Questions about Abortion and Infant Spirits
Answered by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
It is better to prevent problems from happening, rather than feeling regret afterwards.
Question: If a married couple has no choice but to get an abortion due to financial difficulties or other reasons, will the consequence be as serious?
The Venerable Master: Since the financial conditions are not permitting, a pregnancy shouldn’t have happened in the first place; in this way, they can avoid the resulting trouble. Given their existing financial difficulties, why do they wait until the problem arises and then try to find a solution? They should have taken precautions against the problem from happening. Why not come up with other good ideas? As it is said, “Why wait until the wood has been made into canoe [before realizing one needs firewood to cook a meal]?” Why wait until when it’s too late to do anything? They should have included the possibility of pregnancy in their annual budget.
Question: Venerable Master, some unmarried mothers are causing a lot of social problems, and then there is abortion.... I wonder what opinions or suggestions the Venerable Master has regarding these problems.
上人：這在英文的稱呼是 ”single mother” ── 這是人性的失去，所以在未婚就不守規矩了。不守規矩 ── 好像現代一般的年輕人，他們歡喜跳舞、看電影、唱歌，歡喜這些吃、喝、玩、樂，結果就把人性失去了；把人性失去了，連自己都不知道自己是人了。人應該作人事，他們盡作鬼事，偷偷摸摸地就要不守規矩，沒有結婚就想試一試，結果就生了小孩子。這在西方國家是不當一回事，然而這在我們中國是覺得很羞恥的。
The Venerable Master: You are referring the problem of single mothers. Unfortunately, these individuals have lost their sense of humanity, so they break the rules before they get married. Nowadays, most young people like to dance, watch movies, and sing. They enjoy eating, drinking, playing, and seeking pleasure. These desires and actions lead to a loss of their humanity, to the point where they don’t even realize that they are human beings. Human beings should act like human beings, but they do things like ghosts -- covertly not obeying the rules, wanting to try things before they get married... as a result, they have a baby. Things like these may not be big deals in the West, but they are thought of as great shame in China.
These problems arise due to a single thought of ignorance: Man chases after woman, woman looks for man.... Because of ignorance, karmic activity follows; after the karmic activity was performed, name and form, the six entrances, contact, and feelings come into being…, these are all generated by ignorance. As a result of being confused, emotional love arises, followed by the desire to grasp and possess, then many other problems appear... until old age and death arrive. This whole chain of events is called the Dharma of Twelve-fold Conditioned Arising.
Because people don’t understand the chain of Twelvefold Conditioned Arising, they do things contrary to this principle. As a result, their troubles grow bigger and bigger, to the point that they get pregnant. Things get even worse when, instead of giving birth, they get an abortion when the fetus is one to four months old.
The offense of abortion is very serious. You may think this is just a little ghost, but it has great spiritual powers that can cause you to die or catch various strange diseases, make you feel baffled and confused to the point of a mental breakdown.... The offense of abortion is greater than the offense of killing an adult. If you do not want to raise a child, why cause the conception? Why be so messed-up? Unfortunately, because man and woman don’t understand the principles of how to be a human being, these problems arise.
In order to solve these problems, we need to provide young people with sex education, and teach them not to engage in love affairs before they are fully matured and grown up, otherwise, they will encounter serious trouble. We should urge them to follow the rules.
Questions: Venerable Master, since you are back in Taiwan, could you give some advice to your disciples in Taiwan?
The Venerable Master: The proper behavior between man and woman is the foundation of peace within a nation and peace in the world. If a husband acts unlike a husband, a wife acts unlike a wife, and children act unlike children, how can the world avoid being in disorder? I suggest that everyone should fulfill the proper roles of husband and wife, do not get a divorce, and take good care of your children. With every family happy and harmonious, the nation will naturally be in peace.
In addition, I urge everyone to stop having abortions! Think about it, if living beings become resentful spirits even before they are born, with these vengeful little ghosts of aborted fetuses everywhere, how can the society be peaceful? These little ghosts can only be crossed over by genuine cultivators of the Bodhi Way who are not greedy for wealth. These little ghosts are really tough to deal with! It is very difficult to resolve these matters; hence, with karmic offenses pervading everywhere, how can there be peace?
Question: How can Taiwan be saved?
The Venerable Master: By not having abortions, by not killing living beings.
Question: Abortion constitutes as karma of killing. Since I didn’t study Buddhism before, I unknowing committed the killing offense. How can I make up for my offense?
The Venerable Master: By doing more meritorious and virtuous deeds, by doing more repentance and reform, and by reciting the Buddha's name more often.
Question: I've heard that abortion is wrong in Buddhism, but I committed this offense in the past without knowing that it was wrong. What can I do now to redress the harm that I have caused?
The Venerable Master: No wholesome deed is greater than correcting one's own faults. Even if your offenses are enormous, as if they were pervading the sky, if you sincerely repent and reform, they will be eradicated.
Question: Nowadays, there are many advertisements on “Making Offerings to Infant Spirits” in newspapers and magazines. Can we make offerings to infant spirits, or should they be crossed over instead?
