It has been a while since I shared Buddhist stories ya?
Mass Liberation of lost souls
This story was narrated by a young Buddhist nun because we (Buddhist Youths -including myself) were pestering her for ghost stories. She told us that she had never seen a ghost in real life but her experience as a trainee nun in Taiwan convinced her that supernatural beings should exist.
While she was training in one of the monastery in Taiwan, her teacher decided to conduct a Buddhist ritual for mass liberation of lost spirits. According to her, that day was a super sunny day; but the weather changed dramatically when the ritual started. In less than 30 minutes, the sky was darkened by dark clouds and the entire monastery was shrouded in fog. The weird thing is that, there wasn’t any thunder nor rain. The sun was simply blocked out and a heavy fog just rolled in.
You can imagine rows of nuns standing in the main prayer hall chanting prayers and completely surrounded by fog. The surrounding became silent, except for the chanting. Then she felt the presence of unseen beings coming into the prayer halls. Although alarmed, she reminded herself that they are pitiful and needed help.
Strangely enough, the fog disappeared and the sun reappeared once the ritual ended. She said that unique experience made that ritual very meaningful for her. In a way, it felt very real and she is convinced that lost spirits were directed to a better place after the ritual.
The Bell that shook the Nether
In Chinese folk religion, spirits are respected and sometimes people consult or pray to these earthly spirits for help. The spirit usually possess a spirit medium to help it communicate with its devotees. Some of these powerful spirits attract a large fellowship of devoted disciples with huge temple for prayer and ritual.
This story happened because a Buddhist monastery moved to a new neighborhood and became neighbor with a large spirit temple.
In Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, there is a practice of striking the You Ming Bell (幽冥钟) to help beings in the lower realms. It invokes the power of Ksitigarbha Bodhisttva (Jizo) and we believe the sound from the You Ming bell will help alleviate the sufferings in the spirit realm.
The ‘problem’ started when the prayer schedules of the Buddhist Temple and the Spirit Temple clashed. (Completely unintentional because the monks weren’t aware) The spirit mediums in the spirit temple start their ritual at 7pm. They would invoke the spirits to possess them while their devotees waited patiently for their turn to consult the spirits. On the other hand, the monks start their evening chanting at 7pm too and the You Ming Bell was struck around 7.30pm
Coincidentally, the mediums were woken from their possession whenever the bell was rung. The medium came to their senses and the spirits departed! This naturally created hostility because the spirit mediums misunderstood that the monks were trying to sabotage their spirit rituals or perhaps convert their fellowship.
Fortunately, that misunderstanding was quickly resolved by the monks. They simply accommodated the spirit temple and avoid striking the bell whenever their neighbor is conducting rituals.
This happened in Singapore and I was inspired, awed and tickled by the story.
Spirits praying to Buddha
This one is a personal story. I used to attend Tara Puja at Sakya Tenphel Ling every Sunday morning. During the earlier days, our Buddhist centre was situated opposite a plot of vacant land. On one occasion, a few spirit temples grouped together to conduct a major festival on that plot of land.
I remembered clearly we were chanting mid-way when a large procession of spirit mediums and their devotees arrived at our temple. It was completed unexpected and no one knew what to do anyway. It wasn’t pre-arranged and definitely wasn’t a diplomatic program. The mediums were deep in trance with long needles and spears skewering their bodies. They entered our prayer hall with utmost respect, paying deep obeisance in front of the Buddha statue and then bowing to the Lama before exiting as suddenly as they arrive.
They were simply there to honor Buddha before they start their own ritual! Can you imagine? These spirits were summoned by the mediums. After the spiritual possession, the spirits directed their mediums to worship Buddha first before starting their own activities.
That episode gave me a lot of faith in Dharma. Especially the teaching that spirits and gods will watch over practicing Buddhist too. It is important for us to dedicate merits from our Buddhist practices to all beings. (seen and unseen beings) Buddhist makes peace, not war. Hope you enjoy the stories above.
May all be well and happy.