We went to Penang over the weekend. The original plan was to go there for some good Nyonya Food and maybe take a look at a new mall they have. As usual, we didn't follow the plan because of the wonderful time we had catching up with my father's cousins and aunt. We spent the whole time at their homes laughing instead.
Sunday also happened to be the 100th Day Anniversary of my grand uncle's death. While everybody in the family is now Catholic (the older ones converted and the younger ones had no choice at birth), my grand uncle chose to remain a Buddhist. So, on this day, we followed the Buddhist tradition and went to a temple to 'transfer some merits' to him.
Each Sunday, Buddhists and non Buddhists alike are welcomed to join the monks for lunch. The food provided is prepared by volunteers and purchased using donations. The families of the deceased would make donations and then on this day, there would be prayers and the mysterious 'transfer of merits'. I was told that our charitable acts here on earth are transfered like 'credits' to the deceased in the afterlife. This pouring of water while the monks chanted was symbolic of the earth spirit that will carry the merits over to my grand uncle. These two ladies are my grand uncle's nieces.
I had a few questions but none of the catholics on my table could answer me.
"Don't Buddhists believe in reincarnation?" and
"If the earth spirit is transporting the merits, why is water used to symbolize it?" and
"Why do the monks sit on the chairs while everybody else prays on the floor?"
The monks can only eat the food offered to them and this needs to be done by literally offering them the table. Notice everybody's hands on the table. They all lifted it briefly in 'offering'.
We did end up with some delicious Nyonya Food cooked by the volunteers.
The old lady is my grand uncle's sister, my grand aunt. The other lady is his daughter.