So THE Reverend passed away, right? Was rather sad and all, but then that’s the cycle of life.
A few people (thanks people) sent me a link to a Buddhist website which is quite informative, got lots of news and articles, all the Buddhism-buddhism stuff. Good on them for propagating the Dharma using the Internet.
But then there was this series of photographs of the Reverend’s funeral, which was supposedly not altered in any way. And one of the focus of the series was ‘balls of light’ surrounding the funeral, particularly at the cremation site. Fuwah, damn miracle all these balls of light, suddenly coming out of nowhere, must be associated with the Reverend ‘cos he was so enlightened and all, will enhance your faith in Buddhism with these miraculous sightings etc.
Some supposedly even saw the Reverend’s spirit being ‘taken to the havens’ by other Bodhisattvas. Their eyesight must have been damn on.
Right, I know it’s a case of wanting to believe what you want to believe. I suppose it doesn’t do any harm, little things like this, as long as you don’t take them too seriously in your path to learning Buddhism. But one thing lah… if the Reverend was still alive, he would have told you to shove it [voluntarily censored by Suanie]. Well maybe in a nicer way.
Back to basics — what is a Buddhist? Someone who take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Senang je aku nak cakap ‘cos in conventional manners, I am the least Buddhist of all Buddhists. Oddly enough, Buddhism saved me (insert teenage wayward sob story here). So I consider myself a Buddhist. Some people won’t because judging by this blog, nay even this very blog entry, I consciously did not observe the Eight Noble Paths (right speech lah, what else).
But I am confident enough to know what to believe and what not to believe. For instance, I don’t really believe that when Gautama Buddha was born, he walked 7 steps, each step blossoming into a full bloom lotus after him. Sure, I studied all that when I was younger, you can’t miss this chapter if you are reading about the Buddha’s life. But it seems that miracles are all it takes to convince the layman that yes, this religion works, that religion works, bla bla. I do believe in miracles, as there are many unexplainable things in this world, but not to the extent of pacifying the layman, to strengthen your faith, etc. Even Jesus got fed up with healing the sick because he knew that it was a cheap way to ask people to believe in you, your teachings. You do get a lot of half-past-six faithfuls everywhere, but who am I to judge, I am probably no better than them in other aspects, so as I was saying…
Buddhists. As a Buddhist (in the Theravada tradition) do not allow these things to influence your faith. Again I would like to quote Venerable Sujiva (whom I quoted in an earlier blog entry) from his book ‘Funny Monk’s Tales’:
So one day I asked the Venerable Dr K Sri Dhammananda what he thought of relic claims. He gave me a distant look and with bulging eyes said, “These are things concerning the devotional aspects of Buddhism. We do not need all these to study and practise the Dhamma.”
That jolted me up a bit. So it’s not so important after all. It’s true, as the Buddha himself said: “He who sees my teachings sees me.” What is important is that we follow the Buddha’s exhortation and practise the Dhamma. So the Venerable Dhammananda’s answer was a good one but I wonder how I can get the message across to those people who still get frenzied over relics. Ah, faith, good faith, you should always come with wisdom, otherwise it can be dangerous.
Change the ‘relics’ to ‘balls of light’ and you get the same context. I recently met up with my friend-turned-Buddhist-monk Bhante Sumana and discussed this with him. Well, more like 5 lines, 3 of which were, “we don’t believe in these things, we dont’ need to believe in these things”, “maybe ‘cos it was going to rain” and “I was there at the funeral, didn’t see no deity!!!”. You get the idea.
But then, I understand that faith works differently for everyone. The Reverend was a great, selfless man, some people may choose to glorify him slightly more than others. Fine. But I just hope that with all his contributions to society at large, all his hard work and efforts in emphasizing the importance of racial harmony, all his publications that stated the same thing over and over again that the Buddha is within you… would be a damn waste to have all that overshadowed by ‘balls of light’.