A good analysis of Supreme Master Ching HaiReligious Showbiz Guru of Glitz
RELIGIOUS SHOWBIZ GURU OF GLITZ
She has proclaimed herself ‘The Supreme Master’ - yet most people have never heard her name or don’t know of her, or. She has declared: ‘I do not belong to Buddhism or Catholicism. I belong to the Truth and I preach the Truth...you may call it Buddhism, Catholicism, Taoism, or whatever you like. I welcome all!’ Over the years she has become more and more pretentious, if not arrogant, with her Internet websites boldly declaring that she is: ‘God’s Direct Contact’ or ‘God’s Immediate Contact.’
She has promised instant salvation, liberation and enlightenment to all who will chant the name and title of ‘The Supreme Master Ching Hai’, and who will believe in her and pray to her: ‘Whoever Sincerely Recites “NAMO CHING HAI WU SHANG SHIH” (The Supreme Master Ching Hai) will be saved and liberated.’
She has become more and more ‘gimmicky’ as well as ‘glitzy’.
She now advises her followers to use her special jargon for God (to remove ‘sexist’ terminology): ‘In speaking of God, or the Supreme Spirit, Master instructs us to use original nonsexist terms to avoid the argument about whether God is a She or a He. She + He = Hes (as in Bless); Her + Him = Hirm (as in Firm); Her + His = Hiers (as in Dear); Example: When God wants, Hes makes things happen according to Hiers will to suit Hirmself.’ She has introduced new products through her Celestial Shop, including ‘Happy Doggie Celestial Clothes and Sleeping Mattresses for Dogs’; vegetarian dog food; special books: ‘Dogs in My Life’ (Vols. 1 & 2) and ‘Birds in My Life’ - all at US$34 each.
She even promoted herself through Amazon.Com – by getting them to sell her self-published book on birds and having followers buy them through Amazon and send in lots of gushing review. As one blogger noted: ‘This is a Publishers Weekly emailing, which suspects something fishy is going on: Amazon, Gone to the Birds…it appears that it’s still quite possible to manufacture a No 1. Amazon bestseller. Supreme Master Ching Hai’s self-published THE BIRDS IN MY LIFE, said to have been published on June 1, is back at the top position on Amazon’s list even though it’s now “not in stock” (previously it was listed as available for delivery in one to four weeks). The title first hit the top of Amazon’s list at the beginning of this week. With 77 posted reviews, only one dares to give the book anything but glowing comments and five stars. The rebellious P. Good “TheDr” said, “I browsed this book in a store and I found it silly and vapid. Why is this book getting so many 5-star reviews from people who have never reviewed a book before? The only thing that Ching Hai is a master of is creating fake reviews.” ….Moral of the story: if you want a best-selling book on Amazon.com, add the title “Supreme Master” to your name. In fact, start thinking up lots and lots of fake names for your customer reviews. It is the way of the Supreme Master.’
Recent letterbox drops have alerted some people in Australia to this self-proclaimed religious ‘Master’, Vietnamese-born Hue Dang Trinh. The daughter of a Vietnamese mother and ethnic Chinese father, she was born in 1950. It is reported that, during the Vietnam War years she was friendly with Americans, and gave birth to the child of an American soldier (a daughter who later committed suicide at the age of 20). This information is amongst quite a lot of background information that the guru has denied or refused to acknowledge. The physically diminutive guru was supposedly given the name: Ching Hai (Clear/Pure Ocean) when she was initiated as a Buddhist nun in Taiwan in 1983. She claims to have been initiated and discovered her instant meditation system of enlightenment after being Awakened (Enlightened) by an unnamed Himalayan Master, at an undated time in her life. She calls her system of meditation, the Quan Yin method - but it has nothing to do with the popular Chinese Goddess. The use of her name seems to have been a marketing ploy to make her activities more acceptable to the Chinese and Vietnamese communities she constantly targets.
We first reported her activities in TACL November-December 1993, and then again in June-July 1994 and May-June 1997.
For quite a few years now, Ching Hai, who also likes to be called: Suma [shortened title for Supreme Master] Ching Hai, has been very busy spreading the message of her Divinity and Supremacy by travelling to, and speaking at, places around the world such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, USA and elsewhere.
More recently she has had her programmes on Internet TV, where you can, apparently, watch her new satellite channel 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The programmes are broadcast in English, with subtitles in at least another nine languages.
