Chapter 03: Mrs. Galong
May 11, 1988
I came to Wat Ambhavan as the abbot in 1957. At that time, there were fifteen monks and novices at this temple. The villagers who lived near by were poor. They earned a living by farming rice and small crops.
As time passed, there were more monks and novices, until the number reached forty to fifty monks. As there were more people, there were more complications. Sometimes, there were visitors and we had to ask for food from the villagers, who were already poor. It was a burden on them. This temple was poor because it was an old temple built in the Ayudhaya period and located in a remote area. There were no activities to draw people here.
In order for the temple to become prosperous, I had to provide four necessities, that is, building, a kitchen, working personnel and providing knowledge of the Buddha’s teaching. The working personnel were needed to run the activities of the temple. The kitchen was needed to provide monks and our visitors with food because this place was far from any market. Wat Ambhavan was on the bank of a river. Communication was by boat as there were no roads at that time.
How could I set up a kitchen when I had only three thousand baht. To have a kitchen, we had to start with a building. If I bought new wood and built even a small building, it would cost a lot of money. I could not ask help from the villagers, being already poor. The other choice was to buy an old house at a cost within by budget.
I started asking my students if they knew of any old house for sale. I had many students because I had been teaching vipassana meditation since 1952. Mrs. Soom had been my student since she was in her twenties and had young children. Now she is quite old. Another student was Mrs. Pin Bumrerchit, the wife of Mr. Gleep, the village chief.
“Do you know of any house for sale at a low price?” I asked Mrs. Pin.
“I will look for one. If I find one, I will let you know,” she replied.
Later, she told me that she had found a house for sale.
“The house belongs to the former town manager who lives in Bangkok. The house is next to mine and nobody lives there,” she said.
I asked about the price. She answered that is was five thousand baht and had been for sale for a long time, but nobody wanted to buy it. I did not know why nobody wanted it. It was an ancient Thai-style house with connecting walls, wooden steps and gutters.
“The owner told me that the house is for sale for five thousand baht, but he is willing to reduce the price to three thousand bath for the abbot,” Mrs. Pin told me.
I was glad that the price matched my funds. I told Mrs. Pin to inform the owner that I agreed to buy it.
“Please go to the house and inspect it. You don’t have to but it if you don’t like it,” she said.
I went by boat to see the house. Mr. Gleep showed me the house.
“Let’s go look at it,” he said.
When we arrived at the house, he opened the door. There was a lot of dust because nobody had lived there for a long time. Mr. Gleep told me to go inside but he would not accompany me.
“Please inspect inside the house. When you finish, please come to my house,” he said to me and left.
I stepped up the wooden steps and entered the house. Suddenly, the house shook as if there was an earthquake. I asked myself why it shook. I looked outside the house and saw that it was not windy at all. My hair stood an end. I was not afraid of ghosts. I did not see any! The house was still shaking. I stepped down the wooden steps and went to Mr. Gleep.
“This is a strange house. It shakes!,” I told him.
“Well, it was an old house and some boards may be loose or you might have been faint,” Mr. Gleep said.
I went back to the house. This time I radiated loving-kindness when I felt the house shake. I was wondering why it shook but I told myself that the house was old, some nails might be loose or some pillars might be rotten. I kept my suspicions to myself. Anyway, I agreed to but the house and move it to Wat Ambhavan. Mrs. Pin was willing to contact the owner.
In order to move the house, we had to tear down the walls and bring the materials to Wat Ambhavan. I had to ask volunteers from Wat Ambhavan to help with the moving. Mrs. Pin asked for volunteers from her neighborhood. She also provided the meal for the laborers who help with moving the house.
Before we torn down the house, I announced loudly in front of the house,
“Whoever is living in this house, owners or tenants, why do you want to stay here and suffer in the world or spirits. You can follow me to Wat Ambhavan and practice vipassana meditation, which will help you gain wisdom and allow you to leave your unhappy existence. Please help me tear down this house and build a new kitchen at Wat Ambhavan. This kitchen will be used to cook meat for monks, novices and other Buddhist fellows who come to practice vipassana meditation.”
The house stopped shaking! It was an incredible experience for me.
Mr. Gleep laughed because he knew that there was something wrong with this house and that is why nobody wanted to rent or buy it.
Everything went well after my announcement. I went back to Wat Ambhavan to prepare the building site for the new kitchen. I had the foremen measure the dimensions and dig the holes for the house pillars. I asked for a boat, which was normally used to transport up to 2 tons of rice, to carry the materials.
The next morning, I went to the site. Mrs. Pin invited me to have breakfast at the house. We started dismantling the house in the morning and finished it in the afternoon. We brought the materials back to Wat Ambhavan by the big boat. The next day, we built a new kitchen ad were able to finish it within the same day. This was quite incredible!
