Filipino and Chinese Ghost Stories
I know quite a few Filipinos who love to tell me about their nation’s ghost stories. They’re not exactly stories of ghosts but of supernatural creatures that live in the remote jungles and forested countrysides of the Island.
Let me recount a few …
First there is the story of a type of being that looks human, but whose upper body can detach from the trunk, and fly off to find its food. What does it look for? Human babies or a pregnant woman carrying a child… the stories are not clear on this. It can kill a child or cause a miscarriage because it feeds on the baby’s chi.
The Chinese and Japanese have a similar story of beings who look human but whose heads fly off at night and secretly sit atop rafters above a baby’s crib. Then the being extends a long thin tongue down to the resting infant, reminiscent of the poisoned thread once used by a ninja to try to kill James Bond, and tries to suck the baby’s chi to feed upon it.
Another story is of water ghosts, and China has this same type of ghost as the Philippines, attested to by hundreds of stories. It seems that there are certain water ghosts who cannot be reborn as humans unless they find someone to take their place, and so they try to drown people to find a replacement for their position. Usually they live near a bend in a river where other people have drowned. When people claim they hear talking at night on a river or lake even though no one is around, that’s often this type of ghost.
One of my friends was actually playing with friends in such a spot and was sucked into and underneath the water even though it was only thigh deep. Two of her friends drowned and their bodies were found days later "stuffed" under rocks in the shallow water. She managed to escape by praying and struggle, but lost a bracelet tied to her ankle. To this day she swears she felt she was being pulled under by a hand and could not understand it in a river only waist deep. However, all her friends knew to avoid that spot but for some reason they all partied there the day of the accident. She felt something bad might happen because they saw a flock of crows leaving the spot right before they settled, recognizing it as a bad omen, but they all set about the partying anyway. Such is karma.
Another being in the Philippines looks like a centaur and kidnaps young girls as a bride, while various female forest denizens seeking husbands will invite men to stay with them who, even though refusing, find out that their brief conversation has cost them a month in human time, which they discover upon completing their journey through the forest paths and returning home. Of course this is a great cover story for a man who wants to hide his extracurricular activities, too, but I have friends whose chaste relatives were psychic and have experienced this in the Philippines, being targeted probably because of their psychic abilities in the first place.
There’s also the case of Filipino giants who smoke cigars and whose footprints can be found in soft mud. Sometimes their rolled up tobacco leaves, several feet long and inches thick used to make cigars, are often found discarded in the forests and end up perplexing the infrequent travelers who see the burnt ends.
Now some of these stories are made up, just as we can see in the Strange Tales of Liao Zhai, but of course some are real. There are lots of "invisible" beings in the world made of chi. There are dragons, nagas, fox spirits, turtle spirits, giants, elves, mahaghoras (GIANT, and I do mean BIG, snake spirits), and all sorts of minor heavenly beings as well. Some good, some bad … just like the human realm. The number of invisible creatures on this world alone numbers in the thousands.
I’ve had a few encounters with such things, and my teacher has tons of stories as well, but I never seem to bump into "ghosts" while everyone else does. I’ve had friends visit Macau, a gambling mecca, and found their bed shaking in the night with little headless beings appearing in the clothes dresser room. I’ve heard lots of ghost stories from friends who have seen things first hand, but not me. I’ve had Chinese generals and tight politicians, who dare not tell such stories in public because of the ridicule, tell the most interesting supernatural stories … and mafia people who are supposed to show no fear recount their own tales of the supernatural.
Elves or sprites? I’ve had friends recount stories of how the young boys in their village threw sticks at the mounds where the elves live, and when they woke up in the morning they were covered with cuts and bruises that smelled of rotten fish and would not heal until the village elders apologized to the elf mounds, asked forgiveness, and offered a banquet of food. I’ve heard many stories of how "worm" spirits are bred, trained and then fed to people to control them as a sort of evil yin magic. This happens in Vietnam and China. Stranger things still in Malaysia and Indonesia.
