Nhận Định Về PHÁP MÔN QUÁN ÂM Của Giáo Phái Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư Hoàng Liên Tâm
Bất kỳ tôn giáo, giáo phái, hay học thuyết nào xuất hiện trên đời, cũng đều có lập trường, tư tưởng và mục đích riêng. Mỗi trường phái đều có nhận xét, đánh giá của mình về các trường phái khác. Ở đây, bằng cái nhìn của một người theo đạo Phật, chúng ta thử phân tích đường lối hành đạo của giáo phái Thanh Hải. Điều đầu tiên chúng ta nên tìm hiểu là Pháp Môn Quán Âmcủa họ.
Mục tiêu chung của phần lớn các tôn giáo là giải thoát con người khỏi cảnh khổ trần gian, để đến một nơi chốn nào đó hạnh phúc, bình yên đời đời. Nhưng, muốn được giải thoát thì con người phải trải qua một tiến trình tu tập, như học hỏi giáo lý, tế lễ, tư duy, thiền định và giữ gìn giới luật của môn phái.
Giáo phái Thanh Hải cũng có những hình thức có vẻ tương tự, mà mới nghe nói qua, ai cũng tưởng giống đạo Phật hay một đạo nào khác, cũng giữ năm giới, cũng ăn chay, cũng ngồi thiền…v…v… Thấy thì có vẻ như vậy, nhưngthực tế lại không phải vậy.
Trong phạm vi bài viết này chúng tôi đề cập phần lớn đến việc hành thiền tức tu tậpPháp Môn Quán Âm, mà bà Thanh Hải đã mập mờ mượn tên một pháp tu của đạo Phật. Tuy là tên pháp tu thì có vẻ giống, nhưng nội dung cũng như phương pháp hành trì thì hoàn toàn khác hẳn.
Trước hết chúng ta hãy nghe chính bà Thanh Hải nói về pháp môn này như sau:
“…Mọi người đều có “Thượng Đế Bên Trong”, và bí quyết để câu thông cùng Thượng Đế ấy, qua đó đạt giác ngộ, là vô cùng đơn giản: Giữ ngũ giới, và hàng ngày tọa thiền 2 tiếng rưỡi. Giữ giới và thiền như thế tức là tu tập Pháp Môn Quán Âm, tập cho đến khi nghe và thấy được…Âm Thanh Thiên Đàng và Ánh Sáng Thiên Đàng là đắc đạo…Pháp Môn Quán Âm Là pháp môn cứu cánh nhất…Phương pháp quán "Ngôi Lời" bên trong, Âm thanh nội tại và Ánh sáng thiên đàng bên trong. Đây là phương pháp tốt nhất và tối thượng bởi vì cuối cùng chúng ta phải đến với ánh sáng của Thượng Đế và "Thánh Âm" của Ngài để đạt được trí huệ…Quý vị sẽ thấy ánh sáng và nghe âm thanh ngay vào lúc được truyền Tâm Ấn. Với những phương pháp khác quý vị phải tốn rất nhiều thời gian hay nhiều năm, và phải chịu nhiều khổ hạnh hay hy sinh mới đạt được đến đó…” (01)
Bà Thanh Hải đã mập mờ chế biến pháp môn của bà ta bằng những từ ngữ có vẻ như tương tự với pháp môn tu của Bồ Tát Quán Thế Âm, vốn có tên gọi là Nhĩ Căn Viên Thông,được giới thiệu trong kinh Thủ Lăng Nghiêm(02), thành Pháp Môn Quán Âm,khiến cho một số người không đọc kinh Phật, cứ tưởng bà ấy đang truyền bá đạo Phật theo pháp môn tu hành của ngài Bồ Tát Quán Thế Âm.
Pháp môn của Bồ Tát Quán Thế Âm trong đạo Phật là phương pháp phản văn văn tự tánh(không xuôi dòng đuổi theo âm thanh mà trở ngược lại tánh nghe) tức là từ cái nghe để trở về tự tánh của mình. Trong pháp tu này, hành giả tuyệt đối không dùng tai để nghe. Nếu còn dùng tai để nghe là chạy theo âm thanh sắc tướng.(2)
Hoà thượng Thích Thiện Hoa khi giải thích về phương pháp tu của ngài Bồ Tát Quán Thế Âm đã cho biết: (1) Bắt đầu từ khi cái nghe đối với thanh trần không khởi phân biệt theo thanh trần, nên thanh trần tự vắng lặng; xong còn cái nghe. (2) Đến giai đoạn thứ hai là cái nghe (năng, sở) cũng hết, xong còn cái hết. (3) Đến tầng thứ ba không chấp ở nơi hết, xong còn cái biết hết. (4) Đến tầng thứ tư là cái biết đó cũng không, xong còn cái không. (5) Nên đến tầng thứ năm là cái không đó cũng không còn. Lúc bấy giờ các cái vọng niệm phân biệt chấp trước đều hết, thì chân tâm thanh tịnh tự hiện bầy; cũng như các cặn đục đã hết, thì tánh nước trong tự hiện. Mười phương các đức Phật hay các vị Đại Bồ Tát tu hành, chỉ có một con đường duy nhất là trừ hết vọng thì chân hiện bầy, như lau gương sạch bụi, thì ánh sáng tự hiện, thế gọi là thành Phật, hay là chứng Đại Niết Bàn(03).
Còn cách tu mập mờ của Thanh Hải rất khác thường. Theo một nhà nghiên cứu tôn giáo Đông phương cho biết lối tu Quán Âm của Thanh Hải không phải xuất xứ từ đạo Phật mà chính là của Sant Mathay còn có tên gọi khác là Surat Shabd Yogavà vị Thầy truyền cho Thanh Hải là Sant Thakar Singh (March 26, 1929 - March 6, 2005), được biết đến với cái tên là Sant Mat Master. Ông đã truyền phương pháp ấn tâm, năm câu chúhay năm danh hiệu God, và pháp tu “Thanh Sắc Quang Ảnh” cho đệ tử Thanh Hải trước khi rời Ấn Độ (04). Điều này được xác nhận bởi Hoà Thượng Tiến Sĩ Thích Tịnh Hạnh, Viện Trưởng Học Viện Phật Giáo Trung Hoa Dân Quốc (05).
Trong thời kỳ ban đầu truyền đạo, Thanh Hải đã thừa nhận Thakar Singh là Sư Phụ, nhưng sau đó đã phủ nhận và cho biết lối tu này do chính Thanh Hải sáng tạo sau khi tu luyện ở Hy Mã Lạp Sơn về. Phương pháp tu này do một đệ tử ly khai (06) của Thanh Hải kể chi tiết cách thực hành như sau:
“Trong những lần hành thiền đầu tiên, tôi được chỉ bảo là niệm danh hiệu Sư phụ “Suma Ching Hai” trong khoảng nửa giờ mỗi ngày. Tôi cũng được bảo phải từ bỏ ăn thịt, cá và trứng. Sau một tuần, tôi được Sư phụ truyền tâm ấn. Từ lúc đó ăn chay trường và giữ năm giới cũng như hành thiền hai tiếng rưỡi mỗi ngày. Trong lúc thiền tôi niệm thầm liên tục năm danh hiệu God và tập trung tư tưởng vào con mắt thứ ba ở vùng giữa trán phía trên sóng mũi, và đồng thời dùng hai ngón tay cái bịt kín vào lỗ tai, ngón tay giữa chận mí mắt ngoài, ngón tay trỏ chận vào góc trán, cả hai bên trái phải để lắng nghe những âm thanh lạ lùng kỳ bí, những âm nhạc thiên đường. Tôi đã không nghe gì cả, không thấy gì cả. Tôi cũng được bảo là cứ ngồi như vậy sẽ nghe được âm thanh, sẽ thấy ánh sáng. Khi thiền phải dùng tấm khăn hay tấm blanket phủ kín người để người khác không trông thấy. Năm danh hiệu God là: Dốt Nê Răng Danh, Ông Ca, Ra Rông Ca, Sô Hăn và Sát Nam. (jyot naranjan, onkar, raronkar, sohang, satnam). Thực tôi không biết đánh vần chính xác bởi vì chỉ được truyền khẩu mà thôi. Tôi được yêu cầu là chỉ niệm thầm và tuyệt đối không được nói cho ai biết năm danh hiệu này”.
Người viết đã phối kiểm với hai người bạn đã từng theo bà Thanh Hải về lối tu cũng như về danh hiệu năm vị God nầy và được xác nhận là đúng như trên. Họ cũng cho biết, trong quyển chỉ dẫn cho đệ tử truyền tâm ấn có nhắc đến việc niệm 5 danh hiệu nhưng không nói rõ tên. Người viết cũng tra tự điển các tôn giáo ở Ấn Độ tìm xem nhưng chỉ biết vị God thứ năm Satnam là một đấng tối cao của giáo phái Sikh ở Ấn Độ. Như vậy có thể nói rằng giáo phái Thanh Hải có nguồn gốc từ Surat Shabd Yoga (Sant Mat) ở Ấn Độ, chứ không phải từ Phật Giáo. Thanh Hải chỉ mượn tên Phật Giáo để đánh lừa dư luận mà thôi.
Pháp môn Quán Âmtức Nhĩ Căn Viên Thôngcủa đạo Phật là phản văn văn tự tánh, là dứt vọng trở về chơn, còn lối tu Quán Âm của Thanh Hải là từ vọng chạy theo vọng. Theo kinh Kim Cang thì kẻ “lấy âm thanh sắc tướng cầu Phật, là kẻ theo tà đạo, không thể thấy được Phật(07). Theo kinh Thủ Lăng Nghiêm, người hành trì do dụng tâm thái quá mà thấy hình sắc, nghe âm thanh, tất cả đều là giả, nếu tin tưởng đó là thực, là kết quả tu hành thì lạc vào ma đạo (08). Hai điều dẫn chứng kinh này xác định rõ đường lối tu hành của giáo phái Thanh Hải không phải là pháp tu của Phật giáo.
Chưa hết, Thanh Hải còn phủ nhận luật Nhân Quả, bằng cách giúp “rửa sạch trong khoảnh khắc tất cả nghiệp chướng từ những kiếp trước của đệ tử” khi nói rằng “Lúc thọ Tâm Ấn, tất cả những nghiệp chướng trong quá khứ của đệ tử đều được tiêu trừ” (09). Trong một bài giảng khác, Thanh Hải giải thích điều đó như sau:
“Chỉ có Minh Sư khai ngộ (Thanh Hải) mới có thể vào những nơi mà tất cả các hồ sơ được giữ gìn cẩn thận. Công việc của những vị này (Minh Sư) là xóa bỏ hoàn toàn tất cả những nghiệp chướng nhân quả xa xưa đó. Nếu không, chúng ta có tu hành giải thoát cũng vô ích mà thôi… Dù có siêng năng thờ Phật bao nhiêu đi nữa cũng không bao giờ đủ. Dù học tất cả các kinh điển vẫn không thể khai mở trí huệ, bởi vì những đám mây tăm tối của nghiệp chướng từ những kiếp trước đang bao phủ chúng ta. Đọc đi đọc lại kinh điển cũng vẫn như mù! Dù viết rất là rõ ràng, chúng ta vẫn không hiểu ý nghĩa của nó, vì chúng ta đã bị rác rến và nghiệp chướng làm mù quáng”. (10)
Ngoài ra, Thanh Hải còn tự xưng là Phật hiện tiền, có nghĩa là Phật sống. Điều này cho biết “đây là một đại vọng ngữ, rất nặng, chỉ có kẻ hành ma đạo mới dám nói như vậy mà thôi” (11). Trong kinh Lăng Nghiêm Đức Phật đã dạy các đệ tử của Ngài là nếu có thị hiện để cứu độ chúng sanh, thì chẳng bao giờ nói: “Ta đây thật là Bồ Tát hoặc A La Hán v.v… hay tỏ ra một vài cử chỉ gì làm tiết lộ sự bí mật, để cho người ta biết mình là Thánh nhơn thị hiện. Chỉ trừ sau khi mạng chung rồi, các vị ấy mới âm thầm để lại một vài di tích cho người biết thôi” (12). Cho nên nói rằng Thanh Hải là Vô Thượng Sư, là Phật sống và những lời giảng dạy của bà ta là giáo lý thì hoàn toàn không đúngvì tất cả những lời giảng của Thanh Hải không có gì mới lạ, chỉ là sự cóp nhặt rồi pha trộn thuật ngữ của một số tôn giáo, trong đó có Bà La Môn, Phật Giáo, và Thiên Chúa Giáo. Nhiều khi bà ta chỉ nhắc đến tên kinh Phật để người nghe lầm tưởng là bà ta thông hiểu giáo lý nhà Phật.
Trong quyển sách: "Thí Luận Tuyên Hóa Lão Hòa Thượng Đích Phật Học Cống Hiến đăng trên nguyệt san Vajra Bodhi Sea từ số tháng 6, 1996 đến số tháng 10, 1997. (http://www.dharmasite.net/thiluan.htm#2d) Hoà Thượng Tuyên Hoá đã khai thị:
"Về vấn đề có liên quan đến "Ngoại đạo trong Phật Pháp", đa số đoàn thể Phật giáo không muốn công khai phân biệt giữa tà và chánh, điều này giúp cho những kẻ "không chân chánh trong Đạo Phật và những kẻ ngoại đạo" lợi dụng ngày một nhiều hơn. Với ý xấu và xảo quyệt, ho lừa gạt tiền bạc của kẻ khác và lừa người khác phạm những hành vi dâm duc - trong khi mặc áo của Phật và ăn cơm Phật. Tôi sẽ đưa ra hai vị có tên tuổi được nhiều người biết đến. Một vị là nữ đạo sư đạo Sikh ở Ẩn Độ. Bà ta tự xưng là "Phật tái thế đã khai ngộ" và đi truyền "Pháp môn Quán âm - tức khắc khai ngộ và giải thoát ngay trong kiếp này".
HT đã nghiêm khắc chỉ trích:
"Nhiều kẻ bị bà làm cho lầm lạc chỉ vì tham lam. Khi quy y Tam Bảo, bài văn trong buổi lễ nói rất rõ ràng, 'Con thà xả bỏ thân mạng nầy quyết không quy y với thiên ma ngoại đạo.' Những điều bà nói ra là lời tà thuyết của thiên ma ngoại đạo, và tất cả đều nhằm mục đích dõi gạt người, nếu quý vị tin những điều đó, quý vị thật ngu xuẩn, vô tri, và quý vị tự đào đường xuống địa ngục."
Thật là một lời mạnh mẽ: "tự đào đường đến địa ngục." Hòa Thượng không tự chế ra những lời này. Ngài luôn luôn "chỉ thẳng tâm người", nói ngắn gọn trúng vào điểm chánh để phá tan vô minh và mê lầm của chúng sanh
Nói tóm lại, pháp môn Quán Âm của giáo phái Thanh Hải không phải là của Phật Giáo và người đứng đầu giáo phái là Thanh Hải cũng chẳng phải là Phật sống như Thanh Hải đã tự xưng.Tuy nhiên, nếu không nói thêm về thân thế và hành động của bà ta thì e vẫn còn chưa phác hoạ hết nét vẽ của một bức tranh nhiều mầu sắc.
Tên thực của Thanh Hải là Trịnh Đăng Huệ sinh ngày 12 tháng 5 năm 1950 tại Đức Phổ, Quảng Ngãi, miền Trung Việt Nam. Khi học tới lớp 11 vào năm 19 tuổi thì cô Huệ rời Việt Nam đi qua Anh Quốc (có tài liệu nói 22 tuổi), rồi qua Pháp, qua Đức. Trong thời gian ở Tây Đức , cô Huệ làm nghề thông dịch viên cho Hội Hồng Thập Tự và lập gia đình với một bác sĩ y khoa người Đức.(13) Ở Đức, cô Huệ thọ Tam Quy Ngũ Giới với thầy Thích Như Điển. Thầy ban cho pháp danh là Thị Nguyện. Thầy Như Điển hiện nay là Thượng Toạ Viện chủ chùa Viên Giác. Chẳng bao lâu sau, cuộc hôn nhân dị chủng tan vỡ, cô Huệ, pháp danh Thị Nguyện qua Ấn Độ xuất gia, trước tiên là với các vị Lạt ma Tây Tạng, sau theo học với một người Ấn Độ đạo Sikh tên là Jampa Ghesbe Ngawang Dargey và người kế tiếp là Thakar Singh, một giáo sĩ thuộc dòng Surat Shabd Yoga (Sant Mat) và chính vị này đã truyền pháp “Thanh Sắc Quang Ảnh” (Light and Sound Meditation) cho Thị Nguyện.
Năm 1983 Thị Nguyện đến Đài Loan thọ giới Tỳ Kheo Ni tại một Đại Giới Đàn ở Đài Bắc thuộc Giáo Hội Phật Giáo Đài Loan. Trong thời gian trước khi thọ giới, Thị Nguyện được gởi đến Linh Sơn Phật Học Viện tại Đài Bắc của thầy Thích Tịnh Hạnh để tá túc học tập vì Thị Nguyện là người Việt Nam. Nơi đây thầy Tịnh Hạnh ban cho pháp hiệu là Thanh Hải.(14)
Thanh Hải là người thông minh, đoán biết được thị trường tâm linh của người Trung Hoa và cộng đồng Việt Nam ở nước ngoài cũng như các nước Tây phương, có nhiều cơ hội hấp dẫn để truyền đạo cũng như tạo danh và lợi riêng, nên giống như Osho, Thanh Hải tung ra một chiêu bài nhiều hấp dẫn với những người trong đạo và ngoài đạo Phật muốn giác ngộ tức thời, muốn mau kiến tánh thành Phật. Đó là những lời hứa hẹn “tức khắc khai ngộ một đời giải thoát” bằng một lối tu giản dị mà Thanh Hải đã mang về từ Ấn Độ.
Trong thời gian ở Đài Loan Thanh Hải mang danh một Sư cô Phật giáo mặc áo vàng, đầu trọc, chống gậy tích trượng, tự xưng là Phật hiện tiền đi giảng đạo (Surat Shabd Yoga) nhưng mang nhãn hiệu Phật Giáo “Pháp Quán Âm” và truyền tâm ấn. Thanh Hải cũng độ cho người nam xuất gia thọ Tỳ Kheo giới làm đệ tử của mình. Những việc này đã tạo sự bất bình sâu rộng trong Giáo Hội Phật giáo Đài Loan và cộng đồng Phật tử ở đảo quốc này thời bấy giờ.
Sau đó Thanh Hải sang Hoa Kỳ đặt bản doanh tại thành phố El Monte ở miền Nam California và đi thuyết giảng khắp vùng đông dân cư Việt Nam, rồi đi Boston, New York, Washington DC….Trong thời kỳ này Thanh Hải vẫn còn mang hình thức là một Sư cô mặc áo vàng, đầu trọc, chống gậy.
Và từ đó đến nay, Thanh Hải khi ẩn khi hiện, khi đi nơi này nơi khác, từ Âu Châu sang Á Châu, rồi Châu Mỹ La Tinh, Úc, Gia Nã Đại, và Mễ Tây Cơ. Các buổi thuyết giảng và truyền Tâm Ấn của Thanh Hải đều “miễn phí.”
Thanh Hải được báo chí Tây phương gọi là nhà doanh thương tài, nhà tiếp thị giỏi và cho nickname là “Part Buddha, Part Madonna”. Thanh Hải tự mình sáng tạo ra các sản phẩm từ thời trang quần áo đến âm nhạc và rồi quảng cáo để bán những thứ ấy một cách dễ dàng với nhiều thủ thuật. Bắt đầu từ lãnh vực tâm linh tặng “miễn phí” rồi sau đó là bán sách báo, băng từ CD, DVD in ấn rồi đến âm nhạc, thời trang, tranh ảnh...Một bức tranh sơn dầu bán với giá $2,160.
Bắt đầu từ năm 1995, Thanh Hải sáng tạo ra cả một line quần áo thời trang gồm các thứ làm bằng tơ lụa, các nón, bóp, các dù che cho người nữ, được triển lãm và bày bán tại các hệ thống bán hàng danh tiếng trên thế giới, từ London, Paris, Milan đến New York. Có loại thời trang giá tới $11,000.
