Chapter 04: The Lady with Two Bodies
This is the story of the meditation rooms (kuti) built by the lady with two lives. I used to think “How can there be such a thing as Heaven and Hell?” but I’ve had some experiences of them at this Wat. When I came to live here in 1956-1957, there were no meditation rooms. I hadn’t yet begun to teach here. I had taught meditation since 1952, for a long time, before coming to live at this Wat and becoming the Abbot here. It was only after the case of the lady with two lives that I was able to begin building meditation huts, as I have done ever since.
ordained as a monk for two or three Rains Retreats, he could chant the Patimokkha and had practiced meditation. When he disrobed he married Sa-ing and they had two children together. Pune was a wealthy man. He lived in Amphur Tatako in Nakornswan Province. He had a kind and virtuous heart, he liked to chant and pay respects to the Trible Gem, but Sa-ing was coarse and deceitful. In her picture she is wearing the “jong gaben” (sarong drawn up between the legs and attached at the back) and a cloth wrapped around her chest, her hair close cropped, and a big necklace around her neck. Wherever she went she would steal something. One day she went to a party for one of her nephews who was going to ordain as a monk, and she stole some gold from the house. Then she accused a relative of Pune, who was poorer, of taking it. They beat him until his jaw was broken and accused him of being a thief when in fact it was Sa-ing herself who had stolen the gold. But no-one would believe that she had done so because she was already quite well off. This was how bad her mad was, she had made a lot of bad karma. She couldn’t chant, because she couldn’t read. Pune did all the chanting for both of them. He was a good husband to her, he wouldn’t look at her in a bad way. He wouldn’t criticize his own wife and children. This is one part of her story I would like to mention.
The second is that hey were farmers, they used to go to the fields. In those days you didn’t need a title deed, whoever was diligent could take as much land as they could work, clearing the forest for themselves. They had many hundreds of rai of land because they were hard working. Their forbears had bequeathed a lot of land to them too, and they and continued to work it. Pune had a twin Thai-style house and another house he had built for the marriage. He had everything he needed. Every year they would plant rice and build a hut out in the middle of their fields. With such a lot of land they hired five people to help them, people from the northeast who would work for twenty baht each. In those days, rice was 40 or 80 baht for a cart load, I can’t remember exactly how much. When it was time to go to the fields, Pune would stay with his mother in the main house, while his wife went out to the fields until the harvest was done. In those days they use ox carts. To thresh the rice they had chaff away. Before doing the threshing she would get her hired hands to go and steal some of the rice from the neighboring fields and mix it with hers. She was really bad. Nobody suspected her because in that village Pune and Sa-ing were the wealthy ones who made loans to other people. The husband didn’t know his wife was a thief.
During her last year Sa-ing had two gold waist chains weighing eight baht each. That year she was with child. She felt anxious and restless and had a feeling that this year something bad was going to happen, that she would be visited by illness. She went out to the hut in the fields to harvest and sell the rice, and while she was there she buried her gold waist chains under the hut. She had developed the notion that her hired hands wanted to steal them, and she was afraid they wouldn’t be safe in the house. That year, as usual, she had the hired hands go and steal rice from the neighboring fields, but they hadn’t threshed it when she went into labor and died together with her child. After she died, Pune organized her funeral.
Sa-ing later recounted how she had knew exactly what was happening to her, how she fell into Hell and was to stay there for 100 years. On Observance days a monk (Phra Malai) would come to teach the Hell beings. In Hell they made the Hell beings chant and pay homage to the Triple Gem. Sa-ing had never chanted in the human world, but after being in Hell she could recite all the chants fluently. Phra Malai went there to teach them about karma. He taught that in the Hell realms you have to chant and practice vipassana meditation just as a human world.
Back in the human world, Pune missed his wife and child. Having harvested all the rice, he sold part of it and another part he used to make a “cetiya of sand,” as an act of merit in the name of Sa-ing. As a result of his act of merit, it happened that back in Hell his wife’s punishment was mitigated. She had been making good karma in Hell by chanting and paying respect to the Triple Gem. The Guardians of Hell told her that her husband had taken some of the rice which they had harvested together and made a cetiya of sand from it and dedicated the merits to her. This meant that her punishment was reduced 20 years, leaving only eightly.
Later on, every time Pune looked at the house he had built for the marriage he couldn’t help thinking of his wife, so he decided to offer it to a Wat to use as a kuti in the Thai style. The Abbot agreed to his idea and so Pune went about building the kuti. When it was finished he celebrated it with a troop of Mor Lum singers and some shadow puppets. On that day everybody heard of his merit making. When the celebrations were over, he formally offered the kuti to the Sangha of the four directions, as Sanghadana, offerings in the name of the Order rather then an individual monk. Having done that he dedicated the merits of his offering to his wife. This reduced the sentence a further twenty years, to sixty.
