Thursday, 17 February 2011

Liao Fan's Four Lessons - Changing Destiny

Today is the 15th day of the Chinese New Year. I walked into a Thai temple today, with a very large reclining Buddha. This is not a new place for me - my family has prayed at this temple since I was a baby. Nonetheless, to visit was a relatively rare occasion. Usually, it is crowded during Wesak Day, when people queue to bathe a statue of the baby Buddha.

I did my prayers, but in my thoughts I was deeply engrossed with the subject of changing karma. So many people suffer, and even though I help where I can, I still felt a lingering sense of dissatisfaction about both personal and global karma. Not that I am displeased with the universe. Far from it, I have been given so many gifts that I really cannot complain. I know that if we sit in emptiness, we can still transcend all this. When I am behaving myself and doing my practice properly, this is indeed my experience. But I do not pretend to be perfect.

The repressed kiddie mind in me who never got the chance to collect enough baseball cards was hunting for relics, pendants and other stuff to collect. Spiritual materialism, Chogyam Trungpa called it, and I agree. Nonetheless, I sat before the Buddha statue and meditated. This is when I had the intuition that I was to go to the pile of books that are left there by devotees for devotees, and to select one carefully. I have done this before, but today seemed especially significant. So the relic hunt got replaced by a book hunt.

I selected the Diamond and Heart Sutra. This sutra is very special to me. However, in rooting through the books, I came across a rather strange looking volume called Changing Destiny. Usually unimpressed by modern interpretations of universal truths, I browsed it. My attention was caught pretty quickly. As it turns out, this book is hundreds of years old. I knew it was for me because it was a Buddhist book that was discussing the I Ching and the states of mind when drawing Taoist talismans. It describes methods of changing destiny, essentially Mahayana tactics (do good, get good) with a bit more of a Theravada motivation (I'm doing good to take care of me). At least this is what it looked like at first - later in the book it becomes more purely Mahayana in motivation. Interestingly, Liao Fan himself describes how he was given a mantra to practice - a Zhuen Ti mantra. As it happens, my own master had given me this mantra as well, and I had forgotten how powerful it is for the purification of karma.

More importantly, however, the manual describes how Liao Fan's life had been predicted to the last t (literally to the day and hour of his death) and how his life had been following that track. He eventually accepted his destiny, but was unable to change it. This book describes his discoveries AFTER he realised that it could be changed, and how to change it. It is an extremely readable text and although a touch long, I recommend it strongly. We need texts like these which are more accessible.

Here's a copy:

The commentary is by the Pure Land school of Buddhism. That would be the group that goes around chanting "Namo Amitabha". Nothing wrong with that, and surprisingly their understandings have aspects of Zen and Dzogchen in it as well.

If you're really interested in how I think destiny can be changed, then this book points more directly to the source, which is the emptiness of mind. It gives guidance on how to make requests of deities, how to accumulate merit, how to relate to sutras etc. In short, it's a book I heartily recommend.

P/S: I ended up taking the Heart Sutra home, because I felt it reflected everything. If this book was meant for me it would turn up. It turned up faster than I thought - I did not imagine that a digital version would be available.

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