Ching Hai teaches strict vegetarianism and proclaims that today’s true heroes are all those who are vegetarians or lactovegetarians - vegans. She advocates the keeping of some major Buddhist principles, and supposedly initiates followers into the discovery of their own divine nature and power through the divine light and inaudible ‘sound’ – calling this the Quan Yin Method. Through this approach she claims to give all who come to her immediate enlightenment and eternal liberation in this one lifetime. While she claims this is uniquely her method - it is the same sort of method of meditation found in earlier groups such as Divine Light Mission/Elan Vital and other ‘light and sound’ mediation groups, which all seem to have borrowed in from the Indian Radha Satsoami movement.
(See following websites: [www.dci.dk
Ching Hai seems to have begun her ‘lecturing’ career in the late 1980s, after ‘forsaking’ her apparently devoted German doctor husband, to share her message with the world. Though from Vietnam, her headquarters are Taiwan - though her main North American Centre in San Jose, California, is fast becoming a secondary (if not replacement) headquarters.
Appealing mostly, but not only, to the Vietnamese and Chinese she has built up a considerable following, and has ‘Liaison Fellow Practioners’ in numerous countries in Africa, America, Asia, Europe, Oceania - as divergent as Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the USA. In Australia she has at least 15 active promoters in 9 major locations.
These ‘Liaison Fellow Practitioners’ actively promoting the guru are generally, with only a few exceptions, Vietnamese or Chinese.
The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association publishes and produces multi-language books, online-magazines, CDs and DVDs of colourful, glossy, professional quality in enormous quantities. ‘The Key to Immediate Enlightenment’ - used to be available as a mass produced, printed free sample booklet and distributed very widely with free copies of the booklet to be found in deli’s, doctor’s surgeries, libraries, and many other places. A free news magazine used to be mailed out, around the world to anyone interested. Materials were also widely advertised, as well as promoted by word of mouth. But Ching Hai has gone hi-tech. The only freebies, basically are now available online - and if you want printed ‘hard copies’ of anything you have to buy them or print-off your own copies of a few online free materials. Her sample booklet, ‘The Key to Immediate Enlightenment’, with quite a few unacknowledged alterations and additions to earlier editions (1990-1994 issues for example), is now available online in some 57 different languages.
Her websites, online and earlier print, magazines contain news reports from followers around the world; speeches she has made; sayings - aphorisms from the guru; comments of acclaim from followers; even regular apocryphal stories from un-named followers of miraculous happenings associated with ‘Master’ - such as Chinese gods and guardian angels plus the ‘transformation body of Master’ helping a follower drive a car up a slippery road on a hill in mainland China, and a large building in Taiwan was gutted by fire but miraculously one wall, with all its decorations was completely undamaged. On this wall was hanging a young girls’ dress and inside a dress pocket was a picture of ‘Master’ - obviously “Master’s” photo had saved the dress and the wall !!!
Ching Hai followers, members of the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association, are expected to live a fairly austere lifestyle, but the flamboyant glitzy guru has no shortage of the good things of life. She not only displays herself in constantly changing fashions, but as a ‘Master of Marketing’ she sells items of clothing, dress designs, interior decorations, photographs, pins, pendants, prayer beads (bearing her likeness), poems, paintings, fans, musical compositions, rice paper lamps, literature, CDs, videos and DVDs, and other things, often at outrageous prices. She has sold some of her (own used) ‘Celestial Clothing’ ensembles for as much as $(US)11 250. One of her followers even paid $(US)800 for a pair of ‘The Master’s’ sweat socks - because they contained the ‘Master’s’ smelly sweat..
Ching Hai shares a number of common characteristics with several gurus, including the late Rajneesh/Osho, the controversial and flamboyant leader of followers dubbed the ‘Orange People’ (from late 1970s to early 1990s). One of these characteristics is that Rajneesh used to love ‘dressing up’, constantly wearing new headgear, robes, and all sorts of outfits. Ching Hai is also constantly shown wearing new outfits, national costumes, new clothing designs, from peasant costumes to royal outfits. Those browsing her various websites, seeing her video or TV appearances, or reading her magazines, are regularly regaled with descriptions, such as: ‘Master was dressed as the Queen of the Universe.’ ‘Dressed like the Golden Mother, Master enjoys the performances of love by disciples.’ ‘Dressed in a Thai royal gown, Master is elegant and at ease.’ ‘The Supreme Master Ching Hai was brimming over with energy and vitality as She modelled new self-designed clothes, simple and unique.’
Ching Hai seems to be working hard to become a household name - if not as the new Supreme guru to (once again) save and liberate humanity, then at least in the guru-fashion stakes!
