Boleh Tahan ~ WHAT CRAP!
DURING WORLD WAR II,
my father made a number of good friends in the Army.
He also told me of the dastardly things that some
soldiers used to do. One of them stuck in my mind
until now; it’s shocking that anyone would even
think of this: Secretly, someone inserted razor blades
into the soap bars in the bathrooms; it was only while
washing and getting cut that the blades were discovered.
My father and some of his friends mounted a watch
to try to catch the culprit(s), but didn’t succeed.
And this was during a war! What patriotism! With people
like that on your side, who needs enemies?!
It is not surprising to find that, after
over 2,500 years, Buddhism—like other religions—is
beset by superstition, but this doesn’t mean
we should just shrug complacently and accept it lying
down, as if there is nothing we can do about it.
After His Enlightenment, out of compassion
for others, the Buddha set out to counteract ignorance
and superstition, which He saw as the root cause of
most of humanity’s sufferings. He knew that
this is not something fixed and immutable, and that
man may rise above it and become free or enlightened.
This was why He left the peace and tranquillity of
the forest and went back to the world; what He had
found was not for Himself alone.
Originally, the Buddha’s Way was one
of Understanding, but today’s Buddhism has often
little to do with that, and has devolved into a system
of Belief; as such, it is little different than other
belief systems. The Buddha tried to show the Way to
others, to help them become enlightened. But even
with His great wisdom and ability to teach people
according to their levels, He couldn’t make
anyone understand. It is like the old saying: “You
can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it
drink”. He was a Way-pointer, not a Savior,
and told, quite clearly, “within yourselves
deliverance must be sought; each man his prison makes”.
I rejected Christianity, and because I saw something
of Dharma, am not about to bedrape myself with the
chains of another belief system.
Few people—in any age, it seems—can
understand and accept such clear and simple teachings;
most are weak minded, lazy and want someone to do
it for them. Slowly, so as not to lose such people
to other ways, the teachings were modified to accommodate
them, and as a result they became diluted and unclear.
People began to think of the Buddha as a God—or
at least a cosmic Savior—who would answer prayers,
bestow blessings, save them from danger, sickness
and death, etc.; they began to look upon Him as more
divine than human. His Teachings about finding salvation
within were ignored as people looked to Him for help,
which was something He never taught.
These days, there are spurious ‘sutras’
in circulation, encouraging and strengthening superstition
and ignorance, playing upon fear, pandering to greed.
One of the most common of them is called The Cause-and-Effect
Sutra— otherwise known as The Karma Sutra —running
into many editions; people keep reprinting it, thinking
to gain merit thereby. If we keep quiet about such
‘sutras’ and false teachings, we thereby
give them our tacit consent and support. We must speak
out, and this is the purpose of this article, regardless
of whom I might upset thereby. The propagators of
such anti-Buddhist teachings have their die-hard supporters
who are unlikely to change their ideas soon.
Recently (Nov.1997), I came upon a booklet
(in English and Chinese) in Malaysia entitled More
Vicious than AIDS: The New PNEUMONIA. It was transcribed
from a talk by a famous monk in Los Angeles in 1992;
he has since died. It is not necessary to mention
his name here.
This monk was famous for making grandiose
and unfounded claims about his psychic powers (something
monks are forbidden to do); he also had a tremendous
sense of self-importance, which is reprehensible in
a monk. While in Hong Kong many years ago, he stated
that as long as he was there, there would be no big
typhoon. Later, he established a large center in California,
and made an equally unfounded claim: “As long
as I’m here, there will be no big earthquake”.
Why did he say such things? What have such claims
got to do with the propagation of the Buddha’s
teachings, which have the effect of reducing pride
and egoism rather than increasing it?
I will quote from this ‘doomsday booklet’
about ‘The New Pneumonia’, which is before
me now as I write. The spelling mistakes and grammatical
errors I will leave exactly as they appear in the
book; they are not mine.
“Now we have come to the Dharma Ending
Age. What is ‘Dharma Ending’? It means
the Dharma is about to fade away and trail off. Few
people have real faith in Buddha, and the Buddhists
are slandering the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
How can this be called believing in Buddha? Believing
in demons, they come to destroy the Buddhadharma”.
It continues: “And so all kinds of
evil phenomena appear in this world, be they natural
disasters, man-made calamities, or the spread of epidemics.