The new kitchen was built in the bamboo grove, in the south of Wat Amphavan. Nobody was staying there at that time as we did not have any Buddhist nuns then.
The first occupant of the kitchen was a Buddhist nun whom I called Aunt Markdip. Her husband had been a former assistant town manager. I was grateful to them because I had stayed at their house when I was attending middle school in Singburi. She had cooked for me.
I had not seen her after I was ordained as a monk. Then, one day, I met her at a temple in Inburi. She had become a nun.
“Why are you staying here?” I asked.
“I am a Buddhist nun now. I do not have any house or money. I was cheated out of them,” she replied.
I remembered how good she had been to me and I was very grateful to her. So I invited her to stay at Wat Ambhavan. I would provide her with shelter and food for the rest of her life. She then came here and stayed at the kitchen. However, she was not there all the time because her relatives often invited her to there houses.
As there were more monks. I had to look for cooks and volunteer kitchen helpers to cook for them. I asked Mrs. Boonchoo, the wife of Mr. Sa-nguan Sripuongwong, the janitor at the School of Wat Ambhavan, to help with the cooking. There were other volunteer kitchen helpers from the nearby villages who cooked at the new kitchen during the daytime, going back to their houses in the afternoon. Nobody stayed and took care of the food inventory, such as supplies of onion, garlic, shrimp paste and pork. Luckily, there were no thefts. I had never checked the kitchen, so I did not know that Mrs. Boonchoo had often taken food home. Until one day when a strange phenomenon happened.
One afternoon, the working personnel rushed to my lodging and informed me that a ghost had possessed Mrs. Boonchoo. The onlookers had asked the possessed Boonchoo who she was. She said that her name was Galong!
“The cooks’ behavior is sinful. I committed a sin when I was alive and now I am doomed to be a ghost, staying at this house. I cam here with the new kitchen,” the ghost said to the rest of the cooks.
“How can you come to this temple? How can a ghost come inside the temple boundaries?” the onlooker asked.
“It is none of your business how I can enter the temple grounds. Luang Poh, the abbot of Wat Ambhavan invited me here to practice vipassana meditation and to help him look after the kitchen. I have watched you for many days and I can’t stand it anymore. After you finish cooking, you take temple property to your home. You have taken onions, garlic, pork and fish home every day. This is sinful. If you steal from the temple, you will be a hungry ghost after you die. I am a hungry ghost because I received the consequence of the roots of bad actions, that is greed, hatred and delusion. My mind was attached to these unwholesome roots. I was jealous of my husband, who was a womanizer and had many lovers. When I was about to die, my spirit left my body while my mind was attached to greed. I did not want to leave my husband and my belongings. After I died, my spirit remained at this house,” she said.
“I was very lucky that luang Poh bought this house and asked me to come here to practice vipassana meditation. He announced at my house for any occupants to help him move the house and com here to practice vipassana meditation. He did not know that I sat nearby him while he was making the announcement. I helped him tear down the house and build this new kitchen. You should not commit sin or you will be a ghost like me. You should practice vipassana meditation. Only cooking for the temple will not protect you from unwholesome roots,” she continued.
I did not know that a Mrs. Galong had lived in that house and had died there. Nobody told me, neither Mr. Gleep nor Mrs. Pin.
The monks who informed me of the Boonchoo incident asked me to go to the kitchen and talk to the ghost. I told them that I would not go, but rather let them discuss it among themselves. After that incident, the cooks were very afraid and nobody ever took temple property again.
Later, on a Buddhist holy day, Mr. Gleep and Mrs. Pin came to Wat Ambhavan for a vipassana meditation lesson I taught. After the meditation, I asked them about the incident.
“There was a Mrs. Galong who used to live at that house, wasn’t there, Mrs. Pin?. I asked.
Yes Venerable. She had a fever and died in that house. If I had told you before, you would not have bought the house. There must have been something wrong with house and that is why nobody wanted to buy it.” She answered, laughing.
After that incident, Mrs. Galong showed her power from time to time. She continued to practice vipassana meditation near other people who were practicing, unaware of her presence, at Wat Ambhavan. She has even appeared as she had looked when alive.