Các đệ tử của Thanh Hải mua với hình thức đấu giá những áo quần cũ của bà ta; một đôi vớ của “Sư Phụ” đã dùng bán với giá $800 trong một khoá retreat ở Đài Loan. “Đôi vớ là memory của Sư Phụ, vì thế nó là vô giá”, một đệ tử đã nói như thế trong cuộc đấu giá. Người đó cũng cho hay là “không biết chắc đôi vớ của Sư Phụ có được giặt sạch trước khi mang đấu giá không. Khi Sư Phụ bỏ thân xác này ra đi, ít nhất tôi có đôi vớ của bà cạnh tôi”.
Thanh Hải có phải là Chúa hay Phật sống không? Chắc chắn không phải là Chúa. Càng chắc chắn hơn nữa không phải là Phật vì nếu Thanh Hải là Phật, Thanh Hải đã không tự phong mình là Phật, đã không yêu cầu một cách khéo léo những người theo bà ta từ bỏ của cải vật chất trên thế gian ô trọc này, để hiến dâng cho tổ chức, đã không tự tạo danh tiếng cho cá nhân mình, đã không hưởng thụ, từ tiền tài đến danh vọng.
Theo báo Lake Elsinore’ in The Press- Enterprise, December 31, 1996 p. B01) Thanh Hải có 2000 đệ tử ở California. Tuy nhiên theo bài báo “Unusual Cast of Asian Donors Emerges in DNC Funding Controversy” in the Jan 27, 1997 issue of The Washington Post, Thanh Hải có 100,000 đệ tử ở Hoa Kỳ và hàng triệu đệ tử ở 40 quốc gia trên thế giới.
Hiện có khoảng 60 web sites bằng nhiều thứ tiếng khác nhau trình bày về Pháp Môn Quán Âm và giáo phái Thanh Hải. Tiến sĩ Margaret Singer, một chuyên gia hàng đầu chuyên nghiên cứu vế các giáo phái cực đoan cũng như không cực đoan trên thế giới, cho biết đã nhận được được nhiều thư phàn nàn của một số người theo giáo phái Thanh Hải, về việc họ mất mát những khoản tiền lớn mà người phối ngẫu của họ đã hiến cúng cho tổ chức Thanh Hải. Một số khác nói rằng họ mất cả tiền lẫn người phối ngẫu.
Singer nói, “Hầu hết những người đến than phiền với chúng tôi đều nói là họ đã mất vợ, mất chồng, mất người yêu bởi vì những người thân của họ đã bỏ họ mà tận hiến cho tổ chức, làm việc cho các nhà hàng hay các nhóm hoạt động..”
Vị “Phật sống” kiêm “Chúa sống” này đã trở nên một nhà đại doanh thương trong thời đại WTO, làm chủ 56 nhà hàng chay trên khắp thế giới từ Taipei tới Melbourne, từ Orange County đến San Jose. Nhiều trung tâm Thiền Định, trong số đó có trung tâm Thiền ở Los Angeles và Morgan Hill, rộng 40 mẫu ở phía Nam San Jose. Riêng tại thành phố Saigon, Việt Nam có ba nhà hàng chay và một cơ sở sản xuất thực phẩm chay mang tên Âu Lạc.
Tại sao Thanh Hải thuyết phục được nhiều người theo?Bởi vì Thanh Hải thường rao giảng rằng người theo không cần phải từ bỏ đạo truyền thống hoặc niềm tin tôn giáo sẵn có và phương pháp tu Quán Âm là phương pháp hay nhất chưa từng có và người theo bà ta sẽ có được những cái mới mà vẫn giữ những cái họ đang có. Như thế có nghĩa là “chỉ hưởng lợi thêm mà không bị mất đi một thứ gì”. Tâm lý chung của con người bình thường là chỉ muốn có thêm, chứ không muốn mất điều gì. Muốn có nhanh chứ không muốn có chậm!
Còn về câu hỏi “tại sao trong các buổi thuyết pháp lại có đông người đến dự?”Điều này không phải vì Thanh Hải có quyền lực siêu nhiên mà do tài năng và tổ chức khéo của các nhóm hoạt động của bà ta khắp nơi trên thế giới. Bất cứ nơi nào bà ta muốn thuyết giảng, đều được các nhóm đệ tử tại địa phương tổ chức rất chu đáo, quảng bá trên các phương tiện truyền thông hiện đại như báo chí, truyền thanh và truyền hình. Họ không ngần ngại chi tiêu những món tiền rất lớn vào việc quảng cáo, có thể trả hàng chục ngàn Mỹ kim để thuê nhạc sĩ nổi danh, ca sĩ giỏi và dàn hoà âm hay để hoàn thành một bản nhạc. Điều này không phải chỉ có trong cộng đồng Việt Nam ở hải ngoại mà còn áp dụng trong cộng đồng bản xứ Hoa Kỳ.
Thanh Hải có phải là Vô Thượng Sư và những lời thuyết giảng của bà ta có phải là khuôn vàng thước ngọc để chúng ta noi theo không, điều đó không tuỳ thuộc vào những khả năng ăn nói lưu loát mà là từ hành động và động lực để giảng dạy của bà. Ngài Đạt Lai Lạt Ma Thứ 14 đã nói rằng: “Động lực giảng dạy (của một vị Thầy) phải trong sạch – không bao giờ vì một ước muốn danh tiếng hay lợi lạc vật chất…Trong thế giới, nếu không có một nhà lãnh đạo chân chính thì chúng ta không thể cải thiện xã hội được. Cũng vậy, trừ phi vị thầy có phẩm chất đúng đắn, thì mặc dù đức tin của bạn có mạnh mẽ đến đâu, việc theo học vị thầy có thể làm hại bạn nếu bạn được dẫn dắt theo một đường hướng sai lầm. Vì thế, trước khi thực sự coi ai là thầy, điều quan trọng là phải khảo xét họ…” …
Nếu như vị đạo sư của bạn buộc bạn phải làm việc vô đạo đức hay nếu giáo lý của vị ấy mâu thuẫn với Phật Pháp thì hành xữ như thế nào? Ngài Đạt Lai Lạt Ma nói tiếp: “Bạn nên trung thành với điều đạo đức và xa rời những gì không phù hợp với Pháp…”
Ở Ấn Độ, một lần kia, một vị thầy có nhiều đệ tử yêu cầu họ đi ra ngoài ăn trộm. Vị thầy thuộc đẳng cấp Bà La Môn và rất nghèo. Ông dạy rằng khi những người Bà la Môn trở nên nghèo khó thì có quyền ăn cắp. Ông nói, là những người được Trời Brahma - đấng sáng tạo của thế giới – yêu quý, đối với một người Bà la môn, việc ăn cắp không xấu xa. Những đệ tử sắp đi ăn cắp thì vị thầy người Bà la môn nhận thấy một đệ tử đứng im lặng cúi đầu xuống. Ông hỏi anh tại sao không đi. Người học trò nói: “Điều thầy dạy chúng con bây giờ trái nghịch với Pháp, vì vậy con không nghĩ rằng con có thể làm được điều đó.“ Lời nói này làm vui lòng người Bà la môn, ông nói: “Ta đã trắc nghiệm các con. Mặc dù các con đều là đệ tử của ta và trung thành với ta, nhưng sự khác biệt giữa các con là sự phán đoán. Ta là thầy của các con, nhưng các con phải xem xét lời chỉ dạy của ta, và bất kỳ lúc nào lời chỉ dạy chống trái với Pháp thì các con chớ nên theo.” …” (15)
Còn có quá nhiều điều đối nghịch với giáo lý nhà Phật, nhưng người viết cho là tạm đủ để độc giả có thể nhìn rõ hơn về cá nhân Thanh Hải cũng như về pháp môn tu Quán Âm đội lốt tên Phật Giáo của bà ta. Thanh Hải có phải là Vô Thượng Sư và những lời thuyết giảng của bà có đáng để chúng ta tin theo không?.
Hoàng Liên Tâm
(01) Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư, Bí Quyết Tức Khắc Khai Ngộ Hiện Đời Giải Thoát, 1994, NXB: Công ty ấn loát của Hội Thiền Định Quốc Tế Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư, ROC (trang 62) (02) Cư sĩ Tâm Minh Lê Đình Thám, Kinh Thủ Lăng Nghiêm, Q.6 Đoạn 27: / (03) HT. Thích Thiện Hoa, Triết Lý Đạo Phật hay là Đại Cương kinh Lăng Nghiêm, Đoạn 25: “Khi đó đức Quán Thế Âm Bồ Tát đứng dậy lạy Phật cung kính thưa rằng: - Bạch Đức Thế Tôn, con nhớ từ hằng hà sa số kiếp về trước, có Phật ra đời, tên là Quán Âm. Con đối trước Phật Quán Âm phát tâm Bồ Đề. Ngài dạy con từ ngơi nghe rồi suy nhớ và tu (văn, tư, tu) mà được vào chánh định. Khi mới nghe tiếng, không chạy theo thinh trần, xoay cái nghe trở vào chơn tánh (nhập lưu vong sở). Vì chỗ vào đã yên lặng, nên động và tịnh hai món trần cảnh không sanh. Như thế lần lần tăng tấn đến cái nghe và cảnh bị nghe cũng hết. Cũng không trụ vào chỗ hết nghe. Cái biết hết và cái bị biết cũng không còn. Tiến một bước đến cái “không” và cái “bị không” cũng không còn. Khi cái sanh và diệt đã diệt hết, thì cái chơn tâm tịch diệt hiện tiền.” /daicuongkinhlangnghiem-12.htm (04) Gordon Young, SF Weekly Article Published May 22, 1996: http://www.sfweekly.com/Issues/1996-05-22/news/news.html (05) HT. Thích Tịnh Hạnh, Học Viện Phật Giáo Trung Hoa Dân Quốc, thông tư gởi Phật tử /D_1-2_2-148_4-14473_5-50_6-1_17-13_14-1_15-1/ (06) I heard nothing and saw nothing" August 25, 2002 By a former practitioner of the method of "Suma Ching Hai" http://www.rickross.com/reference/ching_hai/sumaching10.html (07) HT. Thích Duy Lực, Kinh Kim Cang Bát Nhã Ba La Mật, Đoạn 26, Từ Ân Thiền Đường Hoa Kỳ xuất bản: “Nhược dĩ sắc kiến ngã, Dĩ âm thanh cầu ngã, Thị nhơn hành tà đạo, Bất năng kiến Như Lai.” Dịch nghĩa: Nếu dùng sắc thấy ta, Dùng âm thanh cầu ta. Là người hành tà đạo, Chẳng thể thấy Như Lai. Lược Giải Nếu dùng sắc thấy ta, Dùng âm thanh cầu ta. Là người hành tà đạo, Chẳng thể thấy Như Lai. Chữ Ta ở đây là tự tánh Phật. Tự tánh bất nhị, chẳng có năng sở, nên chẳng phải sở thấy sở cầu. Nếu đuổi theo căn trần để thấy để cầu là hành theo tà đạo, chẳng thể đạt đến kiến tánh. /u-kkimcang-03.htm (08) Cư sĩ Tâm Minh Lê Đình Thám, Kinh Thủ Lăng Nghiêm Phật Học Viện quốc Tế Xuất Bản PL 2527 – 1983, mục 8 đoạn 1: /kinhthulangnghiem-tamminh-09.htm (09) Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư, Bí Quyết Tức Khắc Khai Ngộ Hiện Đời Giải Thoát, 1994, NXB: Công ty ấn loát của Hội Thiền Định Quốc Tế Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư, ROC (trang 35) (10) Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư giảng tại Đài Bắc, Formosa Ngày 6 tháng 3, 1988) http://www.dainam.net/forums/showthread.php?t=50405 (11) HT. Thích Tịnh Hạnh, Học Viện Phật Giáo Trung Hoa Dân Quốc,thông tư gởi Phật tử/D_1-2_2-148_4-14473_5-50_6-1_17-13_14-1_15-1/ (12) ) HT. Thích Thiện Hoa, Triết Lý Đạo Phật hay là Đại Cương kinh Lăng Nghiêm: Phật dạy: - A Nan, ta có dạy các vị Bồ Tát và A La Hán: “Sau khi ta diệt độ rồi, các ông phải thị hiện thân hình, trong đời mạt pháp để cứu độ chúng sanh đang trầm luân, làm thầy sa môn, cư sĩ, vua, quan, đồng na, đồng nữ, cho đến hiện thành đàn bà góa, kẻ dâm nữ, người gian xảo, kẻ trộm cướp, người hàng thịt, kẻ buôn bán, để lẫn lộn trong từng lớp người chung một nghề nghiệp, đặng giáo hóa chúng sanh trở về chánh đạo”. Nhưng các vị ấy quyết chẳng bao giờ nói: “Ta đây thật là Bồ Tát hoặc A La Hán v.v… hay tỏ ra một vài cử chỉ gì làm tiết lộ sự bí mật, để cho người ta biết mình là Thánh nhơn thị hiện. Chỉ trừ sau khi mạng chung rồi, các vị ấy mới âm thầm để lại một vài di tích cho người biết thôi”. /daicuongkinhlangnghiem-00.htm (13) HT. Thích Tịnh Hạnh, Học Viện Phật Giáo Trung Hoa Dân Quốc, thông tư gởi Phật tử Theo một luận văn tốt nghiệp cao học báo chí viện đại học UC Berkeleycủa Eric Lai viết năm 1995 nhan đề Spiritual Messiah Out of Taiwan cho biết Thanh Hải có tên là Hue Dang Trinh, sinh ngày 12 tháng 5 năm 1950 tại một làng nhỏ ở miền Trung Việt Nam. Thanh Hải đã có một đứa con với một quân nhân Mỹ. Năm 19 tuổi, vào lúc cao điểm cuộc chiến Việt Nam, Thanh Hải rời Việt Nam với một bác sĩ người Đức đang làm việc cho tổ chức từ thiện quốc tế. Hai người lấy nhau và đi qua Anh rồi Đức sống http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/03.28.96/suma-9613.html (14) Let Us Reason Ministries: http://www.letusreason.org/NAM29.htm và HT. Thích Tịnh Hạnh, Học Viện Phật Giáo Trung Hoa Dân Quốc, thông tư gởi Phật tử /D_1-2_2-148_4-14473_5-50_6-1_17-13_14-1_15-1/ (15) Dalai Lama Thứ 14, Con Đường Đến Tự Do Vô Thượng, nguyên tác Anh ngữ: The Way To Freedom, Việt dịch: Liên Hoa, Nhà xuất bản Thiện Tri Thức 1999. /conduongdentudovothuong-00.htm
GHI NHẬN MỘT VÀI HÌNH ẢNH:
Cô Huệ, pháp danh Thị Nguyện qua Ấn Độ xuất gia, trước tiên là với các vị Lạt ma Tây Tạng, sau theo học với một người Ấn Độ đạo Sikh tên là Jampa Ghesbe Ngawang Dargey và người kế tiếp là Thakar Singh, một giáo sĩ thuộc dòng Surat Shabd Yoga (Sant Mat) và chính vị này đã truyền pháp “Thanh Sắc Quang Ảnh” (Light and Sound Meditation) cho Thị Nguyện.
God Inc. Inner peace isn't the only thing Supreme Master Ching Hai is selling Bay Area disciples, By Gordon Young (Article Published May 22, 1996)
If true believers are made in the image and likeness of God, then the followers of Supreme Master Ching Hai should be wearing gold lame gowns and toting lavender parasols.
From her headquarters in Taiwan, the 46-year-old Ching Hai claims more than 100,000 believers in the hybrid of Buddhism, Christianity, and meditation that she ginned up more than a decade ago. For many of her disciples -- as they refer to themselves -- Ching Hai is God incarnate, the living Buddha. When she's not fulfilling her role as the Almighty, Ching Hai paints, makes jewelry, publishes a magazine, produces music videos, and designs a flamboyant clothing line that debuted last year on runways in Paris, New York, and London. Ching Hai's heavenly creations are a far cry from the hair shirts and drab cassocks often associated with re-ligious devotion. She's partial to flowing silks in bubble gum colors, elaborate hats, and custom-made umbrellas. It would take a miracle for most of her disciples to purchase this holy couture; ensembles from the "Celestial Clothing" collection can cost as much as $11,250.
Ching Hai may not be ready to challenge Yves Saint Laurent as a fashion luminary, but she is quickly establishing herself as major planet in the cult universe. That fact worries Dr. Margaret Singer, a clinical psychologist who has studied cults since the 1950s. Singer warns that Ching Hai is well on her way to building a "gigantic empire."
"It appears to be one of the most well-organized and fastest-growing cults in the United States and the world," says Singer, a retired University of California at Berkeley professor who served as a court-appointed expert in the Patty Hearst trial. "It's growing faster than the militia movement, and there's a real concern that followers are getting taken."
A few dozen local disciples visit Ching Hai's San Francisco Center three times a week to watch the Master's video lectures and meditate using her special Quan Yin or "inner sound" method. Tucked away in a spare room at Peterson's Parts Warehouse on Cesar Chavez Street, the center is just one of Ching Hai's many outposts in nearly 40 countries. She also operates 56 vegetarian restaurants, including one in San Jose that doubles as an outlet for her religious merchandise.
Initiates agree to practice Quan Yin meditation 2 1/2 hours every day, as well as give up stealing, lying, intoxicants, meat, and sexual misconduct. If that seems too difficult, the "Convenient Method" is also an option: Meditation is cut to just 30 minutes a day, and a vegetarian diet is required only 10 days a month.
The initiation registration form makes it clear that a rival religious affiliation doesn't disqualify applicants.
"I do not belong to Buddhism or Catholicism," Ching Hai is quoted on one of her numerous World Wide Web pages. "I belong to the Truth and I preach the Truth. You may call it Buddhism, Catholicism, Taoism, or whatever you like. I welcome all."
Like most of those who take Ching Hai up on her offer, the San Francisco faithful are primarily Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants. Loc Petrus, a computer consultant who grew up in Vietnam and now lives in the Ocean View neighborhood, explains that Ching Hai offers stability to newcomers adjusting to life in the United States.
"Nothing lasts in this world," Petrus says. "Everything is impermanent, perishable, permeable. You can't count on anything in this world except the Master."
According to Ching Hai's glowing official biography, She (yes, pronouns referring to the Master are capitalized) "demonstrated a saintly nature" even as a child. She read "philosophical literatures" while the other kids were outside playing, and she wept at the sight of animals being slaughtered for food. It's no wonder an astrologer pronounced that the young Ching Hai possessed "supernoble character and morals." Ching Hai hit the road at an early age to seek knowledge and help others. Her marriage to a German physician ended in separation when she left him to "pursue Her spiritual goal." It wasn't long before Ching Hai achieved "perfect enlightenment." She was content to lead the life of a simple Buddhist nun, but she could not deny the followers who miraculously sought her out in Taiwan, where she had settled. She reluctantly agreed to be their Master and "save sentient beings from misery."
Contrast this radiant official bio with the unauthorized one, a graduate thesis in journalism at Berkeley written in 1995 by Eric Lai. In "Spiritual Messiah Out of Taiwan,"Lai reveals that Ching Hai was born Hue Dang Trinh in 1950. She grew up in Vietnam, where she gave birth to the child of an American GI.She eventually migrated to India where she studied under Thakar Singh, the founder of a Buddhist splinter group who later gained notoriety for his financial improprieties, sexual liaisons with disciples, and violent behavior. She then traveled to Taiwan, picked up her new name -- "pure ocean" in Mandarin -- and headed for Queens, New York. It wasn't until she returned to Taiwan in 1986 that she began to gain a cult following.
Despite her checkered past, the 5-foot-tall Ching Hai has inspired an uncanny devotion among her followers. Petrus, who discovered the Master's teaching during an unscheduled lunch stop at her San Jose restaurant, says Ching Hai touches believers on a visceral level.
"You have to move beyond logic to connect with the Master," says a wide-eyed Petrus, who is very alert after an evening of meditation. "If you rely on your intellect, you end up doubting. You ask, 'Is she really a God? That little woman from Vietnam? Naaaah. No way.' "
Religious Leader Felt Sorry For Clinton By Brooks Jackson and John Gilmore/CNN
WASHINGTON (Jan. 9) -- A Taiwan-based religious leader who raised thousands of dollars for President Bill Clinton's legal defense fund says she felt sorry for the president.
