Book 129 Entering the Most Hidden Yin-Yang Realm:
The Rich God and the Poor Ghost
by H.H.Living Buddha Lian-sheng, Sheng-Yen Lu
When I was young, I lived in an illegal building on a small alley along Ching Wu Road in Taichung, Taiwan. Half of the building was constructed over a large ditch where mosquitoes and flies gathered, and it stank to high heaven.
The building was very small, about ten square meters, with hard soil foundation. The roof was made of tin metal sheets, the walls made of wood, and there was only one faucet connected to an underground water line.
This space of ten square meters was my life.
The toilet was a public toilet outside the house.
This was one of the most desperate times in my life. A tiny, dilapidated house and one bed. I had nothing else, and I was penniless.
Even this tiny dilapidated house (an illegal building) was rented.
When it was hot, the interior of the house became a food steamer. Hot air pressed down from the tin roof, and a stench rose from the ground.
If there was a heavy downpour outside, a drizzle of rain would trickle through the roof. By the middle of the night, the house would become chillingly cold.
During that time, I had already developed the ability to communicate with the spirit world. Although I lived in a crude house and had nothing to my name, a buddha resided within my being, in my body and my heart, helping me with my accomplishments.
I was an enlightened sage. Living in an alleyway in a crude house actually sped up my spiritual progress with each passing day.
I had no doubts or regrets regarding my impoverishment.
My actions, in their entirety, were offered in homage to the buddhas.
When I went to the toilet, it was a buddha who went to the toilet, never mind that the ground was covered in excrement. When I closed the door to take a shower, it was a buddha who was bathing. When I ate, although the meal consisted of only one bowl of rice and a side dish, it was a flavorful meal. When I went out riding my small bicycle, I also had no worries.
My life while living in this illegal building was akin to “One Taste.” I immersed myself fully in carrying out every deed. This was my cultivation. I did not care about criticism from others and did not seek praise. I treated everything with indifference.
At that time I was a nobody.
But my reputation was widespread.
There was a reason for my fame; word spread that Sheng-Yen Lu had spiritual power and excelled in divination, so naturally many people sought me out.
Once, a guest asked, “Which religion is suitable for me?”
I replied, “There is a small booklet of the Lotus Sutra in your pocket; you believe in the Nichiren School.”
The visitor turned out his pocket; indeed there was a Lotus Sutra booklet inside.
Everybody was surprised.
Another visitor came and asked, “How is my mother’s sickness?”
I answered, “Your mother’s sickness is not life-threatening, she will recover, but instead your father will die.”
The visitor answered, “My father has no sickness and everything is fine, so why will he die?”
The visitor did not believe me; neither did the people standing around him.
Soon after, the family of the visitor arrived at my place in a rush, and hurriedly informed the visitor that his father had died in a car accident.
The visitor was stunned, and left in exasperation. For a good while, the people standing by exclaimed in wonder at the unsurpassed accuracy of the prediction, the seeming ability to divine a person’s fate.
These are just two simple examples; there are many others. As a result, my reputation spread throughout the whole of Taiwan.
Someone speculated that Sheng-Yen Lu had divine vision (the spiritual third eye).
Another conjectured that Sheng-Yen Lu had a ghost or celestial being above his head who constantly reported information to him.
Yet others proclaimed that Sheng-Yen Lu was a validated sage. There was no longer any difference between him and a bodhisattva. He had attained a level of profound meditative observation, hence he understood everything and was all-knowing.
Of course, there were also people who said, “Sheng-Yen Lu is a devil.”
During those days, my simple room had no clock and I did not wear a watch. But, I could always tell the exact time accurately, with no mistakes.
Everyone was astounded.
One day, a famous rich man invited me for a feng shui reading of his house.
He drove a luxurious imported Cadillac, smoked cigars, and wore a felt hat and a smartly pressed suit. His appearance was that of a wealthy magnate.
”Do you smoke?” he asked, taking a cigar from a sumptuously designed box and handing it to me.
”I do not know how. I have never even seen a cigar,” I haltingly replied.
”Ha!” he laughed.
We arrived at the residence of this rich man, which was just one of multiple buildings he owned, built upon land in a metropolitan area. Entering through the enclosing walls, one discovered an extensive courtyard with luxuriant flowers and trees, an oasis of quiet in the bustling city. As for the architecture, adjoining pavilions and terraces sprawled across the grounds like tendrils of clouds in the distance, leaving no indication of the size of the place. I was dazed. The instant the car stopped, there were already numerous servants waiting by the door.
When I entered his house, the magnificent opulence of the furnishings was beyond anything I had seen in my life.
Objects I could not identify by name. Each table and chair had been made entirely out of jade, gleaming so brightly that you could see your own reflection.
The rich man asked me, “I hear that you cultivate Vajrayana Buddhism?”
”Great! I’ll show you something.”
The rich man led me to the front of a luxurious glass cabinet. He pointed at a pile of brocade that had been propped up, and asked, “What do you think this is?”
I was speechless.
”This is the treasured nine-layered brocaded cushion from the seat of honor upon which the King of Tibet, Trisong Detsen, invited Padmasambhava to sit.”
The rich man next pointed to a large cluster of red gemstones strung together, and asked, “And what is this?”
Of course I could not answer.
The rich man laughed and said, “These are the biggest red turquoise in Tibet; these are the most precious of treasures; such gemstones are extremely rare.”
My mouth hung open as I stared ahead, stupefied. My face was flushed.
The rich man showed me more than a hundred of his precious possessions in his home. I could only give praise, and had nothing else to say.
He arranged for a banquet at his home and invited me to dinner. Not only were there an abundance of rich cuisines, each and every dish was a display of exquisite culinary skill.
The attendants who served us were also very well-dressed. An attendant poured wine into a glass for me.
”This is the best Brandy!” the rich man said.
I did not hear clearly, and asked, “What emperor is Brandy? Which country’s emperor is he?”
The rich man and his attendants all laughed; they were beside themselves with mirth.
After the meal was over we had tea, and the attendants left us.
The rich man asked, “You are so famous, but, please forgive me for asking an ill-mannered question, how is it that you are so poor?
”A shame! This is merely a matter of fortune!”
”I hear that people who cultivate Vajrayana Buddhism are rich and those who cultivate Zen Buddhism are poor. You cultivate Vajrayana Buddhism, so why are you so down on your luck?”
”I am only poor in appearance and am inwardly rich; I am a Great Blessing Vajra!”
The rich man was very interested, “Poor in appearance but inwardly rich, a Great Blessing Vajra; I don’t understand.”
”One day you will understand!”
”I will arrange for a day to invite you for dinner,” I said.
”Invite me for dinner?” The rich man next asked, “At your home?”
”Yes, at my home.”
”Did I understand correctly?” The rich man scratched his ears. (When he came to pick me up, he had been inside the small illegal house.)
”No, sir, you did not misunderstand. I will invite you for dinner at my humble abode.”
”It’s alright, you don’t need to stand on ceremony, let me treat you.” The rich man was generous. (He gave me two big boxes of instant noodles.)
About one week later, the rich man was dreaming when suddenly he smelled wafts of subtle, wonderful fragrance coming from the sky. Many splendidly brocaded carriages descended from the air, accompanied by celestial and earth deities, immortals, dakas and dakinis, and Dharma protectors. These gods joyfully placed their palms together to welcome the rich man into one of the carriages.
(to be continued)