At the time of Emperor Wu of Liang, the Buddhadharma flourished. Monastics recited sutras during wedding ceremonies and funerals. Our custom now is just to recite sutras at funerals. People consider marriage a celebration, so they no longer recite sutras then. When people die, they invite monastics to come and recite sutras.
At that time, there was a wealthy man whose son was getting married. He invited a preeminent monk to come and recite sutras. This preeminent monk was Dhyana Master Bao Zhi. He was born in an eagle’s nest and his hand looked like an eagle’s claw. He was a Bodhisattva come-again, so he had this strange feature. At that time, the wealthy man asked him to come over and say something propitious. Dhyana Master Bao Zhi agreed.
On the day of the wedding, Dhyana Master Bao Zhi came to recite the sutras. He saw the bride and groom and said, “Strange indeed, strange indeed.” Since Patriarch Bao Zhi had the spiritual power of the heavenly eye, he saw the past causes and future consequences in this situation, which made him say, “Strange indeed, strange indeed.” How was it strange? “The grandson marries the grandmother!”
When the grandmother was dying, she held her little grandson’s hand and said, “I am now dying. I am not worried about anybody except this little grandson. Who will help him build a family and establish his business in the future? Who can help?” She moaned like this and was reborn in the hells. King Yama saw how the grandmother had such strong emotions for her little grandson that she could not let go of him. She was able to let go of her son and daughter but not her little grandson. King Yama told her, “Okay, I’ll make your wish come true. You’re really pathetic. I’ll let you go back and serve your grandson. You can be your grandson’s wife.” The grandmother didn’t say okay or otherwise. Just when things could’ve gone either way, she suddenly entered a womb. Confused, she became a girl. When she grew up, she married her grandson coincidentally. This is why it was strange.
Dhyana Master Bao Zhi then looked and saw that beneath the kitchen window, a little girl was chomping on a pig foot. He said, “The daughter eats her mother.” This child was chewing on the foot of a pig that was her mother. Her mother in a past life was reborn as a pig. Why was she reborn as a pig? Because she had eaten so much pork that her whole body turned into pork fat. She didn’t have any human flesh left on her, so she was born in a family of pigs. Pigs are killed for people to eat. On the day of matrimony for the grandmother and the grandson, the pig that was killed was the mother of this girl in a previous life. The girl was here eating her mother’s meat and thought that it was delicious! The more she chomped on the meat, the happier she became. She didn’t know that this meat was her mother in a previous life. If she knew, she would have never eaten it! We eat pork and this pork may have been our parents or siblings, we don’t know. We don’t know the cause and effect of what we eat--we might be eating the flesh of our brother or sister, husband or wife. Nothing is for certain. You don’t know whether they were reborn as animals. You don’t know whether this animal was your wife or husband, so you eat its meat, one big bite after another. How painful! We should know that we don’t recognize our ancestors and friends when their appearances change.
Venerable Patriarch Zhi then looked under the tent where music was being played and said, “The son beats on a drum made from his father’s hide.” His father had had the temper of a donkey, an old donkey that kicks and bites when it gets upset. Consequently he was reborn as a donkey. When the donkey was skinned, its hide was made into a drum. He then ran into his son who played the drum loud and hard. If the son had known that the hide for the drum was from a donkey that had been his father in a previous life, he would never have been able to beat on it. He wouldn’t go bam, bam, bam on the drum! This son was playing a drum made of his father’s skin.
