CHAPTER 7 VISIT TO THE CENTER FOR COMPLEMENTARY TEACHING OF CANONICAL BOOKS Buddha Tse Kong who manifested on the 9th day of the second 8th month. Leap year of the Dragon (1976) POEM Men strain to peruse their books in dim light Religious men struggle to complete their lessons Money matters muffled their gongs and bells So now, in hell they grieve their own fate.
Buddha Tse Kong: We’re going for a tour to hell, Yang Ts’ien. Come on the dais. Be calm in
Yang Ts’ien: I will, Master. But for the moment, I’m not yet in a mood to witness those dismal scenes of hell.
know you feel disturbed. But look, all those souls are heavy with sins, Yang Ts’ien. You must not pity them. Now, come on. Let’s be on our way. We have arrived! Get down.
: These rooms are quite dark. I hear sobbing and moaning from inside. TK
: This is the Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books. Let’s go in. YT: After you, Master. On the door, I read this inscription: “Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books”. Two officers are coming to the door. Who are
TK: They are official guards. One of the guards addresses the visitors: You are welcome, Buddha Tse Kong and Mr. Yang Ts’ien of the Temple of the Sages in Tai Chu.
TK: Our greetings, General. Today, I take the saint-scribe Yang Ts’ien to the Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books. Would you be so kind as to help him with his visit?
The General: It’s a pleasure for me. Would you follow? You can come in by the side-door. The main door is open on the 1st and 15th days of the lunar
month. On these two days the Bodhidharma, the Masters of the Tao, and the Immortals and Saints come down from the Western Paradise to preach in this hall, and give lessons on practical methods of spiritual
perfection to the religious and priests.
YT: It’s a great favor for me to have come. The main door matters little. This auditorium looks quite dreary and dark. I’d
rather stay outside and look in. No use entering. The General
: Take it easy. I’ll show you the way in.
YT: So much the better! The hall is made of wood. It must have been constructed a long time
ago, for its partitions are all insect-eaten and filled with holes. In the hall, thousands of religious persons clothed in their respective gowns, are leafing through their prayer books and chanting psalms under a
dying light. One and all, they look miserable.
TK: While living, these priests and
the religious people made their living by reciting prayers in requiem masses in order to salvage the defuncts’ souls from unhappy incidents . Nevertheless, out of greed for gain and lack of conscience, they
intentionally left out part of the prayers, or pronounced them incorrectly. After they died, they were condemned to the Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books to learn the prayers again. Every night,
under the light of oil-lamps as weak as a glow worm’s, they have to recite the prayers. For each word skipped, they are forced to re-read it a hundred times. They will go on like this until they have finished the
Complementary Course. Then, they will be judged according to their pains and merits.
YT: If what you said is true, I’m afraid nobody dares recite the
prayer-books edited by our Temple, such as the “Saint Scriptures of the Celestial Emperor for Salvation of Humans” and the “Saint Bible of the Supreme Master of Chaotic Times”. A great number of believers have
recited them in good faith; but it is probable they can’t pronounce the words quite correctly. Will they be forced to attend a Complementary Course at your Center?
The General: They certainly won’t. Only the people who practice cultic rites as a means of living have to come to this
center. If they receive money from other people with the purpose of warding off the latter’s ills, but don’t recite the entire contents of the prayer-book, they have to come here. As for the people who recite
prayers for others, or for themselves disinterestedly, without any attempt to cheat for money, they may commit a few mistakes in pronunciation, but they are tolerated by divine laws.
YT: The dying glimmer of the lamps, which is no brighter than a glow-worm’s, flickers and threatens to die out at every gust of wind. The aged
religious people and priests, with weakened eyes, decipher with great difficulty characters the size of a fly’s head. They all seem exhausted, miserable, and pitiful to look upon.
The General: When a merchant receives money from a buyer, he must sell him good merchandise. These men pocketed their clients’ money without trying to do as they should. They have
to bear the burden of a bad karma.
TK: The religious and priests have the mission of converting the people to virtue. They recite prayers to illuminate humans with religious faith. Those who practice cultic
rites by praying or reciting prayers must be careful. In no case should they skip a word, shorten a sentence, or falsify the pronunciation. If they are incapable of diverting calamities for other people because of
their deceit, they have to suffer the consequences in their clients’ place.
The General: On the 1st and 15th days of every lunar month, two Pontiffs of Buddhism and
Taoism come down to this center to check the study of canonical books, and to teach the correct pronunciation of the prayer words. Immortals and Buddhas are morally responsible for the acts of humans. Consequently,
they have to come to hell in person for the sake of salvaging the souls. They are truly merciful. Humans must be conscious of everything they do, even the most trifling acts. The author of bad acts can never be
exempt from the laws of hell. YT
: I understand thoroughly, General. And thank you for your information. TK
: Yang Ts’ien, go ask that priest the reason for his being sent to this center. YT: (to the priest) Would you mind telling me, Reverend, the reason why you have to come here?
The priest: Don’t address me as Reverend, I pray you. In my lifetime, I was named: “The red-capped priest”. I took charge of cultic rites and requiem masses for the salvation of souls of the
dead. Unfortunately, my knowledge of prayers was as limited as it was groundless. I feigned to mumble the prayers with the accompaniment of bell-tollings and gong ringing. The masters of the households knew nothing
of what I recited. Worse still, I used to gain time by reciting one page of prayers instead of two, only thinking of pocketing money as quickly as I could. I cared very little whether the deceaseds’ souls came to
Nirvana or not. Upon my death, my soul was first escorted by the infernal guards to the 1st palace of hell, then to the Center for Complementary Teaching of Canonical Books where I have stayed for over a year. Since
I was negligent in my duty and anxious to shorten the prayers, I knew nearly nothing of the canonical books. Now, I have to extend myself in an all-out attempt to learn them again, from start to end. Still, I find
it hard to complete my complementary course. My eyes are swollen and red, causing me almost unbearable pain. When my complementary studies are finished, I will be probably be sent to the 2nd palace for judgement on
an even more grave crime. For I also used charmed philtres to harm other people. Now it is too late for me to repent. I aspire sincerely to amend, and hope my wish would be communicated to other priests in the
living world. They should never forget their professional conscience, if they want to avoid my fate. For this moment, all I desire is to see other people granted salvation.
YT: This priest really deserves some mercy. I pray you, Master, do something to help him overcome this situation.
TK: His sin tallies with the law of retribution and sanction on man’s acts. He is reaping what he has sown. The happier he
was when on earth, the more miserable he is now in hell. Don’t meddle with other people’s business. We are mere visitors. All this is beyond our province. After all, his case will be determined by the laws of hell.
It’s growing late. Get ready for our return. My sincere appreciation, General.
YT: Mine too,
General. It’s really heart-warming to see all the religious people and priests exerting great effort to study what they need most.
TK: On the dais, Yang Ts’ien... Here is the Temple. Run to your body, son.