed the refuge taking ritual and caused the spirit to take refuge in the Triple Gems. Out of compassion, they also invited the spirit to return to the nunnery with them. That is to help the spirit, so that it may continue to gain Buddhist wisdom and liberation while residing at the nunnery.
After that day, sister Ai was freed from the spirit’s torment. She also became close with the nuns and had since became a good Buddhist with right understanding.
Lesson of the story:
Right understanding and Right view is important for spiritual practice.
There’s a fine line when we pray in front of an idol.
It is wise to be mindful of what we are doing. Are we respecting the qualities of Buddha or are we praying to an idol? Remember to check your mind the next time you pray.