THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Volumes: 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * previous * next * Exhortation * Contents

Volume 7

Destiny of Ghosts

H2 Destiny of ghosts.
I1 Concludes prior discussion and begins this.


Sutra:

And then, Ananda, after the living beings who have slandered and destroyed rules and deportment, violated the Bodhisattva precepts, slandered the Buddha's nirvana, and created various other kinds of karma, pass through many kalpas of being burned in the inferno, they finally finish paying for their offenses and are reborn as ghosts.

Commentary:


Since the explanation of the ten habitual causes and the six intermingling retributions is not yet finished, Shakyamuni Buddha says: And then, Ananda, let me tell you some more about this principle. After the living beings who have created karmic offenses, who have slandered and destroyed rules and deportment, they said things like, "Those precepts and rules in your Buddhism are not necessary. People should be free to do as they please, especially in America. This is a democratic country, and everyone is free and independent. So there shouldn't be prohibitions in Buddhism, either." They denounce the idea of the Buddha's precepts. They say that one can be a left-home person, a member of the Sangha, whether one has taken precepts or not. They claim that the precepts and rules are unnecessary and that there is no need to abide by the three thousand modes of deportment and the eighty thousand subtle aspects of conduct. They violated the Bodhisattva precepts. They don't uphold the ten major and fortyeight minor Bodhisattva precepts. They violate them. They slandered the Buddha's nirvana. They say that the principle of nirvana is also incorrect. These kinds of people are steeped in offenses. They have and created various other kinds of karma as well, a lot of bad karma. After creating offenses such as these, they pass through many kalpas, a tremendously long time, of being burned in the inferno before they finally finish paying for their offenses. Eventually their offenses are gone and they no longer have to dwell in the hells undergoing bitter retributions. When their offenses are paid back, they are reborn as ghosts. True enough, they've finished being punished for their offenses, but then they get reborn as ghosts.

People who call themselves disciples of the Buddha and yet don't believe in ghosts should pay attention to the mention of ghosts in the Shurangama Sutra. There are many kinds of ghosts, not just one kind. In fact, I'll tell you something: the Shurangama Mantra for the most part consists of the names of ghosts. La She Pwo Ye, Ju La Bwo Ye are names of ghosts. The reason we recite the mantra is to call out the names of the ghost kings. When we recite names of the big ghosts, all the lesser ones don't dare make trouble, either. Mantras are the names of ghosts and spirits. The beings discussed here are reborn as ghosts. What kind ofghosts? Ten kinds of ghosts are now discussed in connection with the karma created from the ten habitual causes. But, in fact, there are many kinds of ghosts, not just ten. These are just representative.

J1 Strange ghosts result from the habit of greed and take form when they encounter material objects.


Sutra:

If greed for material objects was the original cause that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters material objects, and he is called a strange ghost.

Commentary:


If greed for material objects was the original cause on his causal ground that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters material objects. What kind of objects was he greedy for? The greatest desire is the desire for sex. If he sought such things when he was on the causal ground, and if he committed crimes while doing so, then he has to fall into the hells. After his term in hell is finished, he takes shape when he encounters material objects. What kind of objects? Any kind; whatever kind it is, he can attach himself to it and take his form from it. He's called a strange ghost.

J2 Drought ghosts result from the habit of lust and take form when they encounter wind.


Sutra:

If it was greed for lust that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters the wind, and he is called a drought-ghost.

Commentary:


If it was greed for lust that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters the wind. In China, someone who is lustful is said to be greedy for "the wind and the current." People who are like this end up as drought-ghosts. What are drought-ghosts like? Wherever they go, it doesn't rain, and this is due to the "tricks of desert and of drought-ghosts." If you encounter a place where the rain does not fall, where the sprouts in the fields dry up and die, you know now that such a place is inhabited by a drought-ghost. This is true: By listening to the Shurangama Sutra, you can unravel all the mysteries of the world. All the questions of physical science are clarified in this sutra. If you hadn't heard this sutra, you wouldn't understand the reason behind droughts and deserts. Basically, these are due to the tricks of the drought-ghost. This kind of person was greedy for "the wind and the current," and so now when his ghost encounters the wind it takes its shape and is called a drought-ghost. He causes drought wherever he goes. Pretty talented, huh?

J3 Mei ghosts result from the habit of lying and take form when they encounter animals.


Sutra:

If it was greed to lie that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters an animal, and he is called a mei ghost.