Pune reflected that now that his children were grown up, he was free to ordain as a monk. He ordained in order to dedicate the merits of his action to his wife. After he had ordained he disrobed and remarried. When he conferred with the Abbot, the Abbot told him, “It’s not necessary for you to learn the Patimokkha, you’ve already learned that. Take on the ascetic (dhutanga) practices.” He ate on meal a day, lived in a charnel ground, and developed insight meditation as an act of merit to be dedicated to his wife. He ordained as a monk for one Rains Retreat, developing insight meditation and dedicating the merits arising from it to his wife, even though he didn’t know whether his wife had fallen into Hell or gone to Heaven. After the Rain Retreat, developing insight meditation and dedicating the merits arising from it to his wife, even though he didn’t know whether his wife had fallen into Hell or gone to Heaven. After the Rains Retreat he left the monkhood and got married to his new wife. After he disrobed the fruits of his actions went to Sa-ing in Hell.
The Guardians reduced her sentence a further 40 years. They told her that her husband had ordained as a monk and developed meditation practice and dedicated the merits to her, so they were reducing the sentence a further twenty years. The remaining twenty years could not be reduced as she had made such bad karma: firstly stealing and then accusing someone else of doing it, and secondly—the heaviest karma— stealing the rice from the neighboring fields. These could not be forgiven.
But they offered her an option: she had been a good conduct in the Hell realm, chanting and paying respect to the Triple Gem and developing meditation. They would let her go back to the human world for twenty years to repay her debt to her husband, and then she wouldn’t have to come back to Hell. But she had to promise to observe the eight precepts every Observance Day. Could she do that? Secondly, she had to build a meditation room for 80 baht, no more no less, as an act of merit making. Otherwise she would have to come back to Hell. She agreed to this.
She was born in a house about two kilometers from that of Pune, the daughter of an old Chinese man who had been married to a younger girl for fifteen years. They didn’t have any children. The wife was young, but the husband was already fifty years old. They got a child after being married for fifteen years. That child was Sa-ing. The original Sa-ing looked like a demon, with spots and blemishes all over her face, her hair close cropped, her ears black, wearing a sarong in the jong gaben style, thin. I know from the picture of her wedding with Pune.
When she was eleven years old she recalled her previous life, and said to her father, “I’m not your daughter, I’m Sa-ing, the wife of Pune in that other hamlet.” Her father couldn’t understand it, and sought advice form nearby hamlets. He decided to leave her alone and let her forget about it. He didn’t know whether it was true or not. He tried feeding her eggs that had strayed from the nest and eggs that had gone bad, but nothing made her forget.
When she was fifteen she demanded to be taken to Pune’s house, she couldn’t stand it any longer. She was fifteen years old, pretty and smooth-complexioned because her father was Chinese, but her mind was still that of Sa-ing. When she reached Pune’s house, she said “Pune,”—he was 78 years old by this time—“don’t you remember me? It’s Sa-ing. Pune figured that the old Chinese man was trying to use his daughter to embezzle his wealth out of him, he was a wealthy man. The Chinese man wasn’t wealthy, he just had enough to live comfortably. He bought and sold rice. She tried to tell him but he wouldn’t believe her. She said, “Pune, don’t you remember, when I lived with you we went to the ordination celebration for your nephew—I was the one who stole the gold and went and blamed him for it. In fact I stole in myself. I’ve only understood this in this life.” But he still didn’t believe her, it could have been a fabrication.
Then she told about the second thing: “Pune, when I died with child while giving birth, I went down to Hell for 100 years. You took rice and offered it to the Wat, making a “cetiya of sand” from the rice grain. I had a reduction in my sentence because of that. Then you took our house and offered it to the Wat. I found out about it on that day. You hired a troop of Mor Lum singers and shadow puppets to celebrate the occasion.
The next thing she spoke of was how Pune had ordained as a monk: “I received merit for your actions, my sentence was gradually reduced. Apart from that, my taking birth now is through reducing my punishment, but there are twenty years that cannot be reduced because I mad a lot of bad karma, stealing the gold and stealing the rice from the neighbor’s fields. They could not forgive these actions, so I have to come back to live with you. I promised the Guardians of Hell that I would observe the Eight Precepts on every Observance Day and build a meditation kuti for 80 baht.”
Pune just listened to her, but he couldn’t yet bring himself to believe her. Sa-ing, in her new body, then asked him, “Pune, is my engagement dowry of gold still here?” “What gold?” “There were two waist chains, weighing eight baht each.” Pune couldn’t remember them, he couldn’t remember whether they were still there, but he said that they were no longer around. He couldn’t remember. Then Sa-ing said, “Pune, is our hut in the fields still there?” “The hut in the fields isn’t there any more because I have divided the fields up between our children, they are all married now.” Then Sa-ing remembered, “Is the kratum tree still there?” “Yes, it’s still there.” So they went off to the fields, walking out many kilometers. In the end they got the gold waist chains, weighing eight baht each, os Pune had to admit that the girl was indeed Sa-ing. She didn’t go back to her family, she stayed on with Pune.
