IN 1991, I WAS able to make several visits to the Vietnamese Refugee Camp at Sungei Besi, just outside Kuala Lumpur, for the purpose of trying to console and inspire people there by Dharma talks.
During one such talk, I had already spoken about how we can, if we wish, change our lives, and the lives of others, instead of merely sitting down and waiting for things to change by themselves, which of course they do and will. I also spoke about how easy it sometimes is to make people happy; all we need to do is to show people that we care a little about them; many people need such an assurance.
Suddenly, an elderly lady got up from her place in the audience and came out to the front with a glass of water, which she politely and respectfully asked me to bless for her. I paused in what I was saying, and complied with her request, by concentrating on the water, and suffusing it with my best wishes; I then gave it back to her, and it was very nice to see how pleased she was with it. She ceremoniously drank some of it, and then returned to her seat, where she shared the remainder with some of her friends, who were likewise happy.
"You see?" I said. "Just what I've been talking about: it isn't difficult to make some people happy! All we need to do is care a little, and be aware of opportunities!" I feel sure that, because I complied with the lady's request, if we ever meet again, she will be predisposed to listen to anything else that I might say; a rapport had been established. If I had been formal and inflexible, and asked her not to interrupt me, but to wait until afterwards, or worse, that I was there to give a Dharma talk, and was not concerned with such things as blessing water, she quite possibly would have felt hurt and alienated, and then any chance of my communicating with her would have been lost. (On the other hand, we must be careful, and know what we are doing and why, otherwise, we might indirectly increase superstition instead of decreasing it).
Maybe it is natural for me, as a Westerner, to be skeptical, and inclined to dismiss things like 'holy water' as 'just Asian superstition,' and I still think that Buddhism has gathered its fair share of superstition over the ages. But, early on in my life as a monk, by trying to keep an open mind about things that I didn't understand, I came to see that there really is something behind the popular belief in 'holy water;' this is how it came about:
Once, while I was residing in a temple in Malaysia, a young man by the name of Boon Chai came to me and told me that his friends' baby was crying almost non stop, day and night and its parents did not know what to do, since the doctors they had consulted had been unable to help them. Boon Chai ― who, I should say, was well educated, and of a scientific bent, and not the type to incline towards superstitious belief ― asked me for some 'holy water' for the baby, so, obligingly, I filled a plastic bag with water, concentrated over it, and gave it to him.
The next day, he came again, and told me that the baby had stopped crying. Now, for those people who are skeptical regarding such things, and claim that 'it's all in the mind,' I would like to point out that, in this case, I had not even seen the baby, and didn't know its parents, and even if I had, it is highly unlikely that the baby would have understood anything about what I was doing to the water.
From this, I came to see that by concentrating and thinking positive thoughts over water, while holding it, one's energy passes into it; and this was confirmed by something I later read on the subject, about people who are so sensitive that they can taste the difference between water that has been 'magnetized' or 'energized,' and water that has not, or who can hold an object that someone has used or worn, without knowing to whom it belongs, and by concentrating over it and tuning into the 'vibrationsí thereof, are able to tell many things about the owner; it is known now as 'psychometry.' Perhaps this is what lies behind the 'magic wands' that feature so prominently in some of the old fairy tales: rods or staffs that have been used for so long by high powered individuals that they have become charged with their energy, like batteries; I think this is quite possible.
Reading through Lyall Watson's book, THE NATURE OF THINGS just now, I came across a passage that supports what is written above, and would like to quote it here. He writes about research done by Don Robins (himself the author of The Secret Language of Stone), and says:
"We are, he suggests, tied to our environment, to our buildings, stones and artifacts, by a feedback loop that links the energies of both. We are the 'Children of Stone.' We have the ability not only to imprint an electronic trace on crystal and stone, but the capacity to trigger release of this lithic memory in certain circumstances. Robins believes that the coupling is most often acoustic, and that recording takes place as a direct result of structured sound signals such as those produced by ritual music, chant, prayer, dance, applause and song. This nicely accounts for the atmosphere, the sense of something sacred, common to temples and cathedrals, shrines and standing stones, extending very often to those long in ruin."
