Religion and Life
In choosing a religion to follow or believe, the choice usually has intricate relations with the believer's living environment. Within our living circle, we tend to follow the belief practiced by our families and friends. Some people obtain information on religions from books or news reports, and accept a faith if its doctrines are compatible with their concepts. Actually, most of us do not know which religion to follow. After having come in contact with a religion, we begin to follow it if we find the tenets it teaches are worthy of our faith.
Religious faiths can either be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy religions promote the growth of concepts and thoughts, and ameliorate our living habits. They are also positive toward the development of our characters and moral cultivation. A religion is proper if it fulfills the above-mentioned conditions, is beneficial to the society, people and their families, and aid in purifying our minds.
What religion then, is deemed unhealthy? A religion is unhealthy and not proper if it violates the laws of nature, or clashes with social morality and our physical and mental health. However, many people lack adequate understanding and perception of religion. Thus, when confronted with difficulties and obstacles in life without solutions, and as they struggle at the crossroads of life with no help from others nor response from prayers, many people resort to go temples to ask for the help of gods or persons who practice divinity. They try to find and seek the advice of "fairy", "extraordinary persons", soothsayers or "persons with godhood". The so-called "persons of godhood" are those who are said to possess supernatural abilities and powers, such as able to augur the past and foretell the future with eyes closed. In such cases, if a "person of godhood's" prediction is right for 2 to 3 people out of 10, more people will come to visit him/her. If his or her prediction is right for 5 out of 10 people, then he or she would be considered as god.
But how reliable are these "supernatural masters"? I would say that they are unreliable. Based only on a certain level of accuracy, many people then associate such phenomena with religion but fail to cultivate their own independence and trust their own judgement. Human beings tend to lack self-confidence. Often they feel insecure and terrible, thus resort to seek the assistance from the above-mentioned "figures" when at loss. On a certain level, this may not be entirely useless. Nonetheless, this is not of absolute and permanent usefulness or solution, and may only be helpful on a temporal and superficial level for a few.
Religion does not deny or refute clairvoyance or "supernatural senses". However, not many people truly possess supernatural powers. Furthermore, a proper religion with credibility will not utilize this to recruit followers. In Thailand and Myanmar, there are some Chan Buddhist masters who have supernatural powers yet they live like average citizens. Some Tibetan lamas also have supernatural powers after having studied and practiced esoteric doctrines for a long time, but they don't show off their powers when they teach and propagate Buddhadharma.
Some Chan Patriarchs also had supernatural powers, but they know that such abilities are not their ultimate goal in practice. Personally, I do not have supernatural powers. Many of my disciples think that I do when in fact, I am only interacting with them spiritually, which was perceived as supernatural powers. However, it must be noted that the objective of practicing Buddhadharma is not limited to spiritual interaction.
Some religious masters' concepts of religion are not deep or clear enough. Hence, they are unable to use religious concepts and theories when leading others in the practice of the faith. If these masters do not have evil thoughts or intentions, the harm may not be great. What is feared is the great harm that would be brought on to the followers with evil intentions.