Chapter 6: Defamation and Slander
|Defamation and Slander
Written by Living Buddha Lian-sheng, Sheng-yen Lu
Translated by Janny Chow
The experiences I have encountered in this life are most unusual.
At the age of twenty-six, my soul journeyed to the Illusory Realm in the Greater Void, traveling to the heavens and the netherworlds. As a result of that experience during which I learned of my former existence and past, I wrote my first spiritual book, Encounter with the World of Spirits. This book has since garnered for me quite a reputation—one that has been both positive and negative. As for the latter, the book has stirred continual assaults and unending slander against me.
Had my soul body never traveled to the Illusory Realm in the Greater Void, and had I not come out to help people and disseminate the Dharma, I would have remained a `surveying engineer` for the rest of my life. My whole life could then have been summarized by the following phrases:
A professional surveyor and Christian who loves to write -
Married, had children,
Died at an old age.
My life would definitely have been very pedestrian and not any different from the lives of most people in this world. No great storms would have raged, and I would have lived a mediocre, unambitious life, unaware of my past before birth and blind to the future that lies after death.
But, with the opening of my divine eyesight, I perceived the heavens and netherworlds, acquiring the psychic and spiritual abilities to probe into karmic causes and consequences. Spiritual teachers from the invisible realm have also come to teach me Taoist and Buddhist practices.
Attaining the great path of wu-wei,
I realized Buddhahood and the realm of the Golden Immortal.
The Dharma that transcends birth and death
Is no ordinary Dharma.
Can people without reverence hope to acquire it?
It cannot be sold for a king`s ransom -
Sincerity and devotion are the keys.
Thus, the teaching will necessarily be
Half open and half hidden,
Left for later generations to decipher.
Since realizing the authentic Buddhahood, I have traveled throughout the ten Dharma realms and also come out publicly to teach the Buddhadharma to all. Such actions, in this world of roaring dust, have naturally invited slander and attempts to tarnish my name.
First came the article `A Critique on Sheng-yen Lu` published by the magazine Bodhi Tree. Then, someone with the penname `Wild Grass Mountain Man` published the two books Sheng-yen Lu Spreading Fallacies to Deceive People and Sheng-yen Lu the Demon Monster. Numerous other slandering and defaming articles published in newspapers, books, and magazines followed these. There have been so many, in fact, that it would be difficult to list them all here.
Eminent masters within the religious community also launched their criticisms and accusations. I have been called many names including: `the great mara,` `the great heretic,` `the devilish teacher,` `a great con man,` `a swindler scheming after money and sex,` `mentally ill,` `a hallucinating lunatic,` `an impostor,` `the demon of the religious community,` etc....
Several years ago, two more booklets appeared with the goal of tarnishing my name. They were entitled: `Why I Left the True Buddha School` and `My Love, My Teacher.`
The amount of `defamation and slander` heaped upon me this lifetime has been so profuse and profound that I cannot help but feel honored. The majority of these insults have sprung from the relaying of increasingly distorted messages that were erroneous in the first place. And of course, good portions of the false accusations were deliberate fabrications. Some True Buddha School students also sought to hurt their own teacher because they were not achieving the gains they had wanted—just as Devadetta and Judas had wanted to hurt Shakyamuni Buddha and Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, all these attacks have of course had no effect on me:
What else can I do when I have already offered my heart
And people of the world do not recognize it?
The Dharma vessel is about to embark,
Yet those with affinity
seem to be without affinity after all.
Their eyes cannot recognize a True Buddha residing in the world.
This makes transcendence and liberation difficult.
I can only sigh.
A missed opportunity may not come again.
Where will I meet someone with true affinity?
I of course know that such `defamation and slander` cannot harm me—I have the Buddha and the Tathagata in my heart. Firstly, all will become the past. Secondly, everything that is born will die. Thirdly, in a flash, all myriad worlds shall disappear.
I am an adept who has attained the Tao. Naturally free and liberated, none of these make any difference to me. In fact, such charges have only made me laugh out loud. How can they be so mistaken and fail to appreciate the truth?
I am the Maha Prajna Paramita.