There have been many people who have seen and talked to her, such as Mrs. Charp and Mrs. Kheow, meditators and temple volunteers. They had to stay at the kitchen because there was no other place for nuns at that time. Early one morning, she awakened them so that they could practice vipassana and cook. Neither of them were afraid of ghosts. They correctly described Mrs. Galong’s features, coloring and even her moles. They said that she spoke gently and gave advice on vipassana meditation. Mrs. Galong’s mind had reached the goal of vipassana meditation, and she had many miraculous powers. You can ask Mrs, Kheow about her experience with Mrs. Galong, but not Mrs. Charp because she has passed away. I want to emphasize that not only humans can practice vipassana meditation, but hungry ghosts can practice too, if they really want to do so. If the mind can concentrate and attain the vipassana meditation state, a hungry ghost can achieve angel status. This process does not involve a physical birth or being born in the womb, but it is the miraculous power of the spontaneous birth for those creatures who have done so many good deeds. They can exist as angels or other beings by the power of their merit. This is how Mrs. Galong’s mind had been refined. Mrs. Galong had very good manners too. One day she visited me. “Your Holiness, I would like to go to my parents’ home for a few days,” she said. “Why do you want to go, Galong?” I asked.
There was a Mrs. Galong who used to live at that house, wasn’t there, Mrs. Pin?. I asked. Yes Venerable. She had a fever and died in that house. If I had told you before, you would not have bought the house. There must have been something wrong with house and that is why nobody wanted to buy it.” She answered, laughing. After that incident, Mrs. Galong showed her power from time to time. She continued to practice vipassana meditation near other people who were practicing, unaware of her presence, at Wat Ambhavan. She has even appeared as she had looked when alive. There have been many people who have seen and talked to her, such as Mrs. Charp and Mrs. Kheow, meditators and temple volunteers. They had to stay at the kitchen because there was no other place for nuns at that time. Early one morning, she awakened them so that they could practice vipassana and cook. Neither of them were afraid of ghosts. They correctly described Mrs. Galong’s features, coloring and even her moles. They said that she spoke gently and gave advice on vipassana meditation. Mrs. Galong’s mind had reached the goal of vipassana meditation, and she had many miraculous powers. You can ask Mrs, Kheow about her experience with Mrs. Galong, but not Mrs. Charp because she has passed away.
I want to emphasize that not only humans can practice vipassana meditation, but hungry ghosts can practice too, if they really want to do so.
If the mind can concentrate and attain the vipassana meditation state, a hungry ghost can achieve angel status. This process does not involve a physical birth or being born in the womb, but it is the miraculous power of the spontaneous birth for those creatures who have done so many good deeds. They can exist as angels or other beings by the power of their merit. This is how Mrs. Galong’s mind had been refined.
Mrs. Galong had very good manners too. One day she visited me.
“Your Holiness, I would like to go to my parents’ home for a few days,” she said.
“Why do you want to go, Galong?” I asked.
“My relatives have passed away,” she answered.
“What do you have to do with your relatives’ funeral? Your are a spirit and don’t have anything to to with humans,” I said.
“I have to take care and help them for two or three days. After that I will come back,” she replied.
I could not resist laughing. A spirit wanted to help at a human’s funeral. It is unbelievable if you have not experienced it yourself.
Two days later, Galong came back.
“I am back. I have already helped my relatives,” she said.
I laughed again, but I was not sure whether it was true.
The next Buddhist holy day, I met Mrs. Pin.
“Did Galong have any relatives who have just died?” I asked.
“Yes sir. Her two nephews died from drowning while they were rowing a boat across the river,” she answered.
Oh! Then it was true that Galong went to her relatives’ funeral and came back to Wat Ambhavan after she finished helping them.
This event showed that she was not a hungry ghost at that time. She had attained miraculous powers by her merit. A hungry ghost can become an angel without taking birth in the womb.
This is difficult to prove because most people do not want to prove it for themselves. They do not heartily practice vipassana meditation until they really understand the Buddha’s teaching. And they say that there are no spirits and no hungry ghosts. If they face a spirit or a hungry ghost themselves, they will say there is a spirit or a hungry ghost because they have proof. If they have never faced such an experience, they will say there is no spirit or angel.
Mrs. Galong has shown her miraculous powers from time to time. There are many people who can be her witness. Mrs. Galong’s mother is now living at the village in the south of Temple Sawang-arrom.
This is the miraculous power of the spirit and merit. Through the power of merit, hungry ghosts do not have to be hungry ghosts forever. When a human dies while his mind is with greed, he will be a hungry ghost. He will be in hell if he dies while his mind is consumed by hatred. He will be an animal if he dies while his mind is in delusion. This is true according to the Buddhist principles. It is not too difficult for us to prove.
Most Buddhists do not want to prove this nor perform good deeds. You will be in hell if your mind is attached to the unwholesome roots, that is greed, hatred and delusion. You will be in heaven if your mind is pure, calm and clear.
