My husband and I were both not strong believers in the Buddha’s teachings. However, after attending Brother Shi’an’s ‘Understanding Amituofo’ and ‘The 48 Great Vows of Amituofo’ courses in 2013, we were inspired to visit Donglinsi (China’s founding Pure Land monastery) and the Dongling Dafo (mountaintop Amituofo statue in the area). In December 2013, I went vegetarian for a week before our departure.
Upon arrival on the 21st December, we had to climb a long flight of stairs to ascend. I practised Nianfo (wholehearted mindfulness of Amituofo’s name) till we reached the platform where we could see the Dafo (big Buddha) standing in front of me… and I just broke into tears. After we had our vegetarian meal at the temple, we continued with our afternoon itinerary, proceeding to Lushan (Mount Lu), where we visited Puxianta (Pagoda of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva; Puxian Pusa). There again, I broke into tears.
During this visit, I felt a sense of calmness and connection with Amituofo (and Puxian Pusa). Only then, did I know what Brother Shi’an meant by connecting to the Buddha. The experience is indescribable. (Note: There are many possible reasons for such tearing: http://purelanders.com/2011/12/13/why-do-we-sometimes-cry-during-chanting/. The main reason is resonance with the Buddha and/or his teachings, to be deeply touched.)
Also inspired by Brother Shi’an’s 48 Vows’ class, we were inspired to visit Fo Guang Shan at Kaohsiung in February 2014, where I also broke into tears when I saw the Buddha images at the new and old wings. We spend almost a full day at there. In February 2013, I had visited the Fo Guang Shan branch at Amsterdam, in February 2010, Lantau Island’s Big Buddha, and in 2007, Krabi’s Tiger Cave where there is a Buddha image on the mountaintop above more than a thousand steps. However, during these visits, there was no strong connection. (Note: This is probably due to lack of karmic affinity with Buddhism back then, that had to be further deepened with subsequent Dharma study and practice.)
My elder Sister also had similar encounters. Perhaps this is due to our common karmic affinities. In August 2013, I traced the occupations of my forefathers, and there was a generation where they practised fengshui. My Great-Grandfather did so for himself and others as a hobby. (Note: Here is a Buddhist view on the limits of Fengshui: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2009/07/is-fengshui-part-of-dharma-practice. If fengshui is 100 percent accurately and applicable all the time, no king who had the entire rule of land and the ability to manipulate environmental structure should have his kingdom fall. The law of karma however, is 100 percent working all the time, which is why it supersedes all geomancy ‘principles’. Thus, what most important is to learn to create only positive karma diligently, so as to create blessings for oneself and others, and to dilute the effects of negative karma.)
From my Mother, I knew that I cried for 30 days when born. Only when my Grandfather carried me did I stop crying. And my Mother even crawled under a temple’s altar table for me to stop crying. Also, I had to be Guanyinma’s (folk name for ‘Guanyin Bodhisattva’; Guanyin Pusa) ‘god-daughter’. (Note: This is Chinese folk way of somewhat ‘taking refuge’. The proper way to take refuge is via a Buddhist ceremony consciously and with right understanding, as presided by a monastic. Perhaps, there was disturbance by unseen beings when born, leading to much disturbance before ‘taking refuge’ above, which expressed entrustment to Guanyin Pusa for protection.)
When I was below the age of 3, I had fits thrice. Thank Buddha, I did not become vegetable. Alexandra Hospital was like my holiday resort during my primary school days. I was admitted for fever at 41 to 42 degrees and the nurse had to shower me in a bathtub of ice before putting me under a fan. My Mother has to leave me alone for the night. One night, the elderly opposite my bed passed away, and I would have the feeling of someone touching me, or sitting on my bed when no one is seen. It became a norm.
Between Primary 3 to 6, whenever I was studying in the kitchen with my living room lights off, I often saw someone’s shadow. When I got up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, opening the door, I also see this shadow. When I slept, in the middle of the night, someone would cover me with my blanket. Whenever I told my parents I saw spirits, they would say I was being crazy, talking nonsense. They will cane me to sleep whenever I told them I was scared of what I saw.
