Renunciaiton of Family

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Renunciation of Family is a custom with a long history. Talismans and Registers sects have no strict regulations in this regard, but the Complete Perfection sect encourages Renunciation of Family. Its full-time practitioners are required to leave their families.


Renunciation of Family ( 出家 Chujia ) means to give up one's family life, and to devote one's full time and energy to learn the Dao. Those who have no family will not build a family while those who already have families will give it up. Buddhism always advocated renunciation of family; its full-time monks must leave their families. It is hard to know when this tradition began in Daoism. The earliest influential sect of the Mighty Commonwealth of Orthodox Oneness didn't ask its followers to leave their families. Zhang Daoling, Zhang Heng and Zhang Lu all had wives; they were called the " Three Zhangs and Three Madams". The later Orthodox Oneness sect was passed down from one generation to another and formed several old and well-known families in the Wei and Jin dynasties. Though there were some Daoists who left their families, this was not required of Daoist followers. This is also true of other Talismans and Registers sects.


The Complete Perfection sect was founded in the Jin Dynasty. Its advocacy of Renunciation of Family may have been influenced by Buddhism. In the earliest days of the movement, Wang Chongyang encouraged his disciples to leave their families. Lay Daoists affiliated to the sect only appeared later. Generally speaking, Complete Perfection followers gave up their families.


Daoist priests who have left their families live in temples and are engaged in pure Cultivation and in the care of the temples. The Fifty Treatises on the Establishment of the Complete Perfection Doctrine says: "whoever leaves his family needs to live in a temple. The temple is a home which one depends on for one's life. If one's life has something to depend on, one's mind will be peaceful, one's Vital Breath will be in harmony, and then one can be at one with the true Dao." Daoist priests can also wander about and stay temporarily in other temples of the same school. Some radical groups, however, think that living in temples just means leaving one's family of blood kin and replacing it with a substitute family; it is not complete Renunciation of Family. True Renunciation of Family does not allow for living in temples. Daoists should live by begging alms. There are few who hold such radical ideas now.


Daoist priests who choose to leave their home think that the family is a cage, and that living at home will prevent them from gaining the right spiritual fruit. Some think that leaving the home shows their determination to contribute their lives to Immortality and Daoism. The Sublime Rituals of Renunciation of Family and Imparting Deliverance ( 太上出家傳度儀 Taishang Chujia Chuandu Yi ) says: in the name of the Heavenly Lord, Renunciation of Family has rich implications and brings great benefits. If beginners in Daoism stay at home and are influenced by the love of their parents and wives, they will not follow their teachers to learn the Dao freely. So they should better leave home and live in remote mountains and temples. Such Renunciation of Family cuts off the family love. Some who have attained the Dao and want to give up all worlds of sex and desire, are said to have Renounced the Families of all beings.


There have always been Daoist priests who have not left their families. The Orthodox Oneness sect doesn't have strict commandments to leave one's family. In the Complete Perfection sect, there are both persons who have renounced their families, and persons who are lay Daoists. As modern society changes rapidly, stable social relationships no longer exist. The development of the market economy has changed peoples' life and ideas. Though the Complete Perfection sect stresses Renunciation of Family, some Daoist priests have given up this custom. They live in temples, but they also have their own families. This is very common South of the Five Ridges and in Hong Kong, where the market economy is quite developed.