Chapter 09: Mrs. Lamai’s Magic – The Incredible Power of Mindfulness
by Phra Rajsuddhinanamongkol
Mrs. Lamai Gategaew was illiterate. Her husband, Squadron Leader Ward Gategaew, was a chief accountant of the Second Aviation Division of Lopburi. The couple had been visiting Wat Ambhavan for some years when I suggested to them to learn vipassana meditation by starting with walking meditation. S.L.Ward could do the meditation but Mrs. Lamai could not. She had her right step mixed up with her left step and could not acknowledge (note) rising and falling of her abdomen while breathing.
I feel sorry for this kind of person, who really wants to practice vipassana meditation but cannot. For example, some loose balance while they are walking. I had to think of other means to help her in practicing vipassana meditation.
One day she visited me at Wat Ambhavan and asked, “Please tell me some verses. I could not practice vipassana meditation, but I want to chant.”
I asked how she could recite the verses since she could not read. She answered that she would ask her children to teach her. Then I got an idea of how to help her, that is, chanting the virtues of the Dhamma and the virtues of the Sangha. This would help her concentrate and train her in mindfulness. So her children told her one or two words of the verses every day. Finally, she could recite all the verses. She chanted the virtues of the Buddha, the virtues of the Dhamma, and the virtues of the Sangha and followed by reciting the virtues of the Buddha verse for as many times as her age plus one. She chanted every day until her mindfulness reached an effective state. It automatically happened. Later she visited me and said,
“I can chant every verse now. I remember them by heart.”
I then told her to practice walking meditation and she could do it! I asked her to acknowledge rising and falling of her abdomen. Again, she could do it!
This was possible because her mindfulness had improved. If you practice hard enough until your mindfulness is concentrated and works fluently, you can automatically do walking meditation.
One day she asked me how she could detect it her husband tried to lie to her. She had a feeling that her husband had lied to her. I should not tell her exactly how, but I told her to chant the virtues of the Buddha 108 times and practice vipassana meditation. The chanting followed by sitting meditation could help her mindfulness become organized and strong. It is not the magic of the chanting or anything!
Some days later, S.L. Ward told her that he would go north to collect farm rent. He would be gone for three to four days. Mrs. Lamai tole me later that she thought of what I had told her about chanting and meditation. So, that night she sat in the chanting room, chanted the virtues of the Buddha verse 108 times and did walking meditation followed by sitting meditation. During the meditation, she thought, asked questions and answered them by herself. She asked “Where is Mr. Ward? Did he lie to me?” Her mindfulness answered “Yes, he lied. He went to Tawoong district not the north and gave two hundred baht to a woman. Then he visited friends and had dinner with them.”
The next morning S.L.Ward came home and got ready to go to work. Mrs. Lamai asked him “Where did you go yesterday? Did you have dinner at another person’s house? Did you give two hundred baht to that woman?” S.L.Ward was very surprised and wondered how she knew. He thought he would ask the Abbot of Wat Ambhavan why he told her such things.
That evening S.L.Ward asked me at Wat Ambhavan shy I gave such information to his wife. I said, “I have not seen her since the day before yesterday and did not tell her where you went.” Her believed me because I have never lied.
Mindfulness that can provide such information is called “wisdom”. Mrs. Lamai could gain without being able to read.
Some days later, S.L.Ward told his wife that he would go out to collect farm rent again. Mrs. Lamai said, “Go ahead and please bring the money back.” However, S.L.Ward could not collect the rent because the farmer had not sold his rice yet. He then dropped by the same house he went to last time and gave some money to the same woman, who was a widow. Mrs. Lamai knew about his action, from her meditation.
The next morning S.L.Ward arrived home and Mrs. Lamai asked him.
“You gave the money to that woman again!”
He said that they would talk after work. Later when he came back from work, he asked her,
“I really want to know how you know?”
Mrs. Lamai, who used to be a bad-tempered woman but after practicing vipassana meditation had not scold any more, answered him nicely.
“The virtues of the Buddha knows where you went and that gave some money to that widow. Do you love her? I am willing to give you up if you want to live with her.”
Her husband then realized that virtues of the Dhamma and felt ashamed. He stopped doing wrong and did not see the widow again.
This is one benefit of vipassana meditation. Mrs. Lamai was also able to give appropriate advice to her children about their educational plans and career. Although she did not have any education, she could give good advice to them. This was possible because of her mindfulness. All her children are well off now. Everybody has securely settled down and has a good job. S.L.Ward retired and both of them often practiced vipassana meditation at Wat Ambhavan.
Her story is a good example for every family to exercise their mindfulness by beginning with chanting the virtues of the Buddha verse. You should have mindfulness when you chant the virtues of the Buddha, the virtues of the Dhamma, and the virtues of the Sangha. Mrs. Lamai’s story inspires us with the great benefits of mindfulness.
MRS. LAMAI’S ILLNESS
Before all her children has settle down, (some had graduated, some had a job, some did not), Mrs. Lamai developed colon cancer. She had bloody vomit and stools. The doctor said she would die within a month.