In an interview with CNN, Suma Ching Hai, leader of a worldwide religious sect, talked at length for the first time about why she and her followers raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help pay Clinton's massive legal bills.
"I can help the homeless on the street with five thousand or hundred thousand dollars," Ching Hai said. "Why couldn't I help a president of the United States when he's in trouble? He's more poor than the homeless and he has only $200,000 a year. He earns less than I earn."(96K AIFF or WAV sound)
She says it was early last year in Taiwan when she got her first and only visit from Charlie Trie. Trie is an old friend of the president from Little Rock, Ark., and a political fund-raiser.
Ching Hai says Trie came to her seeking spiritual guidance. But they also discussed money and he also offered to set up a meeting with the president. "So he thinks I should meet Mr. Clinton," Ching Hai recalled. "So I say that's not the purpose of our work. We like to do it quietly."
She said other followers already had asked her if they should help the president. "And I say to them you are Americans; you have to do as American citizen should do. And if your president is good and you think by helping him you can help your country and help the world, then do it!"(128K AIFF or WAV sound)
"He's a man of peace and dignity," Ching Hai said. "I think he deserves the help of anyone who can help him. He's innocent, you know; he's not proven guilty."
Though Ching Hai denied Trie came looking for money, it was Trie who later delivered nearly $640,000 in manila envelopes to the Clinton legal trust, money the trust eventually rejected because of suspicious-looking checks and too many questions.
Ching Hai said she did not even know how much was raised until she read about it in the newspapers.
"I don't know why people make so much fuss," she said. "If we give him something and if the thing is not appropriate, the president does not accept it...all right, that suits me."
The "Supreme Master Ching Hai" visited Ireland recently and gave a seminar entitled: "Immediate Enlightenment, Eternal Liberation". The event took place in the main hall of the Royal Dublin Society, venue for major sporting and cultural events. It was well publicized both through street posters and substantial ads in national newspapers, highlighting the news that "Heaven is here and now!" and inviting the Irish public to "see God while living". More than 1000 people turned up to hear and see the "Supreme Master", many of them conveyed to the hall in mini-buses chartered by the group, which had been cruising the streets of Dublin all afternoon offering free one-way transport.
Ms. Ching Hai, a handsome Chinese-Vietnamese woman, appeared in evening dress on the flower-bedecked stage. She connected easily with her audience, even inviting those who were seatless to share her space and her cushions onstage. Her informality was in stark contrast to the dozens of mainly oriental-looking minders in business suits, who silently monitored the proceedings.
The content of Ching Hai’s address was part Buddhist, part Hindu, but given a New Age twist in, for example, her insistence that the term ‘Christ’ refers not to a person, but to a power that emanates from God and manifests the authority of God in exceptionally enlightened individuals. With a touch that seemed to owe something to Wordsworth’s poem Ode on the Intimations of Mortality, she explained that when we are born, we may remember past existences. As we grow, things crowd around, and we lose the vision of God which we had when we left heaven.
The relevant passage from this poem is:
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting, And cometh from afar: Not in entire forgetfulness, And not in utter nakedness, But trailing clouds of glory do we come From God, who is our home: Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close Upon the growing Boy,
Then, going far beyond Wordsworth, she reasoned that if God lives in here (pointing to her heart), logically one should be able to see him at any time – "we just have to know where to direct our attention. Seeing (the Light of God) is believing". Consequently, she declared: "I am offering proof of God’s existence". This proof however, is evident only to those who have been initiated into what she terms the "Quan Yin Method" of meditation.
"Quan Yin" is the name of a goddess, the most popular in China. Worshipped both by Buddhists and Taoists, Quan Yin is represented as a female figure with many arms to signify her generosity towards her devotees. She is particularly favoured by women who pray to her for the birth of a son. ( See Kari Harbakk, "Kuan Yin Revisited" and "Goddess of a Thousand Eyes" in Areopagus [Hong Kong] II, 2 (Epiphany 1989), 35 - 37).
However, the "Quan Yin Method" of meditation bears little relationship to the traditional simple prayers and offerings made to the goddess. While reluctant to explain the method to the uninitiated, Ching Hai did indicate in replies to questions from the audience that it involves turning our attention inwards to listen to God – something we have forgotten in the course of our busy lives. During meditation one will hear musical sounds, such as that of the bagpipe. Quan Yin meditation is practised with one’s attention focused on the ‘third eye’ centre, located in the middle of the forehead. This, she said, is the wisdom centre and the highest gateway for leaving one’s body.
However, the technique should be learned properly and practised correctly. She warned of the danger of focusing on any chakras or centres of energy without proper guidance. That guidance is given during the process of initiation into the method. All present were invited to take initiation there and then. About 100 people took up the offer. Some underwent full initiation which involves a life-long commitment to a vegan diet and at least two hours meditation daily, as well as refraining from all alternative forms of meditation and other spiritual practices. Others received the "quick initiation" or "convenient method", requiring a half-hours meditation daily and abstinence from meat for ten days each month.
Ms. Ching Hai is portrayed as a talented and energetic woman - evident in the displays round the hall of paintings, jewelry, Chinese lanterns and fashion. All – we were told – were designed by herself and available for purchase. Also on sale were her videos, CDs, tapes and books. A magazine and a booklet of her talks were available for free. Proceeds of sales are used to fund charitable activities and disaster relief in various parts of the world. Ching Hai was brought up as a Catholic, but learnt the rudiments of Buddhism from her grandmother. However, in a brief autobiography she explains that her significant spiritual experience came about as a result of time spent in the Himalayas where she discovered "the Quan Yin Method and the Divine Transmission". ("A Brief Biography of the Supreme Master Ching Hai" in The Key of Immediate Enlightenment by the Supreme Master Ching Hai [Formosa, 27th edition, 1999], p.9).
Nowhere in the movement’s literature is any mention made of how she came upon this enlightenment. An enquiry to one of her retinue as to who Ching Hai’s teacher was, yielded the vague reply: "Kutaji – he lives in a cave in the Himalayas – maybe has left his body now." Such reticence in regard to the identity of one’s initiating guru is quite unusual among Oriental religious teachers and begs the question as to the true origins of Ching Hai’s teaching. Some clues however, are to be found in the language that she uses in her writings and talks.
There are notable similaritiesbetween Ching Hai’s philosophy and that of the surat shabd or "sound and light" yogic tradition of Northern India. This tradition is represented at its best in the Radha Soami movements of Agra and Beas. Julian Johnson’s book, The Path of the Masters is the classical English language source for the philosophy and teachings of the Radha Soamis.
The main features held in common both by the Radha Soamis and Ching Hai include: the requirement to practise long hours of meditation under the direction of the Master; focussing on the Master himself/herself as the object of meditation ; the practice of meditation at the "third eye"; the idea of spiritual progression through ascending planes or levels of consciousness; the prediction that the meditator will see inner light and hear inner sounds, particularly musical sounds; the ability to leave the body at will during meditation and explore the astral world.
Former disciples of Ching Hai have alleged that disciples are taught to meditate with a blanket over their heads. This practice tends to induce hyper-ventilation which makes people more susceptible to mind-control. It has also been reported that disciples were strongly encouraged by Ching Hai herself to put together a six-figure donation towards U.S. President Clinton’s personal legal defence fund. (See Tom Fitton’s, "Brain-washed Clinton Donors" in Opinion Inc 08/05/97, down-loaded from www.freerepublic.com, August 4, 1999).
And, as for the Dublin mission, several letters appeared subsquently in the "Irish Times" from some of those initiated. They complained that, though they attempted to practise the "Quan Yin Method", their efforts to see God ended in failure.
CHING HAI AND RADHASOAMIS COMPARED
Apart from the various groups calling themselves "Radhasoamis" that have split off from the original movement based in Agra, there are a number of independent movements with their own names based on Radhasoami philosophy and spirituality. The most notable of these is the Ruhani Satsang established by Kirpal Singh, a disciple of Sawan Singh, former head of Radhasoami Beas. But apart from these, there are numerous movements using surat-shabd ideology and methods, which are shy about acknowledging the sources of their teaching.
The best known of these is Eckankar, established by Paul Twitchell, one-time disciple of Kirpal Singh. His movement consists mainly of plagiarized Radhasoami elements with a few added idiosyncratic twists. John-Roger Hinkins, a former disciple of Twitchell’s, in 1968 started his own movement M.S.I.A., which is plagiarized Eckankar! It has also suggested that the Divine Light Mission has a connection with the Radhasoami tradition. According to some accounts, the father of Guru Maharaj had been a follower of one or other branch of the Radhasoamis.
(David Rife "Shabdism in North America", paper presented to the American Academy of Religion's Western Region Conference at Stanford University on March 26, 1982; downloaded from http://www.ex-premie.org/papers/shabd.htm. Rife quotes Mark Juergensmeyer’s "Radhasoami Reality" in support of this point. I am particularly indebted generally to this source in preparing this paper).
Some of those who have not wished to acknowledge their indebtedness to the mainline Radhasoami tradition or to any other living tradition, have stated that they were enlightened or initiated by unidentified Masters at various undefined locations "in the Himalayas". An example of this was Dr. Bhagat Singh Thind, an initiate of Sawan Singh, who built his movement in the U.S. in the first half of the twentieth century. Another such example is, I believe, Ching Hai. However, at the moment it is not known to me where or from whom she received initiation.
Ching Hai’s teaching combines Radhasoami elements with bits and pieces from other religious traditions in a way that lacks coherence. For example, she speaks about the three bodies in Buddhism, which she terms respectively the ‘dharma body’, the ‘manifestation body’ and the ‘physical body’ and then she states: "Catholics speak of this as the Trinity." ("Trinity – spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai, Chuongli, Formosa, February 25, 1989", published in The Supreme Master Ching Hai [News No. 105, September 1999], 9).
She is also heavily into New Age. Her speeches contain on occasion liberal dollops of astrology, ecology, alternative medicine and diet, use of positive thinking’ and ‘positive energy’. Her movement also appears to be highly commercialized. http://a4.nu/ching-hai/louis_hughes.htm
Clinton's Buddhist Martha Stewart By Howard Chua-Eoan
(TIME, January 20) -- To bring Suma Ching Hai into focus, imagine Martha Stewart as the Dalai Lama. The Supreme Master, 46, is an elegant hostess--and clever merchandiser. At a vegetarian dinner with a TIME correspondent last week in Alhambra, California, she wore a bright yellow dress that she designed herself--embroidered with the Supreme Master monogram (SM) and available to followers by catalog. When she gestured with her hands, she flashed gold and diamond rings with the SM design, part of her Celestial Jewelry collection--available by catalog as well. (Also for sale: Celestial purses, hats, gold dinnerware, chopsticks, inspirational videos, floor lamps.) A petite woman with long, dark brown hair that cascades past her shoulders, the Supreme Master is passionate, earthy (she says she needs a husband) and more fun than the average saint. "Of course I'm divine," she says, laughing. "But so are you."
At the moment, Suma Ching Hai is more than divine: she is controversial. Late last year, officials of Bill Clinton's legal-defense fund rather shamefacedly disclosed that they had returned a donation of more than $600,000 from the followers of the Taiwan-based mystic, adding to the President's "Asian money" scandal. Nevertheless, the Supreme Master remains a fervent Clintonite. "The poor man," she says, erupting in his defense. "You must respect his office. How can he solve America's problems if he is distracted? He's in debt. He's a suspect. This is terrible." She knows what it feels like to be investigated: the Taiwan government is looking into alleged "fund-raising improprieties" by her sect, including the transfer of $2 million out of the country.
Scandal-plagued politicians are not the only objects of Suma Ching Hai's charity. Whenever there is a natural disaster, she is there--with money. She says she has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to victims of the 1993 Mississippi River floods and to survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing. "Before we enter the spiritual world, we are in the mundane world," she says. "If the Buddha isn't a helpful Buddha, he is a boring Buddha. He is a useless Buddha."
The core of Suma Ching Hai's teachings is what she calls Quan Yin meditation. It involves no chanting, no mantras, but a "contemplation of the inner sound stream," as her disciple and U.S. spokesperson Pamela Millar describes it. The Supreme Master's lectures are laced with Taoist, Buddhist and Christian references (she likes the Bible verse "In the beginning was the Word...and the Word was God.") She denies she is an incarnation of the Chinese goddess of mercy. Still, her publications and Website always capitalize pronouns that refer to her. Suma Ching Hai simply says she is enlightened and that "there are certain things that I know."
Raised a devout Roman Catholic in Quang Ngai, Vietnam, she left home at 22 to study in England, eventually becoming an interpreter for the Red Cross. At 30, she met and married a German doctor but left him, amicably she says, to become a Buddhist nun and pursue enlightenment in India. Her recognition as a spiritual leader came rather suddenly in 1982 when she tried to buy a copy of the Hindu sacred work the Bhagavad-Gita that she says she saw in a shop along the Ganges. The shopkeepers said there were none in stock; she insisted she had seen it. Then they discovered the book in a sealed box and began hailing her for the keenness of her third eye. She fled the sudden acclaim but eventually came to terms with her status. She claims her disciples number "maybe a million, maybe more."
In Taiwan she reportedly has 300,000 followers. However, when the government closed down her headquarters (it had been constructed without a license), the sect produced a membership list of only 804 names. That belies the 6,000 who appeared in Taiwan on Ching Hai Day in October 1995. At that ceremony, she wore queenly robes ("under orders from God," she says), riding a sedan chair carried by eight bearers to the cheers of "your royal majesty." Those followers are keeping faithfully silent as investigators go through the sect's records. One admitted, though, that "believers are not allowed to speak to outsiders without permission from above."
Other religious leaders in Taiwan are barely polite. The secretary-general of the Taoist Association says he has information that she has bought up vast tracts of land in Cambodia. Master Chinhsing, a Buddhist monk of Vietnamese origin who may have been Ching Hai's mentor, disapproves of her departure from the austere ways of Buddhist tradition. He has reportedly warned her never to identify herself as his former student.
The Supreme Master has been away from Taiwan for a while, traveling among disciples around the world. From that global perspective, the hubbub about the Clinton donation is rather pesky. "The Clinton money is nothing," she complains. "It's only $600,000, for God's sake!" Indeed, she says, "I'd forgotten all about it" until the press reported that the amount had been returned. And why shouldn't she help Clinton? "If I help a man who has some stress because of a flood, why would I not help a President who is stressed?" Says she: "If the American people would allow me, I would give him $2 million right now." Even so, Clinton couldn't touch it.
Part Buddha, part Madonna, Supreme Master Ching Hai promises immediate enlightenment to San Jose's Asian immigrants
By Rafer Guzmán ( March 28- April 3, 1996 issue of San Jose Metro ) Photographs by Christopher Gardner
As flight 717 circles the sky on a recent Wednesday evening, a group of about 150 people sit meditating on the þoor of a waiting area at San Jose International Airport. Dozens of Asian men in dark suits, each wearing a yellow ribbon on his lapel, walk the airport halls and direct wanderers to the group. Men outside wave cars into the short-term parking lot, which is Þlling up fast.
Suddenly, the meditators rise to their feet and storm Gate A8, which is already swarming with bodies. American Airlines Flight 717 is pulling in. With some persuasion, the admirers line up on either side of the gate's walkway, and the yellow- ribboned officials link hands to form barriers against the masses, whose numbers continue to grow. Chinese, Vietnamese and broken English combine to make a rising din. An elderly Chinese woman thrusts her arms into the crowd, trying to pry open a place for herself. Gate A8 is a parted sea of ecstatic faces, all of them waiting for the appearance of the Supreme Master Suma Ching Hai.
Ching Hai is many things: painter, poet, Buddhist nun and spiritual leader. She is also a fashion designer, beauty makeover consultant and restaurateur. According to most of her followers, Ching Hai is not only a saintly philanthropist who took the Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong under her wing, she is also the living reincarnation of the Buddha and Jesus Christ. According to her critics -- and they are few -- she operates one of the largest and fastest-growing religious cults in the world.
Is Ching Hai truly the Messiah? Of the several hundred assembled worshippers here tonight, only I will later be fortunate enough to sit just inches from the Supreme Master and ask her this very question. For if she is the Messiah, she has inexplicably chosen to manifest herself as the owner of 56 vegetarian restaurants which cover the globe from Taipei to Melbourne to San Jose. On the corner of Twelfth Street and East Santa Clara Street, once the site of Paolo's, the posh Italian restaurant that was for decades the hangout of the Valley's agricultural and political elite, Ching Hai's establishment now serves a stunning, if overly ambitious, variety of vegetarian dishes ranging from spring rolls and faux swordfish to pasta marinara.
It also doubles as a library and museum containing hundreds of Ching Hai magazines, books and videotapes. On posters and laminated photographs, the Master's face smiles beatifically, though her slightly paralyzed left cheek gives her the appearance of wearing a sort of foxy grin. Mannequins stand adorned in her own haute couture outfits, which seem to draw from the fashions of both Star Trek and Dallas. On the walls hang her simple paintings of flowers, trees and landscapes. Above the tables of the dining patrons looms a gigantic TV screen which broadcasts the Master's teachings and, occasionally, her music video, which features her singing in dance-club duds and vogueing like Madonna.
Though Ching Hai may appear to have come from another planet, she was actually born in Vietnam and spent much of her adult life in Taiwan. Though she refers to the two countries by their respective colonial names of "Au Lac" and "Formosa," she has a strong affinity for both, and reportedly has her largest followings there. Here in America, almost all of Ching Hai's followers are new arrivals from Vietnam and China.
There seems to be something about the five-foot-tall leader which strongly appeals to these immigrant groups. She avoids overtly authoritarian cliches and instead cultivates the image of a wise old aunt. Rather than preach fire and brimstone, she frames her lectures in a Q&A format vaguely reminiscent of Confucius and his students. (In the transcript of one lecture, when a disciple asks if he would be justified in killing a murderer to prevent future bloodshed, Ching Hai sagely advises him to go to the police instead.) In addition, the title of her new book, I Have Come to Take You Home, may resonate strongly with new arrivals to the States. But perhaps more significantly, Ching Hai seems to offer ancient religion's comfortable familiarity and America's crass but coveted commercialism.
Both a religious idol and a Third World aristocrat, Ching Hai bears more than a passing resemblance to Imelda Marcos, adorned in her self-styled "fairy clothes," which models have paraded down runways in the world's fashion capitals. A Buddhist nun who preaches asceticism, Ching Hai can nevertheless be seen in her magazine, Suma Ching Hai News, giving makeovers and fashion tips to female followers. "A listless-looking and middle-aged fellow sister, after being made up by Master, turned into a totally new person in five minutes," reads the article next to a full-color photo spread. "Everyone exclaimed:'Even the not-so-great ones become beautiful!' " And though Ching Hai claims that one has no need of anything on earth except the truth, she freely admits that selling her merchandising creations supports her worldwide organization.
The Hai Life
Like many Eastern belief systems, Ching Hai's centers around meditation, but her own method, called Quan Yin, contains "The Key of Immediate Enlightenment"-- no waiting necessary. "Quan means 'contemplation,' and Yin means 'inner vibration,'" explains Pam-ela Millar, a Ching Hai representative living in Palo Alto. "It's kind of the light and the sound. It's basically a silent meditation."
This is about all the information one can coax from the Ching Hai group about the Quan Yin method, which they guard like a secret recipe. "I will explain everything during initiation," Ching Hai says in public. Initiations take place at the 40-acre Ching Hai Meditation Center in Morgan Hill, to which actual visits are discouraged. Almost all that is known about the group's actual methods is that it requires keeping a strict vegetarian diet and meditating a minimum of two and a half hours per day while chanting the Master's name.
Ching Hai also teaches what she calls the Convenient Method -- a sort of Quan Yin Lite for new initiates -- which requires meditating only half an hour per day, and eating vegetarian for 10 days per month. "When children are 6 years old, if they are with initiated parents, they can be half-initiated," Ching Hai rather arbitrarily mandates. "When they are 12, if they have parents who also practice, they can be initiated fully."