Wherever Ching Hai has travelled, she has been introduced at public lectures, and elsewhere, in the most glowing, if not gushing, terms: ‘Supreme Master Ching Hai is a renowned humanitarian, artist, and spiritual visionary.’ At some of her meetings she puts on her humble act, with comments along the line of: ‘I am just an ordinary human like you, and then someone reminds me that I am Supreme Master and have performed miracles.’
Constant claims are made that Ching Hai does not receive donations - that is part of the myth swallowed by followers of many gurus. Not openly asking for money is NOT the same as NEVER receiving any donations. One Hong Kong journalist heard Ching Hai admit that she DID accept donations.
In April and May, 1994, Ching Hai found a great promotional platform in the Vietnamese refuges in Hong Kong. With lots of opportunities to reveal her beneficence, her flair for spiritual dramatics, her ever-changing fashions (plain white outfit with black headcovering and white band; fancy white outfit with gold trim and white headcovering with black band; simple white outfit with fancy flowered hat; purple velvety top and white broadrimmed hat etc etc.) and her powerful charisma, Ching Hai used the tragic plight of Vietnamese to promote herself.
Ching Hai had been promoting herself as the supreme champion, as well as spiritual master, of the Vietnamese and blatantly used Vietnamese refugees to enhance her image and gain maximum publicity.
While in Hong Kong, she to live in a cave in an orchard in Shatin in the New Territories. She visited refugee centres and made sure the media were present. She called on followers from around the world to join her in Hong Kong to protest against the treatment of Vietnamese refugees. Some 1,000 followers came to be with her in her protest and media meetings.
Her NEWS magazines, No. 34 and 35, extensively covered her Hong Kong activities. While the plight of refugees was made clear, even clearer was the self promotion of this guru of glitz. The magazines reproduced everything from letters she has written and received, to favourable news and propaganda reports. No unfavourable articles are reproduced.
At least one Hong Kong journalist, Tom Hilditch, writing for the South China Sunday Post ‘M’ Magazine was not willing to accept her propaganda.
He reported: ‘Many people would argue that for power, sex and cash galore, nothing beats being a rock star. But they would be wrong. Being a rock star is only the world’s second best job; the best job in the world is to be a religious guru ...
‘Over recent months, a string of spiritual teachers have moved in mysterious ways through Hong Kong. The most recent being Supreme Master Ching Hai, the Vietnamese-born, Taiwan-based, British passport carrying founder of a cult called The Way of Supreme Master Ching Hai. An estimated 100,000 world followers believe she is a living god, an incarnation of Buddha. Her arrival at Kai Tak is pure theatre ...
‘Four feet five in her jewelled sandals and powerful in her charisma, Ching Hai is a press conference pro. Her trick is to allow her disciples to lavish VIP treatment on her, go along with it a bit and then subvert it. Knock it down. Sit with her feet over the arms of her thrown. Feign embarrassment. Tell little jokes. Humble herself. She is the same as anyone else, she says. But in the same breath, she quotes her disciples and makes a different point: “They say I can raise the dead ... They say I have miraculous powers. They credit every incredible thing to my power.” A Hong Kong disciple, Mimi Lai, explained Ching Hai’s role: “She is a living Buddha, perfect and flawless. It is only through her that we can reach enlightenment.”
Hilditch revealed in his article that with the cult comes cash. Ching Hai has admitted: “I also receive donations.” He saw this guru and her movement, not as a spiritual path to enlightenment, but simply as the way to profitable show business.
During 1996-97 Ching Hai became involved with politics and brought some embarrassment to US President, Bill Clinton. Her group contributed to Clinton’s legal defence fund, ultimately leading the Presidential Legal Expense Trust to return US$640,000. There was concern about the source of the funds, which was contributed through group members. Religious groups making huge political donations have been, rightly, regarded as a dangerous practice.
We live in an age of hype, spin and marketing. We also live in an age of atheism, secularism and general disbelieve - fertile fields of opportunity for would-be godmen and godwomen who are well-marketed.
In writing the book, O IS FOR ORANGE (1983), our Director and editor, Adrian van Leen, wrote a chapter on the ‘Mystique of Making a God’. While examining the claims of Rajneesh, Adrian enumerated 10 ‘rules’ for any 20th Century would-be god or guru. Rajneesh fitted into these like a hand in a glove - and so does Ching Hai.
How does one become a ‘god’ in the twenty first century? Claims to divinity are not new. Nor is it new for those making claims to divinity to have a following. What appears new is the number of followers and their varied background. The gods and gurus of today number their followers in the hundreds and thousands, rather than the handful. Their followers are not just the ‘local yokels’, instead today’s gods and gurus can be assured of many highly educated and often fairly wealthy disciples from many communities and even countries.
