Rituals of Purification and Salvation

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Religious Practise
Morning and Evening Rites
Refining the Vital Breath
Wandering About and Seeking Masters
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Commandments of the Orthodox Oneness Sect
Commandments of the Complete Perfection Sect
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Praying for Happiness and Offering Sacrifice
Summoning Spirits for Interrogation
Healing Diseases
Expelling the God of Plague
Names of the Three Fasts
Great Ritual Offerings to the Overarching Heaven
Lantern Rituals for the Destruction of Hell
Rituals of Purification and of Sacrifice to the Ancestral Souls
Rituals of Purification and Salvation
Rituals of Scattering Flowers and Communicating with Spirits through Lanterns
Rituals for Sending Petitions to the Heavens
Ceremonial Altars
Altars for Fasts
Altars for Ritual Offerings
Altars for Commandments
The Ancestral Altar of All Skills
Daoist Headdresses and Dress
Ritual Implements
Wooden Fish
Commandment Plaques
S-shaped Ornamental Objects
Magical Seals
Magical Staffs
Magical Swords
Shallow Pans
Inverted Bells
Horsetail Whisks
Large Cymbals
Ritual Specialists
High Priest
Cheif Cantor
Inspector of Fasts
Incense Attendant
Lantern Attendant
Scripture Attendant
Ceremonies to Celebrate the Birth of Spirits
Assemblies to Entice Spirits
Pilgrimage Times and Temple Fairs

Origin of the Rituals of Refinement and Salvation

The Rituals of Refinement and Salvation are often performed in Daoist Fasts and Offerings ( 齋醮 Zhaijiao ). Refinement refers to the refinement of the souls of the dead with Perfect Yang Vital Breath ( 氣 Qi ) which has been inwardly refined by the Ritual Master ( 法師 Fashi ) as the High Priest ( 高功 Gaogong ) who performs the ritual. Salvation means to save and transform the souls of the dead with the living persons' Perfect Yang Vital Breath, thus making the souls of the dead acquire a body without form. They thus attain the perfection of the Complete Perfection ( 全真 Quanzhen ). Therefore, the Rituals of Refinement and Salvation refer to rituals by which the ritual masters save the dead by means of the living, and save others by means of themselves. There is no record of these rituals in early Daoism, and it is said that the elder Immortal Ge Xuan of the Jin dynasty transferred them. In the fourth Yongle year of the Ming dynasty, Zhang Yuchu, the Celestial Master ( 天師 Tianshi ) of the 43rd generation, proclaimed in the Preface to the Inner Skills of the Supreme Ultimate Offering and Refinement ( 太極祭煉內法序 Taiji Jilian Neifa Xu ) that "the refinement and salvation of the souls of the dead is of greatest importance in the Numinous Treasure tradition ( 靈寶 Lingbao ). The simplicity and directness of refinement and salvation are mainly due to the briefness of the offerings and refinement, and to great moral achievements. The Elder Immortal and Perfect Sovereign ( 真君 Zhenjun ) Ge has ascended to the rank of Immortality since he preached the teaching." But evidence has not yet been found in the literature about Ge Xuan and Daoism in the two Jin dynasties. The Book of Salvation ( 度人經 Duren Jing ), an early scripture of the Numinous Treasure sect, contains a sentence saying that "the souls of the dead are refined and immortalized into human beings", but records of the Rituals of Refinement and Salvation are not found in the literature on rituals edited by Du Guangting, an eminent Daoist of the Tang and the Five dynasties. The Inner Skills of the Supreme Ultimate Offering and Refinement ( 太極祭煉內法 Taiji Jilian Neifa ), a monograph by Zheng Suonan of the last years of the Northern Song dynasty, relates in detail the rituals of refinement and salvation. According to the fact that there are a lot of records about rituals of refinement and salvation in many collections of rituals compiled in the Southern Song dynasty, we may suppose that the rituals were already widespread in the area south of the Yangtze River controlled by the Southern Song government at that time. The sources also show that Liu Hunkang, the eminent Daoist priest of Mt. Mao, may have contributed to the accomplishment and dissemination of the rituals. After the Song and Yuan dynasties, the rituals of refinement and salvation gradually became the main rituals of the Yellow Register ( 黃籙 Huanglu ), and they are still performed at present in the mainland of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.