The Venerable Master: The term “Making Offerings” cannot be used in this context, because an infant spirit is not the Triple Jewel (the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha). If you consider making offerings to infant spirits, you will fall into the trap of erroneous views. Rather, it should be called “crossing over.” Crossing over living beings is not the same as making offerings to them, because the act of crossing over enables them to leave suffering and attain bliss. However, the infant spirits’ resentment is so great that they are difficult to appease. Given that the debt owed to these spirits involves taking lives, it needs to be repaid with life. However, if such debtors encounter genuine cultivators of the Bodhi Way who are not greedy for wealth, they still have a chance to cross over the infant spirits.
Questions: Many people pay money to make offerings to infant spirits, can these spirits’ resentment and grievance be redressed by doing so?
The Venerable Master: No.
Questions: Nowadays, many people take advantage of others by claiming to appease infant spirits as a way to make money. Some Buddhists really frown upon this practice. Venerable Master, what is your opinion? Will infant spirits cause the individuals who owe them ill health or other problems? Some people who had abortions are scared into spending money to buy plaques for infant spirits. Venerable Master, what are your thoughts on this? Are infant spirits really able to cause trouble? If so, how do we subdue these spirits? How do we pacify and comfort them?
The Venerable Master: It would be better to have no plaque than to set up a plaque. What do I mean by this? One should not have an abortion in the first place; by refraining from abortion, one does not kill; by not killing, one doesn’t even need to set up a plaque. Setting up a plaque for fetus spirits is called “attending to the trifles and neglecting the essentials,” and it is like “covering up one's ears to steal a bell,” for one is deceiving oneself. Can those infant spirits be crossed over? Can the debts be settled? The answers are uncertain. Therefore, it is better to prevent problems from happening than to feel regret afterwards. Before one is married, one should not take birth control pills or have sexual intercourse. Why can’t you wait until you get married? Why are you in such a hurry?
Question: Venerable Master, there are many strange phenomena in the world today, such as many unmarried mothers having abortions, rape, and homosexuality. How should parents educate their children in this day and age, so teenagers can develop both physically and mentally into wholesome individuals?
The Venerable Master: This is an excellent question for it deals with the right solution to our social problems. The problems you described are very simple, because they are very easy to solve. Where did these teenagers come from? These troubled youths have parents, don’t they? However, their parents don’t know how to be proper parents – a father does not behave like a father, and a mother does not behave like a mother. Although they gave birth to their children, their focus is not on the children; instead, they are greedy for pleasure and satisfaction of their sexual desires. Acting just to please themselves, they only know how to procreate, but know nothing about how to educate their children. Men and women in our country are emulating the trends in Europe and America, by indulging in emotional love and sexual desires, dating causally, and chasing after the opposite sex; they think they are being very modern by doing so. Most people think that if a man doesn’t have a girlfriend, he is an idiot. Similarly, if a woman doesn’t have a boyfriend before she gets married, she is thought of as a mental case, and nobody would want to marry her! Since these individuals crazily indulge in emotional love and sexual desires, they don't care about their children after the children are born; they only care about themselves. In this way, it can take as soon as two and a half days after their wedding for them to start disliking each other, and they end up in a divorce.
After the divorce, their children are either without a dad or without a mom. Then, a judge decides that the child should stay three days with dad, and four days with mom. Since the couple no longer lives together, their child, no matter a girl or a boy, will go and live with dad for awhile. The dad will say: “Your mom is not fit to be your mom. She is not a nice woman, so I divorced her and found another woman. My present girl friend is the best, while your mom is the worst.” The child will think: “Oh, my mom is the worst!” When the child goes back to his or her mom's place, he or she ignores the mom, saying: “You are the worst. You are not fit to be my mom!” The child has only heard the dad’s side of the story.
The mom thinks: “My child has changed! I better come up with something.” She tells the child: “Your dad is the worst man. I could not stand him, that’s why I divorced him.” She then brings up a whole bunch of other reasons for divorcing her ex-husband, and causes the child to think that, “Oh, no! My dad is the worst man, and my mom is the worst woman! What should I do? Ah, given parents like mine, I should learn to be the worst child, too!” The child starts to take drugs and get into all sorts of trouble. He or she doesn’t care about anything, including his or her country, his or her family, and his or her body. He or she thinks: “I am a bad seed; both my dad and mom are bad, therefore, I also must be bad.” With this attitude, the child gives up any sense of right and wrong and does whatever he or she pleases.
Since some men have been discarded by women, and some women have been forsaken by men, they go to extremes. They become gay, and learn actions that go against our humanity. Because husbands and wives don’t know how to behave like husbands and wives, they end up creating huge problems that we face today. When families are broken, so is the nation. If everyone could be like the mother of Meng Zi or the mother of Yue Fei, both of whom were able to teach their son to become famous and sagely, there would not be so many troubled children. I have answered your question, and I don’t know whether I am right or not. If you are not satisfied, please find someone who is better qualified.
Regarding abortion, it is an inhumane act! Think about it, if you kill a child even before he or she is born, would you say the retribution of such a conduct is severe or not? Now I am going to tell you something whether you believe it or not: although it is only a little baby who has been aborted, this little ghost is even fiercer than a big ghost! Now cancer is fairly common in our society, and this illness is brought about by abortions. Since more fetuses get aborted, the number of little ghosts increases, and these little ghosts sprinkle poisons everywhere and cause disquiet among people. They think: “You made me die so early, I won't let you get away with it. I will also kill you!” Accordingly, we have a lot of strange and hard to cure diseases.