How do these gods start? What do they do to gain the devotion and surrender of their followers?
(O IS FOR ORANGE 1983, P49)
10 Rules for becoming a god or guru:
1. Claim a mysterious beginning - an unusual childhood.
Ching Hai has convinced her followers she was no ordinary child but was a humble egoless child of great knowledge with an extra-retentive memory and unusual behaviour. She claims to have been described, in childhood, by others as the ‘living Buddha’, having a saintly nature.
2. Declare oneself divine or enlightened (but reveal that others are phony).
Ching Hai has made her nature as ‘Supreme Master’ very clear. She has also clearly spelt out that those who don’t accept her claims for teach other than her are false teachers and masters, serving the prince of darkness.
3. Drop important names - claim association with great persons
Ching Hai enjoys doing this both at spiritual and temporal levels. She delights in talking about Shakyamuni Buddha (Gautama, the Buddha, in his earthly form/life) and Jesus Christ. She has also shown off letters of acknowledgment (for gifts) from the current and previous, US President(s), and her invitation to a dinner for past Republican Presidents (the fact that these are standardised impersonal political letters sent to a wide range of people who have made superficial contributions and NOT an endorsement of her personal claims, will probably elude most of her followers). She also endorsed and ‘blessed’ Imelda Marcos of the Philippines because Mrs Marcos showed concern for Vietnamese refugees (therefore all the claims against Mrs Marcos can’t be true!!). She has also made much of having spoken at the United Nations.
4. Have a special mystical relationship with a few/ have a select group of intimates.
Ching Hai has a select group of men and women surrounding and serving her who are referred to as the ‘Quan Yin Messengers.’ They wear special uniforms of red and white, or blue and white, apparently designed by her.
5. Give the impression of omniscience (knowing all).
Followers believe that Ching Hai knows them, and their deepest needs (including those of which they may not yet be aware). She has also given the impression that she knows and understands all sacred scriptures, and like all other gurus, she liberally misquotes and misinterprets the Bible.
6. Encourage the belief in one’s omnipresence - of always being with the followers where-ever they may be.
The association fosters this notion through published (often anonymous) testimonies from Ching Hai followers around the world.
7. Encourage belief in one’s omnipotence (unlimited power).
Again, this is promoted through testimonies, such as the one from a follower in mainland China. A female follower, while cycling was about to be hit, head-on by a motor cycle. She heard crunching sounds and fainted. When she came to she discovered that neither she nor her bicycle had been injured, but the motor cycle had significant damage. She claimed it was obvious that the Supreme Master had intervened and saved her. In one passing comment mention was made of hot uncomfortable weather experienced by some of her meditators - but this changed to cooler pleasant weather when Ching Hai arrived at the meditation centre. The ‘Master’ apparently has power over the weather.
8. Be intimate, yet removed and remote - have an air of superiority (but at the same time introduce the paradox of being human and very humble).
Ching Hai once held a contest to choose 12 quasi-boyfriends to help care for her. These came from amongst her Quan Yin Messengers. It is acknowledged that she often scolded some of these followers. Then she announced that the contest was over. She didn’t really need a boyfriend. ‘There really isn’t anyone who is completely pure enough on the outside and on the inside to be with Master.’ It’s the old psychological game of building intimacy and removing it, of accepting and then rejecting. This leaves followers uncertain, fearful of further rejection and hoping for renewed acceptance.
9. Flatter your followers - tell them they are special.
Ching Hai has learnt the art of flattery well. Her writings show her use of praise for those who follow - but one doesn’t have to read far to see the subtle shift against those who will not follow all the way - those who will not be ‘true to their meditation’
10. Tell everyone your message is ‘LOVE’
Ching Hai’s publications, lectures and websites follow the common guru line of telling followers that her message is one of TRUE love (not like those false masters who talk about love but don’t really love like she loves). Followers are told ‘Master very often blesses us with Her radiant eyes, conveying God’s endless love for mankind.’
Ching Hai is a true ‘master’ of marketing, hype and spin. She knows how to use the power of suggestion, flattery and wish-fulfilment to promote herself. When she takes to the road, she certainly brings a well-orchestrated stage show, and a well-stocked wardrobe, guaranteed to enhance her image and assets. She has used commercialised religion to gain fame, fortune and power, and now heads one of the fastest growing cults in the world, with followers in both East and West.
(See also: [www.time.com
(From TACL Vol 28 #5 October-November 2007)
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/03/2012 03:42AM by puresoul.