Food for Thought
At the restaurant, a smiling volunteer serves a dish of simulated chicken to Millar. A Ching Hai "liaison" and one of the organization's few Caucasian members, Millar possesses none of the zombie-like qualities one tends to attribute to cultists. Millar calls herself a "skeptic" and says she's "not big on authority." She grew up in Oregon near a small town that was once called Antelope before the followers of cult leader Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh successfully changed its name to Rajneeshpuram. Millar says she has looked into various religious organizations, but found them all to be scams. "It seemed like they wanted to give you something, but they always wanted something back," she says.
Traveling in Taiwan on a business trip, Millar discovered Ching Hai's teachings through the niece of a business contact. Her skeptical nature, she claims, made her unreceptive at first. "I thought, 'I'll wait and see.' " But before long, she began to feel that Ching Hai was different from other leaders.
"She won't accept any contributions," Millar says. "We can't give her gifts." The Master does not charge for teaching her meditation methods, she adds, "but it requires a commitment."
Seven years after her introduction to the Ching Hai group, Millar has risen to become a high-level member responsible for tasks such as putting together the Master's books, arranging ceremonies and talking to the press. But she insists that the organization is very "laissez-faire." "We change the rules all the time," she laughs. "We don't have a hierarchy. ... I like it, it's really formless. It's a formless teaching, too."
As to the Master's role in all this, Miller cannot quite say. "I don't know -- she's like a guide. She teaches us a lot. This role is both inside and outside."
For Millar, all the proof of the Master's divine nature comes from the Quan Yin method. "It's not just the videos, the books," she says. "She comes to me during meditation sometimes."
I found that Millar, a high-level member of the group, and the "not so great ones" seem equally enraptured with this new religion.
"No, no, it's not a religion," said one young Vietnamese girl. "It's more like, just finding out about you, who you are." Every follower answered the same question with almost the same words: "No, it's about finding yourself." Their religion, they proudly say, is Buddhist, Christian, Catholic or Hindu -- it just so happens that they also worship the Supreme Master Suma Ching Hai.
In fact, they worship her so much that anything she touches becomes a prized possession. Ching Hai's new book features a picture of the Master about to engage in one of her favorite activities: scattering handfuls of candy to her disciples. The caption reads, "Master offers her love and blessing by sharing candies with the gathered initiates." Indeed, after a recent Ching Hai lecture, one follower offered me a handful of Jolly Ranchers and Fun-Size Hershey bars, saying, "Here is Master candy! We love the candy Master gives us. You know, it's different from other candy. We love going around to get it, it's like being little kids."
Trance With Me
Ching Hai's name is new to most cult experts, but her behavior, and that of her followers, is not. The Chicago-based Cult Awareness Network provides lists and definitions of common cult practices. Under "Techniques of mind-control," one finds a description of "thought-stopping techniques" such as "meditating, chanting and repetitious activities which, when used excessively, induce a state of high suggestibility." Also noted is the concept of "love-bombing," which "discourages doubts and reinforces the need to belong through use of child-like games.
Joe Kelly, an exit counselor in Philadelphia, once belonged to the infamous Transcendental Meditation movement begun by the Beatles' guru, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Maharishi promises to teach his members Yogic Flying, a levitation-like ability achieved through meditation.
Without condemning meditation, Kelly posits that "the result of being in a trance state is that it unhooks your critical thinking skills." Furthermore, Kelly says, a trance state can result in what he calls "an internal experience."
"It's context-dependent," he explains. "A Christian might experience Jesus, a Buddhist might experience Nirvana." It's no stretch to imagine, then, that a Ching Hai follower might experience Ching Hai. "When teaching comes after we have an internal experience," Kelly says, "we tend to be more receptive to it."
Kelly also says that cults encourage members to "become dependent, like a child." Kelly scoffs at Ching Hai's candy-tossing ritual. "This is something that's so typical," he says, recalling that the Maharishi did exactly the same thing. "Our Master would throw the candy, and we would dive for it because it had been blessed." He adds, "That is not a Buddhist concept."
According to Kelly, even Ching Hai's strange line of fashion wear is not unheard of in the cult trade. "Yeah, TM did the same thing," he recalls. "They put out a line of these dowdy women's dresses that the Maharishi believed heightened female spirituality."
Kelly's strongest bit of advice in identifying cults is to look for "the subjective nature of the doctrine. That's the clincher with these meditation groups. They're always changing the rules so you can't get a handle on anything." Recalling the words "laissez-faire" and "formless" from Millar, I wonder if Kelly might not be prophetic himself.
Janja Lalich, author of Captive Hearts, Captive Minds, a book on post-cult recovery, provides a similar diagnosis. Her assertion that "66 percent of the people who join cults are recruited by friends or family members" seems borne out by the Asian members interviewed for this story, all of whom had been indoctrinated by relatives. "It's not like the '60s, where we were scared of the Moonies standing on the street," Lalich says.
She also advised me to "see how they're answering questions. Are they scripted?" I could only think of this passage from Ching Hai's literature: "Our path isn't a religion. ... I simply offer you a way to know yourself."
"If anything is indicative of a cult, it's when people can't give you a straight answer," Lalich says. She adds, "They're very good at turning the questions back on you. That's a classic technique. Or they'll talk gobbledygook."
In her list of cult characteristics, Lalich includes a "hidden agenda," or what she calls a "double set of ethics. As a member, you can be open and honest. To outsiders, you can lie." Ching Hai's followers may or may not be consciously deceptive, but I did find that, despite their refusal to describe themselves as a religion, Ching Hai's San Jose and Los Angeles branches are registered with the IRS as tax-exempt organizations, with their principal activities noted as "religious" and "church/synagogue," respectively.
Till Cult Do Us Part
"It looks to me like one of the fastest-growing cults in the world," says Dr. Margaret Singer, perhaps the country's first and foremost cult expert. Dr. Singer, who has been following modern cults since their appearance in the late 1950s (she cites the Moonies, the TM movement as the earliest examples), gained national fame for her work with the defense team of heiress Patty Hearst, who killed a man in a bank robbery while under the influence of a revolutionary cult. Singer, who keeps extensive files on cultic groups around the world, considers Ching Hai unusual only in that most large, far-reaching organizations are led by men. Female cult leaders, says Singer, usually control small, local groups of anywhere from five to 50 members. "And they keep a very tight hold on the group," she adds.
Only within the last nine or ten months has she begun receiving calls from men and women -- just over a dozen of them, and almost all from San Francisco and San Jose-- who have lost their spouses to the Ching Hai organization. "Almost everyone I talked to," she says, "had lost a partner--a girlfriend, a husband--because they had given up everything to go to work in a restaurant or join the group."
Singer says that the callers also complained about the tremendous sums of money their spouses gave to the Ching Hai organization. "Husbands and wives would be very distressed about the amount of money the spouse paid for trinkets," she says. From what she heard, she says, it seems the Ching Hai group pressures its members to buy merchandise. "They would have meetings where they would sell these trinkets, and the asking price would be five dollars, but the group would urge people to pay more and more, like $50."
Pendantic: The Supreme Master's image graces Web pages, newsletters, the walls of her restaurants and the homes of her supporters.
In her talks with these abandoned spouses, Singer says she has heard no evidence of physical or sexual abuse. Nor does she think Ching Hai's doctrines, which include relatively few apocalyptic prophecies, point toward the sort of fiery endings met with by the self-immolated Branch Davidians or the self-poisoned followers of Jim Jones.
"This one doesn't seem to be on that pathway," Singer says. "The way the group ends up is usually quite predictable based on the personality of the leader." Singer sees this group as dominated by its leader's personality and ego. "Ching Hai seems to have fantasies about being around lots of people, educated people, wearing fancy clothes and having a lot of power. But she doesn't seem to have fantasies about suicidal revolutions or apocalyptic endings."
Though Ching Hai may not pose any physical threat to her followers, she may nevertheless be doing them other forms of damage. "It was mostly just the money, and the breaking up of the family," Singer says of her callers' laments. "That's what was causing the greatest pain. Telling the spouse that if they don't join Ching Hai, they would have to leave them."
Spiritual Tug of War
San Jose resident Steve Krysiak, who was involved with a Vietnamese follower of Ching Hai, has his own story to tell. "I compare it with Manson," Krysiak says. "He imprinted them with LSD--I think Ching Hai uses meditation."
In 1990, Krysiak met Trang (not her real name), a Vietnamese immigrant who had been captured by the Communists in her homeland, but had escaped on the boats to America where she found work as a hairdresser. When the couple met in Fremont, Trang had three children and was already following Ching Hai. Krysiak says he cautioned Trang against Ching Hai, but took her in anyway. "We had a wonderful relationship," says Krysiak. "Highly sexual. She was the most highly sexual person I ever met."
That soon changed, however. "She just said, 'I have no sexual energy,'" Krysiak laments. "All my Vietnamese friends told me it would happen. The women die sexually with Ching Hai."
The relationship suffered, says Krysiak, as he and the Ching Hai group vied for Trang's affections. "Ching Hai wants them to meditate five hours a day, don't worry about the kids," says Krysiak. He claims he sometimes walked in upon Trang meditating with a blanket on her lap, which she had been instructed to throw over herself so as not to reveal the secret Quan Yin method. "I'd see her doing it, and I'd say, 'You've been seeing that damn Ching Hai again!' And she'd say, 'You've been spying on me!' "
Trang ran up $9,000 worth of credit card debt, which Krysiak assumed was going to Ching Hai. "You know, those videos are $10 for people who are into the cult, but they're $28 or $30 for actual members," he says. He adds that Trang charged a plane ticket to fly to New York for her initiation into the group, bought a flute because Ching Hai played the instrument, decorated her room with Ching Hai posters, and got plastic surgery and breast implants because Ching Hai had supposedly undergone the same operations.
Trang also became a "fanatic vegetarian," Krysiak says. "She tried to get the kids involved in it, but they hated it. It was lucky that they were so Americanized that they had to have their McDonald's."
Trang was not so lucky. "She got thyroid disease," says Krysiak. "The Vietnamese use coarse salt for cooking, with no iodine added, you know. And when Trang cut out her fish, she got thyroid disease. She had to go twice for radioactive thyroid treatment, and they killed a little bit too much thyroid. Now she has to take thyroid [medication] for the rest of her life."
Even after the illness, the Ching Hai group won the tug-of-war for Trang. "People told me that when they get them away from the Master, they might get away for a while, but the members will call them on the phone and try to pull them back." Trang left Krysiak in 1992.
Krysiak moved to San Jose to get away from the memories of Trang only to see the Ching Hai restaurant open a few blocks from his house. "I'm calm about all this now," he says, "but I didn't used to be." Krysiak tells of the day he lost his temper and stormed down to the restaurant. "I was out front, screaming, 'Ching Hai is a fake!' Well, I went back later and apologized to the owner there, and you know what she told me? 'Don't worry--this happens to all our men.' "
Krysiak returned home to find he had locked himself out of his house. "I called a locksmith, a Vietnamese guy, and I told him all about it. He laughed. He said, 'In Vietnamese community, there are two causes for divorce: Bay 101, and Ching Hai.' "
Advertisements For Herself
Ching Hai may be a recognizable figure to some in the Asian community, but despite her restaurants, approximately 100,000 followers, and contact persons in 37 countries, the mainstream press seems almost completely unaware of her existence. Even most cult experts knew nothing or little about her. The only readily available material on Ching Hai comes from her own literature and the numerous sites that line the World Wide Web, which usually offer little more than color photos of the Master and suspiciously favorable interviews by foreign journalists.
A tireless publicity seeker, Ching Hai never misses an opportunity to gain credibility and clout for her organization. She often claims to have been invited to the conspicuously prestigious locations for her lectures--Georgetown University, UCLA and the United Nations buildings in Geneva and New York--but rarely says by whom. She also claims that seven United States governors proclaimed Feb. 22, 1994, as "Supreme Master Ching Hai Day." As it turns out, the governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, actually did, in recognition of her $65,000 donation to relief efforts for victims of the Mississippi River flooding.
Ching Hai's attempts in 1992 to help the Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong remain a feather in the leader's cap, though they apparently failed. But the $200,000 she promised to the Laguna Beach Fire Relief Coalition after Southern California was ravaged by fires in 1993 reportedly never arrived. In Taiwan, the story goes, Ching Hai even set up two front organizations to bestow awards upon her in a public ceremony, and successfully persuaded a baffled United States official to pose as the president of one.
Ching Hai's knack for self-promotion shines in her official biography, which reads more like a hagiography. In it, Ching Hai appears as a "rare and noble child" who taught herself philosophy at an early age and cried at the sight of slaughtered animals. The prophecies of clairvoyants back up Ching Hai's claims to gurudom: "She has come to this world, on the mission of Quan Yin, to save sentient beings from misery." After Ching Hai learned the Quan Yin meditation method from a mysterious Master in the Himalayas, according to the biography, she relocated to Taiwan, where a group of students guided by their prayers found her and coaxed the reluctant woman into becoming their Master. The rest of the biography is a paean to the Master's humility, humanitarian efforts and impressive output of saleable products.
Entertaining though this mishmash of religious mythology, Eastern folklore and public- relations razzle-dazzle may be, it's rather less interesting than the story of Ching Hai revealed in the thesis of UC-Berkeley graduate Eric Lai.
According to Lai's research, the Supreme Master was born Hue Dang Trinh on May 12, 1950, in a small village in Vietnam, in the same province which later saw the My Lai massacre. The daughter of a Vietnamese mother and an ethnic Chinese father, Trinh reportedly hung out with American soldiers as a teenager, and bore one a daughter. At 19, during the height of the Vietnam War, Trinh left home with a German doctor working for an international relief organization. Trinh's daughter later killed herself at 20. Trinh married the doctor, and the couple moved first to Britain and then to Germany.
There, in 1979, she met a Buddhist monk whom she followed for three years until she was denied entrance to his monastery on the basis of gender. Trinh then moved to India to study Buddhism. It was here that she became a prize pupil of Thakar Singh, who had just splintered off from a Buddhist order, Radhasoami, to form his own sect, Kirpal Light Satsang.
"Thakar Singh turned out to be the most scandalous guru in the history of Radhasoami," writes David Christopher Lane, who while a graduate student at UC- Berkeley met Singh in India in 1978 and has since traced the guru's checkered career. According to Lane's findings: "By the mid-1980s reports circulated throughout the world about how Thakar had embezzled money, indulged in sexual affairs with numerous women, and had engaged in violent interactions with disciples." Some of the accusations included tying women up and beating them regularly. But by the time Singh's crimes came to light, Ching Hai had already learned from him the "light and sound" meditation technique, and had left for Taiwan.
Lai's research revealed that in Taiwan, in 1983, Trinh studied with a Buddhist nun named Xing-jing. Unaware of her association with Singh, Xing-jing officially ordained Trinh in the order and gave her the religious name "Ching Hai," which translates from Mandarin as "pure ocean."
The next year, Ching Hai moved to a Buddhist temple in Queens, New York. She taught meditation, and meditated herself for up to four hours a day. One former colleague told Lai, "We were all impressed by her devotion and sincerity." But a year and a half later, Ching Hai began teaching the "light and sound" technique to her students, though few responded favorably.
Returning to Taiwan in 1986, Ching Hai lured followers away from her former master, Xing-jing, and set up a makeshift temple in an apartment in the Taipei suburbs. Rumors about her prophetic abilities and unique meditation methods earned her a large following, and by 1987 posters of Ching Hai appeared all over Taipei. By the time the Taiwanese Buddhist community learned of Ching Hai's past connection to the disgraced Satsang cult, it was too late. The new Messiah had been born.
Messiah: A Job Like Any Other
And now she is among us in San Jose. Her arrival is a rare and momentous occasion which her followers have been anticipating since her last appearance here in 1994. For new initiates (personally selected by Ching Hai through their written applications and photos) their only contact with the Master has been through the literature and videos available in the restaurant's library. Perhaps a fortunate few have been able to channel her as promised. Now, however, they will be able to see and hear her in person. Some may even be touched by her.
Cries of adoration greet Ching Hai when she appears in the portals of Gate A8. As she walks, her path is strewn with flowers, prostrate bodies and outstretched hands. She smiles modestly. Once outside, she is escorted into the back seat of a black Isuzu Trooper. She waves to the undulating crowd as the car speeds away, heading for the nearby Red Lion Hotel. For the next hour, the short-term parking lot of the San Jose Airport is jammed with cars heading for the exit to follow her.
The Fir Room of the Red Lion has been prepared for the Master's arrival. On the stage is an assortment of pillows on a white chair. Above it hangs a giant banner, decorated by stick-on gift bows, which reads, "Welcome SUMA CHING HAI to San Jose." Mylar party balloons float in the air, displaying Hallmark-style messages: "World's Greatest!" and "I Love You." A yellow microphone waits for its Master's voice. The 600-person audience chatters happily until an announcer approaches the microphone.
"Please meditate while waiting for Master," he scolds. Within two seconds, the room grows completely silent. Upon the request of a yellow-ribboned official, a fussing newborn is whisked through the doors by its mother. For the next hour, the only sounds in the Fir Room are the microphone tests and the setting up of several video cameras and klieg lights.
When Ching Hai enters the room, the crowd stands and applauds. She walks under an arch of party balloons strung together by multicolored ribbons and down the center aisle toward the stage, stopping now and then to direct a smile at a lucky follower who inevitably convulses with delight. She takes the stage, soaking up the adoration and barely able to conceal her pleasure. She begins her talk with phrases that are alternately humble and self-congratulatory: "Thank you for your love. I don't know if I'm good enough for you." She sighs. "I just try to be ordinary citizen. Then someone must come along and remind me I am Supreme Master Suma Ching Hai!" All laugh heartily.
After a long and tortuous lecture, Ching Hai takes questions from the audience, even answering once or twice in Mandarin.
"I'm having trouble practicing the Quan Yin," laments a young Vietnamese man. "I'm okay with the sound and the light, but the Quan Yin is different." Ching Hai asks, "Why?" but the young man doesn't know. "Try to practice for one minute," Ching Hai responds patiently. "Then practice for two. Soon, it will get easier." The young man's shoulders collapse with gratitude. "Oh, thank you, Master," he gushes. The crowd applauds.
Later, Ching Hai gets flustered by a more difficult question. A young medical student wants to know if the Master condones euthanasia. "Are you trying to get me into trouble?" she snaps. She paces the stage. "What's that? What's that for?" The medical student hesitantly replies, "It's mercy killing," and begins to explain about comas and brain death, but Ching Hai talks over him. "Is that a law in America?" she asks. Before the student can answer, she sighs crabbily. "I don't know--I'm from Taiwan. Why am I responsible for all the countries?" She picks at the pillows where she was sitting: "Is that my hair?" Finally, she confronts the student. "Sometimes, people wake up. So it's hard for me to tell you which one to kill and which one not," she says. Laughter erupts from the crowd, and then applause.
"Is God a person or an idea?" someone asks, to which Ching Hai replies, "I have no idea." More delighted laughter from the audience. "Anyone here want to describe God?" From the front row comes the correct answer: "A loving master who doesn't eat meat!" Ching Hai chuckles. "Yes, something like that," she says.
Ching Hai wraps up her talk well after midnight. She makes her last rounds through the audience, touching a head here, smiling beatifically there. A black man in African garb shrinks in his seat as she passes, his hands clasped together in worship, sobbing in great gasps, looking into the Master's face while tears stream down his. Ching Hai chortles as she passes him, and stops to poke her green umbrella at him, which he fondles gratefully.
I have stayed only because I want to arrange for a private interview with the Master. When I find Millar, she says she will see about it--and within seconds, I find myself sitting in a chair face to face with the Supreme Master Ching Hai. Our knees are almost touching. Six hundred pairs of eyes are riveted to us, several men hold microphones less than an inch from my nose, and every video camera and flood light in the house bears down upon me and the Master.
With sweat already soaking through my shirt, I begin asking questions. Ching Hai tells me her organization is "rather big," with "a lot of centers around the world--40 or 50 countries." (The number, if one assumes that every country listed in her book boasts not just a liaison but an entire center, is actually 37.)
My next question--about funding--is answered with much humility. Though she calmly explains that the sales of clothing and jewelry accounts for most of her money, she adds, "We don't really need that much."
