a gentle conversation for ordinary people will be felt like thunderstorms to the dying person, and a slight touch of the body will be felt as strong and painful blows.

The story goes like this : it was in extreme hot summer while the Empress Xi was on her death bed and the female servants had been, in turns, fanning the Empress all through days and nights. At one time, one of the female servants was very tired and so carelessly dropped her fan onto the body of the Empress. However, it was like a huge stone being dropped upon her body, and so the Empress was feeling extremely painful. Immediately, a huge outrage was aroused in her heart, but since she could not speak out her mind in anger, this further added fury in her mind. This extreme outrage took her last dying breath. Her mind was totally led by this hatred and anger, which in turn linked up and dragged out all her previous "bad" deeds (karma) of both this and past lives into fruition. Immediately, she was turned into a huge snake.

As Empress Xi had also done a lot of good deeds in this and past lives (such as the building of stupas, temples and monasteries, the publications and circulations of Dharma books, the offerings to the Sangha communities, and so on), now that she had turned into a huge snake, she could still remember her immediate past life as the Empress Xi, and so she wandered around the palace and would not want to go away, hoping that her husband, the Emperor Liang, could do something to save her from this extreme difficulty.

While Emperor Liang was at the palace listening to the reports of all the ministers, they suddenly saw this huge snake and were very scared by it. Immediately, the Emperor called upon the country's spiritual master Ven. Ch'an (Zen) Master Bao Zi to the palace and asked about the event. Hence, the Ch'an Master explained clearly the whole event to the Emperor, saying that this huge snake was, in fact, his wife who had just recently passed away. The Emperor asked the Ch'an Master what could be done to save her from this situation, and so the Ch'an Master wrote a prayer of confession. Then he explained the prayer very clearly to the Empress (now as the huge snake) and asked her to confess, by reciting the prayer, all her "bad deeds" with the greatest intention and sincerity of heart.

Not long after this, after an evening when thunders and lightning filled the sky, servants in the palace had found the dead body of a huge snake (struck by lightning) at a small hill near the palace the next day. Empress Xi had finally got released from her snake body and had been reborn in the "three upper realms" With this story, this prayer was known to be the "Prayer of Confession of Emperor Liang" which is still practiced to this very day in many temples and monasteries of China.

In view of the above case study, anyone who has ripe intention, wisdom, and a good foundation of "mind training" and whose power of observation is strong, will come to the following realizations :-

(1) Even though one might have accumulated lots of "good deeds" either in this lifetime or even in many past lifetimes, one's future destiny will be determined by the very thought that one has at the moment of death;

(2) Even though one does not do any "bad deeds" and, instead, has accumulated lots of "good deeds" in this lifetime, there are still lots of "bad deeds" that one had accumulated in many past lifetimes which one does not know and just cannot estimate. These "bad deeds" will act like time-bombs, when the causes and conditions are matured and acted together, and will catch you unexpectedly;

(3) Empress Xi was able to remember her immediate past life and was helped by the Ch'an Master Ven. Bao Zi, because she had done a lot of "good deeds" in her past life, such as making offerings to the Buddhas and the Sangha communities, building many temples and monasteries, as well as in the printing and circulation of Buddhist texts and scriptures;

(4) Even though Empress Xi was helped by the Ch'an Master Ven. Bao Zi, it still depended upon whether she was willing to listen to Ven. Bao Zi's advice, and acted accordingly. In this case, she was willing to do so by sincerely confess from the deepest of her heart, so that the "seeds of the good deeds" that were embedded in her "mind-field" could now be brought out to fruition, and hence she was able to be reborn again in the "three upper realms"

(5) Even though she had the help of the Ch'an Master Bao Zi, if Empress Xi had not accumulated "good deeds" in her immediate past life, as well as in her many past lifetimes, she would not have the "seeds of the good deeds" (that were embedded in her -- CONTINUE --

CONTENT of Issue 3

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