Chapter 10: Guardian Spirit and Protecting Spirit of a Place
November 6, 1992
Good people possess three planes of life. They are :
1. The plane of knowledge
2. The plane of Dhamma
3. The plane of foundation
People who possess these three planes of life are not likely to get into any form of quarrel.
There was a couple, husband and wife, who both held master’s degrees from a certain university, but they had no knowledge about Buddhist Dhamma, nor were they much interested in any form of merit-making such as giving food to monks in the early morning. They had worldly knowledge but they lacked knowledge about Dhamma, which was the very knowledge that could lead them to happiness; and since they had never practiced Kammatthana (meditation), they also lacked the plane of foundation. Consequently, husband and wife were always at odds with one another. Therefore, they decided to install a “san phra bhum “ (known to most westerners as a “spirit house”) for the spirits of the three planes to assure their wellbeing.
The wife came to meet me one day and said, “ Luang Poh, my husband and I always quarrel because we always find it impossible to agree with each other on many matter. I went to see a fortune – telling monk at Wat Suthad .This monk had passed the sixth grade Pali Language examination, so I thought he surely must have a lot of knowledge. He told me that my problem with my husband was due to the absence of a “san phra bhum” or spirit house, for the guardian spirit to dwell in.
Thus, I had a “san phra bhum” set up in the yard of my house. Two months later I went to see the fortune – telling monk again. I told him that in spite of the spirit house, my husband and I still quarrel and the quarrels were even more serious than before. The monk said : ‘Oh, the spirits have not come to dwell in the san phra bhum. You have to invite the spirits again’. Thus I invited the Brahmin priest whose temple is situated in front of Wat Suthad to perform the invitation ceremony. I had to spend about ten thousand baht.”
“After three months we had another violent quarrel, which was followed by a fight and ended in a head injury. Again I went to see that fortune – telling monk. This time he sat still with his eyes closed for some time after which he said, ‘Oh, wrong direction ! The spirit house was placed in the wrong direction. I wonder who placed the spirit house for you.’ He told me to erect a new spirit house. I did as he told me and now the spirit house takes up so much space that it has become rather difficult for me to park my car.”
“After some time there were quarrels and more quarrels. We nearly sought a divorce. Then I went to the fortune – telling monk again. This time he said that there was a tree trunk buried in the ground and a spirit was there which created some disturbance, driving away the spirits of the spirit house.” Such was the nonsensical explanation the fortune-telling monk gave to this poor woman.
I told her to attend the meditation classes of this monastery. The purpose was to instill some sense in her. It is strange that very well-educated people can become very silly sometimes. Such silly people are the prey of the ghosts or devils in their own mind and very often they are being manipulated by greedy and scheming fortune-tellers. Many people come here in this state of mind. It is difficult to drive away the “ghosts” or “devils” lurking in the minds of these people. They should be allowed to drive away the ghosts or devils by themselves. The effective method is to practise vipassana meditation or insight meditation. Those undesirable elements are sure to be driven away.
Some people choose to go to Wat Sampleum in the Chakrawat area to be sprinkled with sanctified water by a monk renown for this particular practice. Some were advised to throw handfuls of sand around the house to chase away whatever evil spirits there might be. In the old days, when a spirit house was to be erected, precautions had to be taken to make sure that the shadow of the residential house should not overlap or fall on the spirit house itself, and also that the shadow of the spirit house should not fall on the residential house too. All these old beliefs played an important role in our society in the old days. Today they have lost their significance. People have become more scientific-minded and practical too.
Children these days seem to know a lot ; but I tell you, they do not really know much. A long time ago children who finished only three or four years of elementary education were able to calculate the breadth and length of a piece of saw wood and determine how it could be put best use in so far as any building construction, such as that of a “sala” or pavillion, was concerned. They could also create the “chor–fa” (the ornamental roof decorations shaped like serpents ) well too ; but today those who complete high school education cannot even read or spell Thai words correctly. I once asked some high school students to read; the result was that they could not even read properly, and they paused at places where they were not supposed to pause. They could not write well either. Their handwriting was almost unintelligible. Teachers target general teaching and cover a wide range of academic subjects while neglecting the actual performance and basic knowledge and academic capacity of the students. There is also little emphasis on the importance of moral teaching, so much so that our young students grow up to become people lacking the three planes of life : the planes of knowledge, Dhamma and foundation.
Protecting Spirit of a Place
Once we held Dhamma practice for a big group of young soldiers. It so happened that we were running short of rice – our staple food. I sat down to radiate compassion and I knew the soldiers were very lucky because someone would be coming to give us the much-needed rice.
True enough, some teachers, together with a group of devout Buddhists, headed by Miss Praphasi from the district of Lad Yao, Nakhon Sawan Province, came to Wat Ambavana to present ten big sacks of rice, one sack of sugar, a big case of milk, ten kilogrammes of onions, and garlic, as well as dried chillies, fish sauce and washing detergent.
People who have accumulated much merit are blessed with a kind of spiritual relaying power, especially when the mind is free from all defilements. To attain this special power one needs to practise Dhamma, meditation, and engage oneself unselfishly and selflessly in charitable work. I have always adhered to this way of practice.
