Today is the end of the Hungry Ghost season in Chinese culture, when the very well-behaved ghosts go back to the underworld for another year.
Earlier in the month I went out with my friend Dr. Tan again to see some of the events surrounding the season. We first went to Hock Teik Cheng Sen, which is a traditional Chinese temple in Bukit Mertajam.
The temple is more than 120 years old and has stone inscriptions from the time of the last Emperors of China. It also has some fine tables and other woodwork, and many other artifacts.
However I didn’t feel easy about photographing it at the time as there were too many people bustling about – it was very busy that day. I may go back later at a quieter period and get some photos if I get the chance.
After our visit to the temple we went to the large Berapit Cemetery which is owned by the Temple. That was a very fortunate occasion as we got to meet Ven. Sonam Tenzin Rinpoche and around 7 other monks from Tibet.
Ven. Sonam Tenzin has his main center in Sydney, Australia, and two more have recently opened in Malaysia, one near Juru (not far from here, and still in Penang State) and another in Kuala Lumpur. He also has at least two films to his credit, The Reincarnation of Khensur Rinpoche, made in 1991 and a follow up made in 2007: The Thread of Karma, which revisits the boy found in the first film and sees how he is progressing. I haven’t seen the later film yet, but the former is something of a classic of its kind.
They had come to the cemetery for chanting during the Hungry Ghost festival and were doing various different chants over a period of three days. I met him and we had a pleasant conversation “backstage” with him and the other monks before the event began, and when they came round they invited me to join them, so I had a very good on-stage seat for the duration.
The puja that day was the Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva Pūjā. Kṣitigarbha is believed to look after the dead and visits the lower regions in order to save living beings. Indeed he has made a vow not to attain Nirvana until the hells are empty.
Kṣitigarbha amongst the Beings in Hell
For more about Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva see this informative article on the Wikipedia.