Now, there was a very young and beautiful wife, who became sick and nearly died. She was on her death bed and told her husband, “I love you very much, and I don’t want to leave you. Please, after I die, don’t marry another person. You promise me! Okay?
Then she worried that her husband would not keep the promise, so she threatened him. She said, “If you marry another wife, I will become a ghost and take care of you.” It’s terrible! That’s what she said to her husband, “I will make you suffer, always, forever, and eternally!” So the husband was maybe afraid of the wife. But here (Master points to the book) they say, “respected the wife.” We always respect the wife, do we not? We respect the wife, but we’re not afraid! So the husband respected the wife and didn/’t think of remarrying another person.
But as God always makes trouble for human beings, he met another beautiful woman, younger, charming, sweeter and more attractive, and richer even! Rich! Oh, terrible! And she even loved him very much and maybe more than the wife. Oh, too bad! That was only three months after the funeral service. Now what can we do about that?
So he got engaged to her. After the engagement (the engagement happened during the daytime), that night the husband saw the ghost of the wife coming. “Ah ha! As promised, here I come.” She appeared in front of him and scolded him and nagged him, saying that he had broken his promise; that he did not love her; that he was not sincere; that he was a bad husband; that he had no conscience; that he was a lousy man; that he was a terrible human being.
Then the husband got very scared! Because this ghost was so terribly intelligent; she knew exactly what had happened between the husband and the new fiancée. She told him what time he did what with her, and what time he gave her what, and talked to her about what. She knew everything, everything! So he couldn’t deny it. But he was very scared.
He was so scared that he could not sleep, he could not eat, and he dared not go to see his fiancée often. And their love affair nearly went on the rocks. So some people told him that he should go to a temple and talk about his suffering to a Zen master, and maybe the Zen master could help him. Oh, my God! The Zen master takes care of everything, including ghosts and marriage.
So the Zen master truly helped him. He said to the husband, “Your ex-wife has become a ghost.” (This we knew) “And she is very intelligent. So she knows everything that you did with your fiancée. Actually, you should respect such a ghost. But there is a way to drive her away. Now,
Next time if the ghost appears, you have to make a bet with her.” The Zen master said that she knew everything; she knew too much already. But probably there was something she didn’t know. If she answered incorrectly, then she should not come back and bother him any more. Then he could marry the one he loved.
Because she was dead! She could not serve him in any way. She could not cook for him. She could not take care of anything. So the husband asked the Zen master, “What can I do? What should I ask her?”
And the Zen master said to him, “Next time when she comes, take a handful of mung beans in your hand and ask her how many beans are inside. She surely cannot answer that. And then she will disappear. Because, if she cannot answer that question, you will know this is only an illusion of your own mind, your own conscience or your own imagination
Because you’re already too scared, afraid of the wife and imagining, an illusion of your mind. If she does/’t answer, if she cannot answer, then you know it’s an illusion and she will vanish.”
So, the next night, truly, the ghost appeared. And the husband told her, “Oh, yes, you know everything. You are very intelligent; I cannot do anything about it.” And then the ghost said, “Yes, I know. And I also know that today you went to see a Zen master and you talked about us.”
So the man said, “Okay, since you know everything, now, can you tell me how many beans are in my hand?” As soon as he asked this question, the ghost disappeared.
So you know, was there a real ghost? No! Then you shouldn’t be afraid tonight.