IMMORTAL LI AND MONKEY GOD
Like my sifu, I myself was a skeptic at first. It was not that I did not believe in the supernatural but I did not want to have any dealings with it. Yet, when I was a little boy, even before I first learned kungfu from Uncle Righteousness, I lived in a traditional Chinese area at Market Lane in downtown Penang where I had many opportunities to witness Taoist gods descending into mediums in trances to give advice and help to people who sough advice and help. I had seen so many trances that I could even recite the required prayers to invite the respective gods to descend.
The procedure was as follows. A medium sat in front of an altar with statues of gods. Some assistants lighted candles and offered joss sticks to the gods. Then they chanted the required prayers to invite a specific god to descend. The prayers, chanted in melodic rhythm, began with the following words:
Three pure joss sticks are offered to worship and invite
To invite the name or address of the god to descend
In my childhood days, the gods I often saw descending into mediums in trances were Nacha (哪吒), a heavenly prince, the Monkey God, the Great Sage Equal to Heaven, and the Child of Wealth (善财童子).
The chanting took about 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes, it was fast and took only about 2 minutes, but at other times, it might take longer, about 15 or more minutes. First, there were slight vibrations on the body of the medium, indicating that the god was responding. The vibrations became more vigorous and then very vigorous when the god entered the body of the medium. There would be clear indications that the god had arrived, like rhythmically hitting the table in front, looking up majestically, or actually asking what the reason was for inviting him to descend. Each god spoke in his characteristic voice and manner, which were very different from the voice and manner of the medium. When the medium came out of the trance, he was totally ignorant of what the god had said.
The many years of personal experience during my training in my sifu’s school convinced me that if I was to be scientific, I just had to accept the fact that supernatural beings exist.
By the time I learned Shaolin Kungfu in Sifu Ho Fatt Nam’s temple, the Monkey God had retired from actively giving advice and help to people and had requested Immortal Li (李仙祖) to take his place. I once asked my siheng (师兄), which means elder brother learning from the same sifu, named Ah Heng (亚兴), that if the Monkey God had retired, how was it that I could still find temples dedicated to the Monkey God who still gave advice and help to many people. Ah Heng explained that the Monkey God had many substitutes and lieutenants who acted on his behalf, but he himself who descended to our sifu’s temple had retired.
But once a while, the Monkey God still visited and blessed us. We would know his coming by a clear signal. A pingpong ball was placed over clean, clear water in a glass vessel. Whenever the Monkey God visited us, we could clearly hear a typical sound “ping” from the pingpong ball. When we heard this signal, all of us would stop whatever we were doing, knelt down and paid homage to the Monkey God. We did not call him Monkey God or the Great Sage Equal to Heaven, which he is most popularly known, but we were very privileged to call him “sigung” (师公), which means the teacher of our teacher.
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