|CONTENTS | INVOCATION | INTRODUCTION | PROLOGUE | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21|
CHAPTER 6, LIFE BEYOND DEATH IN THE SPIRITUAL WORLD
The world's religions testify to the existence of a host of spiritual beings, occupying the various realms in the spiritual world. The good and beneficent spiritual beings are for Christians the angels and departed saints, for Mahayana Buddhists the great Bodhisattvas, and for Shintoists the Kami. Indian religions speak of devas and devis, the Thirty-three, gandharvas or celestial musicians, and diverse other classes of spiritual beings. Chinese religion has among its ranks of gods the Yellow Emperor, the Jade Emperor, Lord Scripture Glory (Wen Chang), and countless personal spirits such as the spirit of the hearth. In Native American religions the spiritual benefactors are forces active in the natural world: viz., the Thunders, Mother Corn, sacred Stones, the Winds, Eagle, Sun, and Moon.
In the monotheistic religions, and in religions with an impersonal and utterly transcendent conception of Absolute Reality, these spiritual benefactors, no matter how exalted, are regarded as subordinate to Ultimate Reality. Yet since the Ultimate Reality is often inaccessible to humans, the higher spiritual beings are frequently revered as intermediaries. Gabriel, an angel, is the intermediary of divine revelation in Islam and the Latter-day Saints. For Buddhists, Bodhisattvas personify aspects of Ultimate Reality in ways that can be more easily apprehended by human beings who are too dull to grasp the perfect wisdom of Emptiness. In the primal religions, in Shinto, and in Taoism the spirits of nature, the heavenly beings, and the most prominent ancestors constitute the fellowship of spiritual beings that together cause the movements of heaven and earth.
These spiritual beings have power. In many traditions the gods, goddesses, and benevolent spirits of nature dispense blessings to the human world and keep their devotees from harm. Therefore, it is requisite in many traditions that they be worshipped and supplied with offerings. We also include traditions about making offerings for ancestors and relatives who have passed on. These offerings ease their way into the next world and give them additional spiritual merit.
1. Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.63.2
2. Buddhism. Gandavyuha Sutra
3. Taoism. Tract of the Quiet Way
"All achievements certainly accrue to him who performs your worship with flowers, sandal paste, scents, auspicious food offerings, waving of lights, betel leaves, charitable gifts, circumambulations, and obeisance. All kinds of obstacles will certainly perish."
Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu declared in unison, "O great gods, just as we three are worshipped in all the three worlds, so also Ganesha shall be worshipped by all of you. He is the remover of all obstacles and the bestower of the fruits of all rites."
4. Hinduism. Shiva Purana, Rudrasamhita 18
5. Christianity. Bible, Hebrews 1.14
6. Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon, 5-1-81
7. Islam. Qur'an 41.30-31
8. Judaism. Midrash, Tanhuma Numbers 19
And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said, "These I will make my rulers"; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said to me, "Abraham, you are one of them; you were chosen before you were born."
And there stood one among them who was like unto God [Jesus Christ], and he said to those who were with him, "We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth on which these may dwell;
"And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things that the Lord their God shall command them...."
And the Lord said, "Let us go down." And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the gods, formed the heavens and the earth.
9. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3.22-4.1
Oh, I am the great mountain god.
10. Korean Shamanism. Invocation of the Mountain Spirit
11. Native American Religions Sioux Tradition
"Ordinary men are unable to recognize them. Yet the wind tells us that they are there."
"I see them only at night, when I close my eyes."
"One can see them only then."
"Their paths become luminous for me. I am sleeping; they approach and summon me to answer them. They suddenly wake me by shaking my arm or pulling on my ankle."
"Those who are not truly shamans do not hear them. He who is really a shaman hears a kind of buzzing, 'bouu...' during his sleep, and this song echoes, rebounding off the celestial vault. He opens his eyes and says to himself, 'I am going to see them now!' The parrotlets sing, 'bre, bre, bre...,' he knows that it is they. A cool breeze then glides along his legs..."
"I saw the hekura walk on a rotten branch; I was passing right underneath."
"Indeed, it was they; but they were not friendly toward you. The strong odors of the smoking grill, the smell of singed hair, of scorched meat near the fire, all this drives them off. Yet they did seem inclined to approach you."
"They give off a heady perfume; it comes from the dyes and the magic plants they carry with them. Suddenly, I stopped smelling these aromas, my nostrils no longer perceived them."
"Therefore when one is at the end of the initiation, it is advisable not to hunt. If a flock of toucans takes flight and one of them lands near you, then all the others immediately follow suit. Be sure not to frighten them: stare at them fixedly and continue on your way; you be sure that they are hekura. Of course, there are those you drove away during the hunt; but don't be overly concerned, I foresee that those were not the good ones. The others remain, who came into your breast while you were lying in your hammock. Those are truly yours, they are in you."
12. Native American Religions. Yanomami Shaman's Instruction (Brazil)
13. Shinto. Nihon Shoki 3
14. Baha'i Faith. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah 81
15. African Traditional Religions. Proverb
16. African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
17. Shinto. Nihon Shoki 22
To all the devas dwelling there let him make offerings.
As a mother gives compassion to the child she has borne,
18. Buddhism. Digha Nikaya ii.88
Chukwu, come and drink and eat the kola nut.
Ancestors, come and drink and eat kola nut.
