A video on facebook caught my eye. Actually, Ven. You Wei tagged me and a small discussion started around this video of a ‘priest’ of unknown religion performing a rites. In the video, he is seen reciting various words that is not recognisable by myself, Ven. You Wei or Rev. Kwang Tong (a taoist priest friend of mine).
Below are my thoughts about such practices.
Ven You Wei, the irony is that when someone do this, devotees will believe in ignorant bliss.
Rev. Chung Kwang Tong, there is no medium practice in Buddhist teachings. Only the oracle medium exist within the Tibetan tradition, and it is not a part of their Buddhist tradition, but more perhaps a part of their lineage tradition.
If Matreya Bodhisattva, or for that matter, any Bodhisattvas, ever appear through a trance, he should be able to explain the teachings of the Buddha! Further, since they have 辯才無礙 they would probably not be speaking in tongues, but be able to speak in a language that we understand! 😉 I would be very keen to invite them to conduct retreats and Dharma classes and not ask about how to have fortune for the new year etc!
Rev. Kwang Tong, while mediums seem more common in Taoist temples, are they part of Taoist practices or are they in fact, like a few practices found in Taoist temple that you have clarified before, not Taoist in nature as well?
If mediums, burning of incense paper, paper houses, cars, mobiles, etc are not Buddhist nor Taoist in nature, then we should help devotees know so that they can practise their faith with wisdom and understanding.
Intention and Expression of Intention
With respect to burning of incense paper, paper houses etc, I like to focus on two things: 1) Intention and 2) Expression of Intention
The Intention behind these burning is a wish to provide for the departed deceased and it can come from their Filial Piety. We should encourage that. The Expression of such filial piety is a different matter. I prefer to encourage people to be filial while one’s parents are still around. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Don’t burn them mobile phones or consult mediums only when they are gone if we don’t even bother to talk to them and listen to them when they were alive.
Go for walks with them. Be their ‘servant’ and serve them. Don’t wait till they are gone and only then, burn them paper servants.
Stay with them. Don’t send them off to the old age homes only to burn them a paper house when they are gone.
Go with them to the mall, provide for them what they need (except if they want $$$ to go to the casino!!).
Don’t burn them paper money only when they are gone.
If we really want to be filial to our parents , share with them 1) Faith and Confidence in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, 2) Guide them if they stray from good morality and behaviours 3) Encourage them to be kind and giving with others and 4) Share with them the Wisdom of the Buddha Dharma.
In this way, we benefit our parents in this life and in future ones!
Be Easy to Serve
And for parents, be happy with whichever child you are staying with. Don’t pin for that one son or daughter who is not around and ignore the ones with whom you are staying with.
Accept food, gifts, assistance and support graciously. Chinese are always 客氣 (polite? stand on ceremony?) and don’t like to 麻煩人 (give others trouble). It’s ok to say no. But say it when you really mean it. Saying ‘no’ out of courtesy only to bear a grudge later for not receiving service from your children or juniors is a way to our own misery.
We as juniors can also be more understanding of the difference in culture. When elders say no, many times, it is out of courtesy. We must insist up to three times! And even when the elder say ‘no’, we should just get them food or provide our service out of devotion and love to them.
While it may seem queer to some, think of how a young man may pursue a girl relentlessly for her heart despite her rejection. He does so to prove to her his determination and sometimes (I heard!) a girl may coyly reject just to see how serious and sincere he is.
The same kind of devotion, perseverance and love should apply to our parents and elders!
Out of compassion, elders should also go easy on juniors. Be easy to serve. Don’t pick on how they don’t necessarily know how to serve you the way you want to be served. Focus on how they are trying. It’s ok to tell them what you need and want. 🙂
If we all stayed with our parents, provided for them, served them, listened to them, and practised Buddha’s teachings with them, when they are gone, we are assured that our parents are bound for a good rebirth. For as sure as a tree that has grown leaning towards the east should fall towards the east when cut off, likewise a person who has practised the Noble Eightfold Path taught by the Buddha inclines towards True Happiness even while alive, and continues in that direction in future rebirths! 
-  AN 2.31-32 Kataññu Suttas: Gratitude
-  A sutta where a lay person ask the Buddha about his rebirth 
- Original video post on facebook