Mrs. Lamai wanted to see all her children attain success. She determined that she would live for three more years and do a lot of good deeds. At the last stage of cancer, every patient has very severe pain. She also had to endure this severe pain. Mrs. Lamai could overcome the pain by practicing mindfulness and acknowledging the vedana as it is one of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in vipassana meditation. She told her children that there was no deed to take her to the hospital as she would not die until all of them got jobs and had settle down. They believed her because she was always correct.
CURED BY BEES
Later, a swarm of bees built a huge beehive at her house. I saw that beehive when they invited me to their house. I saw all their children there. One was a police officer, another was an army officer and the other was a teacher. Mrs. Lamai had suffered a lot of pain. She told her children that she would not die at that moment, but the pain was so bad that she almost could not bear it. She also taught them that it was excruciatingly painful, but she had to use her mindfulness to fight with the pain. She taught them to ask forgiveness for any wrong deeds that they had done and not be angry, or have any hatred for anyone. Then she asked them to ask forgiveness her carefully as she collected her mindfulness, set her mind not to hate anyone and radiated loving-kindness, then she vowed as she spoke to the bees,
“Please help me by sucking the toxins of the cancer.”
When she finished her speech, a miracle happened. A swarm of bees flew to her abdomen, sucked the toxins of the cancer and fell dead on the floor.
Mrs. Lamai was in good health for one year as she did not have bloody vomit and stools. This is because of the power of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. When you practice vipassana meditation by noting the Four Foundations of Mindfulness until you reach the first step of the attainment, you will have a lot of loving kindness and there is no need to use medicine.
I am sure that anyone who has real loving-kindness, can radiate loving-kindness to any being and there will be no harm to that person. A tiger will not eat him, an elephant will not kill him. Anybody who can practice noting the Four Foundations of Mindfulness and succeed in practicing will automatically have loving-kindness. He can give up his own happiness without expecting something in return. If you still have a jealous mind, it is useless to chant sacred verses.
CURED BY SNAKE
One year passed with Mrs. Lamai in better health. In the second year she again had bloody stools and a lot of pain. She asked all of her children to be with her as she was going to die. All came but one because he was studying in Bangkok. Mrs. Lamai told her children that she had bloody vomit and stools again. There was so much pain that she could not bear it. She had to note the vedana and separate it into the proper portion. Then Mrs. Lamai saw a big cobra crawling through the lawn, so she told her children that she would radiate loving-kindness to the cobra and asked it to help her get rid of the cancer pain. The snake crawled towards her. Her children were frightened because they thought the animal would not understand what she said and bite her. The snake coiled itself around her and licked her abdomen for a while. It uncoiled, crawled towards the lawn and died.
Mrs. Lamai was fine again for one more year. I had visited her and she told me how bad the pain was but she was better because of the cobra.
KNOWING WHEN SHE WAS GOING TO DIE!
Mrs. Lamai could survive for three years after the doctor had detected colon cancer and had told her that she had one month to live. In the third year, all her children had graduated and got good jobs. One day she asked her sons to enter the monkhood,
“I will die next month. I will go to Wat Ambhavan to ask the Abbot about having my funeral and my body cremated there.”
She then came to Wat Ambhavan, and asked me to light the cremation fire when the time came, I agreed with her request. She also told the cook to help prepare the food for the guests at her funeral and invited her friends to come to her funeral! I thought this was quite an ingenious way to save money because she did not have to pay for invitation cards.
Before she died, she told her daughter, who was a teacher,
“Please put a one-baht King Rama V coin in my mouth after I am dead.” She believed in the ancient practice to put a coin in the mouth for the undertaker. Her daughter agreed.
She knew when she was going to die! On the day she was going to die, she sent her son to Wat Ambhavan to ask me to visit her for the last time and to tell the temple committee to get the building ready for her funeral. Unfortunately, at that time I was away to give sermons at Army Base#2 for four days.
Her son went back and told her that I was away and would not be back for three nights. She was disappointed that her son had got to the temple too late. She then asked her children to chant the virtues of the Buddha, the virtues of the Dhamma, the virtues of the Sangha. She continued to teach them about practice vipassana meditation until she died that day. The next morning, her children brought her body to Wat Ambhavan for the funeral.
On the second night, her daughter became terribly sick. She fainted and had to be taken to the hospital. While she was regaining consciousness, she heard her mother’s voice.
“Why don’t you keep your word? I told you to put an ancient coin in my mouth.”
She had to get the coin and put in into her mother’s mouth!
I arrived at Wat Ambhavan at 8 p.m. on the third day. The guests had gone home. There were only her children and relatives at the funeral. The body was in the crematorium and the dogs had been howling for hours. There was a miracle when I arrived at the crematorium. I spoke loudly,
“Mrs. Lami I am here and I will cremate your body.”
The dogs stopped howling! I told her children to come near the crematorium, ask for forgiveness and say goodbye to their mother for the last time. When I started the fire, the dogs started howling again. At last all the relatives went home.
This is true story of Mrs. Lamai’s practicing vipassana meditation! Her story shows that observing the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is the great path leading to the cessation of suffering.
Wat Ambhavan, Singburi
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