Sa-ing told how the three of them live together, the new wife, who was 72 years old, and Pune, who was 78, and they all agreed that as Sa-ing had agreed to build a meditation room, the three of them would travel around to find a meditation Wat. They took the gold waist chains with them. They went to Pak Nam Pho and caught a red boat from there to Bangkok, looking for a meditation Wat. They wanted the Devas to guide the way for the three of them. They got off the red boat at Singburi. At that time I had come to stay at this Wat. They asked the people in the market where there was a meditation center in Singburi. It just so happened that they met a relative of Sume, carrying things to sell in the market. I had just moved here and become the Abbot of Wat Ambhavan. The said “Go and ask whether you can build a meditation room there. He has been teaching meditation for a long time.” So the three of them caught a mail boat and got off just in front of the Wat, walked in and told me what had happened.
Do you know what part of the story I was shocked by? The part where she stole the rice. I had actually stolen more rice than Sa-ing had! I got a real fright. When I was a kid and the school was closed…don’t forget that I used to live with Grandma Mao. She was a midwife. I asked her how much stray rice she managed to collect each day, she said only a smidgen a day. I said that I could collect more that ten buckets a day. She said how can you manage to collect so much rice? I said, “Why are you so simple? Where they have the rice plants bundled up, I collect the grains and put them in a sack. The rice that they have threshed in the fields, just collect it and put it in a sack.” That’s how I stole rice. I had stolen more than Sa-ing had stolen. It seemed that stealing rice could lead to rebirth in Hell, and that gave me quite a fright, but I didn’t say anything. Sa-ing turned out to be very useful. When the monks did the morning chanting in the old uposatha Hall she would go along, she stayed in the Wat many nights. “Yo so bhagava…” She could do morning and evening chanting better that the monks, she had learned it all in Hell At that time she was 16 years old. Pune was 78. I was still young. Why did Sa-ing live with that old man? She would have been much happier, it would have been more appropriate, with a young man, because she had changed a lot: she was more beautiful, gentle, and polite.
Sa-ing built the meditation room next to the Uposatha hall, and that was the first one. She said that it had to have water around it to prevent ants from getting in, so I put water around it. Now I’ve changed the style. That was the first meditation room in the Wat. When it was finished it cost 80 baht. They had to stay in the house of one of the nearby lay people, her name was Lek Sukhsayapong. She was the same age as Pune, 78 years old. They had to stay in that house and eat there as at the time there was no kitchen in the Wat. It cost 80 baht, no more, no less.
Later on, when the room was finished, they went back to their house. I went to see their house and I saw the gold waist chains, and touched them. After that Pune began to come down with paralysis, and he had to be spoon fed and washed down. It was Sa-ing who looked after him. The second wife didn’t do anything, she went to live in another house. Sa-ing looked after him very well, even though she was a yound lady living with such an old man. After four years she reached twenty years of age, the time her “contract” in the human world was to expire.
I kept track of the events, and it turned out that the day she reached twenty years of age, (Pune had not yet died, she had looked after him all that time) she made some food and took it to the Wat. Having offered the food, Sa-ing collapsed and died right there. She was exactly twenty years of age. I led her cremation ceremony.
This is a true story. When Sa-ing died, Pune was already more than eighty years old. As soon as Sa-ing was cremated, Pune passed away, and in another two years his second wife died. Now their family is scattered around. Just recently I went to give a talk at Ta-tako hamlet. There was still a man there who knew of this story, he was 91 years old. He was the old Ecclesiastical Head of the Amphur, Phra Khru Pundhammaguta. He was a Chao Khun, he passed away a long time ago.
From this story we can see how the lady with two bodies, the miss with two lives, had a lot of bad karma. It seems that even in Hell there is chanting and paying respects to the Triple Gem. Sa-ing died in accordance with her contract, at twenty years of age. And this Wat has a meditation room built by her. I was afraid that bad karma would follow me also, and maybe I wouldn’t be excused, so I had a lot of meditation rooms built, I made a row of them for people to stay in. I tell all the children also, “Do you want to be smart? Wash toilets! I guarantee you will be wise.” This isn’t a lie. I went to buy some windows and doors from Kampaengphet Province, and I met a young boy. The parents said, “This son of ours is useless, he always fails his exams. We want him to study, what can we do?” I advise them to have him ordain as a novice at my Wat. Once he was ordained the novice got down to washing the toilets. He told me at home he had never washed toilets. At home he would get up late, at eight o’clock in the morning. I asked him who gave him his food, he said his mother did. He washed the toilets and after a while he developed an appreciation for cleanliness. He stayed on a little longer then disrobed. After he disrobed he went to study, and after studying away he eventually became a judge, and finished at the top of his class. From washing toilets!
Credit: Page Link