The rituals of refinement and salvation include Praying by Offering Incense ( 祝香 Zhuxiang ), a Petition to the Highest Emperor ( 啟文上帝 Qiwen Shangdi ), burning the Talisman for Summoning Perfect Men and Spirits ( 降真召靈符 Jiangzhen Zhaoling Fu ), the High Priest's being seated and summoning the heavenly generals and officials, visualizing their descent, chanting the Perfect Secret Names of the Five Emperors ( 五帝真諱 Wudi Zhenhui ), summoning the souls of the dead, refinement by fire and water, burning nine chapters of talismans, giving birth to spirits in the viscera of the souls of the dead, Preaching the Commandments ( 說戒 Shuojie ), eulogizing the Three Jewels ( 三寶 Sanbao ) of Dao, scriptures and masters, the Ten Commandments of Ghosts and Spirits ( 鬼神十戒 Guishen Shijie ), the Sublime Commandments of the Nine Perfect Men ( 九真妙戒 Jiuzhen Miaojie ), presenting the commandments and hymns, reading the talismans, proclamations, tablets and documents, the High Priest's leaving his seat, sending the souls to cross the bridge, firing wood, playing the music of the Three Pristine Ones ( 三清 Sanqing ), etc. The core of the ritual is summoning the souls of the dead and their refinement by fire and water. Some local Daoist priests place water and fire in the Ritual Place ( 壇場 Tanchang ) during the performance of the rituals, and the key to the performance of the rituals is the Inner Refinement ( 內煉 Neilian ) of the ritual master as High Priest. The Jade Remorse of the Numinous Treasure ( 靈寶玉鑒 Lingbao Yujian ) says, "the Numinous Treasure skills include the ways of refinement and rebirth. Water and fire are placed outside, and the Kan and Li (trigrams) communicate inside. The nine Vital Breaths are provided for the birth of the spirits, and the five buds are provided for inhabiting the Vital Breath. The three lights are collected to illuminate, and the souls are reborn by the tenfold transformations. All the rituals are performed according to their own respective laws, but this sacred embryo and body of law must be formed by the sublime and empty Vital Breath of the Perfect Yang, the physical body without form, and the perfection of the Complete Perfection, and they spiritually transcend the two Vital Breaths and the Five Agents ( 五行 Wuxing ). The appearance without life and death comes from the sublimity of the soul's own body."

Various Kinds of Rituals of Refinement and Salvation

There have been many kinds of rituals of refinement and salvation since the Southern Song dynasty. The compiled in the MinGreat Skills of the Numinous Treasure's Highest Scriptures of Limitless Salvation ( 靈寶無量度人上經大法 Lingbao Wuliang Duren Shangjing Dafa ) dynasty includes rituals of refinement and salvation such as refinement and salvation by the three rays, the Nangchang salvation, the numinous treasure's refinement and salvation, the Original Chaos Refinement of Ghosts ( 混元陰煉 Hunyuan Yinlian ), and the Nine-fold Refinement of the Dead ( 九煉生屍 Jiulian Shengshi ). Guangcheng's Compilation of Rituals ( 廣成儀制 Guangcheng Yizhi ), the existing collection of the rituals of the Complete Perfection sect, contains the Nine Heavens' Refinement and Salvation ( 九天煉度 Jiutian Liandu ), the Birth of the Deities in the Nine Heavens ( 九天生神 Jiutian Shengshen ), Providing Food ( 斛食 Hushi ) in iron jars, and the Jade Talisman of Rebirth Through Jade Clarity Refinement and Salvation ( 玉清煉度返生玉符 Yuqing Liandu Fansheng Yufu ), etc. The Orthodox Oneness sect ( 正一派 Zhengyi Pai ) south of the Yangtze River practises the Supreme Oneness ( 太乙 Taiyi ) refinement and salvation ritual, the Big Dipper ( 斗姆 Doumu ) refinement and salvation ritual, and so on. The major difference between the various kinds of rituals of refinement and salvation lies in the different spirits summoned in the rituals and the different ways for the souls of the dead to obtain their new physical bodies. For example, the spirits summoned in the refinement and salvation by the three rays are the Sun Sovereign of the Supreme Yang ( 太陽日君 Taiyang Rijun ), the Moon Sovereign of the Supreme Yin ( 太陰月君 Taiyin Yuejun ), and the officials and generals in the Vermilion Palace of the Nanchang Constellation ( 南昌朱宮 Nanchang Zhugong ), while the major spirit summoned in the Purple Emperor Refinement and Salvation ( 紫皇煉度 Zihuang Liandu ) ritual is the Highest Purple Emperor of the Mysterious Heaven ( 玄天紫星上帝 Xuantian Zihuang Shangdi ). In the Numinous Treasure's refinement and salvation, when the souls of the dead have gone through Refinement by Fire and Water, the talismans of the twelve channels and collaterals should be burnt, and the twelve Vital Breaths will be summoned in order for the souls of the dead to regain their "five viscera and six organs, cells, bones and origin". In comparison, the Nanchang refinement and salvation involves summoning the Vital Breaths of the Five Emperors of the Five Directions so that the souls of the dead "cycle five times and return three times, and their Vital Breath will lead to the supreme spirit", and that "their nine holes will receive the darkness and the dead bodies will disappear". The Nine Palaces and Eight Trigrams Refinement and Salvation ( 九宮八卦煉度 Jiugong Bagua Liandu ) ritual, widespread in Taiwan, requires to "distribute the Vital Breath according to the formation of the trigrams, refine the souls into formation, collect the Triple Origin ( 三元 Sanyuan ) and transform it with Dao, and drive the nine Vital Breaths to meet with spirits".