Formally Becoming a Disciple to a Masters

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Formally becoming a disciple to a master ( 拜師 Baishi ) is the common method applied in Daoism to recruit new members. It establishes the relationship between a new adept and his master, who will pass down Daoist techniques to him.

This is a basic system in Daoism. Generally speaking, a Daoist practioner needs to become a disciple of a famous master. This is a prerequisite for learning the Dao and further one's studies. The learning of the Dao is through the master's oral transmission to his students. There was a saying that went: " Daoist techniques will not be taught to the six ears", meaning that they will not be revealed to anyone. This implies the significance of formally becoming a disciple to a master. Early Daoism had no such thing as registration. Formally becoming a disciple to a famous master not only established the relationship with the master, it was also the first step in entering the Dao. So it was taken seriously. When Daoist scriptures were obtained at the start, it was stipulated that they could only be transmitted after forty years. So formally becoming a disciple to a master and recruiting new adepts was taken very solemnly. The later Complete Perfection Sect and Orthodox Oneness Sect have established regular systems for formally becoming a disciple to a master. Before registration, one must formally become a disciple to a master in the Orthodox Oneness sect. The beginners follow their masters to learn scriptures and commandments. During this period, masters can teach some knowledge and techniques, as well as observe the disciple's behavior. If his character is suitable, he can be recommended to receive registration. The first item in the Monastic Rules of the Complete Perfection ( 全真清規 Quanzhen Qinggui ) is Guidance for Elementary Daoists ( 指蒙規式 Zhimeng Guishi ), which says: " when most beginners give up their families, they look for a famous master first, and formally become a disciple to him. As he has left his family and followed his master's instructions, he will surely become a Perfect Man." The master has to investigate the potential adept's behavior, and only recruit asitable individuals.

Due to historical reasons, the customs of Transmission of Commandments in the Complete Perfection Sect and Registration in the Orthodox Oneness Sect were discontinued in Hong Kong and other areas for some time, so formally becoming a disciple to a master has been practised to establish the new adepts's relationship with certain Daoist temples and with the entire Daoist community.

Formally becoming a disciple to a master is the beginning of entering the Dao. But if you want to be a formal disciple, the Complete Perfection Sect also requires that one undergo Transmission of Commandments, while the Orthodox Oneness Sect requires Registration. However, as Hong Kong was a British colony, and Taiwan fell into Japanese hands for fifty years from the end of the 19th century, these areas were separated from their ancestral temples on the mainland. Consequently the rituals for Bestowing Registers and Transmitting Commandments were discontinued. Instead, Daoist priests in Hong Kong and Taiwan recruited followers individually, or temples recruited followers in the community, in order to develop their organization and meet believers' needs. As these areas have had close relationships with foreign countries, there have been both Chinese and foreigners formally becoming disciples to masters, including Daoist priests in Japan and other Asian, European and American countries. In order to adapt to the situation, some temples have adopted their own rituals for formally becoming a disciple to a master, some of which have become fixed styles.