If greed leading to forming factions made the person commit offenses, then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he will take shape when he encounters people and will become a messenger ghost.
"If greed leading to forming factions made the person commit offenses." Forming factions happens during court cases. Sometimes when people go to court, they form a party or faction to support their case. These people testify on the instigator's behalf. They present false evidence and turn lies into truth. They are unreasonable but represent themselves as reasonable. Some may be lawyers. They challenge and attack those who are not in their faction, causing the other party to lose the case.
"Then, after he has finished paying for his crimes, he will take shape when he encounters people and will become a messenger ghost." He takes shape by possessing people. A messenger ghost possesses a person and then communicates through him. This ghost possesses a human medium and says things like, "I am so-and-so." "I am a certain Bodhisattva." or "I am a certain Buddha." or "I am God." "I am Jesus." Such a medium will display agitation and appear disconcerted while claiming to be some spirit or holy being. These are the workings of a messenger ghost. He can also predict lucky and unlucky events. He says, "If you don't believe, then just wait and see. At such and such a place and time an earthquake will occur. Twenty thousand people will die in that earthquake." Later, his prediction comes true. Messenger ghosts can make accurate predictions about auspicious events and disasters.
Question: Are they right?
Answer: Sometimes they are extremely accurate! Now, how do we distinguish what is proper from what is deviant? Proper knowledge comes from cultivation of the Way. It does not rely on ghosts or spirits, Bodhisattvas or Buddhas telling us things. It is not based on false recognition of strange principles and wanton spirits. It is important to be able to recognize the difference. In China people possessed in this way were called mediums or shamans and they could cure illness. Actually, it wasn't they who cured the illnesses, it was the ghost possessing them that did it. Remember I told you a few days ago about people who could stick swords into their skulls or insert knives into their shoulders and hang things from them? Well, those people were possessed by this kind of ghost.
Ananda, such a person's fall is due to his totally emotional level of functioning. When his karmic fire has burned out, he will rise up to be reborn as a ghost. This is occasioned by his own karma of false thinking. If he awakens to Bodhi, then in the wonderful perfect brightness there isn't anything at all.
The Buddha calls out again, "Ananda, do you understand? such a person's fall is due to his totally emotional level of functioning." It's because this person is totally immersed in emotion. Whatever he does is based on emotional desire. Because he's totally emotional, without any power of reason, without any discursive thought, he acts out of emotion and desire, and that causes him to fall. Emotion belongs to yin, and discursive thought belongs to yang. After he falls and his karmic fire has burned out—after he goes to the hells and burns until there is nothing left to burn, he can come out, but he will then rise up to be reborn as a ghost. He's released, but he still cannot become a person. Where does he "rise up" from? The evil hells. He gets out and comes to the world. But although he's out of the hells, his residual habits are still not cut off. Although the offenses from his karma have been eradicated, he still has the same old habits of thinking. He's not completely pure. So he has to become a ghost.
His predicament is occasioned by his own karma of false thinking. From truth, he himself gave rise to falseness and produced ignorance. This ignorance arises in the nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One, and with it comes false thinking. It is false thinking that creates these kinds of karma. Because of it, the person in question must undergo this bitter retribution. He gave rise to delusion, created karma, and underwent retribution. If he awakens to Bodhi, then in the wonderful perfect brightness there isn't anything at all. If he could fathom the wonderful path to Enlightenment, then there would be nothing at all in the mind, which is perfect and bright in the nature of the Treasury of the Thus Come One. There's none of this trouble. There are no such problems; there isn't any of this pain and suffering. There is no distress.
Moreover, Ananda, when his karma as a ghost is ended, the problem of emotion as opposed to discursive thought is resolved. At that point he must pay back in kind what he borrowed from others to resolve those grievances. He is born into the body of an animal to repay his debts from past lives.
Moreover, Ananda, let me continue to explain this principle lest you fail to understand it completely. When his karma as a ghost is ended, the problem of emotion as opposed to discursive thought is resolved. He's wiped the slate clean of emotion and thought. At that point he must pay back in kind what he borrowed from others to resolve those grievances. He has to pay back what he owes others. If he ate the flesh of other animals in the past, he will now be eaten by others. If he took others' lives in the past, then in this life he will be killed. He is born into the body of an animal to repay his debts from past lives. He will pay back the debts amassed for limitless eons in the past. They have to be paid back in kind. If you killed and harmed others, then the same thing will happen to you as repayment. If you owe someone a pig, then you become his pig to repay him. If you owe someone a dog, then you become his dog to repay him. If you owe someone a cow, you repay by being his cow. If you owe someone a horse, you become his horse to repay him. If you owe someone a chicken, then you go lay eggs for him. You lay a few eggs every day and in that way you gradually repay your debt. So it's not easy to act in this world's play. If you make a mistake, a lot of trouble results. If you do it correctly, then everything is clear and pure.
The retribution of the strange ghost of material objects is finished when the object is destroyed and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of owl.
The retribution of the strange ghost of material objects is finished when the object is destroyed and it is reborn in the world, usually as a species of owl. Because strange ghosts were greedy for material objects, they took their shape when they encountered material objects. "When the object is destroyed" means that the particular material object they were possessing wears out, and their karmic retribution has come to an end. The majority of the strange ghosts are then reborn as owls. That's what usually happens, but it's not a totally fixed principle. There's a line in the Book of Poetry: "The owl, the owl, the unfilial bird." Some owls can incubate a clod of dirt and hatch it. How do you explain this? Well, it's just the strange way that they are. When the owlets hatch, they eat the parent bird. A child that eats its parents is a manifestation of a weird being. This kind of bird is considered to be inauspicious. "Species" means that they are born as one kind of owl or another.
To be continued