I am the Lotus Light Self-Mastery Buddha.
I am the Inviolate, the Immovable.
As far as I am concerned, these defamation attempts merely help me eradicate accumulated karma!
On the other hand, will `defamation and slander` create karmic retribution?
Here, I will recount an incident...
Out of the blue, an office worker by the name of Li Jin, an honest and prudent man with no seriously unhealthy habits, came down with an illness of `sudden fainting spells`. Whatever the time or place and without provocation, he would suddenly lose consciousness and pass out. After a few minutes passed, he would then wake up on his own and be fine.
Li Jin sought medical help, but after numerous examinations, the doctors found nothing abnormal. Because his illness resembled epilepsy, he was given epilepsy medication, but these did not cure him. According to a folk recipe, during an attack, an epileptic will awaken if allowed to sniff freshly cut grass. Li Jin, however, would wake up on his own whether or not grass was offered to him.
With his affliction, doctors warned him to avoid walking near oceans or cliffs. He would surely be finished if he had an attack and fell down a cliff or into the ocean.
Li Jin went to temples for consultation about his problem, and the answer he received was that he was being assaulted by noxious chi from spirits. Even after drinking water blessed by talismans, he did not get better. Li Jin then took refuge and became a Buddhist. But still, his illness did not go away. He felt he had exhausted all his options and tried almost everything there was to try.
Then someone `recommended Living Buddha Lian-sheng Sheng-yen Lu` to him. Li Jin started seriously searching for me and some time later, we finally met.
During his consultation, I quieted my mind and meditated. Upon opening my eyes, I said to him, `You have committed false speech!`
`But I have always been an honest man and never told any lies,` Li Jin replied. His family also confirmed that he was a law-abiding, honest man.
I asked him, `Do you remember a lady by the name of Wang Zi?`
`Wang Zi?` he asked. Li Jin thought for a long time but was clueless.
His family also tried to recall whether there was an acquaintance by such a name. Finally, after long contemplation, they vaguely recalled a woman by that name who had been one of their neighbors about ten years prior.
`What has become of this lady?` Li Jin inquired.
`She was looking for you,` I answered.
`For me? Why?` Li Jin asked astonished.
For a few moments, Li Jin`s family remained very quiet. Then they spoke up and told me that Wang Zi had been an old spinster who lived alone. One time, a group of neighbors at a gathering were joking around, and someone brought up Wang Zi`s name, discussing that she had never been able to get married and was probably still a virgin. People started making fun of her.
One person remarked, `Wang Zi does not know what relationships are about.`
Another said, `She’s too old-fashioned and inflexible.`
Someone else said, `Maybe Wang Zi is preserving her chastity for someone and refuses to marry.`
And another commented, `Wang Zi is always so stern and proper.`
Then Li Jin interjected, `According to a physiognomy book that teaches one how to read people, the manner in which Wang Zi walks shows she’s not a virgin.`
This one statement of his passed from mouth to mouth, finally reaching Wang Zi`s ears in an even more offensive form. People liked to distort and add superfluous comments as they gossiped.
Wang Zi had wanted to straighten the facts and speak up on her own behalf, but she found the topic hard to discuss. And because she was unable to talk about the situation with anyone, an unbearable anger began to seethe inside her. She slowly sank into a deep depression that eventually led to her death.
Wang Zi`s passing caused little stir, as she had just been an unknown, insignificant woman in the eyes of her neighbors. Typically when someone dies, all rumors about the person slowly dissipate. As for Li Jin, it never even occurred to him that his casual remark would lead to Wang Zi`s death. According to him, his comment had been purely unintentional and was not meant to hurt her at all.
Over the past ten years, Li Jin moved around several times, and the incident with Wang Zi had completely faded from his memory.
Yet, that day, I, Living Buddha Lian-sheng Sheng-yen Lu, saw a woman standing behind Li Jin. This woman was Wang Zi.
`What does she want from me?` Li Jin asked. `I didn’t kill her, did I?`
`You did not, but your frivolous remark was the cause of her death.`
`But I had just been quoting something I read!` he protested.