Then Dharma Master Bao Zhi looked on the brick bed. Nanjing, China has beds made of bricks with fires burning underneath. He said, “Pigs and sheep are sitting on the brick bed.” The pork and mutton that had been eaten in the past have now become human beings now; they have come to seek revenge. “The six kinds of relatives are cooking in the pot.” Six kinds of relatives such as their paternal relatives, maternal relatives, older siblings, and younger siblings have all been reborn as pigs and sheep and are being cooked in the pot. “And everyone has come to celebrate.” They’ve come here to say, “Congratulations!” They may say “Congratulations!” but “I see it as real suffering.” I see that they don’t recognize each other because their forms have changed. They don’t know that they are eating their relatives. This is an especially terrible suffering among the different types of sufferings. Although we human beings suffer, we nevertheless regard pain as happiness. For example, we think it’s a joy to eat meat. We follow this practice without questioning, and soon it becomes a habit. We should work hard while we’re alive because our years are limited. We should work hard and cultivate. If we don’t question our practices, they become habits. Without realizing the principle of cause and effect, we follow this type of habit. It’s because we don’t study and investigate this that everyone eats meat. Actually, it is flesh devouring flesh; people eating people. Heaven is angered and people are resentful; hence people develop cancer or AIDS.
The earth is now about to be poisoned to death. The ocean is polluted by toxins. Fish gather in large numbers and hope for a quick death. When species of fish become extinct, there will be no more fish to eat. The poison in fish causes cancer. If you eat fish, you can easily become poisoned. This poison has been tested in chemical laboratories. Fish originally swam happily in the sea, but now they die of poisoning. Just think: people don’t have the capabilities that fish in the sea do, so how can we tolerate this poison? Since it’s easy to eat fish, it’s easy for people to develop cancer too. The earth is also polluted. Exhaust fumes, toxic materials, and all types of toxic chemicals find their way into the earth and pollute it. Grains produced from the earth in turn contain a type of toxin that may poison human beings when we eat them. Some say, “Then I will not eat anything. What will I eat? I’ll drink wind!” Wind is also poisonous. The air is toxic. There is no food to eat. Even if you don’t want to fast, you must. The earth is being polluted without our realizing it. This is like repairing a nuclear reactor; a toxic substance will seep into the ground. So what can we do?
To avert this type of disaster, we should recite the Great Compassion Mantra more often. The power of the Great Compassion Mantra can neutralize toxins. Take a look at the Universal Door Chapter, which says that poisons turn into sweet dew when you recite the Great Compassion Mantra. When I was in Northeast China, I met a woman who drank a bowl of lye. She was foaming at the mouth, the whites of her eyes were turned up, and she couldn’t talk. Later her son knelt before me and pleaded with me to save his mother. I went to their home to recite the Great Compassion Mantra. She then started to vomit. She actually spit up the poisonous lye. This is the power of the Great Compassion Mantra.
There was also Guo Zhao Xiao at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas. He ate some “death caps”, a type of poisonous mushroom that if one were to eat one or two, one would die. There’s no antidote for it. Symptoms appear twelve hours after one eats it. Guo Zhao Xiao ate about seven or eight of these poisonous mushrooms. The doctor took a look and thought he was doomed for sure. When I heard about it, he asked me, “Dharma Master, the doctor said that I will die; what do you say?” I told him, “I won’t allow you to die. Even if you want to die and you’ve already touched King Yama’s nose, I will still snatch you back.” He was reassured by what I said. I also told him to recite Guanyin Bodhisattva’s name. He had probably never recited before, so his illness worsened again after a while. Since he didn’t have any faith and didn’t recite Guanyin Bodhisattva’s name, his condition deteriorated. People sent him to the hospital where the doctor said, “You’re finished. There’s no way to save you.” The people who sent him there came back and told me, “The doctor said that he can’t be saved.” “No, tell him to come back. How ridiculous! I forbid him to die. Go and see if he’s well now.” They went and saw that he was alive and the color came back to his face. It was rosy. His face wasn’t green and his lips weren’t ashen anymore. He survived.
Why was I able to say that? It is because I always recite the Great Compassion Mantra, so whatever I say usually comes to pass. That’s why in San Francisco, I said, “As long as I am here, I will forbid an earthquake to occur here!” Major earthquakes will turn into minor earthquakes; minor earthquakes will disappear. No one has died [from earthquakes in San Francisco] from 1968 until now.