Buddhist rite for a safe journey to the underworld(薦度齋)

Headword

천도재 ( 薦度齋 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Sangnye|Jangnye

Writer GuMirae(具美來)

A Buddhist rite that is held to send the spirit of mangja (Kor. 망자, Chin. 亡者, the dead) to the afterlife.

Cheondojae is a Buddhist ritual that originated from the ancient Indian ancestral sharadha ceremony in which evil spirits are turned into the spirits of ancestors. In Buddhism, a rite in which offerings and prayer for the cultivation of virtue are offered, is referred to as jae (齋). Specifically, a rite for deceased spirits is called cheondojae. In the word cheondo (薦度), the first Chinese character cheon (薦) literally means “to recommend, ” and the second character do (度) represents the “laws of Dharma.” As suggested by the characters, it is easily understood that cheondo is a Buddhist ritual held to offer prayers for the spirit of the dead to be sent to the bliss of the afterworld. Buddhist rites performed after funerals to send deceased spirits to the afterworld are all categorized as cheondojae. In particular, the rite held on the forty-ninth day after death (sasipgujae) constitutes a core element of cheondojae. That is because offering cheondojae during the forty-nine day period is believed to help spirit of the dead be reborn in a better place in the next world.

Cheondojae varies in form depending on the magnitude and nature of the ceremony but the basic procedures are almost always the same. The ritual procedures are as follows: first the subject (the deceased) of the ceremony is invited into the room where the rite is being performed; then a purification process is carried out to eliminate any bad karma of the deceased from this world; offerings and prayers are offered to the Buddha; finally, foods are served for the dead spirit who is then sent back to where it came from, which represents the end of the rite. It is important to pray for the spirit of the dead to attain rebirth in the Pure Land. However, it is more important to help the deceased escape illusion by reading the Buddhist writings to the spirit. As the ancestral memorial rite is combined with the Buddhist service for the dead (jae, 齋), the procedures of cheondojae are very similar to those of ancestral memorial rites, or jesa. However, the Buddhist jae has some features quite distinctive from jesa. These are as follows.

First, during jae (齋), the ritual offered by the family of the deceased in front of the altar does not differ much from the ancestral rite performed in ordinary households. However, the contents of the Buddhist prayer chanted by monks act as a text that defines the meaning of the memorial rite. Second, if the meaning of the memorial rite is to honor the dead and to practice filial piety, jae also bears the meaning of cheondo, which is to help the spirit of the deceased move to a better world. Third, although cheondojae is only held for one person at a time, the object of the Buddhist memorial service encompasses all the spirits that are still wandering around after failing to enter the afterlife. Such wide scope of the subject of the service represents hoehyang (회향, 廻向), the practice of transferring one’s merit to other living beings or one’s own self. Fourth, no liquor or dishes made with meat or fish are allowed on the ritual table.

Up until the 1970s and 1980s, Confucian funeral and burial rites constituted the mainstay of post-death rites performed among ordinary Koreans. However, changes in the way of l ife and the perceptions of modern Koreans have caused the popularity of these post-death rituals to decline. As a result, cheondojae has gradually become an integrated part of traditional ancestral memorial rites: sasipguje, the ceremony marking the forty-ninth day after death, has been chosen even by non-Buddhists as a ceremonial service that represents the end of the mourning period. A growing number of people find it difficult to hold ancestral rites at home, and many ask Buddhist temples to conduct their ancestral rites for them.

Buddhist rite for a safe journey to the underworld

Buddhist rite for a safe journey to the underworld
Headword

천도재 ( 薦度齋 )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Rites of Passage > Korean Rites of Passage > Sangnye|Jangnye

Writer GuMirae(具美來)

A Buddhist rite that is held to send the spirit of mangja (Kor. 망자, Chin. 亡者, the dead) to the afterlife.

Cheondojae is a Buddhist ritual that originated from the ancient Indian ancestral sharadha ceremony in which evil spirits are turned into the spirits of ancestors. In Buddhism, a rite in which offerings and prayer for the cultivation of virtue are offered, is referred to as jae (齋). Specifically, a rite for deceased spirits is called cheondojae. In the word cheondo (薦度), the first Chinese character cheon (薦) literally means “to recommend, ” and the second character do (度) represents the “laws of Dharma.” As suggested by the characters, it is easily understood that cheondo is a Buddhist ritual held to offer prayers for the spirit of the dead to be sent to the bliss of the afterworld. Buddhist rites performed after funerals to send deceased spirits to the afterworld are all categorized as cheondojae. In particular, the rite held on the forty-ninth day after death (sasipgujae) constitutes a core element of cheondojae. That is because offering cheondojae during the forty-nine day period is believed to help spirit of the dead be reborn in a better place in the next world.

Cheondojae varies in form depending on the magnitude and nature of the ceremony but the basic procedures are almost always the same. The ritual procedures are as follows: first the subject (the deceased) of the ceremony is invited into the room where the rite is being performed; then a purification process is carried out to eliminate any bad karma of the deceased from this world; offerings and prayers are offered to the Buddha; finally, foods are served for the dead spirit who is then sent back to where it came from, which represents the end of the rite. It is important to pray for the spirit of the dead to attain rebirth in the Pure Land. However, it is more important to help the deceased escape illusion by reading the Buddhist writings to the spirit. As the ancestral memorial rite is combined with the Buddhist service for the dead (jae, 齋), the procedures of cheondojae are very similar to those of ancestral memorial rites, or jesa. However, the Buddhist jae has some features quite distinctive from jesa. These are as follows.

First, during jae (齋), the ritual offered by the family of the deceased in front of the altar does not differ much from the ancestral rite performed in ordinary households. However, the contents of the Buddhist prayer chanted by monks act as a text that defines the meaning of the memorial rite. Second, if the meaning of the memorial rite is to honor the dead and to practice filial piety, jae also bears the meaning of cheondo, which is to help the spirit of the deceased move to a better world. Third, although cheondojae is only held for one person at a time, the object of the Buddhist memorial service encompasses all the spirits that are still wandering around after failing to enter the afterlife. Such wide scope of the subject of the service represents hoehyang (회향, 廻向), the practice of transferring one’s merit to other living beings or one’s own self. Fourth, no liquor or dishes made with meat or fish are allowed on the ritual table.

Up until the 1970s and 1980s, Confucian funeral and burial rites constituted the mainstay of post-death rites performed among ordinary Koreans. However, changes in the way of l ife and the perceptions of modern Koreans have caused the popularity of these post-death rituals to decline. As a result, cheondojae has gradually become an integrated part of traditional ancestral memorial rites: sasipguje, the ceremony marking the forty-ninth day after death, has been chosen even by non-Buddhists as a ceremonial service that represents the end of the mourning period. A growing number of people find it difficult to hold ancestral rites at home, and many ask Buddhist temples to conduct their ancestral rites for them.