She claims, as does Millar, that she and her followers sleep in plastic tents. "We don't have a temple. Use tents. Plastic cheap. $40, $50 and you have a temple of your own. We live very simple. We eat vegetarian." Yet, one elderly woman I spoke with bragged that Ching Hai dwells in a beautiful house on top of a hill, and that she and other followers traveled there to camp out in tents around the house.
Ching Hai talks briefly of her philanthropic work in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Hong Kong and here in the United States. "Where," I ask again, "does this money come from? Ching Hai shakes her head. "I don't know. God gives it to me." She laughs. Neither of us seem to take this answer seriously--but I write it down anyway.
According to Millar, the Master's clothing and jewelry are "very expensive, but it's very high quality." In the same breath, Millar also tells me that when the Master wishes to donate money to charities, she establishes a bank account to which followers can contribute. God has certainly been kind to Ching Hai: in 1993, her Los Angeles branch alone took in $395,518.
My last question to the Master concerns a woman who had earlier stood to proclaim to Ching Hai, "The world has waited thousands of years for you." I reminded Ching Hai of these words, and asked, "Do you think this is true?"
"It's true for her," Ching Hai replied.
"Do you consider yourself the Messiah?"
"Messiah not important," Ching Hai says, embarking upon a mini-monologue suggesting that being a messiah is a job like any other. I find it hard to concentrate on her words, and stop writing momentarily. "A messiah or a journalist," she says. "No difference."
The interview is done, and the Master and I shake hands. Long after she has retired to her room, groups of disciples hang around in the lobby to touch the arm of the journalist who shook hands with the Master. "You were so close, right next to her," a wide-eyed girl exclaims, stroking my shoulder.
It occurs to me that I may now be seen on a videotape in the Ching Hai library: the American reporter conducting an interview with the Supreme Master. Our words may end up on a Web site, or in the Suma Ching Hai magazine, or condensed into an aphorism in a book. Against my will, I had become another prop in Ching Hai's magic show. Like the followers milling about me, I had stepped into the light and sound of the Master.
Much Ado: Clinton's legal defense fund returned donations received from the Supreme Master's followers.
Eye watchers and readers may recall that in March, Metro reporter Rafer Guzmán interviewed Suma Ching Hai for a cover story, during one of the cult leader's rare visits to San Jose. The mysterious, Vietnamese-born "Supreme Master" spoke to 600 of her followers, mostly recent Taiwanese and Chinese immigrants, on the "key to immediate enlightenment" at the San Jose Red Lion Hotel. As it turns out, the self-proclaimed Buddhist messiah may have given out some political advice at the same time. The very next day, in Washington, D.C., Charles Yah Lin Trie, a Taiwanese businessman and fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee, delivered a bundle of checks worth $450,000 to President Clinton's Legal Defense Trust, much of it from followers of Suma Ching Hai. And according to group investigator Loren Berger, many of the personal checks, cashier's checks and money orders under scrutiny actually came from San Jose, where Suma Ching Hai has one of her largest followings outside of Taiwan. ...
Just last Tuesday, Michael Cardozo, executive director of the legal defense fund, announced that the contributions had been returned, much to the dismay of local followers. The reason given by Cardozo was that the donations looked suspicious: Money orders supposedly given by people in different cities had sequential numbers, while some checks were written in identical handwriting. ...
The xenophobic reaction of the Clinton trust, driven by scandal attack dogs in Congress, has angered some local Ching Hai followers who say they're just trying to support the president. Local Ching Hai representative Pamela Millar of Palo Alto tells Eye that members of the group pooled their checks after Suma Ching Hai suggested sending a donation to the fund "if you want to help the president." Millar, a group member for seven years, says she sent a personal check for $1,000, the maximum amount permitted by the fund. She stresses that "Master" Suma Ching Hai never directly told her followers to send money. "She made an announcement saying there is a scandal trying to blackball the president," says Millar, who works as a computer consultant. "We said OK, and we found a way to help." ...
Millar's check was among the ones returned en masse by Cardozo with a letter questioning the source of the money. "I am offended by that because I am an American, and there's no reason why I should not be able to help my president," Miller says. "It is our right as citizens. I don't know why it should be a scandal," she adds. ...
Another representative of Ching Hai, David Bui of San Jose, says that support for the president is widespread in the group. "We usually vote for him," he explains, adding that though Suma Ching Hai was born in Vietnam and lives in Taiwan, she is an "honorary U.S. citizen" who "votes in Hawaii," and "usually votes for Clinton." ... "We did not give the money for [the Clintons'] personal use," insists Bui, and reiterated that members "vote for him not because of Master but because they think he's a good guy." ...
As reported by Guzmán, ["Immaterial Girl," March 28, 1996] Ching Hai's followers practice what is called the Quan Yin method of meditation, which involves meditating for two to three hours a day, and a rigid vegan diet which excludes all meat, eggs and dairy products. Ching Hai's organization derives most of its income selling to its followers thousands of videos, CDs, magazines and tapes--all bearing the image of the Master, smiling crookedly due to a slightly paralyzed cheek. Ching Hai also oversees a worldwide chain of vegetarian Chinese restaurants, including one here in San Jose, the Suma Ching Hai International Association Vegetarian House on the corner of 12th and E. Santa Clara streets, where David Bui works. ...
This week Metro fielded calls from national press scrambling to get a fix on the elusive Suma Ching Hai and her flock, as yet unreported by the mainstream press. The SJ Merc might have had little to add on the subject had it not tapped the expertise of normally byline-less former Metro managing editor Steve Buel, who some people may think has fallen into a black hole but actually now helps hold down the Merc's city desk and was credited at the end of the Post pickup as having "contributed to this report." (Memo to Steve: Write again soon!)
More on the Suma Ching Hai/Clinton tie:
The Washington Post on Clinton's knowledge of the fishy campaign funds. CNN's All Politics Web site reports Clinton's denial of the Trie connections. Mother Jones says Charles Trie is number 182 on its list of the top 400 campaign contributors. Mother Jones writer L.J. Davis says Clinton's Indonesian money scandal may be the real thing. http://www.metroactive.com/papers/metro/12.19.96/public-eye-9651.html
Cult leader tries the charity route MSNBC/October 22, 2001 By Jeanette Walls
Controversial characters and groups keep trying to use the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to give themselves credibility, some critics are charging. Last month, the Church of Scientology raised eyebrows when victims were told to call the group for mental heath counseling. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani created a buzz when he turned down a $10 million check from a controversial Saudi Prince.
Now, sources say, a woman who has been called a cult leader has been trying very hard to give major donations to charities benefiting the victims of the terrorist attacks as well as Afghan refugees. Suma Ching Hai, a Taiwan-based mystic also known as the Supreme Master, made headlines in 1997 after it was revealed that she made a $600,000 contribution to Bill Clinton. The red-faced president returned the check. Lately, sources say Suma Ching Hai's reps have been working the phones hoping to give big money to major charities, including Unicef and the American Red Cross.
"Ching Hai has a history of making large gifts in exchange for photo opportunities and what seems like self-promotion to gain credibility among the general public and her followers," Rick Ross, an expert in cults and controversial religions, told The Scoop. "Her followers consider her a messianic figure and she derives her income from tapes, videos and a chain of vegetarian restaurants that are often staffed by devotees."
The source says Suma Ching Hai has been calling Unicef and has already made a two sizeable donations to the American Red Cross. A spokeswoman for Unicef says the organization doesn't comment on donors or potential donors.
A spokeswoman for the American Red Cross said she knows nothing of the donations. "We've had such a huge volume of donations that we haven't had the chance to sort through them all," she says. "But we're concerned about these allegations. If they turn out to be true, we will consider returning the donations." http://www.rickross.com/reference/ching_hai/sumaching7.html
Red-faced over a guru's gift New York Post/October 23, 2001
The American Red Cross has received $100,000 from a publicity-loving cult leader whose money isn't good enough even for Bill Clinton.
Suma Ching Hai, a Taiwan-based guru who calls herself Supreme Master, gets her income from a chain of vegetarian restaurants run by her followers, who also buy her overpriced tapes and videos.
In 1997, Ching Hai made headlines when it was revealed she'd made a $600,000 donation to Clinton. The red-faced Prez promptly returned his check from the messianic mystic.
Ching Hai evidently viewed the Sept. 11 atrocity as an opportunity to legitimize herself, and soon had her devotees working the phones to various charities.
On Monday, msnbc.com dirt-digger Jeannette Walls reported that Ching Hai had approached both UNICEF and the Red Cross with an open checkbook. UNICEF declined comment, and the Red Cross said it knew nothing of the donations.
But insiders told The Post's Jeane MacIntosh that UNICEF did its homework on Ching Hai, and immediately turned down her $100,000.
Not so the Red Cross, which has two checks of $50,000 apiece sitting at its offices - and yesterday was reportedly still mulling cashing in.
"Ching Hai sent two checks to two different Red Cross locations," says a source. "That way, it would be less obvious than one big check coming in. She tried to fly under the radar."
When Red Cross brass found out about the contribution to UNICEF (Ching Hai had reportedly bragged to U.N. agency that the Red Cross took her dough), it looked into the matter, but found nothing donated under the mystic's real name, says the source. "They finally found them under the name Supreme Master." Cult expert Rick Ross said, "Ching Hai has a history of making large gifts in exchange for photo opportunities and what seems like self-promotion."
Sources say she used that m.o. with UNICEF, promising the cash in return for a photo of herself handing UNICEF bigs an oversized check. When suspicious UNICEF honchos balked, Ching Hai persisted, asking for the group's bank account number so she could wire the money.
Why Not to Write About a Supreme Master of the Universe: A day with the disciples of Ching Hai LA Weekly/June 28, 2002 By Nancy Rommelmann
I find the local offices of the International association of the Supreme Master of the Universe in a squat warehouse in a rather sad-looking industrial section of El Monte.
"We're honored to have you here," says Kathryn Hudson, in a honeyed voice. An attractive blond on the far side of 40, she deposits me in a conference room amid blown-up photographs of Supreme Master Ching Hai with Martin Sheen and Swoosie Kurtz, another with Debbie Reynolds, taken at a "One World . . . of Peace Through Music" event her followers put on at the Shrine Auditorium. After several minutes, Hudson and a small Vietnamese woman join me.
"You in luck," says Trang Vo, inviting me to sit. "We have special chef here today, she fix you a six-course vegetarian lunch." This, though it is 10:30 in the morning.
I ask Hudson about the press kit she'd sent promoting Ching Hai's works. Her cover letter, on letterhead from something called Ocean of Love Entertainment, detailed the association's post-9/11 donations to the Red Cross and Salvation Army (in excess of $300,000) and went on to explain that Ching Hai has funded hundreds of philanthropic efforts (floods in Cincinnati, refugees in Afghanistan, earthquakes in Kobe) solely through the sale of artwork, jewelry and clothing of her own design. "Glamorous and eye-catching, this collection of graceful evening gowns will be the focus of everyone's attention," read the copy on glossy shots of models in mirror-encrusted silk sheaths, swirling capes and pagoda-shaped tiaras. It looked like an evening line for Far East Barbie.
"Oh, no, no, I don't want you to get confused," Vo says, before Hudson can respond. "Ocean of Love Entertainment is not under the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association. That's part of World Peace Media."
"It's my company," says Hudson, whose wide eyes transmit serenity and sincerity. "I promote world peace, and Supreme Master is world peace in action, so I really, of course, want to promote her."
"There are disciples, they are called students, who own companies," says Vo. "So whatever is needed, they say, okay, they can help to send it out."
A young Asian woman enters with jasmine tea.
"Thank you, Linda," says Vo, dismissing the girl.
Does Linda work for Ching Hai?
"Oh, no, she just help out," says Vo.
Does Hudson work here?
"No, no, no, I just help out, because I really love Master," she says. "It's not required that you come in here, it's just that you feel so much love and light that you want to."
So . . . how often does she come here?
"I live up north, near Monterey," says Hudson, adding that she's come down today to meet me, to share her experience.
"I met some of Supreme Master's disciples in Hawaii in 1994," she says, as Linda obsequiously delivers a platter of the makings of spring rolls. "Someone handed me this little green pamphlet, and I was staring at this face and feeling this energy coming off it that was so powerful. I was like, 'Oh my god, she is so enlightened.'"
"Can I do that for you?" asks Vo, reaching for my plate. I tell her I can roll it, thanks.
"Oh, you're good," she says, her gaze both merry and intense. As Hudson goes on to say that she studied world religions for 21 years but did not find "inner peace" until she began practicing Quan Yin meditation for two and a half hours a day, as she compares Ching Hai to Mother Teresa and Princess Diana, Vo continues to stare at me. I get the distinct feeling that, while Hudson has invited me here, it's Vo who understands what's behind the curtain, and is waiting to decide how much I need to know and how I will learn it.
Not that I haven't already learned a little. A quick online search yields more than 30,000 sites mentioning Ching Hai. Her many official sites, such as Godsimmediatecontact.com, include bios that read like hagiographies: Born in Vietnam in 1950, from girlhood she helped the poor and needy, actuating her higher calling with a years-long mission in the Himalayas, where she studied under a "great master" and learned the meditation technique called Quan Yin, which focuses on light and sound. Having found enlightenment, she has for two decades ministered to the crises of the world, accepting absolutely not one penny from her followers, who are mostly from Asia, and who are said to number in the millions.
"She used to stay in Taiwan," says Vo, "but because the amount of disciple all over grow each day, now she's constantly on the road."
There are also less reverent portraits, online and in print: Ching Hai was implicated in the Democratic National Committee's Asian soft-money scandal; a $600,000 donation she made was eventually returned. A "cult watch" site suggests that "Ching Hai evidently viewed the September 11 atrocity as an opportunity to legitimize herself, and soon had her devotees working the phones to various charities." (Hudson's letter was dated September 18.) She had a child by an American soldier before she was 19, a daughter who later committed suicide.She claims to be the reincarnated Buddha and Jesus Christ, and followers are said to be so obsessed with their leader that they drink her bath water.
As a second course of hot-and-sour soup arrives, I ask Vo how long she's been associated with Ching Hai.
"Let me see. I came to America in 1984," she says. "I'm almost 30, and I got involved when I first enter my high school years."
Does she work for Ching Hai?
"No, I'm just . . ." She looks at Hudson. "I'm your assistant." And they both laugh, though I'm not sure why. I ask if they know how Ching Hai raises the millions she gives away.
Hudson says, "Through all her --"
"Through her artistic work!" Vo breaks in. "Yeah, through her artistic work. Basically, that's it. The people, the so-called disciples, if they want to pitch in and help with disaster relief, sometimes we gather a lump sum and give it to them."
So, if followers want to give money, they can?
"To Supreme Master Ching Hai International Organization?" asks Vo. "Yeah. Well, usually we don't accept donation, unless there is a critical disaster or whatnot happening. We have 501c3, tax-exempt, so we gather the whole thing and give it that way."
As something that looks like pork but is actually soy is placed before us, Vo explains how Ching Hai is able to amass and distribute money -- over $2 million since 1999, according to the press kit.
"See, the thing is, what we mean is, she doesn't accept donation, truly she doesn't, but whoever want to help out, okay. But she doesn't accept any donations, like personal, so she can build a house, no, there's no such thing as that. She's more than happy just living in a tent. She's very humble."
So, she lives in a tent?
"She can live anywhere!" says Vo. "She love nature!"
I tell Vo it must be hard for Ching Hai to live in a tent with her tremendous wardrobe. As evidenced by hundreds of photographs on the Web and in her magazines and videos, she rarely wears the same thing twice: Here she's in a fuchsia silk tunic, beatific at her easel; there in a saffron-colored monk's robe, with hair shorn; in a hot-pink velvet bodice and hair extensions, giggling at a Moon festival in Florida; in outrageously elaborate Siamese princess regalia, complete with golden headpiece.
"Actually, she start originally, she shave her head and put on the monk's robe," says Vo. "But people criticize her, they say she's not a true monk, not the true Buddhism -- there's always jealousy on the other end . . . So she started growing hair and putting on makeup and start design her own clothes, and everyone start loving that. They say, 'See, finding God means choose beauty and virtues, we don't have to renounce the world and look bald.'"
"What I'd really like you to get in the [paper], and I don't know if it's possible, are all the different looks that Supreme Master has," says Hudson. "I'm always amazed. There's Supreme Master the Lady, there's Supreme Master the Noblewoman who meets with world leaders, there's Supreme Master the Buddhist Monk, there's Supreme Master the Princess. And she does that to relate to all the different essences in each and every human being."
I mention that I'd had a hard time finding prices for her clothing designs online, though one site said the gowns go for up to $10,000.
"Really?" asks Vo.
"I also want to tell you that so much magic happens around here," interjects Hudson, as we're delivered a stew of tofu and eggplant. "Like I once looked at some of the jewelry, and it was a beautiful necklace with rubies and rhinestones, and I said, 'How much is it?' and it was under $100. They'll do that -- it's really not about the money."
I tell them I appreciate how nice it would be to give the stuff away, yet if Ching Hai is funding hundreds of relief efforts, the money has to come from somewhere.
"A lot of people donate their time, to help out, to create things," says Hudson, looking at Vo, who appears slightly impatient at my lack of understanding.
Where can one buy her designs?
"You have to order it through a catalog," says Vo.
When I ask if I can have a catalog, both Hudson and Vo are silent. Do they, perhaps, have a catalog I can lookat?
"I have some samples to show you," says Vo, as a non-chicken chicken dish arrives. "That's one of the things I want to emphasize, she doesn't accept donations . . . She believes God is love and God should give things to the children instead of taking things from the children."
"But the other thing is, Master appreciates all religions, okay?" says Hudson. "So it's not about 'ours is so great.' If you're Jewish, if you're Muslim, if you're Scientologist, whatever you are, you can practice the Quan Yin method."
Is Quan Yin what they'd call a religion?
"I don't think it's a religion," says Vo.
"There is no religion," says Hudson.
"Ah, we are having a feast!" says Vo, as cookies and Asian pears arrive. I mention that my daughter likes these pears, and ask if their non-religion is ever accused of being a cult.
"Oh, yeah," says Vo. "People say, 'Aren't you a cult?' They're confused. They say, 'How come I hear such and such?' But then when they come to us, they see we are very caring and loving."
"This is not like Scientology," says Hudson, becoming animated. "They get very controlling. This is really about the simplicity, because that's really where that happiness is . . . it's really about being humble, and Master is so that. I want to cry when I think of that, because that is what she taught me so much. I am very in awe, but I am . . . I want to be . . . I rule the world!"
"It's Queen Kathryn!" laughs Vo. "She has her own show!"
She has a show called Queen Kathryn ?
"I do all that. I'm also the head of entertainment here," says Hudson. "It's not like I have a jobjob here. I'm a producer and a writer and an actress, I have my own companies, but I also do their weekly show."
"We have a TV show called A Journey Through Aesthetic Realms ," says Vo. "It's on KSCI, Channel 18, as well as on ETTV in Taiwan, and international in Asia."
"The other thing we wanted to know," says Hudson, dabbing her lips with her napkin, "is if you'd like to come on our weekly show. We just want to ask you maybe a few questions, whatever."
I tell her I'd rather do a little more research before commenting on Ching Hai.
"No, no, just you, as a human being," she says, her voice again breathy and lulling.
"Yeah, you as you," says Vo.
"We're in the moment, in the now," says Hudson, leading me through the door Linda has come in and out of. "Master is about teaching people to be very spontaneous."
I find myself in a studio that is the opposite of spontaneous. There's a raised stage, with two chairs set up; cameramen and sound people; and a line of smiling, nodding Asian men pointing still cameras at me. The sound of mechanical chirping fills the room as Vo tries to get me to sit in the guest's chair.
"Are you ready?" she asks. "They really love and want you."
I decline, despite the encouragement of a dozen people, including the chef, Nancy, who Vo tells me has flown in from Texas, and who wears a locket holding a photo of Ching Hai. I ask her if she made it.
"No," says Nancy, in a thick Vietnamese accent. "Master have a . . ."
"They make it Taiwan," says Vo. "You can buy it online, and we have a store in Orange County, they have all kind of her stuff. We take you down there."
Vo plants me in front of a giant photo of a table laden with steam trays, below a banner that reads "SUMA CHING HAI RESCUE TEAM." It was taken at the World Trade Center site.
