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Volume 6 no 3

It's A Blissful Life - Encounters of Buddhism in life by Jen Chen Buddhism practitioners

People often seek the Buddha’s help to “protect” them from harm or “bless” them with good fortune. How does this work? It is also a common belief that the soul, said to be synonymous to spirit, apparition or ghost, belong to the paranormal. Is this true? The following two articles uncover the truth about these two subjects.
“Buddha protect me”
Often we see and hear people putting their palms together and sought protection or assistance from the Buddha by muttering, “May the Buddha protect me”. I wondered how this works.

If I were a Buddha or a Bodhisattva, I know what I would do if a person comes to seek my assistance to satisfy his greed or other selfish desires. I wouldn’t be able to justify my action if I accede to such requests. If a person who has not done any good deed all his life and cares only for himself, seeks my assistance to be rewarded with a comfortable life, I think I would pretend that I did not hear him. I would do the same if a person who is not diligent in his work seeks my help for a promotion in his job. If a person seeks my help about his sufferings arising from his frequent quarrels with other people, I would play back a recording of the harsh language that he has used. Maybe I would also show him a snap shot of his angry face. If a butcher seeks my assistance for longevity, I would let him hear the cries of his victims as he took their lives. If a person, who has knowingly broken the law and landed himself in trouble because of his foolery, seeks my help to deliver him from his plight, I would whisper in his ear the proverb “Spare the rod and spoil the child”. To the student who is not diligent in his studies and seeks my help for good grades, I would tell him that the better grades have already been reserved for the diligent students in his class.

People like those mentioned above may be ignorant about how protection from the Buddha comes about. It is also possible that they understand that they did not deserve what they were asking for, but “there is no harm trying” because Buddha is very compassionate and full of loving-kindness. But I don’t think Buddha and Bodhisattvas exercise their compassion and loving-kindness in this way - in the form of angels going around granting people’s wishes. If that were the case, I can imagine that it would be quite chaotic having to deal with who is first, who gets what and how much. Does it depend on who burns the largest incense or the size of the apples they brought with them? Nah!

I should think Buddha protects us in ways that are similar to how parents would protect their own offsprings. They teach them about the “do’s and don’ts” of life. Parents know better because they have “seen them, done them” and, perhaps because of that, they have more wisdom. But, the ultimate teachings must come from the Buddha because he is the Enlightened One - pure, unbiased and absolute.

Buddha protects me, and everybody else for that matter, when we conduct ourselves with wisdom, compassion and loving-kindness, and distance from greed, anger and ignorance. Therefore, I think it is very wise and kind of Venerable Shen-Kai to advise people to be with Buddha.

Body and soul
The Singapore Straits Times published on 2 July 2001, a report by Reuters, that a British scientist studying heart-attack patients found evidence to suggest that consciousness may continue after the brain has stopped functioning and the patients were clinically dead. The research was presented to scientists at the California Institute of Technology, USA.

According to Dr Sam Parnia, one of two doctors from Southampton General Hospital in Britain, their experiment found more than 3,500 heart-attack patients with lucid memories that apparently occurred when they were deemed clinically dead, but who were later revived.

They reported lucid memories of thinking, reasoning, moving about and communicating with others after doctors determined their brains were not functioning. Among other things, the patients reported remembering feelings of peace, joy and harmony. For some, time sped fast, senses heightened and they lost awareness of their bodies. The patients also reported seeing a bright light, entering another realm and communicating with dead relatives. A 2½ year’s old boy, for example, drew a picture of himself as if out of his body looking down at himself.

Dr Parnia speculated that human consciousness might work independently of the brain. The brain can be likened to a mechanism to manifest thoughts, just as a TV set translates waves in the air into picture and sound.

Scientific reports like this provides an insight into what happens after death. But Buddha has long explained the existence of the soul. Not just its existence but what happens to the soul when a person dies and how rebirth takes place. In this Digest, Volume 5 Issue No 2, Venerable Shen-kai explained:

“The human being has six sense organs – eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind. In addition, there is the seventh consciousness and eighth consciousness. The seventh consciousness is the ego or mind-consciousness. It is also called the soul. The eighth consciousness is like a storehouse, wherein the countless seeds of our karma or deeds are stored.

When a person dies, the six sense organs no longer function. The soul transforms into an invisible and gaseous form. It is called an ‘intermediate invisible body’. It is an intermediate existence between death and conception to the next life.

If one has been a person of great virtue, then in response to his good karma, the intermediate invisible body immediately ascends to the heavens. If on the other hand, he has been an evil person, then his evil karma will land him in hell immediately. In general, the good and evil karmas committed by people are not in the extremes. Therefore this intermediate invisible body shall, for a period of up to 49 days, be drifting and searching for the condition for rebirth to the next life. Performing good deeds is the basic aiding condition for rebirth in the realms of human, heavens, or in the pure land of Buddhas.”

I have not seen a soul myself, but I have an encounter that corroborates the Buddhist notion of the soul and Dr Parnia’s findings. When my father died after an illness, we gathered around him to chant the Buddha’s name in a very soothing tune. We did this to provide an environment conducive for his consciousness or soul to continue on his journey to the next life. There was a complete calm in the room. There was nothing in my mind except for the chanting, when unexpectedly he appeared crystal clear in my mind, in his usual self, raised from his body, called out my name and said, “I have to go now, good bye.” Those were his last words.

It is the clearest evidence to me that the soul is real. What concerns me now is what becomes of my soul when my body gives way and I eventually die. Therefore, the Buddha’s teachings are very relevant to me. They are to everybody.

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre