(Singapore River in the old days)
Acho Rinpoche: Yesterday was the birthday of Dharma Sister Yue. So, we bought a cake for her to celebrate her birthday tonight. Although we are late by one day, we still wish her a happy birthday today. We had a very special encounter yesterday at the Singapore River. So, I would like to invite Dharma Brother Shao to do his sharing first.
Shao: First, I would like to share with you a dream that I had this morning. In the dream, Acho Rinpoche instructed me to share the story at Singapore River. I did not know the reason initially, but I did know that it was related to Dharma Sister Bing. She told us that she worked at a place near the Singapore River. She also joked about asking me to do a soul deliverance ritual at her workplace. In the dream, I told Acho Rinpoche that there were seven of us sitting at a table. The word “seven” in Mandarin sounded like “begging”. So, it meant that there would be seven of us experiencing starvation at an eatery.
Last night, we had our dinner at an eatery selling clay-pot rice. On my way to the washroom, I had a vision: there were many laborers squatting on the stools, sharing a very small bowl of food on the tables. The employers were very stingy in the old days, paying meager salaries to their employees. So, the laborers lived a very thrifty lifestyle, eating very little food each day. Most of the time, they did not have a full meal. Some people did not even have a job and were unable to make their ends meet; they had to do without meals every day. How pathetic! But they got use to it. So, we ought to learn to appreciate our food and good fortune today.
In the dream, Acho Rinpoche told me that “seven” meant “death”. I could not figure it out and I woke up from my dream at that point. It was 4am in the morning. I went to the washroom and had a vision at that point – I “saw” Fort Canning Hill. I ignored the vision and returned to my bed. But I could not sleep again because I kept “seeing” Fort Canning Hill. I understood the meaning of the vision - the spiritual beings in Fort Canning Hill were requesting my help. So, I went into my shrine and did a prayer for them. After the prayer, I emptied my mind and saw numerous spiritual beings coming out from my stomach. How strange! In my vision, Fort Canning Hill is a place full of negative energy. For it was a place where many people were brutally killed (during Japanese occupation). It is being ruled by a Mountain God. There is a palace within the hill, resembling the nether world. What a strange place!
Acho Rinpoche: Due to a very strange reason, we made a trip to the Singapore River yesterday. I seldom go to such places because they are usually very crowded. And it is not within my scope of work too. However, there was still a small reason for us to be there because Lianhe Zaobao (a local Chinese newspaper) organized a Mid-autumn Festival celebration there. So, I thought, “Probably we could celebrate Dharma Sister Yue’s birthday there. There were Taiwanese food stalls selling stinky bean curd, oyster omelet etc. Since we just came back from our Taiwan trip recently and we still find their local delicacies memorable, why don’t we just celebrate her birthday there?”
When we reached Clark Quay at the Singapore River, Dharma Sister Chan informed me of those coming. But I somehow felt that an important person seemed to be left out. Soon after, I saw that person appearing among us. Clark Quay was full of people that we could not even squeeze ourselves into the crowd. So, I decided immediately that we should leave the place and go somewhere else for dinner. Since Dharma Sister Chan also works in the same location, she recommended us a place nearby. We came to an eatery selling clay-pot rice. This place was crowded and there was not seats available but we did not feel like going elsewhere and just waited for our turn. Soon after, there was a big table available which accommodate about twelve of us. But still, we had a few more members waiting outside for their turn.
We ordered our food but we believed that the kitchen could not deliver, because there were too many customers that they could not cope! The eateries around this area are usually very quiet on the weekends but the celebration of festival brought such a big crowd to this place. We waited for about 20 minutes before our first dish was served. The clay-pot rice was reminiscent of the familiar taste dated back 30 years ago. It was very delicious! The small group sitting outside already had their seats and ordered their food. When we were almost done with our dinner, the group sitting outside was still waiting for their first dish to be served. So, they checked with the owner of the eatery on their order. But another hour passed and they still did not have any food served. Dharma Brother Liang was kind and he brought over a small piece of bean curd from our table and gave it to them. Our little Dharma Brother Xin usually was not too interested in bean curd but he ate it all up as he was too hungry. Next, we sent a set of clay-pot rice over to them too. By this time, their food was still not delivered. We were done with our dinner, and the customers on other tables had left too, with new customers continued streaming in who had their food served too. It was only our group sitting outside had nothing served. After two hours, there was a small plate of stewed port knuckle served and that was it.
Finally, the group complained to the lady boss. The lady boss found it very strange, “This is the first time such funny thing happened in our shop! The orders are placed in order. There is no reason why only the first dish was served and the rest are left out!” She could not figure out how on earth it happened? I stood beside her and just smiled. Of course I knew what the reason was.
After that, everyone asked me the reason for such strange happening. I told them a little bit of the secret. It was just like what Dharma Brother Shao said, “One plus one.” First, the laborers in the old days lived in poverty. They hardly had food to eat. Often, they had to sleep with an empty stomach. The group was made to experience hunger felt by the laborers in the past, so that they would understand that our ancestors built our modern Singapore through hardship. Their contributions are great, yet they had so little to eat and they were starved most of the time!
In addition to that, Dharma Sister Bing tried to help the spiritual beings stranded in the nether world by pouring the holy water into the fountain at her workplace, and that brought some of the spiritual beings over to the eatery too where we had our dinner. These spiritual beings were beheaded during the Japanese occupation, and they could not eat because they were too used to the habitual actions of eating with their mouths. I had to give them blessings and “reproduced” their heads, before offering them the food. And we had to transfer our “merits” from our table to the table outside, giving them (spiritual beings) the food to feed them.
These sentient beings suffered in hardship due to the lack of merits. So, we must cultivate merits too. Without merits, it will be difficult for one to practice spiritual cultivation. Just take a look at those laborers, they were so pathetic because of the lack of merits – they could not even afford a meal! Take a look at those beings who died from being beheaded – they suffered great pains and are still stranded in the nether world today, unable to take a rebirth. They continued to suffer from starvations – they can’t eat without heads, even though there is food.
We cannot do without merits. So, we must practice the cultivation of both wisdom and merits. We did a Jembhala prayer just now at the request of a Dharma Brother who had the word “merit” as part of his name. I thought of doing this prayer at 3pm today but it slipped my mind soon after. It was this Dharma Brother who requested the prayer to be done that we managed to do it today. Just now, an inconceivable number of Jembhala descended from space to receive blessings from the Sun Moon Lamp Buddha. So, this red wine being offered to Jembhala during the prayer will bring merits to those who drink it. Such merits will follow you in your future lives, supporting you financially in your spiritual practice. With that, we have completed our prayer today. Amitabha!
A discourse given by Acho Rinpoche on 11-9-2010, the birthday of Jembhala.
(Singapore River today)