"This is at the Ground Zero, where the whole thing collapsed," says Vo.
"She was there," says Hudson.
"I flew there a few days later," says Vo. "The people there were very touched because everyone was exhausted, and to actually bring coffee to their location . . . They have never realized that some people have that much love and dedication to the work."
The men with still cameras motion for Vo and Hudson to stand close beside me, and then begin taking our pictures. I smile stiffly; I've been here over three hours. I tell Hudson and Vo I really need to leave.
"Wait, we have presents for you," says Vo, leading me back to the conference room, where Linda is waiting with two Tiffany-blue shopping bags, one filled with Ching Hai videotapes and books and magazines, the other with a large box of Almond Roca, a tin of tea and half a dozen Asian pears.
"Because you say your daughter like them," says Vo, smiling.
I thank them for the materials, but tell them I cannot accept the food, as it might be construed as their encouraging a positive write-up. Vo's face clouds over, either because she's truly wounded I would make such a supposition, or -- and to my eye -- because this is precisely what she's hoping for.
"But this is a gift," says Vo. "It is brought for you from China."
I move toward the exit, with Vo, Hudson and Linda pressing the bags on me and speaking at once.
"We can get you any materials you need," says Linda.
"And if you want to go to the Orange County store, we can pick you up and drive you," says Hudson.
"We can also drive you to the Sunday meditation and meal at the center in Riverside," says Vo. The desire to flee trumps journalistic ethics, and I grab the bags and push open the door with my butt. The women follow me into the street. It may be paranoia, but I don't want them to know which car is mine, and make a show of jangling my keys next to someone else's beater station wagon. I thank them for their time, and after a protracted goodbye, they go back inside, though not before Hudson tells me to check out her own Web site.
"The Queen of World Peace" reads the caption beneath a harshly lit beauty-queen shot of Hudson at Queenkathryn.com . There are many items for sale, including several dozen boudoir shots of Hudson; an assortment of Queen Kathryn products, such as Fudge Fatale candy and Sacred perfume; and Queen Kathryn, the Movie , starring Hudson in a gold Xena-like outfit. The synopsis explains that Queen Kathryn hails from the planet Nebaron, is raised by the Yodecian tribe in the Himalayas, and opens Starshine Dance Studios in Los Angeles, from where she and a "harem of young girls" fight the evil force known as Gregorian Mansoon, whose "mission is to turn the people of L.A. into Reptilian Lizards." There are many testaments to how loving and giving Hudson is, and a single mention of Ching Hai, in a link to "Humanitarians of the 21st Century," a pantheon that includes Prince William, Julia Roberts, Anthony Robbins and "YOU."
"I heard nothing and saw nothing" August 25, 2002 By a former practitioner of the method of "Suma Ching Hai"
I followed the "method" of "Suma Ching Hai" for a while, three or four years ago, before leaving because I saw no point in continuing to waste time on a method that seemed fictional. "Light and sound" simply did not occur during any of my meditations!
There is no evidence of a mantra in this group because nothing is written. The first few times you meditate, you are instructed to repeat "Suma Ching Hai" internally for 30 minutes a day. You are advised to give up meat, fish and eggs and all intoxicants. After a few weeks/months, you are invited to be "initiated". You are, they hope, fully vegetarian by this time.
You are simply told that the "Five Names" (of God) that you are to repeat internally when meditating (2 1/2 hours a day). You are also told how to meditate on "light and sound", by concentrating on the "third eye," which is supposedly in the region of the pineal gland, between the eyebrows, and also by blocking your ears and listening to the celestial sounds within. These can be the sound of bells or other "heavenly music". I would not know: I heard nothing and "saw" nothing. You are told of "brilliant light", although sharing experiences is discouraged, because not everyone is the same. You are also asked to cover yourself with a sheet or blanket, so no one can see you even when meditating in a group of fellow "disciples." [These techniques of meditation appear to be a kind of self-hypnosis to achieve a trance state.]
The "Five Names" are YO NI RAN YAN, OM GAR, RA RAN GAR, SO HAM, SATT NAM. I have no idea how to spell these, of course, since it is all passed on orally. You are told never to repeat these "names" aloud and, of course, never to tell anyone else about them. Ooops! Does that mean I am now officially a "sinner" in the eyes of Ching Hai devotees?
There's not much more to tell, except that 2 1/2 hours was too much for me. I have four children and work as well. Also, the books and other paraphernalia were over-priced. The books and tapes could be borrowed if you liked, and once you were an official follower, you had an ID card, with your photo on. This was to be carried with you, although no one ever asked me for it. You need never give any money at all, if you did not want to. There was no pressure at all in my Sussex group in England and everyone seemed very pleasant.
I never came to any harm from Ching Hai or her following. Meditation made me calmer, but sitting on your bum thinking of very little is bound to calm you down anyway!
I did once see Ching Hai, in London. She was a small woman, dressed in very plain clothes and with an incredible amount of charisma. She talked for a while and then invited questions. I asked one and was impressed by her direct manner and down-to-earth, practical reply. She had a way of looking in your eyes, as if she knew you completely. I cannot describe it more exactly than that, but there was definitely some power there, despite her slight physical frame. http://www.rickross.com/reference/ching_hai/sumaching10.html
Supreme Master Ching Hai Let Us Reason Ministries
You have heard of ancient masters of the east, enlightened masters, perfect masters, now there is a supreme master among us. (1) From what I understand this is the highest title given, as the name ‘Supreme Master’ and her Chinese name, means nothing greater than her.
Every several years a new-enlightened master comes on the scene to share their so-called spiritual wisdom with the world. It is more rare to see a woman in this position, but there have been a number of women over the years. Ching Hai’s success proves there is even room for women gurus.
Her real name is Hue Dang Trinh but her followers know her by the name Supreme master Ching Hai, the Chinese enlightened master. Originally born in Au Lac, Vietnam she spent much of her adult life in Taiwan. Ching Hai was brought up as a Catholic by her parents, but learned the basics of Buddhism from her grandmother. Suma Ching Hai’s grandmother was a Buddhist, who taught her the scriptures and Buddhist worship. Her father was a highly respected Naturopath who loved to study world literature and was especially interested in philosophy.
When she was young an astrologer pronounced that the young Ching Hai possessed ‘supernoble character and morals.’ She would often be reading philosophical literature while the other children were doing homework and playing. This along with other spiritual influences molded her to what she is today.
When she was young she disliked when someone would harm plants. She got very upset, because she could feel their pain, and says we really shouldn’t harm plants without any reason. She has been known often to take a wounded animal home, to care for it. If she saw an animal slaughtered, she would cry. All her life she's been repulsed by the sight of killing animals for meat and wishing that she could prevent the suffering in the world. She has always been a vegetarian.
Her appeal is to bring peace to all brothers and sisters, which is done by her meditation technique and prayer. “We can change histories outcome by doing this method” she claims.
Master Ching Hai went on the road at an early age to seek knowledge. She left home at 22 to study in England, and then went to France and Germany, where she worked for the Red Cross as an interpreter. At 30, she met and married a German physician, and after two years of marriage, with her husband's consent, they separated. She left the marriage in her continuing pursuit of enlightenment. Fulfilling an ideal that had been with her since Her childhood. She became a Buddhist nun and pursued enlightenment in India. As a result of time spent in the Himalayas she says she discovered “the Quan Yin Method and the Divine Transmission.” Some have said that in the movement’s literature there is no mention made of how she came upon this enlightenment. Although her disciples seem to know all about this and accept her story, others are a bit skeptical.
Calling herself shy in nature, she kept this treasure she found hidden (Quan Yin Method). After she returned from the Himalayas she then began to teach this initiation to others at the earnest request of those people who sought her instruction and initiation. It was through the insistent requests and efforts of Her earlier disciples in Formosa (Taiwan) and United States that Master Ching Hai now lectures throughout the world. She has initiated multiplied tens of thousands of spiritual aspirants using the Quan Yin method. In a brief autobiography she explains that her spiritual experience came about as a result of time spent in the Himalayas where she discovered “the Quan Yin Method and the Divine Transmission” (“A Brief Biography of the Supreme Master Ching Hai” in The Key of Immediate Enlightenment by the Supreme Master Ching Hai [Formosa, 27th edition, 1999], p.9)
A letter I received from someone who knows eastern religion wrote on her meditation practice: The system she practices and teaches is really Sant Mat (also known as Surat Shabd Yoga). Her immediate master was Thakar Singh, a well known Sant Mat master. In the early days Ching Hai acknowledged Thakar Singh as her spiritual master but later denied him and invented the tale of descending from the Himalayas.
“Quan Yin” is just a made-up name to make her system seem to be original - it is not. What gives her away is the fact that her method is identical to Sant Mat: * Meditation on sound and light * Meditating two and a half hours daily * The same mantra, consisting of five names, as Sant Mat (jyot naranjan, onkar, raronkar, sohang, satnam).
Ching-Hai shares the method with others, encouraging them to look within to find their own greatness and source of strength. People from all walks of life use the Quan-yin method of meditation. It is offered for people to attain fulfillment, happiness and peace in their daily lives. As her message began to spread invitations arrived from the United States, Europe, Asia, South America, and the United Nations for Master Ching-Hai to give lectures.
Quan Yin meditation is basically a silent meditation -- Quan means ‘contemplation,’ and Yin means ‘inner vibration.’ The ‘light and the sound.’ Ching Hai teaches that this is found in the Christian Bible where John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Jesus’ disciples called it the ‘Holy Spirit’ or the ‘Word’ (which is from the Greek word ‘Logos,’ meaning sound). This Word is the Inner Sound. Master Ching Hai says, ‘It vibrates within all life and sustains the whole universe. This inner melody can heal all wounds, fulfill all desires, and quench all worldly thirst.’ She declares ‘I am offering proof of God’s existence’. She offers this by claiming seeing (the Light of God) is believing.’ At this time I need to respond by stating that this is not what Christians interpret the Bible to mean, but that matters little to her followers who had an experience with her method that has taught them they are God.
The Word is an eternal person who is God, not a sound. All one needs to do is read the next verse that says He was in the beginning with God. John then says in v.14 the Word became flesh, and in v.18 he is a son in relationship to the father. To those who do not know Christianity this will not make sense, but suffice it to say that what Ching Hai is teaching is her own unique spin on something that has been taught for almost 2,000 years. (In the same way Sant Mat did when he reinterpreted John 1:1-3 and substituted “Truth” in place of “the Word” preface of Sant Mat and the Bible).
She describes sound as the special language God uses to communicate with us, light and sound is the manifestation of our wisdom inside us, this is not a physical hearing or seeing it’s the inside awareness of your own self, ‘our own glorious nature, we are light.’ And this light is God. In other words, you go inside yourself and with this meditation technique you find out you are God.
Where have we heard this teaching before? The God is not a sound, (like aum) God is personal. This is not the same Word or Holy Spirit the Bible teaches about.
‘Quan Yin’ is the name of a goddess, the most popular in China. Worshipped both by Buddhists and Taoists, Quan Yin is represented as a female figure with many arms to signify her generosity towards her devotees. She is particularly favoured by women who pray to her for the birth of a son. (See Kari Harbakk, ‘Kuan Yin Revisited’ and ‘Goddess of a Thousand Eyes’ in Areopagus [Hong Kong] II, 2 (Epiphany 1989), 35-37).
This meditation is practiced with one’s attention focused on the ‘third eye’ centre, located in the middle of the forehead as all other meditations. This, she said, is the wisdom centre and the highest gateway for leaving one’s body. She cautions the technique should be learned properly and practiced correctly as there is danger of focusing on any chakras or centres of energy without proper guidance. Of course she is offering that guidance.
In one of her lectures a question asked was “ Master, sometimes during meditation with the Convenient Method, I feel a chill from my spine going up to my head, and then there seems to be a feeling of energy encircling in my head. What does this mean? Is this a bad or good sign?” Master: “It’s okay. It’s your kundalini at work. Afterward you’ll be used to it. It’s only a Convenient Method, and still it works all so much, because of the master power blessing you. Other people they practice many years to try to awaken the kundalini, and they can’t do it.” (Supreme Master Ching Hai answered on April 10, 1993 in Colorado, USA
During her initiation service http://futures.phys.cmu.edu/eng/booklet/initiation.html She provides the ‘spiritual transmission’ to the enlightened world. This event is sometimes called the ‘sudden’ or ‘immediate enlightenment’. On the initiation she says, ‘A Christian might experience Jesus, a Buddhist might experience Nirvana.’ And it would not be unusual that a Ching Hai follower might experience Ching Hai. Of course this would be superior; since she is the living master on earth now, they are not. You can call it whatever you like but it really is the same thing we have heard from the many gurus before her. It may be a different name and a different approach but it leads to the same goal; You are God.
As with any type of group seeking enlightenment we would get a different story from those who were inside after they come out. Former disciples of Ching Hai have alleged that disciples are taught to meditate with a blanket over their heads. This practice tends to induce hyper-ventilation which makes people more susceptible to mind-control. It has also been reported that disciples were strongly encouraged by Ching Hai herself to put together a six-figure donation towards U.S. President Clinton’s personal legal defense fund. (Tom Fitton’s article, “Brainwashed Clinton Donors” in Opinion Inc 08/05/97 http://www.opinioninc.com/current/august/080597.html.)
“The Supreme Master Suma Ching Hai” is a 50 year old five-foot-tall guru who can laugh along with you while she teaches. She has a sense of humor and can at times can be found laughing at her own jokes that are both good and bad. She seems to have an uncontrollable twitch in her nose and eyes mouth, and her facial expressions contort at times. Her left cheek is slightly paralyzed which gives her a sly grin at times. This is said to be the result of surgery that partially paralyzed the left side of her face. I find this interesting that a master went to have surgery, maybe this was before she found herself to be God.
In the tradition of gurus they lay flowers at her feet and on stage at her lectures. She is sometimes surrounds herself on stage from those in the audience. One time I noticed the man she asked to sit next to her was very uncomfortable and certainly did not hold to her teachings. She made him very distressed insisting on having him sit next to her for support as she lectured.
Her teachings combine shreds of truth Consisting of sayings from Bhagavad Gita, Surangama Sutra, The Bible and various other religious books. Just about any religious book she is familiar with becomes putty in her hands. Using a certain type of logic, humor and sharing her experiences, various religious teachings are blended and accepted in her portrayal. The most referred to that I have heard from her lectures is Christ. Her message appears to be inclusive to all faiths and this type of tolerance comes across well in today’s vulnerable society. Her message is -- you don’t have to give up your religious tradition but can enhance it by discovering what it really is about. In this way she is not seen as a threat to anyone’s belief system. However it really is the opposite if one listens carefully to the punch line.
Her religion is known as everything, but not any one thing. Buddhist, Christian, Catholic or Hindu, they are even able to worship the supreme Master Suma Ching Hai. A passage from Ching Hai’s literature states: ‘Our path isn’t a religion. ... I simply offer you a way to know yourself.’ She says, all religions are actually the same, but what she is offering is not religion not even spirituality, but to know yourself. She explains that the peace and love we seek, we already have within ourselves. Her trek down from the Himalayan mountains to civilization is to tell us to look within for our answers. So knowing self is the answer to all our problems. We are told the future is in our own hands, it is our choice. We only need discover it by her method. She states, “We can have both Heaven and Earth at the same time and enjoy both. There is no mystery about how to know God. It’s very, very simple. Even children can have the experience of God. Exactly the experience that written in the Bible.”
Is it? Where did anyone teach to look within for self in the Bible to find God? In Ireland in the main hall of the Royal Dublin Society she told them ‘Heaven is here and now!’ and invited the Irish public to ‘see God while living.’
The followers say the initiation into the Quan Yin Method is not a ceremony for entering a new religion. How does one know the Quan Yin method is the right one for them. We are told ‘you don’t know until you try’. She suggests to pray to your Inner Self, to God, to Jesus, to Allah, to Buddha, to whoever you believe, to help you to decide. Coming from a Christian perspective this all sounds quite hazy, as if it doesn’t matter, whatever it takes for you to try it and get an experience to prove what she is saying. How do you pray to someone or something that may not exist? It doesn’t matter what you call it as long as you go within. This has always been the essence of occult enlightenment.
Her followers are to use the Quan Yin meditation 2 1/2 hours every day. She has 5 precepts one is to practice, which requires a vegan or lacto-vegetarian diet with no meat. As strict vegetarians you are to refrain from taking the life of sentient beings. If they have difficulty with this, there is another alternative: Meditation for just 30 minutes a day, you can try vegetarian food whenever it’s convenient a vegetarian diet is required only 10 days a month or twenty days ... She wants her adherents to be comfortable in transitioning over to this new way of life. You can do this until you’re ready with the idea that God comes first, God comes before everything else in life, before every reason, before every logic, before any pride at all, then you get initiation.
You are also to give up stealing, lying, only speak what is true. They are not to use intoxicants, and no sexual misconduct. These are all good as far as learning morals and ethics. But they do not justify what she is actually teaching.
She describes herself as a living chosen pole. She transmits the enlightenment. She says she could talk about it for 100 years but the real thing is transmitted. She says she is not a prophet she is teaching the people that they are. She states the method cannot be communicated with word but by experience through a different level of consciousness.
In being questioned about this method: “The question. How does the transmission take place?” Answer: “Well, you know it later. If you want to know, you stay behind, and after the conference we show you. It’s, I cannot explain it. It’s just inside of me. It’s just the power of God that’s doing this. No talk, no language to describe that. That’s why it needs a living transmission pole, otherwise all the Bibles would be in writing how to do it long time already, and we would have been able to do it ourselves already. It needs a living transmission. And in every era of the planet, God chose at least one or two or three, that’s the way he wanted, to transmit this power to his children whoever wants to go back to the kingdom of God.”
It means the consciousness of the teacher and the disciple will be connected, and the goal in Quan Yin is when one attains the highest level practice, then one becomes like Bodhisattva (a Quan Yin Bodhisattva) who is able to hear and see everything. By this they can help people in different corners of the universe, without having be there and without knowing their names or person. She states this is the goal of every follower of different religions, to become omnipresent, to become a source of blessing for all the suffering beings. I doubt many other religions would agree on this being the goal, neither Islam, Hinduism teach this. For example in Christianity there is no such thing as we become omnipresent, only God has this ability and it is clear man is not God but a creature.
She can explains all this away as she answers the “Question: “Why can one not talk about this experience with others?” Answer: “You can, but they don’t understand. They might laugh at you, think that you’re boasting, you’re blaspheming, and that you are idiot and whatever.”
This ‘supreme master’ is different, she does not ask her devotes to sell all and give to her as the other masters came from India in the 60’s and 70’s, she gives them the best of both worlds. She has no initiation fees or collection from disciples. Both people and money are attracted to her; money seems to find by what she offers her followers and seekers. Ching-Hai has made use of her multiple “spiritual talents.” Some call her a shrewd merchandiser, as she is able to sell anything she creates. This includes paintings, music, poetry, aesthetic jewelry, clothing and designs. All of these express the inner and outer beauty of the cultures and people she has met in her travels.
The sales of all her artistic endeavors have enabled Master Ching-Hai to create an independent source of funding for humanitarian activities, highlighting her pragmatic view that we should always try and create our own means from which to give to others. Her oil paintings such as a wood-and-rice-paper lamp titled ‘At One With All Creation’ sell at just $2,160.
She has designed a flamboyant clothing line (started in 1995) consisting of flowing silks in bright colors, elaborate hats, with custom-made umbrellas as her trademark. Her creations toured on the international fashion circuit, debuted on runways in London, Paris, Milan and New York. Her ensembles from the ‘Celestial Clothing’ collection can cost up to $11,000.
Her disciples bid for her used clothing; for a pair of “the Master’s” sweat socks at a retreat in Taiwan the price was $800. ‘The socks are a memory of the Master, so they are priceless,’ says one devotee, who admits that she’s not sure if the socks were washed before the auction. ‘When the Master leaves the physical world, at least I will have her socks.’