Commentary:

This kind of ghost takes its shape when it encounters an animal, perhaps a fox spirit or a yellow wolf, or even a cat or a dog. It's possible for animals to have these weird essences attached to them. I've seen a cat that was possessed by a ghost. It could perform some great stunts. It could jump more than ten feet in the air and land on the top of the house. Then it would leap off the house and land on the ground; it would go through this routine over and over. It also howled and wailed. A fox that is possessed in this way can in turn possess a person. Although it's an animal, it can send out its soul and enter a person, and talk through him or her. A yellow wolf can also do this. It sends out its efficacious spirit and possesses someone. Then it can speak through the person it has possessed. There are a lot of these strange manifestations. This is called the mei ghost. When it possesses a person, the person's mind becomes totally confused by it, and he loses his sense of awareness. It's as if he were asleep.

J4 Poisonous ghosts result from the habit of hatred and take form when they encounter worms.


Sutra:

If it was greed for hatred that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters worms, and he is called a ku poison ghost.

Commentary:


If it was greed for hatred that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters worms. All ten of these ghosts are described by means of their greed. Ultimately, it is greed that creates their forms as ghosts. This one was greedy for hatred. Full of hatred, he would attack people without reason, and so he committed offense-karma involving hatred. That caused him to fall into the Relentless Hell. When he finishes working out his punishments in the hells, he becomes a ghost, and he takes shape when he encounters worms. He is called a ku poison ghost. This ku poison is found in Canton province in China. People use it to put hexes on other people. They take the ku poison from these worms and make it into a medicine. If they slip a pill of this medicine into your tea, then ever after that you must obey their every instruction. If you don't, you'll die. That's to contract ku poisoning.

In the Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and so forth, ku poisoning is common. There is a ghost behind this kind of poisoning, it is his specialty. His potions are extremely potent. The only way to undo such a hex is for the person who put it on you to recite a mantra designed to release you from it. But if he won't do that, then you're in real trouble. You are forever in his control. One amusing use of it is by the southern women who hex the northern men from Canton province whom they take a fancy to. After they marry, the wife puts a hex on her northern husband so that if he ever gets the idea in his head to leave her, he will die. So those northern men are very faithful to their southern wives. A lot of people have this trick played on them. But you should be clear that this is a deviant trick.

J5 Pestilence ghosts result from the habit of resentment and take form when they encounter degeneration.


Sutra:

If it was greed for animosity that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters degeneration, and he is called a pestilence ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed for animosity that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters degeneration. "Animosity" means that he's always thinking about things that happened in the past and remembering them with resentment. Because he's always wanting to get even, he commits offenses. From these crimes, he is forced to fall into the Relentless Hells. After the offenses are paid for and disappear, the criminal is free. But his freedom is such that when he encounters degeneration he takes shape. It may be a debilitated person or any kind of animal that is feeble and old. He borrows the physical forms of such beings and becomes a pestilence ghost. Sometimes, rather than taking over a person who is debilitated, he possesses a person who then becomes debilitated. This kind of ghost is terrible and fierce. It can wipe out a human life as easily as it can pull something out of its pocket.

J6 Hungry ghosts result from the habit of arrogance and take form when they encounter gases.

Sutra:

If it was greed to be arrogant that made the person commit offenses, then after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters gases, and he is called a hungry ghost.

Commentary:


If it was greed to be arrogant that made the person commit offenses, then after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters gases. He was a really haughty individual. Therefore, people should not look down on others. People should not be haughty and self-satisfied, or be totally lacking in courtesy toward others. A person like this doesn't even acknowledge others when he encounters them, he's downright rude.

During the Three Kingdoms period in China, there was a pedant named Ze Ce who went to see General Cao Cao. Cao Cao prepared everyone in advance of the visit, saying that when the pedant walked in, no one should look at him. When the pedant arrived for his appointment with Cao Cao, none of the several dozen attendants who surrounded the General stood up. It was just as if they hadn't even noticed that he had come in. So what do you suppose Ze Ce did? He started to cry. Cao Cao asked, "What are you crying about?"

He replied, "How could you expect me not to weep when I encounter a whole group of dead people? They are all dead, aren't they? That's why they can't speak or move, isn't it?" After that scolding, Cao Cao was at a loss. This happened at the time when Cao Cao was in his greatest days of power. That's why he was rude to Ze Ce. And what he displayed was the kind of arrogance being discussed here.