A woman can become a spirit of her uncremated body, (vampire) if she dies having deep anger toward her husband and wants revenge. Her body does not perish inside her grave, but her hair, eyebrows and nails can grow. This does not means that she is a miraculous person or anything. Mostly these things happen to women not men. I met some female vampires while I was a forest-dweller, but I never met any male vampires. This kind of spirit wants to such man’s blood not woman’s. If you want to destroy this kind of spirit, you just cremate its body. Please remember that when people die with hatred, their mind will be in hell and they can become a vampire. This is very important.
Some people worry about their dead parents or grandparents because they never dream about them. They think that their parents are in an unhappy place and they do many good deeds, offer charity and dedicate the merit to their dead parents. In fact this is not the case. When people die with nothing to worry about and their mind is not with greed, they will be in a good place, a heaven, because of the power of their merit.
On the contrary, if you see a glimpse of your dead parents or grandparents now and then, if is not good. They are hungry ghosts staying at your house and it is caused by the power of greed. They died while they were worrying about their children or grandchildren or their belongings. Their spirits could not go any place but are attached to the thing they could not leave behind. So they stay under the power of greed consuming their minds. This definitely can happen. The Buddha taught us to maintain our mindfulness at all times knowing when the greed arises in your mind.
Vipassana meditation by the method of The Four Foundations of Mindfulness is the best way. I have a lot of experience with these kinds of problems. If you can maintain your mindfulness, the state of your mind can develop. We can say that your mind becomes refined. This can happen to humans and spirits. The spirit can perform good deeds even if it is separated from the body. Mrs. Galong is one such example.
Angels, hungry ghosts or spirits have the right to listen to the Buddha’s teaching. If they have faith, the teaching can help them solve their problems. When we perform good deeds or make merit with a peaceful mind, we can radiate loving-kindness to hungry ghosts and they can receive it. When their sin is over or their mind is refined, free from the power of the unwholesome roots, they can become angels. People who really understand the Dhamma can communicate with spirits. This in not non-sense.
The main point of the Buddha’s teaching is to be able to escape suffering. You should not be attached to anything. You should not waste your time with the magic power of hungry ghosts nor rely on it, but you should believe in reason and rely on the Buddha, the Dhamma (his teaching) and the Sangha (the order) as your guide. And you should also depend on yourself. If you follow the Buddha’s teaching, you will be safe. Even though the hungry ghosts and spirits can do some miraculous things, they have to rely on the Dhamma too.
The following event is another example of the miraculous power of spirits. Some years ago, some government auditors came to Singburi to check the fiscal accounts and finances in all government districts. I invited them to stay at Wat Ambhavan in order that they could save money on lodging and food expenses. They could have a free breakfast, leave for their work, come back in the evening, and have a free dinner. They could also listen of discuss the Dhamma at night. There were men and women in the group, so the women stayed at the guest house for lecturers.
One Buddhist holy day, I had to attend a Sangha meeting in the temple for the recitation of the Rules of Training in accordance with the monastic disciplinary code. I also taught vipassana meditation afterwards. The evening the auditors arrived at the temple while I was away. I was not worried about them because I knew our personnel would take care of them. But that was not the case. As I came out of the Sangha meeting and found out that all the temple personnel had left for free movies and entertainment in the town of Singburi, I asked whether anyone had prepared food for our guests.
“Don’t worry. We have been taken care of by a woman who brought us a delicious dinner,” the auditors said.
They told me that they were very impressed with the temple hospitality, especially the food, the desserts, coffee and tea. Some auditors were new to this temple and did not know their way around. However, they did not have a hard time because someone had turned on the light and showed the way to the toilets.
I was wondering who had taken care of them, when all the temple personnel had gone away for the entertainment.
“Who took care of you?” I asked the auditors.
“A pretty woman with long hair and dark skin served us food and coffee. She had friendly smile. She told us that the temple guests were always welcome and would be well taken care of, and to please excuse her if there was anything unsatisfactory,” the auditor answered me.
I did not know who she was. I wanted to check with our personnel when they came back. That night I waited for them until 1 a.m., but I did not see any of them. I found out later that they came back through the side fence of the temple, not the front gate.
Next morning, the auditors wondered why I had questioned who had taken care of them the night before. So they helped in identifying the woman. This was quite strange.
The auditors thanked me and left that morning. They never came back to stay at this temple again.
It was not difficult to guess who that woman was. Mrs. Galong had taken care of many people on many occasions. People who met her said that before they saw her, they even smelt the fragrance of flowers, like jasmine and roses.
This is Mrs. Galong’s story from the beginning till now. There are many witnesses and proof at Wat Ambhavan. It is not too difficult to prove.
I am ending my speech for today. May all of you be happy.
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