Chapter 03: Luang Pho Kham becomes a Hungry Ghost
Now I will explicate the Law of Karma on how a monk can become a hungry ghost. In 1974, I was invited by Phra Khru Suvatganabhipala – the abbot of Wat Bodharam and the Ecclesiastical District Officer of Sri Samrong District, Sukhothai Province – to sit in the Mahabuddhapisek Ceremony at Wat Bodharam, in order to collect donations for building the Uposoth and develop the people.
When I arrived, several revered monks from the North and Northeastern were already present. There was a man, whose house was to the north of the temple, around 60 years of age. He was a rice and tobacco farmer. In conversation, this man claimed that he had cured several cases of madness. I thought I would ask for his formula somehow.
When there was a bit of free time and less of a crowd, I called this man for a conversation. I asked, “When you say you’ve cured several cases of madness, are you a doctor?” He said, “Oh! No, not me. My father was a Thai traditional physician. I learned from him a little. But I’ve not treated anyone.” I asked, “How come you are famous in treating madness?” That man said, “I’ve got this formula from a ghost in my dream. The ghost who gave me this formula was a monk in Singhburi Province.” I asked if I could copy his formula. He said, “I would really like to give it to you as you can make merit by giving it to others. But this is the formula that the ghost has given to me. So, it could well be forbidden. If I tell you, it might lose its magic. You would like to have the formula, so I will tell you the story.” I asked, “Have you ever been to Singhburi?” He said, “No, sir. Never.” Then he told me his dream.
One day he took his buffaloes out to graze and went to look at his tobacco farm. There was a large-bodied monk with ragged robes around seventy years of age walking about and stopped to sit beside him saying, “My man, I’m really thirsty. Can I ask you for some water to drink?” He went to fetch some water for him. Having presented him the water, the monk began a conversation. He asked, “Where do you live? What are you doing here?” The monk said, “My man, I’ve come to ask for a debt repayment. A person borrowed 1 Chang (80 baht) and another 2 families borrowed 2 Changs (160 baht). They haven’t repaid me yet. So, I’ve come to call for it. But they still haven’t repaid me. I don’t know where they’ve gone. I’ve been walking around this area for quite some time, to collect the debt.”
He then asked, “May I have your name please. Where do you live?” The monk said, “I’m Luang Poh Kham of Wat Sao Thong Tong in Paengthai Village. My birthplace was diagonally across the river from Wat Chalon. There was a large buffalo wharf, up the river from Wat Ambavana.” The monk said he had been a preacher who earned a lot of money. But he had not made any merit at all. A certain relative and his friend had borrowed money from him and moved away to grow tobacco in Sukhothai Province at this District. The man asked, “How have you survived?” The monk said, “Well, I have been dead for 50-60 years and yet I’m still collecting debts. My man, I’ve been walking around this area observing for quite sometime. No one has a better character than you have. You are kind hearted and good tempered. You’ve given me drinking water. Now! I have a good thing to give you. I’ve been a doctor treating madness at Wat Sao Thong Tong. My man, note it down and remember it well. This formula of herbal medicine is comprised of 32 ingredients. It can cure madness. I used it to treat madness. Remember it well my man. I have nothing else to give in return for your kindness.”
The man could remember all the ingredients because he used to help his father collect herbs for medicine. So, he knew a lot of ingredients by heart. When he woke up, he noted the 32 ingredients down. The ingredients are boiled in a tin container. Everybody can be cured after drinking it.
He (Luang Poh Jarun) did not find this story credible yet, thinking that I had to find out more of it.
The ghost monk told him a story. He said, “My man, this is the fruit of my karma. When I was the abbot of Wat Sao Thong Tong I was a preacher and a preceptor who ordained a lot of man. But when I had been dead and my corpse had been cremated, 50 to 60 years had gone by, I still had to go about collecting debt. I’m starving. Today, I haven’t eaten anything yet since I don’t have any. And I’m so thirsty. You have been very kind by giving me some water. I’ve drunk the whole kettle up. If you have money, try to make merit often. Don’t lend it to others like me.” He added, “The present abbot is still treating madness. His name is Ajahn Puang.”
