Chapter 21: Suitable Dwelling Places for the Bardo Spirits
|21. Suitable Dwelling Places for the Bardo Spirits
Written by Sheng-yen Lu
Translated and edited by True Buddha Foundation Translation Team
By using my divine eyes, I have observed that most bardo spirits (souls) are swept around by the winds of karma. Like feathers being blown around by the wind, like the gallop of wild horses, or like children without mothers, these spirits are constantly drifting from place to place.
Some of these spirits in the bardo, who have no control over their minds, wander aimlessly like vagrants. This is a very sad and unfortunate situation.
These bardo spirits utter to themselves, `What is going on here? Where am I? How did I end up like this? The sky is always grey, with no daylight or darkness to mark the day. Where exactly is this place?`
During the bardo state, a spirit may see his own corpse lying in the hospital and exclaim in shock, `I am dead!` The spirit usually cries, feels despair, and suffers in pain.
The deceased usually searches first for his home, his family, his place of work and his favorite things.
However, the deceased will learn that everyone is unable to see or hear him. His home, his office, and his favorite things no longer belong to him, and he is left with no place to call home. Yet the deceased also discovers that he has gained a certain ability in the bardo state. He finds that his body is more refined than the physical body and he can move freely through all obstacles, much like spiritual traveling. He can roam at will through any rocks, earth, houses, as well as mountains and rivers with ease, with the exception of holy places. He can be anywhere by just thinking about it.
He can see other bardo spirits similar to himself. As I often say, `Birds of a feather flock together.`
If the bardo spirits have pure divine eyes, they can observe the celestial planes and see divine beings. However, most spirits in the bardo are rather lost and confused in their mind and could settle only in the Saha World, or worse.
Some of the bardo spirits are attached to their physical bodies and hence become corpse-bound ghosts. Others are attached to their graves and then become graveyard ghosts. Some spirits are attached to their homes and thus become home-bound ghosts. Then there are those who are attached to their spouses and consequently become spouse-guarding spirits. Still others are attached to their wealth and therefore become wealth-holding spirits. Some are attached to their children and become child-guarding spirits. These cases signify a further degeneration for these spirits in the bardo planes.
I have also observed that some bardo spirits attach themselves to the bodies of their romantic partners, while others cling to those they hate. Some have chosen to attach themselves to statues and idols. These instances are known commonly as spirit possessions (these are attaching spirits).
Some bardo spirits are known to have a craving for sleep, and are always sleeping. Hence they become sleep-addiction ghosts. Other examples are wilderness ghosts, tree ghosts, water ghosts, blood-thirsty ghosts, swift-moving ghosts, fragrance-consuming ghosts, sea-settling ghosts, lust-craving ghosts, meat-eating ghosts, dreaming ghosts, ghosts with magical powers, impure ghosts, human energy-stealing ghosts, alcoholic ghosts, gambling-addiction ghosts, etc. These spirits in the bardo are really terrible.
I feel the most appropriate places for these bardo spirits to dwell are:
1. The dwelling place of the Root Guru
2. Temples and monasteries
3. Group cultivation chapters and group practice fellowships
Let me share this truth with you [the `you` in the rest of this chapter refers to a bardo spirit]. If you think of your Root Guru right at this moment, you will travel spiritually to his dwelling place. When your Root Guru sees you, he will teach you the ways of the Path of Liberation and the Path of Enlightenment. As you have done some cultivation prior to your death, you will understand the teachings when you hear them. At least you know how to chant the Buddha`s epithet and mantra, and thus will be delivered at once by the buddhas and bodhisattvas to the Buddha`s Pure Land.
Perhaps you may arrive at the Lei Zang Si Temple where it is being guarded by the guardian Skanda and other guardian deities. When a Master and fellow practitioners gather to cultivate in the Lei Zang Si Temple, you may join them in their group cultivation. As Dharma practice involves invocation and dedication, if your focus is on your practice, invoking and dedicating with one mind, the light emanating from the buddhas and bodhisattvas will draw you towards the Buddha`s Pure Land. Therefore, by cultivating the Dharma at the Lei Zang Si Temple, you will be liberated.
Perhaps you may arrive at one of the group cultivation chapters or fellowships. Whenever there is group cultivation, it is as good as cultivating in the temple. As long as you put your heart and mind into cultivation, chanting the Buddha`s epithet and mantra diligently, you will be drawn by the light of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and ascend towards the Buddha`s Pure Land.
Perhaps you could approach a Stupa. Know that when you find a Stupa, you will find the respective Buddha. A Stupa is a tall rising, pointed structure, and apparently there are many variations. There are the five-storied Stupas, the seven-storied Stupas, the ten-storied Stupas, and of course there are both the Sarira (relics) Stupas and non-Sarira Stupas. In fact, the fourth 500 year cycle after the passing of the Buddha was seen as the consolidation period of Stupa construction. Within each Sarira or non-Sarira Stupa is stationed a guardian deity overseeing the respective holy being, and when this guardian spots the bardo spirit of the True Buddha Practitioner, he can deliver you to the Buddha`s Pure Land.
If you believe that group cultivations done at the Lei Zang Si Temple, chapters and fellowships are unimportant, just wait until you end up in the bardo state. Only then will you know what it is like. My view is that during a group cultivation, the power of communal thought has an excellent invocation power. With the completion of every Dharma practice as instructed in the Tantric teachings, one is lifted from attachment, just like reciting the Buddha`s epithet, chanting a mantra one hundred and eight times, and reciting the names of 36 trillion, 119 thousand and 500 Amitabha Buddhas. When you chant the name of one Buddha, it is as good as reciting the names of all Buddhas. Likewise, cultivating one Tantric practice is as good as cultivating infinite Dharma practices.
To be reborn in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss is to be reborn in all Pure Lands.
When the bardo spirit relies on the strength of group cultivation, as in the cultivation power of fellow practitioners, he will be drawn towards the Pure Land in an instant. Hence, the group cultivation practices at the temple, chapters and assemblies are very important.
I often say this:
Disciples, please take note that the practice of the Four Preliminaries is very important. They are major practices.
The Four Preliminaries cultivates the Vajra Heart, which is the heart of the bodhisattva. This heart is strong and indestructible, just like the Vajra (unafraid of slanders and defamations).
The Four Preliminaries involve the practice of Vajrasattva. In the Mahayana view of the fifty-two stages to buddhahood, the bodhisattva of the fifty first stage is called the Buddha-enlightenment. This bodhisattva has almost reached the level of a Buddha, hence, he is called Buddha-enlightenment. If a bodhisattva has accomplished the Ten bodhisattva grounds (the tenth being the Ground of Dharma Cloud or Dharmameghabhumi), he can be addressed as a Buddha.
Vajradhara or Vajrasattva is the Dharma son of the Five Buddhas, and is the very root of Tantrayana. He is its founder.
In any group cultivation, the practice of the Four Preliminaries itself is incredible, for once Vajrasattva is invoked, the bardo spirit will be drawn to the Pure Land of the Buddha and be liberated instantly.
Hence, group cultivation is of utmost importance.
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