Natural disasters include swarms of locusts, droughts,
and floods. Man-made calamities include plane crashes,
derailed trains, and car collision, all happening
without any apparent reason, and resulting in a multitude
of human crises. Then there are earthquakes which
have been occurring everywhere, frightening people.
“But people only know how to become
scared when the catastrophes occur. They don’t
know to look for the root of it. Natural disasters
do not belong to Nature. Nature has no disasters.
It is the human species which suffers disasters. Man-made
disasters are disaster which we bring upon ourselves.
Earthquakes occur because people are fond of war,
have big tempers, and kill countless people. “Do
you want to die? Fine, we can all die together!”
and so the earth quakes. These are all various kinds
of evil phenomena. We people! Why do we fail to investigate
and find out where the roots are at? Let me tell you,
that these natural disasters, man-made calamities,
and earthquakes, all the various accidents of planes
crashing, train derailing, ships sinking, and cars
colliding, are all created by the minds of people.
People’s minds are not as they used to be, and
virtue and morality have deteriorated, and so these
unusual phenomena have appeared”.
It is embarrassing than anyone can spout
such unabashed nonsense today, let alone a Buddhist
monk! It is no better than the fundamentalist Christian
belief that God created the universe only 6,000 years
ago, or such preposterous claims made by the charlatan
Ching Hai that whoever recites Homage to Ching Hai,
the Supreme Master will be saved and liberated!
Although he uses two terms on page 10—Dharma
and Buddha-Dharma—he uses them interchangeably
and seems unaware of the distinction, and there is
a distinction, a big one. The Buddha did not invent
Dharma, but only discovered it. Dharma has no beginning
and no end; it does not come and does not go. What
ends, because it did have a beginning, is Buddha-Dharma,
the Teachings of the Buddha, whereby He tried to help
others realize the Dharma for themselves. So there
is no such thing as ‘Dharma-Ending Age’.
He talks about “believing in Buddha”.
The Buddha did not call people to believe in Him or
follow Him, but to examine what He taught and find
out for themselves. Buddhism is not a way of Belief
like other religions, but a way of direct and personal
experience, for which there is no substitute. So there
is no question of ‘believing or not believing
the Buddha’. We must strive to know!
He goes on about “evil phenomena”
like “natural disasters, man-made calamities,
or the spread of epidemics”, attributing them
to human activities. After talking of natural disasters,
he says that nature has no disasters, and that “earth-quakes
occur because people are fond of war”, etc.
Well, I don’t know where or if he went to school,
but it doesn’t say much for his teachers, or
for his realization as a meditator (perhaps this is
a classic case of how meditation may easily become
maditation!) Earthquakes occur because of tremendous
pressure beneath the earth’s surface, causing
the tectonic plates of the crust to shift and move
against each other; it has nothing to do with man’s
activities. Does he think there were no earthquakes
before humans appeared on this Earth?
On page 16, he increases the tempo of his
fear mongering and expresses his homophobia:
“The most frightening thing in the
human world now is homosexuality. Homosexuality is
a practice which opposes the life principle of the
universe, which goes against the creative energies
of Yin and Yang, and which violates the laws of the
“This kind of behavior will cause
the country to perish and the human race to become
extinct. If the country perishes, then it’s
no longer a country, and the human race is also cut
off. Although homosexuals are so infatuated with one
another, they cannot reproduce, so the seeds of the
human race will be lost. To plant corn, corn seeds
are required. To plant melons, melon seeds are needed.
To plant beans, bean seeds are needed. Not only do
corn and beans have seeds, everything has seeds. Humans
also have human seeds. If the human seeds are destroyed,
then humans will all perish, and humanity will come
to an end”.
Without appearing to condone homosexuality,
I must protest his fear that the whole population
of a country or countries will become homosexual and
thus cease to procreate; it is simply inconceivable.
There have always been homosexuals, but they formed—and
still do—only a tiny minority. We are more aware
of homosexuality now because it is out in the open
to a degree unknown before. That the human race is
in no danger of extinction through homosexuality is
clearly shown by the ongoing population explosion.
Maybe he would like witch hunting reintroduced?—”Burn
the damn gays!”