`Conjectures that may ruin or defame someone’s reputation or character should be avoided,` I remarked.
`Then everyone, including television and newspaper articles, has made conjectures and thus, false speech!` Li Jin felt that nothing was wrong with freedom of speech.
I said with a sigh, `You are right in saying that today’s television, newspapers, and magazines rarely function as sources to promote good values benefiting citizens of a society. They concentrate on reporting sensational crimes such as rape, murder, and robbery and scramble for accusatory reports that are scandalous in nature. Often times, before facts are verified, reporters have already made their judgments. These are violations frequently made by today’s media. In litigation reports, denigration of a party involved, without actual fact-finding, is sabotage on an individual’s reputation and character. This is also a transgression of false speech.`
`That’s the way the media is. I am just doing what they are doing.` Li Jin remained unconvinced.
`Just think, after you made your remark, how could she go on with her life?`
Li Jin was silent and refused to address my question, so his family then asked, `What can be done now?`
I turned to the invisible Wang Zi, `What should he do to settle this situation?`
Wang Zi replied, `After I died, I became a homeless ghost. Luckily the stove god took me in, and I am currently living in the fire in his kitchen. I do not want to take his life, because that will only create vicious cycles of unending enmity and suffering throughout future lives. However, the kitchen god told me of something Li Jin can do to help me attain a quicker rebirth into a better realm. Every morning after rising from bed, he must face the stove and prostrate nine times. Then he should chant `Namo Amitabha Buddha` ten times and dedicate the merits to me.`
`How long should he chant and prostrate?`
`Ten years. When I obtain my rebirth, he will be all right.`
`He will have to wait ten years before his affliction will go away?` I asked shocked.
Wang Zi answered, `No. As long as Li Jin starts bowing nine times and chants the Buddha epithet ten times every day, the dizzy spells will go away. I won’t bother him anymore.`
I related this conversation to Li Jin. His family decided that the request was reasonable and something rather simple that could be easily carried out. At least they would not have to engage in any special meritorious deeds to resolve this disaster. It would not require them to spend huge amounts of money, burn spirit money, or secure monks or priests to perform bardo services. Neither had they been asked to enshrine a statue for Wang Zi or make contributions to the building of temples.
Li Jin on the other hand, though he did not object to the request, did not embrace it wholeheartedly either.
The outcome, however, was surprising.
Li Jin’s `sudden fainting spells`, which used to strike regularly every two to three days, and sometimes even two to three times in one day, suddenly stopped. Ever since he started his morning ritual prostrations to the kitchen fire while chanting `Namo Amitabha Buddha` ten times, the fainting spells disappeared. For an entire week, he did not suffer a single bout.
But Li Jin was still unconvinced. He deliberately missed a day, skipping the chanting and prostrating, and that afternoon he immediately suffered two `sudden fainting spells.` He could not disbelieve now. He resumed the ritual on a daily basis, and indeed, from then on, the `sudden fainting spells` vanished without relapse.
There was one more strange incident that helped convince Li Jin. His four-year-old daughter one day said that she actually saw a woman sitting right above the stove fire in the kitchen. The woman was chanting the name of the Buddha with both palms joined. The family asked her to describe the woman, and she said the woman was not evil looking. She smiled a lot and even waved to her. The clothing worn by the woman fit the description of Wang Zi’s.
After witnessing these events involving the spirit world, Li Jin’s family, relatives, and friends now all believe in the existence of gods and ghosts. They recognize the existence of karma and accept that invisible laws indeed govern human existence.
Here, I would like to offer some advice to people of the world:
Among the five Buddhist precepts is the prohibition against false speech. This is a precept that is easily violated because humans tend to neglect its seriousness and often parrot what others say. As spiritual cultivators, it is best to remain silent regarding things we do not know, especially those pertaining to the defamation of reputation and character. In general, people like to gossip about the rights and wrongs of others behind their backs. This is also not right. Make one less remark, and instead chant the Buddha’s epithet once!
The media may be used as a murder weapon or as an instrument to rouse public opinion. Gossip can be a terrifying thing! If a report is not based in facts, then a karmic transgression is created!
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