In my previous post I told a story about Lee and his family and the day they spent $3300 out of fear that the passing of his grandfather would in turn have his ghost haunt them or bring evil upon them. Lee, the college student who was heading up the hostel where I stayed a couple weeks ago, unfolded that story to me after he invited me to sit down for tea after my morning run.
There's no easy way for us to see our loved ones pass away from this earth, even with the promise of eternal life. But without that hope, Lee told me about his father and aunt who paid a Buddhist lama 20,000 RMB (3300 USD) to perform ceremonial blessings that would assure them that the spirit of their father (Lee's grandfather) would depart in peace and bring blessing upon them. If you're like me, there's a wide chasm to bridge between the concern for a loved one to die in peace compared to being in a place where I'd hand over that much cash in one afternoon for something that, as even Lee shared, the lama couldn't promise. But, therein is the place where over a billion people live in bondage--the middle realm between the physical/scientific realm and the afterlife/heavenly realm. This middle realm is where ghosts and spirits affect our everyday lives, and not storing up good karma, as Buddhists would say, or having a favorable reincarnation is where evil and unfortunate events visit the surviving family members.
Lee shared that he personally didn't believe the lamas because of their preoccupation with money and telling lies. But, yet he said he'd continue to follow the gods of his religion, yet, for they, in contrast I have to assume he meant, didn't lie. The Western mind has a long ways to travel before it could shell out even 1% of that figure to some local religious leader for some assurance and confidence that the passing of a loved one would be directly influenced by that leader's attendance and prayers. And if you've done even a cursory reading of Scriptures, it's plain to see that Jesus detested such sordid gain as when pastors or teachers demand money for the gospel. But, not so in Buddhism. The tradition goes deep and spans centuries where the lama is always called in and consulted for everyday life decisions, let alone something as weighty as where the spirit of a deceased family member will go, and more money than I estimated changes hands.
As we sipped glass after glass of local Pu'er tea, time slowed down and I let go of my desire to just get a bottle of cold water. Thus, I took the rest of my time that afternoon to share a few stories about Jesus, this man who lived in Israel 2000 years ago, that he'd heard little of.
I began with the thief on the cross, a picture of the grace and mercy of Christ showered upon one who'd done no 'good' in his earthly life. Then I moved to Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers and salesmen in the temple, His outrage turned upon those who'd turned His Father's house of prayer into a den of robbers. Lastly, I shared with him that there was an offer--a promise--from Christ that if anyone was hungry for true life, he or she were welcomed to come and feast, to partake in this new life, for free. Jesus paid on our behalf all that was required and with the tearing of the veil in the temple's Holy of Holies, He closed the gap by His outstretched arms, as it were. As He hung there upon the cross, one thief on a cross beside Him joined in with the jeers of the scribes and the Pharisees. The other thief, all the same a convict and one who had no merit that he could apply toward a good standing with God, swallowed his pride, joined in the assessment of the centurion guard who declared, "Surely He was the Son of God," and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom.
"Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." And so the promise is given to all who would come humbly to Christ, lay down at His feet and say, "You're the Lord and I need You."
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest," from Matthew 11:28 and in Isaiah 55:1, ""Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." This is Jesus' offer that I shared with Lee, and strange it must have seemed to get so much in this life and in the next without burden or fear.