Thus, by the good intention and compassion of all parties concerned, the soldiers who came to Wat Ambavana for Dhamma practice did not have to worry that their hungry stomachs could not be filled at the appropriate hour.
Last night an amazing incident happened. After completing my tasks, I engaged myself in the usual routine – chanting. I had not yet gone to bed as I had yet to go to the ordination hall.
Suddenly there was a loud noise. I looked around and saw an old Chinese man with long beard appearing in front of me. He told me he was a spirit coming from one particular place in Bangkok. I was puzzled. Then he informed me that on the following day some people would come to present “Sangha-Da-na ” at Wat Ambavana. He wanted me to include him in my compassionate reflection and radiation and also dedicate some merit to him too. He claimed to be living at 91 Sukhumvit Road Soi 57 and also at 100/1 Soi Sukhumvit Traim Udom Road 4. I took note of that.
He proceeded to say that once he had been a millionaire but he had simply been too lazy to commit himself to any charitable act or merit – making. When he died, he became a “Peta” or a hungry ghost and had not had the chance to be reborn for over a hundred years now. The present owner of his former land had been unable to sell the land. Now the ghost was about to be reborn. The present owner of his former land was called Raya. Mrs. Raya would be coming in the afternoon to present two sacks of rice, three sacks of sugar, ten big tins of cooking oil and fifty dozen bottles of water. The apparition gave me this piece of information at three o’ clock in the early morning, when it was still dark. The whole thing sounds unbelievable, doesn’ t it?
In the end, Mrs. Raya herself did not turn up, but she sent a big truck loaded with exactly the items mentioned by the apparition. Mrs. Raya herself did make a phone call to Wat Ambavana in advance of the arrival of the truck. Mrs. Raya finally did manage to sell her land at a huge profit. Her business dealings went smoothly and there was a steady flow of money to her fat wallet. She made a total profit of a hundred million baht.
At Lopburi, just beside Warathad Shop, at about six o’clock in the evening, there would appear an old woman carrying a betel-nut basket in her hand walking to and fro behind the shop and the cinema. She was the apparition of the area. Many people claimed to have seen her. They felt frightened especially when darkness descended upon the earth. Thus, they invited a monk to the area to chant and sprinkle sanctified water to sort of “clean” the place and to perhaps appease the restless soul of the old woman, who was said to be the owner of the land there once upon a time. After this rite, the apparition seemed to have disappeared.
Beside Warathad Shop there was a woman whose daughter worked for the Telephone Organization in Bangkok. She was still unmarried. One day, a very strange thing happened to her at about three o’ clock in the afternoon. She began to act and speak like an old woman. She walked with a stooped back and drooping breasts, just like the apparition did. She could no longer type but would instead take a broom to sweep the ground here and there.
She was brought to the hospital for a thorough medical check up, but the doctor said there was nothing wrong with her physically. The chief of the Telephone Organization allowed her a period of three months for medical treatment, after which, if she failed to recover, she would have to leave her job.
The old woman who used to appear with her basket of betel-nut was the original owner of the land behind Warathad hop where the cinema stood. She was an old woman, hunch backed and wrinkled, with drooping breasts. When people invited the monks to the area around Warathad Shop to perform rites and rituals to “clean” the place, she was displeased and took the chance to “ enter ” the body of that young woman who worked for the Telephone Organization.
In a case like this, please bear in mind that one need not invite monks to “clean” a place. One should nurture one’s own compassionate thoughts and feelings and direct them towards the restless soul of the dead instead. Compassion can be directed not only to the ghosts of the dead but also to our fellow human beings who are still alive, and also even to the dogs!
When I was a boy, I went to study in Bangkok. When I went to bid good-bye to my aunt, there was a dog to which I once used to throw stones. After studying when I went to visit my aunt, that same dog seemed to recognize me and barked at me alone. It did not bark at my friends who were with me. Even dogs seem to have this vengeful feeling, to say nothing of a restless and angry ghost!
In the end, this young woman, accompanied by her parents, was brought to see a monk who lived at Pak Nam in the province of Samut Prakan. That monk, after some deep meditation, talked about the old woman who appeared as an apparition in the area around Warathad Shop. The young woman’s parents were still unconvinced that their daughter was possessed. They brought her to a nun at Phasichareon. This nun too said the same thing as the monk. The nun said that the spirit of the old woman was offended and would probably take the life of the young Telephone Organization employee. To appease the ghost, the nun said, after her communication with the ghost, that the apparition wanted to come to reside at Wat Ambavana because she knew the abbot. She demanded some material goods to be presented to the monastery on her behalf. The things included twenty brooms and twenty pairs of spoons and forks. In addition, words, thoughts and feelings of compassion should be dedicate to her and a daily offering of food be made on her behalf to the monks in residence.
Accordingly, the young woman’s parents did as instructed by the nun. Things and food were presented to the monks who chanted words of blessings. Oddly enough, soon after all that had to be done had been done, the young woman recovered from her inexplicably strange illness and abnormal behaviour. Today she is still very much alive and is head of a department.
Credit: eBooks. Wat Amphawan.