On page 20, he goes on: “The practice
of homosexuality has produced AIDS. Some say AIDS
originated in Africa, but Africa is not the source
of AIDS. The source of AIDS is homosexuality. When
homosexuals catch this disease, they have no medicine
to treat it, and no way to cure it. The doctors all
have their hands tied, with no strategy for dealing
He clearly didn’t know that heterosexuals
are susceptible to AIDS as well as homosexuals; no
one is immune; the virus doesn’t discriminate
on the basis of sexual preference. And though it is
claimed that it cannot be transmitted by mosquito
bites as is dengue or malaria, I wonder; if it can
be transmitted by shared hypodermic needles, why not
by the shared proboscis of a mosquito, which is very
similar to a syringe?
More: “What kind of disease is AIDS?
It’s an epidemic which cannot be cured by any
medicine. There are still people studying AIDS right
now, trying to find a way to cure it Alas! This is
called knowing something cannot be done, yet insisting
on doing it anyway. Attempting to cure it by force,
they not only fail to cure AIDS, but what happened
is that from AIDS came another “AIDS”,
which is pneumonia”.
What makes him such an authority on AIDS?
If a cure for AIDS has not yet been found it doesn’t
mean it won’t be. Does he suggest we give up
the search for a cure, and accept it as ‘fate’?
If everyone in the past had had his mentality, no
one would have done any research, and found cures
for the numerous diseases that have been brought under
control. Such thinking is quite unBuddhistic!
“This pneumonia is even more vicious
than AIDS, once you catch it. This illness can be
transmitted through the mere shaking of hands. If
the sick person merely opens his mouth to speak, he
can pass the disease to you. Not only ordinary people
have no way to treat this disease; even among the
doctors and nurses, in the last year alone in the
US, nearly 20,000 have died from the new variety of
pneumonia. There’s no way to avoid it—even
facemasks don’t work. When there is body contact,
the infection is transmitted. It can even be passed
through the air”.
Well, just because I’ve not heard
of his ‘new pneumonia’, it doesn’t
mean there is no such thing, of course, but if it
is as widespread as he claims, how come no-one else
I know—including doctors—has heard of
it? Surely, it would be front page news, and wouldn’t
take five years for everyone to know of it. Where
has he got this disease from? From where are his statistics?
“This kind of illness is more devastating
than the atomic bomb. It’s more devastating
than the hydrogen bomb. That’s why this is a
catastrophe of epidemic proportions. Now that this
epidemic has struck, not only do men have this disease,
a great number of women have also been infected. And
not only do women have it, even babies are getting
born with this kind of pneumonia and with AIDS. Just
look! How terrifying this is!
“Throughout the world now, if we count
it up, we find that the number of people with AIDS
and this pneumonia is not small, for some are infected
with the germs of pneumonia while still in the womb.
That’s why all over the world, the final days
of the human race have arrived. The so-called final
days means that all will be annihilated, all will
I can imagine this prophet of doom on the
streets of San Francisco or L. A. with a sandwich
board around his neck bearing the words: “Repent!
The end of the world is nigh!”
“Among the human population in the
entire world, more than half are infected with the
germs of this disease, so when this disease breaks
out, it will be like an overwhelming deluge which
cannot be stopped by anyone.
“So what should the human race do
when it encounters this kind of calamity? We should
recite the Great Compassion Mantra with the utmost
sincerity and earnestness. The Buddha said that the
Great Compassion Mantra can cure the eighty four thousand
illnesses of the world. All the eighty four thousand
kinds of diseases are covered, including AIDS and
We’ve all heard of magic wands, but
only in fairy tales. Does he wish Buddhism to become
a laughing stock with such teachings? How do we know
what the Buddha said? A thing is not true just because
it is written in books; we should not be so naïve
as to believe that! Buddhism was—and still should
be, still could be—based upon reason and common
sense, instead of upon such superstition and hocus-pocus.
“We should bring forth a mind of utmost
sincerity, and be as earnest as when we are eating,
as earnest as when we are dressing, and as dedicated
as we are to sleeping, so much so that we cannot miss
any sleep. We have to merge the Great Compassion Mantra
into our daily activities, so that it becomes an integral
part of our everyday life. If we can do this, then
AIDS will be afraid and pneumonia will also be afraid.
But this requires our utmost sincerity”.
