MASTER SHEN-LONG | The Ghost Festival of Buddhist Deliverance
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The Ghost Festival of Buddhist Deliverance

The Ghost Festival of Buddhist Deliverance

(Excerpt from the Prajna (II), expounded by Master Shen-Long, Chapter 8)

 

In 2016, the Ghost Festival of Buddhist Deliverance will fall on August 17th (Lunar calendar July 15th).

Master Shen-Long, Inconceivable Application, 2008, Ink on rice paper, 3.2 ft x 5.10 ft. Copyright Master Shen-Long.

Master Shen-Long, Inconceivable Application, 2008, Ink on rice paper, 3.2 ft x 5.10 ft. Copyright Master Shen-Long.

This festival occurs in the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Spending one day in the ghost world is equivalent to one month of our time here. Therefore, on the 1st, 15th and 30th day of the month there are deliverance rituals to re

lieve ghosts from suffering. Making offerings before Buddha, upon the tables there will be all kinds of vegetable dishes. What is that for? It invites them (ghosts) for a meal.

Ordinarily, a ghost has spent approximately 1,000 to 2,000 years without knowing the taste of a meal; they are in a state of hunger. The shape of their throat (larynx) is not like ours and it is as narrow as a needle – like the slender needle we get from a vaccination shot from the doctor’s office. If you do not recite the Dharani of Initiate Eating, then their throat would not open to take in the offered vegetables and they are unable to eat.

What kind of people become ghosts?

They used to be human with feelings of inferiority or superiority; they will all end up as ghosts.

In the month of the Ghost Festival, the 1st calendar day invites them for breakfast, the 15th calendar day invites them for lunch and the 30th day invites them for supper. They are only permitted a break for that one day (in ghost world time, one day is one month in our world) and then they all have to return back to their ghost world.  This allusion is from the Ullambana Sutra, Buddha speaks about the Ullambana (Deliverence) Festival: The Monk Maudgalyayana, one of Buddha’s ten disciples, was the best with supernatural powers who was trying to save his mother that descended into the hell world. The Monk Maudgalyayana tried and exhausted all of his supernatural powers in vain, he came back and asked Shakyamuni Buddha, who replied,

Go to practice giving all of your mother’s things away; then go to make offering to all of the  Sangha (the community of committed practitioners of the teaching of the Buddha) and all Buddha Bodhisattvas, and dedicate all nirvana merits and enlightenment virtue of the above to your mother.

As a result, this has passed down and turned into the “Ghost’s Festival of the Buddhist Deliverance Ceremony”. “Ullambana” is a Sanskrit word which means to hang upside down. The suffering condition of “hanging upside down” represents the unbearable condition of hungry ghosts in the ghost world suspended upside down and hung by their feet.

In the ghost world, one day there is equal to one month our world; what is their life span?

The shortest life span is 1,000 years calculated by using the same 365 days of a year in our world.  When considering multiplying a month by 365, it is equivalent to more than a several thousand years in our time.

After a thousand years, where do they go?

If they have not finished receiving retribution, then they will continue forward to the hell world. Consequently, this will never end.

Average people of the human world cannot see them, even at the “Ghost Festival of Buddhist Deliverance”, you may feel that there are many spirits around the memorial tablets; even during the bright noon hours, there is a misty and gloomy cold breeze around the memorial tablets. It is rare that one is truly able to see them (the ghosts). Especially the Master in charge of the ritual of Ghost Festival who needs to have the skills acquired through religious (Buddhism) cultivation practice.

What are the skills acquired through religious (Buddhism) cultivation practice?

His mind must be purified of defiling illusion in order to help these hungry ghosts by giving them some sweet dew and a bit of rice as a small token. Amongst the hungry ghosts there are ones who have high spirituality when you do the sutra explaining to them, and they accept it. Some even chant Amitabha are met and received by Amitabha in that moment, to go and be born to the Bliss World of Amitabha Pure Land.

We participated in the Buddhist Assembly before and had communication with the ghost world. Just a moment ago I talked about self-inferior feelings; however, after one descends down to the ghost world have the feeling of inferiority, it is hard to help. One who feels inferior can still be saved in the human world, but when one feels inferior in the ghost world it is much more difficult.

 

記得以前「中元普渡」,所謂中元普渡就是七月。鬼界一天是我們這裡一個月。所以初一、十五、三十都做「超渡法會」。佛前上供,供的都是蔬菜,幹什麼?請他吃飯。

鬼是常年,大概一、兩千年都不知道飯的味道,就餓。喉管不是像我們這個管,喉管像針管,就打針那針管那麼細。你不念《開食真言》那個咒語,他喉管打不開,給他供的菜,他沒有辦法吃。

做鬼是什麼人?自卑、自大的人就做鬼去了。

「中元普渡」的時候,初一是請他吃早飯,十五中飯,三十晚飯,他就放出來一天,然後又回家了。這個典故是從佛講「盂蘭盆會」。目連尊者是佛十大弟子中神通第一,因為他為救他母親,他母親墮到地獄道去了。他到地獄道去,怎麼用他的神通力,都沒辦法。他回來問釋迦牟尼佛,釋迦牟尼佛說:「你把母親生前的物品布施掉,再去供養僧侶、供養諸佛菩薩,功德迴向給你母親。」所以傳下來變成「中元普渡」。

「盂蘭」就是表示倒懸的意思,印度梵文。倒懸之苦,就表示餓鬼在鬼界這種苦,像他們被倒懸吊起來一樣。

他們那邊一天是我們一個月,歲數多少?

最短的壽命是一千年,也是三百六十五天那麼算。所以一個月乘三百六十五,要這樣算千年。

千年以後到那裡去?

罪報沒有受完的,再到地獄去報。所以搞不完。

一般人間看不見他們,就算「中元普渡」的時候,你可以感覺得到牌位上很多眾生。中午,大太陽的時候,一堆霧氣、陰森的冷風上牌位,頂多如此。真正能看得到的,少。尤其主持「中元法會」的人,他要有道行。什麼叫道行?心要清淨,他才能夠幫助這些餓鬼,給他吃一點甘露,給他吃一點飯,意思意思。餓鬼如果他靈性高的話,你跟他講經說法,他接受。有的甚至於念佛,當時就被阿彌陀佛接引了,就往生極樂世界了。

那我們以前參加法會,有跟鬼界溝通。剛剛我講自卑。到鬼界自卑以後,就很難救了。人間還有救,到鬼道就難。

 

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