A person who is arrogant will commit offenses, and after his term in the unspaced hells, he will take shape when he encounters gases. The kind of gas doesn't matter, any kind will do for him to use to make his appearance. This kind of ghost is called a hungry ghost. "Hungry ghosts" are just what their name implies, ghosts that don't have anything to eat. Their necks are as skinny as needles, and their bellies are as big as barrels. Since their throats are so thin, they can't swallow any food. If you were to see such a ghost, wouldn't you consider it to be ugly?

J7 Paralysis ghosts result from the habit of injustice and form when they encounter darkness.

Sutra:

If it was greed to be unjust to others that made the person commit offenses, then after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters darkness, and he is called a paralysis ghost.

Commentary:


If it was greed to be unjust to others, to hurt other people, that made the person commit offenses, then after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters darkness. Being greedy to oppress and prone to being unfair, one creates offenses. These offenses will cause one to fall into the unspaced hells. After hundreds of thousands of millions of kalpas, one's karmic offenses are wiped away and one is free to go, but one's left-over habits still remain and have not been changed, and so one is still unjust and greedy to oppress others. The habits persist. So he takes his form when he encounters darkness. He appears in dingy, shadowy places, and he is called a paralysis ghost. Do you remember the kumbhanda ghost that was discussed before? This is he. One of my disciples tells me that he has met this type of ghost dozens of times. He fought them off each time and didn't lose his life, however.

It's dangerous business to get mixed up with them, though, because it's possible for a paralysis ghost to kill you with his techniques. But now that this disciple believes in the Buddha, I believe that this type of ghost won't have the audacity to bother him anymore.

J8 Wang-liang ghosts result from the habit of views and take form when they encounter essential energy.


Sutra:

If it was greed for views that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters essential energy, and he is called a wang-liang ghost.

Commentary:


"Views" refers to opinions, to one's own viewpoint. With the habit of views, one considers oneself to be extremely intelligent. In actual fact, such a person as this is thoroughly confused in what he does. He may be smart, but he ends up outsmarting himself. He clearly knows that murder is not a good thing to do, but he goes out and kills people. He knows that one should not steal but he commits robbery. Sure, he's smart, all right, and he's an effective speaker, but his own actions are a total mess. Someone like this has greed for views, he's intelligent, but his conduct is disreputable, and he commit offenses. Because of the offenses, he falls into the Relentless Hells and there passes through hundreds of thousands of millions of aeons. After his term is served, he's free, but when he gets out of the hells, what do you suppose happens to him? Well, he doesn't change his old habits. He's still endowed with worldly intelligence that goes awry and so he takes shape when he encounters essential energy, and he is called a wang-liang ghost.

If he encounters a person who is robust and full of energy, or if he encounters some weird essence, he will make his appearance. What do wang liang ghosts look like? Sometimes they will turn into a child. But whereas most children have two legs, this ghost will have one. Sometimes it will appear as an adult, but whereas people's heads are between their shoulders, its head will grow out from between its legs. Have you ever seen anything like that? If you do, you'll know that it's what's called a wang liang ghost. It's always just a little off in its appearance, weird looking.

It also acts as an "accomplice for tigers." How does it do that? Say, for example, that a certain mountain region is infested with tigers, so that no one dares to traverse that area for fear of being attacked and eaten. What this ghost does in such a place is to transform himself into the appearance of a person and go walking along the road there. When an actual person sees that there appears to be a person on the road ahead of him, he is not afraid, and he follows along into the dangerous area. Who would have guessed that the wang liang would lead the person right to the tiger's den? That's his game, to help tigers get their meals. He cheats animals this way just as he does people; he turns into one of their kind and leads them to their doom. Those who profess not to believe that there are ghosts should pay attention to these descriptions.

J9 Servant ghosts result from the habit of deceit and take form when they encounter brightness.


Sutra:

If it was greed for deception that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters brightness, and he is called a servant ghost.

Commentary:

If it was greed for deception that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters brightness. This refers to the habit of deception. Since he wants accomplishments, he gets them by deceiving other people, acting in underhanded ways. By doing this, he commits many offenses and falls into the Relentless Hells. After passing through hundreds of thousands of aeons, he finally gets free, but he still hasn't gotten rid of his left-over habits, and so he still wants to cheat people. Therefore, he takes his shape when he meets brightness. "Brightness" refers to people with wisdom who know how to recite mantras. Or you could say it refers to a "bright teacher."

When this ghost meets with that kind of a wise person, it makes its appearance. What does it do? It attends upon such people so is called a servant ghost. It helps such people do the things they want to do. In China there was a man named Ji Xiao Tang who had five servant ghosts that helped him out. One went about gathering news, keeping up on the latest goings-on. Another ghost helped Ji Xiao Tang listen to things. Since ghosts have five penetrations, they could see things that the ordinary eyes cannot see. Ghosts lack the penetration of the extinction of outflows, but they can possess the other five.

