Taoist ceremony of repaying the debt
Taoist ceremony of repaying the debt
Last week (on the 17th day of the fourth lunar month, 2018) took place at Zhenqing Temple (真庆观), the largest Taoist temple in Kunming and the best-preserved so far, the ceremony called «Repaying the Debt of Life».
That ceremony is based on the beliefs that each person, at birth, incurs a debt to the treasure of the other world, which must be paid before death, otherwise, his soul may be subjected to tortures in the other world, or be condemned to a negative reincarnation in his next existence. That is why it is most often performed once a person has reached the age of 60 and has completed a life cycle of his existence. But sometimes it is paid during funerals, after a person’s death, or when he suffers a serious illness.
They believe that the debt is recorded in the infernal bureaucracy (tiancao 天曹) that works parallel to that of the earth, and that they can determine the length of the life. In a 12th century scripture, it is said, “All living beings of the ten directions in their fate depend on the officials of heaven; in their bodies they are subject to the administration of earth. The day anyone receives a human body, he or she is registered with the administration of the earth. The underworld officials at this time lend him or her a sum for receiving life, a loan from the Celestial Treasury. The more people save on their account in the underworld, the richer and nobler they will be on earth” (Kohn ed. 1993, 344-45).
That is why it is considered that after paying the debt, there is a change of course in the march of life, which becomes simpler and easier to achieve fortune. On the other hand, 18 misfortunes have been described that usually happen to people while they are in debt to the heavenly government, which disappear after paying it.
The debt is paid, naturally, in paper money, which must be burned so that its smoke reaches the celestial deities¸ but also by performing good deeds and promoting religious activities.
During the morning, the main ceremony consists of the material payment of the debt, for which huge amounts of red paper money that have been prepared during the previous days are taken to the courtyard, piled up at a prudent distance from the most important buildings, and while the priests chant their prayers, they are burned for the gods.
Chanting is usually the recitation of the precious scriptures or baojuan.
After a break for lunch, the ceremony resumes in the afternoon. At that time three Taoist masters in ritual costumes perform a series of ceremonies to expel evil spirits and to bring good luck to the people.
They are accompanied by a number of other attendants, eight musicians who accompany the masters’ prayers with their sound, and other ritualists who make offerings to the celestial deities.
To learn more:
Rostislav Berezkin. The Ritual of «Repaying the Loan for Life» and Telling Scriptures in Changshu, China.
Kohn, Livia, ed. 1993. «The Taoist Experience: An Anthology». Albany. State University of New York Press.
Spirits possession in ancient China. I have just finished reading The Ancestors Are Drunk, a book by Jordan Paper. Perhaps one of the best books on the religion of China that can be found, because with every chapter, almost with every page, he opens new windows,...
Yan Lianke. The Four Books The Four Books refers to the famous Four Books of Confucius, the basis of Chinese thought for two millennia. And like those of Confucius, these by Yan Lianke could become a new model for understanding the glories and miseries of human...
What if China's history had been precipitated by the eruption of a volcano in Greece? Although in present times there is greater concern about global phenomena, it is not that they did not happen before. Some natural catastrophes in the past were so violent that they...
Cat Country - Lao She Sometimes we say that a poet or a writer writes with his blood, and there are many occasions in which writers end up paying with their lives for having written a book. This is possibly one of them, and we can say that Lao She paid with his life...
he top 10 deities in 20th century Sichuan And we assume that there will be no major differences with the most popular ones in other parts of China, except on the coast, where the Empress of Heaven (Tianhuo), patron goddess of sailors, would be in the leading...
Notes on the Chinese Medicine Chinese medicine is the most important non-Western medicine, and it is the only one of the medicines developed by non-Western countries that has managed, throughout history, to face the continuous achievements and advances of Western...