The supreme master seems to have taken an economic course in college as she is marketing a line of merchandise. The ‘Elevation of the Soul’ catalog offers more than 400 videos of the Supreme Master’s public appearances, everything from an $8 video of ‘Funny Non-Saint Stories’ taped in Los Angeles to footage of ‘Master’s Birthday Celebration’ in Taiwan for $64. Her catalog lists more than 50 books, including a Supreme Master cookbook, a coffee-table book of photos, and a volume devoted to Ching Hai’s song lyrics. There are six volumes of Immediate Enlightenment, a small hardback that offers the basics of Ching Hai’s teaching. Each volume costs $16.
Is she a Christ or a modern Buddha? She’s not a Christ because there is only one messiah and the same one is coming back again, beside the Christ is not a she. Is she a Buddha? Hardly, as a Buddha she does not ask anyone to give up the things in the world. How can she when she herself is promoting them. She explains that we are all born into this world of Maya, of illusion but she herself is certainly enjoying the ride. Money, prestige, prominence are all hers as the Supreme master. Enlightenment may be offered as free to her meditators but it does cost something and is highly commercialized.
The greater portion of her financial support comes from Taiwan, Supreme Master Meditation Centers have incorporated in several states as religious organizations with tax-exempt status. This includes centers in Los Angeles and Morgan Hill, south of San Jose. Her Center in San Francisco is visited regularly to watch the Master’s video lectures and meditate using her Quan Yin method. Tucked away in a spare room at Peterson’s Parts Warehouse on Cesar Chavez Street, the center is just one of many Ching Hai’s outposts in nearly 40 countries. Initiations take place at the 40-acre Ching Hai Meditation Center in Morgan Hill.
Master Ching-Hai is well received in many countries. She has received awards worldwide by government officials and private organizations on various occasions. They include the World Peace Award, the World Spiritual Leadership Award, Award for Promotion of Human Rights and the Award for Outstanding Public Service to Mankind. Ching Hai has been recognized and honored for Her humanitarian work by government officials throughout the world. For example on October 25, 1993 was proclaimed “The Supreme Master Ching Hai Day” by the mayor of Honolulu Hawaii, and February 22, 1994 was proclaimed “The Supreme Master Ching Hai Day” by the governors of the States of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri and Minnesota. She also received the “World Peace Award”’ in Honolulu, and the “World Spiritual Leadership Award” at a ceremony in Chicago on February 22, 1994. Many government officials worldwide sent congratulatory messages to the Chicago ceremony by, including Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Reagan.
In Taiwan on Ching Hai Day October 1995, at the ceremony she wore queenly robes (‘under orders from God,’ she says), riding a sedan chair carried by eight bearers to the cheers of ‘your royal majesty.’ In Taiwan, it has been reported to at one time have 300,000 followers. It is report that her largest followings are here in America where almost all of Ching Hai’s followers are new arrivals from Vietnam and China.
She has approximately 2,000 members in California (Dion Nissenbaum’s article ‘Sect Master a No-show, Rumors Had Ching Hai in Lake Elsinore’ in The Press- Enterprise, December 31, 1996 p. B01). According to the article ‘Unusual Cast of Asian Donors Emerges in DNC Funding Controversy’ in the Jan 27, 1997 issue of The Washington Post, however, Suma Ching Hai has 100,000 followers in the United States and millions more in almost 40 countries.
The secular press seems to be unaware of her existence, and counter cult ministries have not taken much notice about her either. There are close to 60 web sites in various languages of the world presenting Ching Hai and her the Quan Yin method of meditation. Margaret Singer, one of the country’s first and foremost cult experts says that she has received callers who complained about the tremendous sums of money their spouses gave to the Ching Hai organization. Some have lost their spouses to the Ching Hai organization. Singer says, ‘Almost everyone I talked to,’ ‘had lost a partner--a girlfriend, a husband--because they had given up everything to go to work in a restaurant or join the group.’ This enlightened master has become an entrepuneur, the owner of 56 vegetarian restaurants, which cover the globe from Taipei to Melbourne to San Jose. She also is not short on other talents being a painter and poet. She is also a fashion designer, publishes a magazine, produces music videos, and is a beauty makeover consultant. According to most of her followers, Ching Hai is not only a saintly philanthropist who took the Vietnamese refugees in Hong Kong under her wing, she is also the living Buddha and Jesus Christ -- Ching Hai is God incarnate.
In the 21st century it can really pay well to be a supreme master, yes, even God has goals, ideas, dreams and a business mind, and not least of all a bank account.
Questions and Ching Hai’s answers (my comments are in blue)
Her gatherings are mostly question and answers on spiritual matters besides her lectures. Numerous people who are inquisitive or searching for answers to life show up at her discourses. They are basically the same questions and same answers from her no matter which country she is in.
At times she seems stable and at other times she chuckles and even laughs at people's questions. She mocks their intelligence at times and shows a cunning that is unique. Her answering questions from those who inquire about her spirituality becomes even more interesting than her teaching to convince people of her Quan Yin method of meditation.
She claims the real teaching is not found in any religious scripture but from inside ourselves. She states “But, the personal enlightenment, we must have it ourselves. Whatever Jesus says is correct only when he was alive to his disciples. That’s why we must find our own master inside, our own Christ within, because we are the children of God. One eats, or the other cannot be filled. One person eats, other person cannot eat. We have to eat ourselves.” (Olelo TV ch. 52 2001) She reminds people that they have the Kingdom of God inside just as Jesus said. She says the Buddha said the Buddha is inside yourself, you are the Buddha. Jesus said God is inside you that means you are God. She tries to awaken the great wisdom that is found within you. I bet you didn’t you know that you already had all the wisdom and power to sustain all things within you? You are God, however I have yet to hear anyone explain in detail how they have created and sustain the universe.
She is quoting Jesus’ statement on the Kingdom of God, but she doesn’t know what he meant at all. When He said ‘the kingdom is within you.’ He meant within your midst, the English doesn’t give this translation from the Greek well. In other words He meant that He, being the king and the source of everything, was among them. At the time He was addressing the religious leaders that rejected him, He certainly wasn’t telling them any such thing as the kingdom was within them. He did not mean this same kingdom dwelt in every human being, for He said we are sinners, and He, himself was without any sin. He was from above and we are from beneath, He made a clear distinction between us, and Himself; being the one TRUE God come in human flesh. Ching Hai certainly denies this, showing she does not understand even the most basic teaching of Christ, yet she has no qualms using his name or sayings as she pleases.
She states “Whatever Jesus says is correct only when he was alive to his disciples” means He did not have absolute truth but only truth for a short period of time. If she’s a spiritual master just like this Jesus, then the so called truth she gives today would only be good for a temporary time as well. But what she says about Jesus is not true; as Jesus said His word is truth and it is eternal; that heaven and earth would pass away but His Word (truth) would remain forever.
In a question ‘What do you think about the Old Testament and the Jewish religion?’ We find what she really thinks about Christianity and Christ. Masters Chin Hai’s answer: “It is good. But do not wait for the Messiah, because He comes all the time. Pray that you recognize the present Messiah. The one that you are waiting for will never come, if you expect Him the way you do. Just like when Jesus came, people were also expecting a Messiah and they killed the one at hand! We do all the same stupid things. It isn’t that the Jewish religion is bad, it is that we are ignorant. Even Jesus promised to send us a comforter, that means someone that is equal to Him, no? But two thousand years later, we are still waiting and many prophets came and left the earth. We hear that Jesus will reappear, right? How do you think He will look, with wings, with a beard, or on a cross so that we may recognize Him? How could we recognize Him, if He would come? We do not even know what Jesus looked like! We weren’t there, or maybe we were, but after two thousand years who has such a big memory to remember! Jesus comes not in appearance but in spirit. He can come to anyone who is perceptive enough, who opens the right door to let Him in. Then we become like Jesus, then He comes back again. He comes whenever we are ready. He comes through any Master who is capable to house His almighty power. That person is also Jesus, different hair style maybe, but it is still Jesus.”
This mocking answer of all that Christ said shows someone who cares not what the Scripture says. Jesus told us that He would come again a certain way, the same way He left Acts 1:11 and if anyone offers you a Jesus coming in a different way it is another Jesus not the genuine Jesus of the Bible.
Question: I believe that Jesus will come back. If this is true, how shall I behave? Her answer: “I won’t answer you. You won’t believe me.” You can imagine what she thinks about this.
Ching Hai’s teaching takes elements with bits and pieces from other religions and changes their meaning. For example, she speaks about the three bodies in Buddhism, which she terms respectively the ‘dharma body’, the ‘manifestation body’ and the ‘physical body’ and then she states: “Catholics speak of this as the Trinity.”(“Trinity - spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai, Chuongli, Formosa, February 25, 1989”, published in The Supreme Master Ching Hai [News No. 105, September 1999], 9).
No Catholic I’ve ever known would think this way, but she has interpreted this into another religions construct. One wonders if she ever understood the Catholicism that she was supposedly brought up in to state such a foreign statement. Especially, one who claims to be God, they should have accurate knowledge on other religions as well. She does not.
Her spiritual discourses are filled with words that sound wonderful to all. She says, “I dream that all the world will become peaceful. I dream that all the killing will stop. I dream that all the children will walk in peace and harmony. I dream that all the nations shake hands with each other, protect each other and help each other. I dream that our beautiful planet will not be destroyed. It takes billion, billion, trillions of years to produce this planet, and it’s so beautiful, so wonderful. I dream that it will continue, but in peace, beauty and love. Yeah? That is my dream” (Olelo TV ch. 52 2001). This may be the dream of many others beside herself, but it is quite a contradiction to teach people they are God and then dream for something to happen. What kind of God is this that has no influence on the world? That dreams for things to happen. It makes sense when one understands that maya, means an illusion, that none of this is real and can be reshaped to what we want it to be.
She says, “The way to contact with the grace of God, people call that the way of the enlightenment, but the way of Jesus, the way of Buddha, the way of Mohammed, the way of those great masters in the ancient, in the present and in the future. I’m not trying to save the way of religions, because religion has two, two essence. One is a theory that we read the Bible, we become pious, we keep the commandments of God, and we fast, we become good person, we help one another. That is one way. There is another way. The spiritual way is much, much deeper. The spiritual way is the way we can contact directly to God and tell him everything that we want to tell, and he will tell us how we going to solve the problems. He is going to bless us so that our lives will become exactly the way we want to live. Because in the Bibles or in many of the spiritual religious scriptures, it doesn’t, they don’t mention how to contact God. They just mention that the ancient times like Saint John or whoever have contacted God, or Moses have seen God, and then he gets blessed and then he has wisdom, etc, etc. But the Bible or the Scriptures did not tell us how to get the wisdom the way Moses did. Jesus had meditated in the desert for 40 days, similar with Mohammed, and similar with the Buddha, similar with Mohammed, etc., etc. There are endless of masters since ancient times. I cannot mention them all. But they all have to go through a process of contemplating for a long time in everyday life in order to contact this god, and contact God inside of us.” (Olelo TV ch 52 2001)
Here Jesus is reduced to one of many enlightened masters like all the gurus before her, this position is nothing new. Nowhere does it say in the Bible he meditated (like she is teaching) in the desert, so one wonders where she received this information. Jesus never said He is a way among many ways, But THE WAY, the TRUTH, the LIFE. By demoting Jesus she exalts herself. Of course her belittling the Bible is no surprise from one who opposes Jesus and puts herself in the place of God.
She states “the Bible was written by men, we have no way of checking what they wrote we were not there”
She is a walking contradiction when it comes to spiritual knowledge. The Bible itself says it was inspired by God directly influencing men to write and communicate what was said perfectly (1Tim. 3:16-17).
She says, “Someone had to be in first and everything else come from that. So in my experience that God has shown me, there is no mystery about how to know God. It’s very, very simple. Even children can have the experience of God. Exactly the experience that written in the Bible, like if Moses had seen God as a big bush of flame, if other things had heard God like the sound of many waters, we can experience exactly the same like that. And more, more, more, more, more.
That’s why Jesus has told us that whatever he can do we can do also, because it was not him that was doing, it was the father. Similar to us, if we are, if we will be transmitted, this god-power all will be rekindled, this existing power within us again, then we can also experience Heaven while we are living in this planet. We can also have the healing power”
She ignore the fact that Moses was specifically picked for a huge task and what he experienced was unusual and not normal. Very few prophets have experiences like this.
What I find even more contradictory is that she says she is God, as is everyone once they discover their true self. Yet she needs an interpreter for languages, something that God would not need. Sometimes she does not understand the questions at times and answers wrong. Everything else she states proves it is only her personal opinion.
Question: “What does it mean by having people live this life passed through the world?”
Answer: “So that we may know we are gods. That is a short answer. If you want a long one, I can talk for two or 300 years, from the beginning of the universe until the end. You see, we are all children of God. We are all gods. Because we are all gods, we cannot know that we were gods. We do know that not in such an exciting way is if we had the suffering and material discomfort to compare with. Just like the sun is always good but when compared to the night and the darkness it’s more glorious. While we have chosen to come here and suffer in darkness so that we appreciate the light better. That’s why I respect all the people and like them a lot and like them because they are all gods.”
Are we gods, as in many? This certainly goes against Jesus who said there is only one God and there are many monotheistic religions she would have to contradict to pawn this off to her unsuspecting public. If we are all gods then what kind of a god forgets he is god. Obviously we are not speaking about a God who is in control of the universe, a universe that depends on this God’s existence; but a God who depends on the universe. Jesus quotes this verse in Jn.10. Psalm 82:6-8 I said, “You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.” But the psalm goes on to say “But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” “Arise, O God, judge the earth; for You shall inherit all nations.” No we are not gods and anyone who claims such a position blasphemes against the God who is their creator and they will one day know the amount of separation there is between them and the true God.
Question: In order to be able to love, must to we be enlightened”? Answer: yes, to a greater extent. We are all capable of love to some degree, but if you want to develop complete love like Jesus or Buddha or Carson, we have to be more enlightened. Because enlightenment and loves. God is love. When we love to another person as a husband or wife, as a child or a friend, and we know a little fraction of God’s love, but if we want to know the whole magnity of love, we must know God.”
She does not always come off so humble as supreme master showing enlightenment when people ask irritating questions. Her response does not completely come through on paper as it does in the videos.
Question: The Buddha says one must not desire enlightenment. Why do you say that you want enlightenment? (Ching-Hai) What, what, what? Translator: Why do you say that if you want enlightenment you will get it? It is not a process. Our desires cloud the truth.
Answer: Oh, my God. So how do you get enlightenment? We sit here and argue about dictionary words all the time? Okay. So you don’t want enlightenment? Well, fine then. Don’t want. Just go home. Then I would never know whether you want me to teach you the way to enlightenment or not. I think you better not get initiation. The one who asked this question better go home. You are not yet at the level of getting ready for enlightenment.”
Afterwards she separates the people to be initiated and those who are inquisitive and want to try it out.
Question: How do we know that your path is the true one? There are many religions in the world, and all of them claim to have the true message. Now, what says that your path is different? I think that maybe it’s just like other churches that is also the business that you’ve put in the mind.”
Answer: ‘Well, you have to try it before you can be kept. I cannot convince you unless you educate yourself. Also I have told you whatever path you want to choose, you are convinced about that path? Choose it. I’m not here to prove anything. I’m here to tell you that you can prove anything to yourself. At my own expense. We earn nothing from you, not even membership, not any obligation, not even a condemnation that you will go to hell if you don’t follow my preaching. Not that you are not my brothers and sisters, we don’t follow the same method. If I were you, I would try it, because you lose nothing. You only gain. You gain the whole world. You gain everything that you ever imagined. That’s all I can promise you. To realize this promise, you have to follow the way I show you.’
This is a contradiction to say they must try the way she shows to understand. While her statement has manipulation all over it by offering to someone everything they want in life. She seems to have forgotten Jesus who said what if you gain the whole world and lose your own soul. She says you gain your soul with meditation, yet she disregards the very reason He came to earth to die for sin.
Who or what is God?
Question: I would like to ask if you see God, you tell that you see God as a man or as a woman, it appears to you? But do you visualize God as a human being or . . .
Answer: No, you don’t visualize. He comes the way he wants. You don’t have to visualize, because God is God. You cannot visualize him. He comes the way he wants.
Question: What is God? Does it have a form or look like paintings of God that we see? Answer: like Michelangelo’s God! No, this is his God, it is Michelangelo’s God. You want to see what God looks like? Who is it who asked this question? Please raise your hand. I will show you immediately. You? Look behind you, your neighbour in front, to your right and left, that is what God looks like. Alright, you are satisfied? God said, ‘God made man in His own image.’ So if you want to find God, look at your neighbours. Each one of us houses God inside.
Question- When you describe God, you use the masculine word ‘He.’ Is God masculine, feminine, both or neither? Answer: Both. Neither. Okay, then I’ll use She! Because if I use She maybe you will also object. Since ancient times, we have always referred to God as He, and now who are you to say that God is a She!”
Question- Do You believe that the Supreme Messiah of the universe - Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, said, ‘I am the way, the Truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me’; that no one can enter heaven, God’s home, except by Jesus? Master -Yes, it is true; every Master has said that. ‘Jesus’ is the name of His body; ‘Christ’ is His title. Every Master should have this Christ power; therefore, in a sense, Jesus never died. Jesus works through all the Masters, through all the centuries, through all the ages, to liberate and enlighten us, the ignorant still left behind.”
Question: Once we have achieved our closeness to the Supreme Being, are we ever going to separate again, like it happens to leaves on the trees that fall on the clothing?
Answer: Yes, we will, because that’s the first act of creation, because that’s the game we play with God. And that’s how the creation exists. Otherwise there’s just God, and no name, no form, no feeling, no feeling, no creation, no black nor white, no good nor bad, no evil, no sin, nothing. But we could also remain in God’s abode forever. We could choose to do many things if we want to. But most likely that when we choose to play games with him again, like now, then we rest again, and then we’re bored and then we go out to play games again. Heaven is not eternal. We will not want to stay in Heaven eternally. We will just want to bring heaven to anywhere, and any level of existence, because that’s the way creation is. That’s the way God would like us to be, and that’s the way we will choose to be. Besides, after enlightenment, we will look down and see so many other brothers and sisters. They are suffering in ignorance. They are suffering in all kinds of lack of comfort due to spiritual darkness. We will be willing to lovingly come down to assist them. And so that’s how the creation continues. Jesus did not come down for the first time or the last time. He said he’ll come back again. He said he’ll come back again. He might have already did, but how do we recognize him? Does he necessarily grow a beard like last time? Does he necessarily walk barefoot like last time? Does he necessarily wear a rag the way, you know, wear rags and clothes the way he did last time? No. He should not. He must not. If he wore rags and dirty clothes and walked barefoot in front of your door, you would call policemen. Now Jesus, if he comes down, he has to be good-looking, modernized, wealthy, healthy, well ding ding, comfort, etc. And he has to say mostly he loves our lives. You know, mostly people like a shaven man. That is if he came back as a man. He might choose to incarnate in a lady’s body or in, you know. Besides, we only heard of him as a man. We don’t even know we were not there. Have you seen me 2000 years ago, Nico? Nowadays we have photography and we still don’t know who’s really fit because they still can use computers to mess around with our appearance and put another person’s head on your body and put your body on another person’s head, etc. And your head on another person’s body to create a different person or a different, blah blah blah. How would we even prove that Jesus looked like what might reach?
[She further states another time “And there is a way to get to such a state as living in Heaven while working on Earth. There is a way to do that, because Heaven is already within us. Heaven exists all the time.” So she believes heaven is not a location but a state of mind]
She states “Who is God? You! You! We have two sides to our nature, one is physical, and one is super physical. I find no words for it, so I have to say it is super-physical, spirit; one is physical, one is spirit. The spirit means the God who sleeps inside our body. And if we awaken that sleeping spirit that is God, then we become God. Like Jesus said, I and my Father are one. Then we become one with the whole universe.”
She states “…The Bible is only a record of a super Master who has graced our Earth, but what about those before Jesus, and after Jesus? Those after Jesus probably will say: ‘Okay, we hear His name and we will be redeemed.’ But a billion, trillion years before Jesus, was there no one to rescue them, or what? Is the Father so merciless just to send only one Son and only one time? Could He be so stingy?”
Question- But why would God want Jesus to die the way he died?