Can we imagine the viruses quaking in terror
at the sound of this mantra? He has personified the
AIDS virus and endowed it with consciousness. In the
13th century, when The Black Death (Bubonic Plague)
swept through Europe, wiping out about one third of
the population, such was the ignorance and superstition
of the people that they attributed it to demons or
witches; they had no idea at all about hygiene or
sanitation, and because the microscope was not invented
until several centuries later, they knew nothing about
germs, viruses, bacteria, etc. Nor did they know that
the plague was spread by rat-fleas. So, most of the
cats having been killed—together with everyone
suspected of being a witch (in their simple minds,
witches and cats were always associated)—the
rats multiplied uncontrollably and consequently the
fleas, too. Terrified, the people flocked to the churches
to pray for deliverance, but in such close proximity
to each other’s sweaty and smelly bodies, the
fleas had a ball.
“Over half of the human population
in the world is going to perish, and those who will
be left will be people who cultivate the Way, who
cultivate truly, those who recite the Buddha’s
name, those who recite sutras, those who are vegetarian—these
people will be able to remain”.
Only half will perish? We’re all going
to perish, but not because of his ‘new pneumonia’;
we are going to die because we’ve been born.
“I am not saying this to terrify you.
It’s just that the time has come when I can
no longer refrain from shouting and crying out, to
tell all of you that this current age is not a time
of peace. It is very dangerous, and each morning we
have no guarantee that we will see the evening, for
the danger can come at any moment”.
So, what else is new? When has life ever
been any different? It is not just at this time that
life is insecure, but all the time; such is the nature
I’ve written at length about this
baseless book as there are so many gullible people
who would accept whatever this monk says just because
he was so well known. Well, I don’t care who
he was or how well known; what he said in this book
(unfortunately, it is not his first and only book
containing such gross superstition and false Dharma;
there are others), is still a lot of b. s. Although
he claimed to represent “orthodox Buddhism”
and strongly hinted that he was enlightened himself,
the author of the above book is responsible for the
decline of Buddhism, and we can quite understand people
rejecting Buddhism on the basis of his garbled ideas,
which are diametrically opposite to the rational way
of the Buddha.
I do not want people to believe me, any
more than I want them to believe him; in fact, I don’t
want people to believe any-one, but to use their intelligence,
and think for themselves; if they did, they wouldn’t
be cheated or exploited so much, and religion would
not be the mass of superstition it has become.
Another very active and vocal charlatan,
is self-styled Living Buddha Lian-sheng (meaning ‘Lotus-born’:
Padma-sambhava), a.k.a. Grand Master Lu, who, it goes
without saying, claims to be Perfectly Enlightened.
From where is this ‘Grand Master’ title?
It sounds like the Ku Klux Klan’s ‘Grand
Wizard’! Next he’ll be styling himself
Chief High Priest of the United States and Canada!
In 1996, he was granted an interview with
the Dalai Lama, who “favorably received Grand
Master Lu and the information he offered .... about
the True Buddha School and of the Grand Master’s
personal achievements in knowledge and cultivation”;
he also told the Dalai Lama about his “thirty
temples and 300 Buddhist chapters, and the over four
million disciples from around the world”. (Quotes
from an article by one of his four million disciples).
His audacity and arrogance is amazing, and he is now
using this interview to extol and elevate himself
even further. I will quote now from his Spring ‘97
Purple Lotus Journal:
“I met with the Dalai Lama and conversed
with him for thirty minutes. The Dharma Protectors
had told me ahead of time what I would run into, but
I was not afraid. While there, the Dalai Lama asked
me many questions which I answered. When it was my
turn to ask him questions, he stood up. [laughter
“The Dalai Lama kept asking me questions,
one after another, and I kept answering them. He asked
some pretty tough questions, relating to Tantric practice.
The questions might have rendered another person mute,
but my answers elicited only nods from him. So he
kept asking and I kept answering, until finally it
was my turn to ask him and for him to be stumped,
and he stood up. [audience laughter and applause].
“I was going to ask him two questions
........... but he knew he probably could not answer
them, so he quickly stood up. Well, I let that go.
Those are difficult questions because only direct
experience could have provided one with the answers”.
He might have 4,000,000 disciples—probably
has some psychic power, too—but that no more
impresses me than his arrogance. It is just another
example of how stupid people can be. And being highly
educated in a particular area doesn’t alter
this, either; it doesn’t mean that one is wise,
or even intelligent; there are many highly educated
fools in the world.