I was told by a man of Ngbwidi, one named Ehirim, that a man of Agunese had stolen his yams; and so I summoned the priests of Ala and Aro holders and elders in order that we might inquire into the matter. I called them, even as my father, who was priest of Njoku before me, used to do.
If any of these men, who have come to try the case, deal falsely in the matter, or if the accuser or accused or any person called to give evidence tells falsehood, then do you, Ala, Chukwu, Njoku, Ancestors, and Ofo, deal with that man.
19. African Traditional Religions. Igbo Invocation at a Trial (Nigeria)
"Hearken Earthmaker, our father, I am about to offer you a handful of tobacco. My ancestor so-and-so concentrated his mind upon you. The fire- places with which you blessed him, the small amount of life you granted to him, all, four times the blessings that you bestowed upon my ancestor, I ask of you directly. May I have no troubles in life.
"Chief of the Thunderbirds, who lives in the west, you strengthened my grandfather. I am about to offer you a handful of tobacco. The food, the pair of deer you gave him for his fireplaces, that I ask of you directly. May you accept this tobacco from me and may I not meet with troubles.
"Great Black Hawk, you also blessed my grandfather. I am about to offer you tobacco. Whatever food you blessed him with that I ask you directly. May I not meet with troubles.
"You [night spirits] on the other side, who live in the east, who walk in darkness, I am about to offer you tobacco to smoke. Whatever you blessed my ancestor with, I ask of you. If you smoke this tobacco I will never be a weakling.
"Disease-giver, you who live in the south; you who look like a man; who art invulnerable; who on one side of your body present death and on the other life, you blessed my ancestor in the daytime, in broad daylight. You blessed him with food and told him that he would never fail in anything. You promised to avoid his home. You placed animals before him that he might easily obtain food. I offer you tobacco that you may smoke it, and that I may not be troubled by anything.
"To you, Sun, Light-wanderer, I make an offering of tobacco....
"To you, Grandmother Moon, who blessed my grandfather with food, I am about to make an offering of tobacco....
"To you, too, South Wind, I offer a handful of tobacco....
"For you, Grandmother Earth, I will also pour tobacco....
"To you, Pair of Eagles, to whom my ancestor prayed, I offer tobacco....
"Hearken, all ye spirits to whom my ancestor prayed; to all of you I offer tobacco. My ancestor gave a feast to all those who had blessed him. Bestow upon us once again all the blessings you gave our ancestor, that we may not become weaklings. I greet you all."
20. Native American Religion. Winnebago Invocation at the Sweat Lodge
Wherefore do those who have pity on their kin make offerings due, of choice food and drink at seasonable times, saying, "Be this a gift to kinsmen, may our kinsmen be well pleased with it!" Then do those earth-bound [ghosts], kinsmen, gather there where a plenteous meal is spread of food and drink, and fail not to render thanks, saying, "Long live our kinsmen, thanks to whom we have this gift! To us this offering is made; not without fruit are they who give!"
For [in ghostland] no cattle-keeping, no ploughing of fields is seen. There is no trading there, as on earth, no trafficking with gold. We ghosts that have departed there exist on what is given here. Even as water gathered on high ground flows down into the marsh, so are offerings given here on earth of service to the ghosts....
Of a truth, wailing and grief and all manner of lamentation avail not anything. It helps not the ghosts that kinsmen stand lamenting thus.
Moreover, [if] this gift of charity is bestowed on the Order, it is bound to be of service [to the ghosts] for a long, long time.
Thus this duty done to kinsmen has been declared: unto the ghosts it is no mean offering of worship; unto the Brethren of the Order it is strength conferred; unto yourselves no small merit has been won.
21. Buddhism. Khuddaka Patha, Tirokudda-sutta
It was the second month of the year when the pear blossoms on the grounds were very pretty, that a party of young students was passing by and admired the flowers. One of them lifted the curtain that was hung before the image of the goddess and exclaimed, "How lovely she is! If she were alive I would make her my mistress!"
His friends were shocked, but he laughed at their scruples, saying that spirits and gods have no reality; that it is well enough for the people to believe in and fear them, because such superstition made them more amenable. He then composed a libelous poem and wrote it on the wall, but his friends did not say anything more, knowing the uselessness of their advice.
After this they all went to the examination hall, and stayed in the Wen Chang Dormitory. One evening the Lord Scripture Glory (Wen Chang) appeared to them in a dream, and they were greatly afraid to be in the presence of his august majesty. He had a roll on his table and declared to them, "As you know well, any student who is guilty of trifling with women is excluded from the list. Even a plain, ordinary woman should be respected by you; how much more this is true of a holy goddess, you all must know. According to a report I have received it seems there is one of your number who has insulted the goddess of Ch'ing Ch'i." Having ascertained the name of the offender, the Lord canceled it from the list, adding that this was done because the man was guilty of wronging a woman.
When the students met the following morning, they learned that each had the same dream during the night. Yet the offender himself was obdurate and said, "What has the Lord of Literature to do with such trifles? What harm can an image of clay do to me?"
He entered the examination cell, and having written down his seven essays with unusual vigor and brilliancy, felt assured of his final success. But when the night was far advanced, there appeared before him the goddess of water with her attendants. She censured him for both his grave offense and impertinence, and then ordered her maids to strike him with their sticks until the student lost his mind and destroyed all of his papers. When he was carried out of the cell in the morning, he was unconscious, and soon died.
22. Taoism. Treatise on Response and Retribution, Appended Tales