1. the penetration of the heavenly eye
2. the penetration of the heavenly ear
3. the penetration of others' thought
4. the penetration of past lives
5. the penetration of the complete spirit

These kinds of ghosts have a little cultivation, some practice the Way, and so they are endowed with these spiritual penetrations. The ghosts that attended on Ji Xiao Tang could know what people were talking about and could see what was happening at great distances to find out what was happening round and about, and then he would use that information to go and rescue people from difficulty. For example, he would find out that at such and such a place there were some weird creatures out to harm people, and he would immediately go to that place and subdue the weird beings and exorcise the strange creatures. These five servant ghosts helped him in that way. They got to be servant ghosts because in the past they were greedy to deceive others.

J10 Messenger ghosts result from the habit of litigiousness and take form when they encounter people.


Sutra:

If it was greed to be litigious that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters people, and he is called a messenger ghost.

Commentary:


If it was greed to be litigious that made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he takes shape when he encounters people. "Litigious" refers to getting involved in court cases. Sometimes when people go to court, they get together a party or faction to support their case. These people offer testimony on the instigator's behalf, but they tell stories and invent evidence. What really isn't true, they say is true; what is actually not so, they say is so. They argue their case when there is really no principle behind it. Often they are lawyers and the like. They challenge the people who are not of their faction, and they win their cases.

A person who does this kind of thing commits offenses. When he has finished paying for his wrongdoing, he takes his shape when he encounters a person, and he is called a messenger ghost. This kind of ghost possesses a person and speaks through him, saying such things as, "I am such and such a Buddha," or "I am such and such a Bodhisattva" or "I am God. I am also Jesus." A person who is so possessed will be restless and have a lot of nervous mannerisms. He's called a "messenger" because he can predict lucky and unlucky events. He may say, "There's going to be an earthquake at such and such a place, and it will kill more than ten thousand people." When the time comes, his prediction is completely accurate. He can foretell the future.

Someone doubts that such predictions are really accurate. But in fact they are often extremely accurate. It's right at this place that you need to know how to distinguish between the proper and the deviant. The proper is recognized as having come from cultivation of the Way. It's not that you rely on a ghost or spirit or a Bodhisattva or a Buddha to tell you such things. Be sure to recognize this clearly. In China, such people who are possessed by a ghost are called mediums or shamans. They are able to heal people. But it is not the person who does the healing. What does it is the ghost or the spirit which is possessing the person. It's like those people I described earlier who can stick knives into their skulls and swords into their shoulders. They are examples of possession by messenger ghosts.

I3 Probes the source and shows it to be non-existent.

Sutra:

Ananda, such a person's fall is due to his totally emotional level of functioning. When his karmic fire has burned out, he will rise up to be reborn as a ghost. This is occasioned by his own karma of false thinking. If he awakens to Bodhi, then in the wonderful perfect brightness there isn't anything at all.

Commentary:

The Buddha calls out again: Ananda, do you understand? Such a person's fall is due to his totally emotional level of functioning. It's because this person is totally immersed in emotion. Whatever he does is based on emotional desire. Because he's totally emotional, without any power of reason, without any discursive thought, he acts out of emotion, he functions out of desire, and that causes him to fall. Emotion belongs to yin, and discursive thought belongs to yang. After he falls and his karmic fire has burned out, after he goes to the hells and burns until there is nothing left to burn, he can come out, but he will then rise up to be reborn as a ghost. He's released, but he still cannot become a person. Where does he "rise up" from? The evil hells. He gets out and comes to the world. But although he's out of the hells, his residual habits are still not cut off. Although the offenses from his karma have been eradicated, he still has the same old habits of thinking. He's not completely pure. So he has to become a ghost.

His predicament is occasioned by his own karma of false thinking. In the one truth, he himself gave rise to falseness and produced ignorance. This ignorance arises in the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One, and with it comes false thinking. It is false thinking that creates these kinds of karma. Because of it, the person in question must undergo this bitter retribution. He gave rise to delusion, created karma, and underwent retribution. If he awakens to Bodhi, then in the wonderful perfect brightness there isn't anything at all. If he could fathom the wonderful path to enlightenment, then there would be nothing at all in the mind, which is perfect and bright in the nature of the treasury of the Thus Come One. There's none of this trouble. There are no such problems; there isn't any of this pain and suffering. There is no distress.

previous * next * contents

return to top