As to asuras or demons, I’ve got stories on these beings too — some good, some bad as usual. Even these beings cultivate. It’s best if your eyes are closed when an asura visits in near or it could produce redness around the eyes.
I’ve got many stories of these things. Some real, some fictional nonsense, of course, or just the details mixed up. They’re fun, interesting, and basically just teach you (1) to be a good human being, a virtuous person and (2) that there are other beings in this world, too.
Don’t ever think the human being is at the top of the totem pole in the universe or in this world. Anyone who cultivates quickly finds out that above us are the asuras, then the Desire Realm heavenly beings, and then Form Realm beings. There are even Formless realm beings that are hard to reach because of the level of cultivation required. Shakyamuni Buddha categorized the beings in the universe in many ways, and this Buddha land (galaxy) has different beings than other Buddha lands. All of them are seeking the Tao, which means enlightenment or spiritual liberation. That’s the one commonality. The methods used in the different galaxies differs, but the principle of reaching our original nature and fundamental essence (while navigating karmic obstructions) stays the same highest goal.
The problem for us, as humans, is that some religions provide a path and means to attain samadhi and the Tao, and others do not, but simply provide religious rules to help you be a better person and earn good karma for a better rebirth. But if you really want to make spiritual progress then you have to cultivate. That’s why many spiritual beings of all types will come to listen to an enlightened master teach when he does because they all want spiritual progress. Nations have protector deities. Even the local police station and court house have protector deities and invisible beings discharging their duties, whatever they may be. They have their own independent world, sometimes a parallel world, and sometimes a function that links witht he fates of humans.
Is there anyone in charge of the whole thing? No. It just forms naturally over time, you can say from karma or evolution or however you want to describe it. It’s like a man who goes and makes a home in the middle of a desert. After finding out how to survive, by accident or planning other individuals join him and quickly create a lifestyle and culture that lets them survive. This links with the environment, local wildlife, weather, and so on. As time goes on, rules and regulations develop for the gorup as well as philosophy, cities, religion and economic development. It’s all a natural progression. As the city grows, its relationship with other cities and local wildlife, etc. develops in its own special way. So some spiritual beings develop a relationship with man in the same way, and then order themselves just as we develop our own laws and rules and regulations. And of course, some have nothing to do with humans. The variety of beings and relationships is infinite, and you can only speak in general terms. China and India have many stories on these things, and doubtless the ancient Egyptian, Aztec and Assyrian cultures must have had stories as well.
Over time this relationship,whatever it is, develops into a system and the whole thing keeps turning, turning, turning with transformation. There’s nothing special about it. You just don’t know about it because you can’t see it. But yes, there is an Indra as the Hindus state, and a Mahesvara, and so forth … but there is no ultimate creator that is a person above everything. All this is just empty appearances. It’s all just empty interdependent origination. You can read books and say "No, it isn’t" but after you cultivate to a high enough stage ou find out that "Yes, this is th way it is."
The only real thing is the Tao, the fundamental nature, the original nature we call "God" in the West, "Allah" in Islam, and so forth. The question for us is how to realize THIS UNDERLYING ONE, the Unborn ONE. Sages awaken and teach this. When they are high stage they usually do a great job; low stage samadhi masters (like Moses) usually do a poor job and leave out lots of materials.
The point is — you have to cultivate and awaken for yourself. None of these beings can give you enlightenment or save you. They can teach you the way if they know it and have achievement themselves, but not usually. That’s why they too study under enlightened beings such as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who have already reached the original nature. Ask Indra or Mahesvara the origin of the universe an dthey’ll say, "I don’t know, please ask a Buddha." Only someone who aciheives complete union and perfect enlightenment with It can understand and teach it.
So the question you must ask yourself is, "Do you know the way and do you have a method to practice it and are you doing so?" If not better start because it’s not about beliefs or ceremonies or membership in some sect or religion. Those things are useless. It’s all about cultivation progress.
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