Excerpt from Master Lu’s Q&A (267), 23 November 2018

Question:

On 5 November 2018, I was invited by an Underworld official to watch the trials of two offenders. The King of Hell hoped that I would share this with the human world, insisting: “One must commit neither unwholesome deeds nor verbal misdeeds. Even if you defame the Buddha out of ignorance, the Underworld will punish you severely. Buddhist practitioners must not treat the precepts of Buddhism lightly and think that collecting money illicitly is a trivial matter. They will regret it when they die! The living examples of the people who have their Totems read by your Master and his book Buddhism in Plain Terms clearly illustrate how karma works in Heaven and the Underworld. All you disciples in the Human Realm should reflect upon them carefully.”

Two offenders, brought to the Hall from Hell, knelt before the King of Hell. The King pointed at the offender furthest away and asked him to make a confession. The offender said: “I was originally a disciple of Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door, but I didn’t practise Buddhism thoroughly. I did it only superficially. I’m not from [country X]; I’m originally from [Province Y] of [Country Z]. When I died, I was sent to a great Hell for punishment.”

On my previous journey to the Underworld, the King of Hell told me that the great Hell is where all offenders are punished together, regardless of their country of origin.

The offender continued: “I cried and screamed day and night, begging Guan Yin Bodhisattva to save me. As the Heavenly Child from [Country X] now writes down the scenes of the Hell Realm and shares her accounts with the human world, warning them against illicit collection of money and defamation of Buddhism, Guan Yin Bodhisattva issued a decree, instructing the Underworld to bring me here to confess my offence.”

As the offender practised Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door, he is under the jurisdiction of Guan Yin Citta’s Dharma-protecting Bodhisattvas. The Underworld is responsible for handing out the punishment.

The offender went on: “I hope that the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Guan Di Bodhisattva have mercy on me and eliminate my negative karma with this meritorious deed. I wish to remind the disciples of Guan Yin Citta about the karmic retribution of collecting money by illegitimate means. Never perform unwholesome deeds regardless of how insignificant they are! Small offences all add up to negative karma.

“When I was alive, I promoted the products from my shop to fellow Buddhist practitioners and followers of Guan Yin Citta on WeChat, and also privately. I would distribute my business cards and contact details during their gatherings. I would frequently socialise with and get to know them, with the main aim of making money from them. I didn’t think that it was inappropriate at the time, even though fellow practitioners forwarded some of Master Lu’s discourses to remind me that what I was doing is making illicit gains in the name of the Buddha, and shedding the Buddha’s blood. But I didn’t see it that way – I thought they were just making a big fuss over a small issue. I made such a small amount of money from it – how could the consequences be so serious? I was also doing business with non-practitioners, was it really a big deal? Wouldn’t Bodhisattvas bless me with good health and a good career? With my partial understanding of Buddhism, I didn’t take Master Lu’s advice seriously. The Bodhisattvas had blessed me and helped me to recover from cancer, and yet I let Guan Yin Bodhisattva down. I didn’t practise Buddhism and recite sutras diligently, nor did I proactively save and help others to become spiritually awakened. I was not a dutiful Buddhist. I even kept bad-mouthing fellow practitioners and ignored their advice.

“I was so wrong, and I only realised it after I died! I did not realise that little causes can have such significant effects, or that the Underworld kept a record of every unwholesome deed. Within a few years, I encountered misfortune after misfortune, with my business going steadily downhill. The King of Hell told me that it was a preliminary warning from the Dharma-protecting Bodhisattvas. But I was too foolish to see that! So I continued to create negative karma. Then my cancer recurred and started to spread to other parts of my body. Soon it became terminal. I prayed to Guan Yin Bodhisattva to help me recover, but I failed to repent sincerely. I thought Guan Yin Bodhisattva was so compassionate and merciful that she would surely forgive me. I was so foolish! The King of Hell told me that it was because I did not repent sincerely that even the Dharma-protecting Bodhisattvas would not protect me.”

The offender, wailing all the while, continued: “After I died, I was sentenced by the Underworld to be punished in the Hell of Burning Flame. It was so painful there; my entire body was burned in searing fire. Nobody came to help when I cried out! Heavenly Child, please save me. Please help me to pray for Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s mercy. Please, plead with Guan Di Bodhisattva and all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for me. I was wrong; I repent with all my heart. Don’t follow my example and think that nothing will happen if you commit offences. You will only know how painful it is when you end up in Hell.”

