Vice President Vincent Siew visited Taipei 101 to pray yesterday. President Ma Ying-jeou did so on

Saturday. They both prayed before a gold Buddha image presented as a gift to one of Taiwan’s popular Buddhist patriarchs by his Thai counterpart. The two leaders of Taiwan implored divine help end the country’s seemingly endless trouble just as ancient Chinese emperors did.

Siew and Ma addressed their prayers to what is called the Wealth and Honor Gold Buddha, given to Master Daoxin of Taiwan’s Ghridhrakuta (Vulture Mountain). Incidentally, Vulture Mountain, near the ancient city of Radjagriha in India, is one of the sacred places where Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha, expounded the original Buddhist doctrine (one very much different from populist Mahayana Buddhism now practiced in Taiwan) to bikhsu (Buddhist fakirs) and senior bodhisattvas (who were Buddhists with right wisdom, but not yet with consummate penetration in this secular world, unlike those in Mahayana Buddhism who could save and help the faithful). Perhaps, both Siew and Ma truly believe their prayers will be answered. But we like to believe they let themselves be persuaded by their staff, who are convinced that all the woes that are gripping Taiwan have resulted from Premier Liu Chao-shiuan’s failure to worship the ghosts during the Ghost Festival in the summer, and that Matsu, the Goddess of the Seas, hinted through a medium she would get Ma out of all the trouble in three months’ time. In particular, some on the staff love the title of the gold Buddha. It’s Wealth and Honor, which Taiwan is seeking desperately.

We are sure of one thing. The staff members who have suggested that Siew and Ma bark up the wrong tree are no Buddhists. The followers of the Buddha are taught wealth and honor are human cravings, or “tanha,” they have to renounce in order to be enlightened. Calling for divine help used to be a popular Taoist practice, but Buddhism and Taoism have long merged into one hybrid folk religion in Taiwan.

There’s little doubt that some of Ma’s top aides, who want desperately to get their boss out of trouble, are at their wits’ end. Otherwise, they wouldn’t dare try to talk the president and the vice president into visiting Taipei 101. But the real trouble is that Taiwan can’t get out of the trouble it is facing and will continue to face in three months. What kind of friendly persuasion will the assistants resort to then? They may request Ma to write a self-reproaching edict, like the one the puppet Guangxi emperor of the Qing Dynasty issued after an allied army had sacked Beijing in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900. The emperor and his aunt Empress Dowager, who kept him hostage, had to flee the capital when the army with contingents contributed by eight countries marched on Beijing to rescue their diplomats and families. The emperor had to tell his subjects he had to take responsibility for “shaming” his empire.

The China Post news staff

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