The man told me this story and asked, “Luang Poh, is Wat Ambavana near to Luang Poh Puang’s?” I said, “Yes, both temples are in the same District of Promburi.” So, he said, “Right, sir. You can ask for the ingredients from Luang Poh Puang. I would really like to give it to you. But I fear that the medicine will lose its magic.”
When I had came back from the Mahabuddhabhisek Ceremony, I went to see Luang Poh Puang, telling him the story. He laughed, acknowledging that it was true. Luang Poh Kham, his teacher, was a real miser. He stored everything beyond expiration date. Powdered milk was hardened. Umbrellas were disjoined. There were bundles and bundles of reed mats. After he passed away, they untied the bundles and found all of the mats frayed. Each umbrella was decayed. He had plenty of money that had been used to build temples and halls later.
Luang Poh Puang confirmed that it was true. He gave me the ingredients. But I haven’t treated anybody at all. I’ve also received the formula for a medicine to treat bad health. Luang Poh Puang had treated madness following his teacher. He passed away at the age of more than eighty. I also went to his cremation ceremony. He was in the same Promburi District where I was the Ecclesiastical District Officer.
I asked the man at Sri Samrong District, “Did you talk to him for a long time?” He said, “Yes. He told me to teach my off-spring not to be stingy. He had had a hard time. He couldn’t find the place to be born yet. He came to collect debts but no one repaid him at all. Yet he had to go on collecting, in ragged robes as I had seen.”
There is also a hungry ghost like this at Wat Ambavana. His name is Luang Ta Fueng. He is still here at the moment. When he was a monk, he did not perform any duties at all. Just taking the temple’s belongings home. So, when he died he became a ghost in this temple. There was a Christian who came here and who could meditate well , seeing him still sitting on the hall.
I would like to verify to you that a monk can certainly become a hungry ghost. I have told this story as an example of a monk in our own time. I had to believe what I thought was not credible. The man who obtained the formula had never been to Singhburi at all. I would like to leave this with you. This is the law of karma. Not only does it apply to the monk, but also to laity as well.
I would like to inform all monks that the power of greed can make a hungry-ghost monk go collecting debts lent to others. If you haven’t practiced meditation before, you cannot think of “Araham. Buddho” on your death-bed. When you die, your consciousness leaves your body to go collecting debts. That is called a hungry-ghost. He had been in the state of a hungry ghost or peta for 60 years at that time. That was in 1974, 16 years ago, that I had sat in the Mahabuddhapisek Ceremony at Wat Bodharam, Sri Samrong District, Sukhothai Province.
This can be an example. I wasn’t born in time to see Luang Poh Kham. But I believed what that man told me because he had not been to Singhburi at all. I invited him to Wat Ambavana should he pass by.
Later, that man brought his children here, several years ago. He asked me to take him to Wat Sao Thong Tong. So I took him there. At that time Luang Poh Puang had not passed away yet. He informed Luang Poh Puang of his dream. Luang Poh asked, “What are the ingredients of the medicine?” That man listed them out to him. Luang Poh said, “Correct.” He could tell every item by weight. Thus, Luang Poh Puang gave me the formula for this medicine.
Once there was a rich woman of 84 years of age who had observed the Eight Precepts for 30 years and was good at making merit by offering Kathina and Forest Robes. After her death, she became a hungry ghost and came to possess a person due to the power of her own greed, recalling the assets given to the elder son and giving it to the younger daughter. She was heartbroken because her son-inlaw squandered it all. She became a hungry ghost after passing away. This was because she had never practiced meditation at all. The power of greed makes one a hungry ghost after death. The power of wrath sends one to hell after death. Likewise, the power of ignorance makes one reborn as an animal.
I once told you about an abbot in a temple along the provincial line between Supanburi and Kanchanaburi Province. He was a preceptor and a commissioned teacher. It was quite some time ago that he passed away. I went to his funeral ceremony. After he passed away, he was reborn as an ox. That particular ox often went in to that temple. So, the owner left it there. This is a clear sample.
At this point, I have taken an appropriate length of time to explicate the law of karma. Now, I would like to take this occasion to wish all of you long-life, fair complexion, happiness, strength, wit and wealth. Let the wish of every form and name here come true as desired.
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