I stood to the side as I watched, and couldn’t utter a word.

As the King of Hell sighed, he told the offender: “Your karmic retribution is ripe – it’s useless to plead. Even the Bodhisattvas are unable to interfere with karma. Guan Yin Bodhisattva now shows mercy towards you. In view of the meritorious deed you accumulated when propagating the Dharma and spiritually awakening people, even though you had a hidden agenda, you are nonetheless selected to share your experience with the Heavenly Child so that it could be written down in the Human Realm. Practitioners of Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door can take a lesson from your account by refraining from shedding Bodhisattva’s blood with illicit gains or raising funds from others in the name of the Buddha. This deed’s merit and virtue will be used to mitigate some of your negative karma, which is a manifestation of the greatest possible compassion.”

As the offender was not from [Country X], the King of Hell ordered the enforcement officer to escort the offender to the Underworld of his home country and let his case be dealt there. Later, the King issued an official letter to the Underworld of [Country Y], hoping that they would show him leniency and use this merit and virtue to reduce his sentence.

Soon after, the King of Hell ordered the enforcement officer to bring the other offender forward. Pointing at him, the King said: “When you were alive, you were ignorant that Buddhism and Taoism share the same root. Simply based on your subjective understanding, you misinterpreted the Buddhist teachings and had a distorted view of Buddhist practice centres, and committed verbal misdeeds by spreading untrue information about Guan Yin Citta. As you were on the executive committee of a Taoist temple, you performed many benevolent deeds and accumulated virtuous acts. You cared for your parents; you were diligent in your work, and you enjoyed helping others. Even I admire your exemplary behaviour! But why must you bad-mouth your relative who was practising Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door, and why must you criticise Buddhism? The relationship between you and your relative was somewhat distant, and she had no intention of getting you to practise Guan Yin Citta. She only acted in accordance with her karmic conditions and followed Master Jun Hong Lu to practise Buddhism and observe the Buddhist precepts. She engaged in self-cultivation at home, sharing Buddhism with others and helping them to become spiritually awakened. Your enlightened Taoist Master in Heaven knew that you, as an ordinary person, didn’t understand the truth and essence of the Buddha-Dharma or the real conditions of sentient beings in the Dharma Realm. Nor did you understand the law of karma and the law of the Underworld. He gave you several warnings in your dreams about the karmic retribution of the verbal misdeeds you committed before you died. Unfortunately, as an ordinary human being, you were unable to recall a single thing he said in your dreams after you woke up. Did you know how helpless he felt?

“The teachings of every religious tradition or practice are founded on benevolence. But all of you mortals are really…,” the King of Hell sighed before continuing.

“Although I sympathise with you because you committed these offences out of ignorance, you must understand that one reaps what they have sown.

“Now, in my hand I have a scroll written by your enlightened Master in Heaven, pleading for you. It documents all your benevolent and meritorious deeds. These merits and virtues will be used to pardon you from the punishment in Hell – you are freed. Later, you will be taken to be reborn in accordance with your own karma. I sympathise with your wife, who is now a widow and must take care of your children alone. I will write an official letter asking the Heavenly officers who visit the Underworld each month to tell your enlightened Master to show compassion for your family in the Human Realm, and have someone provide aid to them. Anyway, you may leave now. There is no need to thank me; rather, you should thank your enlightened Taoist Master. It is also due to the positive karma you created for yourself.”

As the King of Hell finished speaking, the enforcement officers took the offender away while I was whisked off to the human world amid rays of golden light.

Master Jun Hong Lu’s reply:

It’s pitiful. You only realise it when you’re down there. It’s authentic. A lot of people are pretentious in their cultivation, and that’s pitiful. They make all this effort to pretend that they’re diligent in practice, but it’s meaningless because it’s all witnessed by Heaven and the Underworld. We must cultivate sincerely. Taoists who talk badly about Buddhism will be dragged down to the Underworld. Let me remind you again that while you may cultivate in your own way, you mustn’t criticise and talk badly about others. In our Code of Conduct for Disciples, there is a rule that one should refrain from criticising other religions or practices. You should only focus on your own cultivation. That person had practised Taoism very well, yet he was still dragged down there and treated as an offender. He would’ve ascended to the Heavenly Realm but now he has been reborn as a human. We must not speak irresponsibly.

Journey to Heaven v1.C8: Watching the Trials of Offenders Who Illicitly Collected Money and Defamed Buddhism Out of Ignorance