In this article, I would write about how ancestors can influence illness, be it physical or mental illness in later generations. And I am not only referring to genetics here.
I know this concept may be totally alien in the West. But do hear me out here and read further, then later draw the conclusions for yourself. I would share the experience of my family to illustrate this.
I wanted to write about this article as a food for thought. In the Western world today this belief is practically non existent. And Asians who have migrated to the West and made it their home would discontinue the practice of their parents as they would consider it pure superstitious garbage.
Enter mental illness and psychological disturbances. Depression and other extreme emotional disturbance like bipolar disorder, sociopathy, psychopathy, etc are very prevalent in the West much more than in Asia. Are mental illness merely a first world problem or there is a possibly more sinister cause to it?
Growing up, I never thought much about ancestor worship which is a very prevalent belief in the Chinese culture. Initially I even thought it was superstitious and unnecessary waste of money (to buy offering items) and time (spend in prayer, cleaning of altars and worship).
However in recent years, my views gradually begin to change due to too much coincidences in my own family life, relatives and those of people I know.
If our ancestors had harmed a lot of people in the past and had been cursed (usually the curse would be placed for certain number of generations), it would affect the later generations…. ie the sons all die young, or unable to have a son to carry on the family name or strong occurrence of incurable illness (usually cancer, SLE or leukemia) or mental illness/ autism. Bear in mind when a curse is placed on a person or their descendants, if that intended they have done nothing to deserve it, the curse may usually fall back on the person who places it. But if that person had genuinely done a lot of harm, then the curse may come true.
Even if they have not been cursed, but if had been involved in shady stuff, after they die, they may find themselves in a bad place (spirits or hell) and would transmit out distressing energies to their descendants. Examples are involving in drug trafficking, pimping, slavery, driving native people out of their land, destroying sacred places, etc.
In countries like China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, there are many instances of these cases. The Chinese would do a lot of offerings and do merits to offer to ancestors and departed relatives. The Thais and Burmese would offer alms and donations to temples in the memory of their departed parents and ancestors. Almost all the richest Chinese tycoons ensured the feng shui in their ancestral tombs were good and did a lot of rituals, charities and dedicate to their ancestors.
Recently I have been doing more research into this topic from the sharing mostly by Hong Kong spiritual healers. Then I reflect on my own experience and could see some logic in what that was being said.
My real life experience…. too much of a coincidence
My mom was born as the 7th and the youngest daughter of all girls. My grandmother had been trying for a boy without success. Not long after my mom was born, my grandfather was caught by Japanese (this was during the Second World War in Malaya) and tortured, then subsequently killed.
My grandma, unable to financially raise so many daughters decided to sell my mom who was the youngest daughter and then ‘replace’ her with a baby boy whom she bought. My mom was sold into a servant family for 30 bucks (a lot of money those days). When my mom was around 30 years old, the servant (about 80 years old) who adopted her decided to reunite my mom with her real family for she was concerned my mom would be alone after she (the servant) died. So my mom got to know her real family but she also took care of the servant lady till her passing away at the age of 91 years old.
There was something very uncanny within all the 7 sisters. Even though my mom was ‘sold’ to another family, she did not seem to be able to escape from the fate. First, it was the fact that my grandma just could not bear a son. And all 7 sisters shared similar faith…. they had illness and most died from their illness.
- when I was young, my mom’s second sister died from leukemia
- my mom had tonsil cancer and within 5 years of that, she had lost 3 of her closest sisters: 3rd sister died from nose cancer, 4th sister died from complications from dementia, 5th sister died from complications from stroke.
- her eldest sister also died from complications from stroke
- most of the children in my mother’s side of the family (ie my cousins) are struggling financially. I have two cousin brothers of different parents who had died from nose cancer.
I believe my mom survived was because 10 years prior to her cancer diagnosis, she suddenly had this overwhelming urge to do Buddhist chants each day. Despite being English educated, she took the effort to memorise Tai Bei Zhou and Guan Yin mantra. I remember she took the minibus to work and while in the bus used her time to memorise the lines (the other time she was too busy working and taking care of us). I did ask her when she started to chant as to why she did it, she told me she did not know why but she just had the urge to do it. Later in university when I learned some Pali chanting on spreading goodwill, she also asked me to teach her and memorised those too. Even now with dementia, of course she had forgotten the chants but she still remember to chant Guan Yin’s name literally most of the time.
There were some rumors that my mom’s ancestors (in China before my grandma migrated to Malaysia) were involved in some shady practices that harmed people and were possibly cursed, which resulted in inter generational problems.
Eventually I also did encounter a spiritual teacher who told me that the ancestors of both side (mom and dad) are in distress. And I was the only one from both sides who could help them through spiritual practices. I was advised to practice in earnest and dedicate merits to them. Not using money (since I am not rich) but using my time and effort to practice and use the merits to help them. To help others and dedicate merits to them. Then it would be able to help the descendants and my family. She did not know anything about my family history then and would not have guessed since I was working in a stable corporate job when I first knew her.
Initially I really did not believe ….I mean ancestors? I did not even know them so why should I help? As it is, I’ve had enough problems of my own to deal with, no need to add more. But after my dad died from stroke, I would dream of him in dark, gloomy, damp, deserted and depressing grey places. He did not speak to me in the dream when I asked how he was.
Then when I started practicing under this teacher, one night I dream of my dad again. The surroundings and situations were bright, for the first time. No longer dark and gloomy. He came and motioned me to follow him. I did and he took me to what was supposed to be a relative’s funeral (it was symbolic and not an actual relative in real life). He sat at the role in front and turned towards me. In the dream, even though no words were exchange, I understood his message. He had benefited in what I did for him and now he wanted to ask me a favor to help his ancestors.
The dream happened more than 10 years ago. It really took time but the last few years, I have begin to accept the request.