This makes a lot of sense, and countless millions of people must have felt inspired and thrilled upon entering holy places, the stones of which ― I have been convinced for a long time ― must have absorbed the vibrations and higher aspirations of the pious for centuries, and retained them as a battery retains energy. I have felt such power not only at Buddhist sites, but also at Hindu and Muslim shrines, and when I went into Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1985, although it was mid-winter, and crowded with tourists, I was plunged into instant meditation.
Jesus of Nazareth is probably the most well known example of someone who used His energy to help sick people, and He must have been a highly charged person to be able to heal lepers, restore sight and sound to the blind and deaf, and so on. (About the tales of him raising people from the dead, I must admit some skepticism, for the cases that have been reported in the Bible of him having done so ― if they actually happened ― might have been cases of people in deep coma, whom he awoke; such cases are not unknown today. And besides, even if he did bring the dead back to life, what happened to them after that? They had to die again, and might have been no wiser or better from the experience of resuscitation. Moreover, we hear only of His success stories, and nothing of his failures, which were probably much more numerous than his successes). But Jesus was by no means unique in having such powers, and the claim that his performance of such miracles proves that he was the Son of God is very shaky, because there have been many people, over the ages (and still are), who could cure people of various diseases through transferring their vital energy into the sufferers; it is, perhaps, something that we could all learn to do, with practice and the desire to help others, since we all have energy in varying degrees.
Now, quite possibly ― even probably ― you have sometimes had the uncomfortable feeling that someone was watching you, and, upon turning or looking up, have indeed discovered someone staring at you. How can this be explained, since no word was spoken to indicate that someone was staring at you, and there was no physical contact? The explanation, I feel, lies in the power of the mind known as telepathy: the transmission and reception of mental energy. Modern psychology, which approaches things mainly on a physical basis, and with the idea that 'the mind is what the brain does,' is only beginning to understand the powers of the mind, and still cannot explain such things as the yogic feats of levitation, fire walking, psycho-kinesis (the power of the mind to influence or move objects), telepathy, hypnosis, etc., but there can be no denying that such things happen now, as they have been witnessed and investigated for fraud by skeptical and objective observers, and have even been filmed. With all our scientific knowledge and technological expertise, we dare not say that they are fraudulent, but must suspend judgement and keep open minds until we are able to fathom and understand the mechanics of such things.
My first experience with the transference of energy encouraged me to try it on other occasions, and, because of the success I have had ― limited though it is ― I am convinced it works, and that it's not a matter of mumbo jumbo.
At least, it works sometimes, when one can get one's energy flowing, or when it flows, which doesn't always happen. I should also say that it works to a certain extent, and not always to the same degree, because there are probably many other factors involved. Sometimes, when people ask Sai Baba ― the most famous of India's living holy men right now ― why he doesn't use his power to cure all the sick people who come to him for help, he says that he could help them only if their karma permits it, and in many cases, their karma, being heavy, does not permit it.
Undoubtedly, a lot of superstition has grown up around the ability to transfer energy in this way, cure sicknesses, and so on, but the superstition does not negate the thing itself. Some people believe that it is the preserve of only 'special' people, like monks or priests; some believe that prayer or chanting is the power that makes it happen, but personally, I think it is only necessary to concentrate over the water (or the object that one wishes to 'charge;' it can be done with things other than water, like food, articles of clothing, rings, watches, and so on), with the desire of helping the person or persons for whom it is intended, to recover from the sickness or whatever else that is troubling them, or simply to 'bless' them (and come on, you who might be doubtful about blessings: who does not feel happy to receive good wishes from someone, in the form of a birthday card, a New Year card, or merely a cheerful "Nice to see you again"?) Conversely, no one enjoys being scolded, abused, or cursed. Wishes ― positive and negative ― do have effects, that vary according to the intensity of the will of the wisher, and I sometimes tell people, before I begin a simple blessing ceremony, that the water I will sprinkle on them is a token of my best wishes towards them, and that they shouldn't expect any magical transformation like what happened to Cinderella to take place, otherwise they will be disappointed.