My childhood was thus to live with fear every day. Who I saw was my deceased neighbour, who doted on me a lot, She passed away when I was in Primary 3 and her children moved away in the same year. Perhaps, due to attachment and not knowing where else to go, she stayed with us? (Note: This is why we need to offer the power of guidance and merits to encourage spirits to be reborn in Amituofo’s Pure Land: http://purelanders.com/2013/11/07/how-to-share-the-power-of-merits-guidance/ )
When I was in Primary 6, my parents went to a Thai monk, who told them that their two daughters could sense and see ‘unseen’ beings. Only then did they begin to believe me. Since then, however, my Mother started to visit mediums. Thank Buddha, most of the mediums recommended by neighbours did not cheat my Mother. In the case of my Mother’s cousin, now in her 50s, her Mother visited a medium in Miri (East Malaysia) repeatedly. As she was the prettiest among the three daughters, she was charmed (‘hexed’) and raped by the medium. The family only realised this a few years later. She was only 18. Now, however, she is happily married with four children.
As I grew older, I often dreamt of places and incidents that seemed familiar. (Note: Perhaps these are fragments of memories from past lives, but there is no need to pursue the past. What matters is to practise the Dharma correctly now to dissolve any troubling past negative karma.) At times, I heard unseen beings whispering to me. When I was 19, I even overdosed myself with Panadol. I visited a psychiatrist for about six months. With each consultation, I was given a high dosage of injections and six to eight different types of medications. The dreams and encounters did not stop.
Later, I got to know a ‘fengshui master cum medium’ (who claims to be able to ‘summon’ Guandi). He became a family friend. Later, he suggested illogical ideas such as replacing the Buddha image at home. As I listened to him, my husband and kept quarrelling. I started doing ‘meditation’ at his place too. Thank Buddha, nothing happened to me. However, I somehow kept hitting my forehead till it bled. One day, my Sister sensed something was not right, and brought me to see another medium in June 2012.
Then did I realise I was being charmed by black magic by the first medium. For six months, I vomited as he sent spirits to disturb me, even causing my Mother to fracture her toes. Till today, he is still causing disturbances. He goes round telling others that some ladies, including me, are interested in him. Thank Buddha, this did not ruin my marriage. I thought of learning to connect to the unseen world – not for power but to prevent others from suffering needlessly as above, to help those really in need, and to expose such fake mediums.
(Note: This important article should be read for understanding the danger of trusting mediums, from the Buddhist perspective: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/02/are-there-mediums-manifestations-of-buddhas-bodhisattvas-around. With diligent, regular and sincere Nianfo, there will be protection from all unseen beings, as it is taught by Sakyamuni Buddha clearly in the Amitabha Sutra, that all Buddhas mindfully protect those who are mindful of Amituofo. The truly safest place to fully have and control supernormal powers for communicating with and aiding unseen beings is in Amituofo’s Pure Land, as empowered by him. In the mean time, just as the human world is complex with greed, hatred and delusion, the spirit world could be even more so. This is why, in order to better help all beings, especially the ‘tricky’ ones, we should make it to Pure Land to better train ourselves to be equipped Bodhisattvas.)
Focus On Nianfo
When attending Brother Shi’an’s lessons, he repeated encouraged us to Nianfo. At that time, it did not mean much to me. As I was having strange feelings and dreams so frequently, I decided to Nianfo, whenever I encounter any of them. And it does help to minimise and dissipate the unpleasant feelings. Nianfo has made me more calm. These days, I also try to Nianfo in my dreams, and they have become less scary. Instead of counting countless sheep to sleep, Nianfo also enabled sleep faster. (Note: Although Nianfo before sleep does ensure more peaceful sleep, it is important to Nianfo during other times, when wide awake too, and not only when going to bed, so as to train growth of mindfulness.)
Namo Amituofo, Felicia (Name amended for privacy)
Edited with notes by Shen Shi’an