Now, before I end this, to show that the
above is not an isolated instance of such blatant
superstition being presented as Dharma, I will tell
briefly of several other cases of the same thing,
one of which has gone on for many years, and the others
that I came across recently; it won’t take long.
There is a Thai temple in Penang with a
huge image of the Buddha in a reclining position.
Not only local Buddhists frequent this temple; it
is also visited by many foreign tourists. I once counted
no less than forty donation boxes in the hall housing
the main image! There are many smaller images of the
Buddha, each with a donation box in front of it, bearing
messages like: “If you pray to this Buddha,
you will be happy”, “If you pray to this
Buddha, you will be wise”; “If you pray
to this Buddha, God will bless you”; “If
you pray to this Buddha, you will be lucky”,
and so on.
Now, gullible people—and unfortunately,
there is no shortage of them in the world—desirous
of all these ‘benefits’, will put money
in each box, which is just what the temple authorities
want. But what impression will foreign visitors and
others get from such a temple, when they otherwise
might be quite sympathetic towards Buddhism? They
could be excused for thinking: “Well, if that’s
Buddhism, I want nothing of it!”, could they
not? I would, if I didn’t know better.
The first of the other cases is from the
notice board of a Buddhist Society and is a way of
raising funds for their new building. It was headed:
“Some Benefits of Donating a Buddha Image”
beneath which was a list, thus:
health and longevity.
prosperity and good affinity.
in Pure Land.
of wise and dutiful children.
and harmonious family.
accumulation of wealth.
Now, what has donating a Buddha image—or,
rather, a sum of money (and also not a small sum)
for a Buddha tile to be stuck on the wall, with the
donor’s name beneath—got to do with all
these things? What is the connection? Are such things
for sale? Can they be bought? If people think so,
how will they feel when they fail to materialize?
Are they not inviting disappointment? Everyone knows
that funds must be raised for building temples, but
to do it in this way is contrary to the purpose of
a temple and only leads to the increase of ignorance
and superstition instead. A Buddha image symbolizes
enlightenment, not superstition. In my opinion, it’s
better not to have a temple if it’s going to
be the cause of that!
The second case I came across on the notice
board of another Buddhist Society where I have stayed
several times and also concerned mantras. It was written
by a Tibetan ‘Rinpoche’. It stated that
by reciting a certain mantra, and then spitting on
the soles of one’s feet, any insects or tiny
creatures that one might accidentally tread on thereafter
would immediately be reborn as devas in heaven! So
easy to go to heaven now, is it? Come on!
Then, there are stories that people hear
and repeat like the following: In ancient China, damp
scripture books would sometimes be laid out in the
sun to dry. A cow once happened to sniff at such books,
and consequently, was reborn as a human, became a
government official, and later even became enlightened.
All this because of sniffing at books laid out to
dry!? Why should we go to such lengths to discipline
ourselves when we may become enlightened merely by
Another such ridiculous story I heard from
a Tibetan Lama during a meditation course he conducted
in Nepal many years ago: There was once a fly that
flew from pile to pile of dung around the Great Stupa
at Bodnath, and because of this it became enlightened!
I recently heard a variation on this theme told by
a Lama in Malacca, only it was a pig instead of a
fly going around the Stupa! Do these Lamas really
believe such things themselves, or do they take us
for complete idiots, thinking that they can foist
off any old crap on us?
A recent letter from someone in Australia
told me that a big new temple outside Sydney is persuading
people to part with their hard earned cash by offering
what they call a ‘Long life Candle/Lamp’
to the image of Kwan Yin, costing up to or even more
than A$2,500, depending upon its proximity to the
image, the implication being that the closer to the
image one’s candle/lamp is placed, the more
blessings one will get and the longer one will live.
So, an image—of wood or stone!—is able
to lengthen one’s life, when even the best doctors
are unable to do so, eh? What is this but idolatry?
How foolish can we be to believe such things!
Conclusion: There will always be ignorance
and superstition in the world, and people to cheat,
deceive and exploit the unwary, too. Is there anything
we can do about it? Of course there is; lots! We cannot
prevent it, but what we can do is try to understand
things clearer and overcome ignorance ourselves, and
help others to do so, too. Begin by not allowing all
this to go unchallenged. Speak out and expose it—even
if you risk becoming unpopular as a result—because
if you do not, you are thereby giving it your approval
and prolonging it.
1This must be distinguished from the Kama Sutra, which
is a Hindu work on the art of sensual Love.