Nothing is lost by this practice, and much might come of it; and it has no harmful side effects, like some chemical medicines, as it is only water; it also doesn't ― or shouldn't ― cost anything. The most important element in it is Compassion, or the desire to help others. Here is my 'secret formula' for the preparation of 'holy water:'
Take plain water, preferably boiled or filtered. Any clean container may be used to hold it. Mindfully, and perhaps with a little bit of ceremony to create the right attitude, hold the container with both hands, and concentrate over it, thinking that we are all friends in suffering (dukkha), and that other people are just like yourself in wishing to be well and happy and free from suffering. If the person or persons for whom you are doing this are not present try to visualize them ― or place a photo of them before you ― and wish that they might recover from their sickness or problem; at the same time visualize and try to feel your energy rising ― sap like from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head, and then let it flow down through your arms, and out from your finger tips into the object you are holding. You may chant or pray, if you like, and if you find that it helps you to concentrate; you might also try to let your eyes drift out of focus, and then refocus them again. Take deep breaths to facilitate the upsurge and release of your energy. And if, while you are doing all this, you feel a shiver down your spine, and/or goose bumps on your arms, it is a sign that your energy is flowing well.
After doing this, you might feel somewhat tired, particularly if your energy has flowed well; but don't worry about this; it is also a good sign that your energy has gone where you wished it to go; just as, after donating blood, the body soon restores the blood to its normal level, a short rest will restore your energy. It is normal to feel a bit tired after doing this, as there has been some output, but it was for a good purpose, and so, no regrets.
Needless to say, it helps if you have a sympathetic rapport with the person you are trying to help, or if you can establish one, for then the other person will be more receptive to your efforts. Some years back, I was able to help somebody with her migraine, as she was receptive. But another person who was there at that time, and who was suffering from I forget what kind of pain, made fun of my attempt to help her, and there was no effect, as she was not receptive or serious. The channels of communication must be open, or at least not closed or blocked.
There is ample and irrefutable evidence of 'miraculous,' non-medical cures of illnesses of many kinds, including those diagnosed as 'terminal,' and Science must stand speechless for lack of explanation. Many people attribute such 'miracles' to what they call 'God,' which, to most believers, is a Being or Person of masculine gender. But this raises a serious objection, namely: if 'God' does at times 'heal' the sick, and if, as people also believe, such a 'God' is good, loving, and omnipotent, then why does 'He/It' permit suffering and sickness to exist in the first place? And why, out of all the millions of supplicants who pray desperately for help, does 'He/It' appear to help only very few, and leave the vast majority in their misery? It cannot be ― as mentioned earlier in this article ― that their karma is too heavy to permit help, because if 'God' were omnipotent, 'He/It' would be able to override their karma.
So the personification of what seems to be a very real force is not a very satisfactory explanation to people who are reluctant to believe in anything without sufficient supportive evidence.
Perhaps, at our stage of development, it would be best to admit our ignorance, instead of pretending that we know, and say, honestly and humbly: "I don't know," for this is really so, and would leave us open to learn; nor would it preclude our being able to 'tap into' the force as so-called 'miracles' happen not just to 'Godists,' but to non-believers, too. And what we call 'miracles' are probably things that we do not understand the principles or mechanics of, and, as our horizons get pushed further back, and we give up our fond superstitions in favor of clear comprehension, more and more 'miracles' will no doubt become part of our everyday experience, as so many already have; are not our lives filled with miracles? Indeed, is not our life itself a miracle?
We seem to be rapidly coming now to the realization that the force we occasionally see manifested is of the mind, or psyche, but as something shared, that runs through all minds like a thread through beads, rather than as something individual and separate. Some people might think of this as 'God' (it is known as 'Pantheism,' the definition of which, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is: "The belief or theory that God and the universe are identical [implying a denial of the personality and transcendence of God]; the doctrine that God is everything and everything is God"); it is, in my opinion, a much better alternative to the belief in an anthropomorphic deity, which gives rise to more problems than it solves.
However, we do not know for sure, we have not yet arrived, so should not draw any conclusions.