Master- Otherwise His disciples would not be cleansed of the sins. The body of the Master is for two reasons. First, for the disciples of the physical world to be able to see. They couldn’t see the astral body of the Master. Second, the body of the Master is for sacrifice. It is to receive all the things that the disciple has to get rid of, to deposit the sins of the disciples. And then to be... has to be cleansed out.”
This is typical guru talk, that he took on their karma, but this is not the Christian explanation at all.
Question: Please talk about sin.
Her answer -Sin? You all know about it. You know better than I do. [Laughter] I’ll talk about virtues. You should be loving to each other; should help the poor and needy, because God lives in them; you should be tolerant toward each other’s shortcomings; love and respect your parents, love your wife and respect your husband; take care and educate the children; be a good citizen to the nation. That’s what we should talk about. If you do all these, then there’s no need to talk about sins. If we are positive, then we couldn’t be negative.”
Question: Christianity teaches us we are all sinners; are we still sinners when enlightened? If so, does it ever end, our being sinners?
Her answer: Yes, we are sinners, because we believe we are. Because we have no way to raise ourselves above the sinful level, above the mud. If you are in the mud, of course you look muddy, no? If you rise up, what the mud has to do with you, whether it’s there or not, understand? So rise up; be enlightened.”
Do we change our nature by just believing that we are no longer that thing? Ching Hai speaks as if she is an authority on the Bible and she knows less than a 5th grader in Sunday school class. Jesus came into the world to make people aware they are sinners, the very reason He came was to die for sin which this Supreme master is denying. Therefore she is saying she knows better than what Jesus taught and every other spiritual teacher’s teachings for that matter.
Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.”
(John 9:41) “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. (John 15:22). John 16:7-9 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.” And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:” of sin, because they do not believe in Me.”
I John 1:8-10 “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him (God) a liar, and His word (truth) is not in us.” No truth and we make God a liar.
Question: What is the reason behind not eating eggs and we can drink milk?
Master: … we don’t have to kill the animal for milk. About the egg, even if it’s not fertilized egg, it still contains a kind of symbol of life and death, born and reborn, and also the egg has the potential of attracting the negative energy. Perhaps you would read or know or heard that many of the magicians, they use the eggs to attract the negative entities from some of the possessed persons. Therefore we do not like to attract the negative force into ourselves, because now we try to reach the positive nature. (Supreme Master Ching Hai answered on December 23, 1994 in Thailand A Telephone Interview with Radio Five On ‘Sunday Focus’)
Question: Jesus was enlightened and He ate fish. Is it necessary not to eat animals to be a Master?
Her answer: Yes, it is necessary. Jesus never ate fish. Many people misunderstand the Bible. Jesus was vegetarian since he was born, and when He was in the womb even. You should study more the life of Jesus; in another separate book, not in the Bible. You see the fish He brought and gave to people may even be vegetarian fish. In Formosa we have many kinds of vegetarian meat. We make chicken, vegetarian chicken.’
I guess we cannot believe the Bible, written from the personal accounts of those who lived with him, because she has another book that’s superior. Nonetheless I need to give the Bibles quotes to show that she disregards whatever she wants to formulate her own religion. Matt 14:19-20 Jesus “ took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes. So they all ate and were filled” They also ate meat Matt. 26:17 the disciples came to Jesus, saying to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” They ate lamb at the Passover meal. Mark 14:12: “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” Luke 22:11 The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’”
Jesus makes it clear food does not reach or affect the “mind,” the “soul,” and cannot pollute it. Matt 15:11 “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Mark 7:18-23 “So He said to them, ‘Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?” And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
When asked “what are some spiritual benefits that we get from being vegetarians?” She said “The spiritual aspects of a vegetarian diet are that it is very clean and nonviolent. ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ When God said this to us, He did not say do not kill human beings, He said do not kill any beings. Didn’t He say that He made all animals to befriend us, to help us? Did He not put the animals in our care? He said, take care of them, rule over them. When you rule over your subjects, do you kill your subjects and eat them? Then you would become a king with nobody else around? So now you understand when God said that. We must do it. There is no need to question Him. He spoke very clearly, but who understands God except God? So now you have to become God in order to understand God. I invite you to be God-like again, to be yourself, to be no one else. To meditate on God doesn’t mean you worship God, it means that you become God. You realize that you and God are one. ‘I and my Father are one,’ didn’t Jesus say so? If He said He and His father are one, we and His father can also be one, because we are also children of God. And Jesus also said that what He does we can even do better. So we may be even better than God, who knows? Why worship God when we don’t know anything about God? (Excerpt from the article ‘Why Must People Be Vegetarian’)
This is not what God meant because He told the people to eat animals and to even sacrifice them for their sin. It was God who took the first animal for sacrifice and accepted it from the beginning Genesis.4-. Ching Hai does not address the concept of sin but seems to change its meaning to ignorance, as she employs her own ignorance with the words of the Bible. Right after the flood here is what God (not what Ching Hai, said)
Gen 9:2-3 “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.”
Question: If after being initiated and I still make a mistake like eating meat or having an evil thought, does it mean that I’ll be disconnected from God or suffer some bad punishment?
Master: “… the meat you can avoid it, yeah, except when you don’t know it and you eat it by mistake, then that’s fine. But you have to meditate more on that day to clean that, because that is a very heavy karma. That’s what makes people ill, what makes our body suffer, and what makes us go to hell afterward to repay for the suffering of other beings. (Applause-- Supreme Master Ching Hai answered on April 10, 1993 in Colorado, USA).
Actually I know people who stayed on a vegetarian diet and became very sick. What is outrageous is one can go to hell for eating meat but not for sin. Of course to her this is one of the ultimate sins.
Reincarnation in the Bible
Question- “Why do the Christian churches not accept the idea of reincarnation?” Master- Because they misunderstand the Bible, and also because the Bible has been cut and censored many hundreds of times over. I’ll tell you an example. When Jesus was asked, ‘Are you the reincarnation of such and such past saints?’ He didn’t say ‘no.’ Saint Paul also said ‘I live, but no, not ‘I’ but Christ lives in me.’ Okay! Now, if you don’t believe in reincarnation, why are you waiting for the second coming of Christ? (laughter) Ask your church, then see how they answer you.”
She mocks what she does not understand. In his coming again he does not come back born as a baby as he did the first time, he is in heaven as a man who comes back just as He left the earth (Acts 1:11).
Question- Master, why does Christianity as a whole tend not to believe in reincarnation? Does the Bible talk about reincarnation?
Master-“It does, but it has been censored. When someone asked Jesus whether He was Elias, whether He was so and so, the past Master before Him -- that meant whether He was the reincarnation of those past masters -- He kept quiet. That was a part of the Bible that people forgot to censor. Suppose reincarnation did not exist, then Jesus would have said, ‘No, no, there is no such thing as a master coming back. I am me, alone, one time, never again, never before, never after.”
Ching Hai does not come up with any new arguments on this but repeats the same old rumor used by the gurus and New Agers. The Bible was never censored, what were kept out were the forgeries that are like what she is teaching; those who contradicted the teachings of Christ that were passed on from his apostles who were there and wrote about him.
Is Jesus Elijah? The people thought John the Baptist was Elijah and asked John not Jesus, in John 1:21 “And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
The fact is his disciples told him what others said he was. So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt 16:14-16; Mk.8:28). Jesus said he was not any of them.
Another fact, when Jesus showed who He was to the disciples by revealing his glory Matt 17:3 both “Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him”, which is a hard thing to do if you are Elijah!
Reincarnation was never taught in the Bible, for example they asked Jesus in Jn.9 about a man being born blind. Did he sin or his parents sin to have this happen, He emphatically said neither, denying any hint to reincarnation. To say such things like this and make Christianity to be like Buddhism or Hinduism is fraudulent.
Conclusion of her teachings
Ching Hai has this to say “What I realize it’s repeating a name of a scripture, means nothing to God. God is within us, not in the scripture. So when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, what did He see? He saw the light from heaven come down like the dove, no? Yes!”
“You always long for that God, that JAHWEH, or whatever you name Him. You can call Him another dozen or hundred names and He would not mind. He has no name, understand? He has no name. He takes on whatever is the name of the master on earth at that time. Therefore when Jesus came they worshipped Jesus as the Son of God, or as even God. Yeah? When Buddha came they worshipped Buddha as God. Understand that? Because the God power manifests in that Person, in that human pole. … I don’t care if it’s Buddhist or Mohammedan or whatever; all empty, just an empty shell. Understand? So therefore you feel in conflict.”
I have no Catholic path, no Buddhist path, no lotus path, no, how to say, ‘lily’ path. [Master laughs] I have only one path - it’s God’s path. If you know the light, you know God; that is the true God, true way.”
He sent me here to tell you how to find Him, not through the Lotus repeating, not through the scriptures, but through your own-self realization. Understand that? Yeah. He will not punish you. You’ve not betrayed any God. It’s your sincerity that counts. It doesn’t matter where you go, you only carry God in your heart, no?”
Did they worship Buddha as God when Buddha did not teach about God? Does God have no name? The Bible says He does have a name, God said His name to Moses as “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:15), “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) that is Jesus Christ not Ching Hai. “Master Ching Hai” needs to come to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ not meditate to find out she is God when in fact she is not! The Bible says Christ when He was raised from the dead was seated at the Father's right hand in the heavenly places, “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20-21). “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth ,and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father “(Philippians 2:9-11).
It is fitting to end this article right here. Ching Hai is not God, a god or even a child of god because of how she distorts the Bible and even other religions. Neither is she teaching the truth according to what Jesus said. She may use his name and every other religious teachers name but this does not endorse her teaching but only shows how confused she is as she tries to bring together religions that actually teach the opposite of each other. What Ching Hai has probably discovered and mistaken for God is her own human spirit.
(1) According to William Claiborne’s article entitled ‘Self-styled Zen Master Has Attained Financial Nirvana’ in the December 20,1996 issue of The Record, p. A40
CỘNG HÒA XÃ HỘI CHỦ NGHĨA VIỆT NAM Độc lập - Tự do - Hạnh phúc Số : 24/CT.UBT TX. Vĩnh Long, ngày 08 tháng 8 năm 1994
ỦY BAN NHÂN DÂN TỈNH VĨNH LONG CHỈ THỊ Ngăn chặn hoạt động của tổ chức phản động Thanh Hải Vô Thượng sư
Hiện nay trong địa bàn tỉnh Vĩnh Long có một số người của tổ chức Thanh hải Vô Thượng Sư lợi dụng tôn giáo tuyên truyền Tà giáo, không theo tôn giáo chính thống nào, đồng thời truyền bá tài liệu, sách báo, phim ảnh, tuyên truyền chống lại Đảng Cộng sản Việt Nam Nhà nước Việt Nam. Tại tỉnh đã có 1.250 người đồng ý gia nhập tổ chức của Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư, nhiều nhất ở phường 1,2,5,8 (thị xã Vĩnh Long), xã trung Thành (Vũng Liêm), xã Tường Lộc (Tam Bình), xã An Đức (Long Hồ).
Đây là một tổ chức phản động đã và đang có những hoạt động phi pháp gây nguy hại đến an ninh chính trị trật tự an toàn xã hội, làm ảnh hưởng đến đời sống bình thường của 1 số người nhẹ dạ, cả tin. Nhằm vạch rõ âm mưu ý đồ của địch lợi dụng tôn giáo và chính sách tôn trọng tự do tín ngưỡng của Đảng và Nhà nước ta để chống phá sự nghiệp Cách mạng và làm suy yếu Nhà nước ta cuối cùng đi đến lật đổ chính quyền Cách mạng.
Căn cứ Nghị định số 69/HĐBT ngày 21/3/1991 của Hội đồng bộ trưởng (nay là Chính phủ) qui định về các hoạt động tôn giáo. UBND tỉnh Chỉ thị:
1/ Giao Giám đốc Công an tỉnh theo dõi nắm chặt tình hình hoạt động của tổ chức phản cách mạng mang tên Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư, đấu tranh làm rõ ý đồ âm mưu của bọn đầu sỏ, ngăn chặn và vô hiệu hoá hoạt động của bọn chúng. Cung cấp tài liệu có liên quan đến tổ chức phản động nầy cho các cơ quan có liên quan làm tư liệu tuyên truyền, giáo dục những người nhẹ dạ nghe theo lời xúi giục của bọn chúng.
2/ Giao cho Ban Tôn giáo tỉnh bàn bạc phối hợi với Ban Dân vận, Mặt trận Tổ quốc tỉnh, các ngành thuộc khối nội chính và chính quyền địa phương có kế hoạch phân loại đối tượng của tổ chức Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư để có biện pháp đấu tranh giáo dục cho phù hợp. Biện pháp thực hiện là:
- Đối với bọn đầu sỏ thì vạch mặt phản động của bọn chúng, nói rõ chính sách khoan hồng của Đảng và Nhà nước đấu tranh làm cho bọn chúng nhận tội lỗi và cam kết ngưng ngay mọi hành vi vi phạm pháp luật và tổ chức công khai tội trạng trước quần chúng.
- Đối với những người nhẹ dạ, mê tín nghe lời lừa mị, tham gia tổ chức Thanh Hải Vô Thượng Sư thì họp theo địa bàn xã, phường để giáo dục, công khai những ý đồ phản cách mạng của bọn đầu sỏ để cho họ thông hiểu, tự giác xa rời tổ chức, đồng thời nghiêm cấm mọi hành vi tuyên truyền hoạt động của tổ chức này.
Nhận được chỉ thị này, các ngành chức năng có liên quan khẩn trương tổ chức thực hiện, nếu có những khó khăn vướng mắc phải báo cáo kịp thời cho UBND tỉnh để có biện pháp chỉ đạo tiếp.
Nơi nhận: - Các sở, ban ngành Tỉnh - CT, PCT.UBT - BLĐVP.UBT - Các khối NC - Lưu: 2.02.02
TM. ỦY BAN NHÂN DÂN TỈNH KT. CHỦ TỊCH PHÓ CHỦ TỊCH (Đã ký) VÕ CÔNG LÝ
Nam Mô A Di Đà Phật,
Kính bạch Chư Tôn Thiền Đức Tăng Ni cùng quý Phật tử gần xa,
Đây là hình ảnh Tượng Phật Nhập Niết Bàn đặt nằm chung lẫn lộn với các bức tượng lỏa thể đang được triển lãm tại Phòng Trưng Bày Nghệ Thuật Quốc Gia Úc tại tiểu bang Victoria ( National Gallery of Victoria, NGV), đây là hành động xúc phạm đối với tượng Phật và cộng đồng Phật Giáo tại Úc Châu.
Mục đích của cuộc triển lãm này là họ muốn « mang các truyền thống văn hóa lại gần với nhau hơn », ý tưởng rất hay nhưng khi tạo dựng tác phẩm lại thiếu tính hiểu biết, phản cảm, phi nghệ thuật, nhất là không tôn trọng và xúc phạm đến Phật Giáo.
Chúng con được biết, tại tiểu bang Victoria, một Giáo Hội Phật Giáo Úc (Buddhist Council of Victoria) đã gởi thư phản đối nhưng họ chỉ ghi nhận và không có bất cứ hành động nào, quả thật là rất buồn. Qua sư việc này, chúng ta thấy rằng tiếng nói của PG quá yếu, không đánh động được lương tâm của họ, nếu không muốn nói là họ quá xem thường cộng độ
Những ngày vừa qua với loạt bài phóng sự điều tra của báo Lao Động về cách tu hành, ăn tiết canh, uống rượu Tây, phát ngôn “bá đạo” của ông Sư Minh Thịnh chùa Phú Thị, chưa dứt, tạo nên sự bức bối trong dư luận và đương nhiên nhiều nhóm ngoại giáo không từ khước miếng mồi béo bở này để lên giọng thuyết giáo xúc xiểm Phật giáo…; thì báo Thanh Niên lại tung ra một bài báo khác, như để nối tiếp sự kiện không giống ai của mấy ông Sư tự cho mình là “những công dân đặc biệt áo nâu” sống ở chùa! Đó là bài “Dân Chàng Sơn “trả” Sư trụ trì chùa làng” của tác giả T.N.
Các “nhà sư ăn mày” nầy trắng trợn đòi người đi đường quyên tặng 50 đô Úc và cáu gắt bỏ đi khi chỉ nhận được vài đô.
Giới chức Úc vừa phát hiện một số người khoác áo tu Phật giáo gồm đàn ông và phụ nữ, nhóm "sư giả" để lừa tiền khách du lịch tại 2 thành phố Perth (Tây Úc) và Sydney (bang New South Wales).
Những người này cạo trọc đầu, ăn mặc như nhà sư và dùng chiêu phát “bùa hộ mệnh” - một tấm thẻ màu vàng - cho du khách để đổi lấy tiền quyên góp từ thiện.
Theo báo Sydney Morning Herald, các sư giả còn trắng trợn đòi người đi đường quyên tặng 50 đô và cáu gắt bỏ đi khi chỉ nhận được vài đô. Một người ngụ tại TP Perth kể lại: “Các “nhà sư” rút ra một cuốn sổ tay và nói những người khác đã đóng góp từ 20-50 dô theo lệ của một ngôi chùa”. Một người đi đường chỉ đưa 5 đô sau khi bị yêu cầu góp ít nhất 20 đô.
Trong những tháng vừa qua, người viết được mời tham dự nhiều cuộc hội thảo, tọa đàm về công tác văn hóa, thông tin và báo chí, (phần lớn đều nằm phía ngoại biên Phật giáo). Với người ta, mình đã nhiệt tình đóng góp rất nhiều ý kiến cũng như học hỏi được không ít điều hay, khả dĩ có thể bổ sung kinh nghiệm viết lách cho bản thân; nhưng khi nhìn về mình, một khoảng trời lý tưởng đang dốc lòng phụng sự, thấy vẫn còn rất nhiều những nhấp nhô, gồ ghề, thậm chí xấu xí trên mặt bằng thông tin truyền thông Phật giáo (TTTT PG).
Đa số tiểu bang của Hoa Kỳ, hôn nhân vẫn được định nghĩa theo hiến pháp qui định là sự kết hợp giữa một người nam và một người nữ. Tính cho đến tháng 5 năm 2012, chỉ có sáu tiểu bang (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, New York và New Hampshire), và thủ đô Washington DC, đã chấp thuận hôn nhân đồng tính (giữa một người nam với một người nam hoặc giữa một người nữ với một người nữ).
Trước hết xin cảm ơn Bác sĩ Trình Đình Hỷ (Bs. TĐH) đã có những nhận xét góp ý về bài viết của tôi “Vài Nhận Xét Về Vài nhận xét về vấn đề dịch lại Tâm Kinh của Thầy Nhất Hạnh” . Trong bài viết này tôi chỉ quan tâm tới phần nhận xét Bs TĐH về bài viết của tôi, còn phần nhận xét về hai tác giả Jayarava và Nguyễn Minh Tiến thì xin để dành hai tác giả ấy.
Vì TĐH là một Bác sĩ cho nên xin quí độc giả hãy cho phép tôi xem bài viết của tôi như là một con người với tên là “Tôi” . Như vậy là Tôi đã được Bs TĐH khám sức khỏe với mở đầu của bệnh án:
Mấy ngày qua, cả nước oằn mình trước sự tàn phá đầy tang thương của cơn bão Ketsana. Cũng thời điểm đó “cơn bão” bất khoan dung của chính quyền tỉnh Lâm Đồng kéo đến tu viện Bát Nhã, gây nên tình cảnh bất an cho khoảng 400 Tăng Ni tu theo pháp môn Làng Mai. Hai cơn bão đến cùng một lúc khiến cho lòng người Phật tử Việt Nam thêm quặn thắt.
16 Lý Do Để Ghét Việt Nam:
Sự gian dối
Kiểu nói thách giả cả
Phí xin thị thực để vào Việt Nam
Những tòa nhà mỏng
Cách người Việt làm cản trở lối ra vào trước cửa hàng
Cái ghế nhựa, con gián và bệnh dịch tả
Cái mũ cối (mũ bộ đội)
Tài xế taxi ở Việt Nam
Món ăn ở Việt Nam
Sự vô ý vô tứ (vô ý thức)
Khả năng về kiến thức và thông tin kém của người Việt
Sự khác biệt văn hóa, góc nhìn cá nhân