Spiritual Guidelines 6: To follow strictly the BAITIANGONG way of Funeral Prayers

Death is considered the final stage in one’s life and it is a sad moment for the family, relatives and friends of the deceased. In BAITIANGONG, death is the end of a person’s examination in life, as the soul will live on after death. BAITIANGONG does not treat death as a sad moment in life, but as a happy moment as the soul is finally liberated from the body and the soul leaves the plane of Earth. When Xian Sheng quoted, “You live to go through an examination in life and you die to live”, Xian Sheng literally means that you have to die, so that your soul can live on elsewhere. If a person in life prays to the CREATOR with his or her mind, body and soul, his or her soul will then live in heaven.

A funeral is a ceremony conducted according to the religious belief or cultural practices for the body of the deceased. It starts with protocols for cleaning and dressing the body and ends with cremation or burial. The rituals for secular practices include mourning the deceased, celebrating their life, and offering support and sympathy to the bereaved.(1)Wikipedia. Funeral. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funeral The rituals for religious practices include helping the soul of the deceased to reach the afterlife, resurrection or reincarnation, depending on the religion. The BAITIANGONG way of Funeral Prayers uses the term “Obsequies”, as Xian Sheng wanted to remove superstitions, taboos and expensive ceremonial practices normally associated with the rites and rituals of funerals.

BAITIANGONG way of Obsequies and the Urn

In the early days of BAITIANGONG obsequies, an urn was a prominent feature, as the urn is placed higher than the coffin. The urn was not meant for followers to stick their joss sticks as joss sticks were not used in obsequies for praying, but for the placement of one large joss stick and three smaller joss sticks to signify the CREATOR, and the three prayers i.e. the Prayer to pray to the CREATOR, the Al-Fatihah and the Lord’s Prayer respectively. The kemayan (incense) is used to spread the Prayer, as the smoke have the ability to carry the Prayer recited by the follower, to help ward off any roaming souls or spirits that intend to invade the deceased’s body. However, at the Annual Spiritual Discussion in 1998, Xian Sheng stated that the aura of followers that have prayed for twenty years are bright enough to replace the function of the kemayan and therefore rendering the kemayan obsolete. As the urn was a compromised for early followers to enable them to accept BAITIANGONG, it was also made obsolete too.

The intentions of the BAITIANGONG way of Obsequies

The 6th Spiritual Guideline guides the followers on the procedures to ensure that their children, especially if their children are not BAITIANGONG followers, would need to follow in the event of their death. The movement has encountered problems, even during the time when Xian Sheng was around, and continue to encounter problems in conducting the BAITIANGONG way of obsequies, especially with the deceased’s children that are not BAITIANGONG followers. The problems generally falls into the following categories:

  1. The children tolerated their parent’s choice of belief when they were alive, but when it comes to their death; they conducted their parent’s funeral arrangements according to their own religious rites.
  2. The BAITIANGONG movement was given the rights to conduct the parent’s obsequy, but the family members and relatives vocally objected when they found out that they were prevented from praying or bowing to the deceased; the BAITIANGONG way of obsequies is so plain and simple when compared to the elaborate Chinese funeral ceremonies implying a lack of filial piety to the parents; the lack of offerings like hell money or paper paraphernalia to burn to serve the deceased in the afterlife or the lack of a Buddhist monk or Taoist priest to conduct safe passage through the netherworld to transform the deceased from a ghost into an ancestral being.
  3. The family member handling the arrangements with BAITIANGONG Elders did not convey the BAITIANGONG way of obsequies clearly to other family members and relatives, resulting in confusion during the obsequy as the dominant or more superstitious members starts to criticise when they found how far departed BAITIANGONG ways are from the contemporary Chinese funeral rituals.

A BAITIANGONG follower that lived life according to BAITIANGONG Spiritual Guidelines should naturally ensure that his or her obsequy is conducted accordingly. Xian Sheng stated that our death is also a way to preach to our family members, relatives and friends. When the more liberal thinkers witness BAITIANGONG realistic way of conducting an obsequy when compared to the expensive and elaborate Chinese funeral rituals, they may receive a spiritual awakening that BAITIANGONG is the right way. A BAITIANGONG follower that prepared a “Letter of Intent” conferring BAITIANGONG Universal Spiritual Movement the rights to conduct his or her obsequy and informing his or her family and relatives of it have deemed to have done their responsibility.(2)Preparing a Letter of Intent. Tape number: 56-1999 If the family member chose to disregard the intention of their parents and conduct the funeral according to the Buddhist or Taoist rites that compel them to kneel and pray to the deceased, and subsequently kneeling and praying every year during “Ching Ming festival” or tomb-sweeping day, then the sins of those actions shall be borne by them.

Xian Sheng taught us to only kneel down and pray to the CREATOR. If a person kneels down to pray to anything else, he or she will not have the opportunity to go to heaven but would also sin every single every time her kneels down to pray. In every Buddhist and Taoist funeral ceremonies, the monk will compel the family members and close relatives to kneel and pray to the deceased without fail as part of filial piety. That is why in BAITIANGONG way of obsequies, there is a sign next to the coffin that informs everyone not to bow or pray to the deceased. Some Elders or ACCs will also stand next to the coffin during the viewing of the deceased to inform them not to bow or pray. The simple act of praying to the deceased may seem trivial to them and that BAITIANGONG followers are overly strict and not compromising, but that is how important our souls are to Xian Sheng that he strictly forbids such actions.

Filial Piety

The Confucian philosophy of filial piety to one’s parents is the key virtue in the Chinese culture that is handed down through the generations, as it is the foundation of a good society. The definition from Wikipedia states the following, “In more general terms, filial piety means to be good to one’s parents; to take care of one’s parents; to engage in good conduct not just towards parents but also outside the home so as to bring a good name to one’s parents and ancestors; to perform the duties of one’s job well so as to obtain the material means to support parents as well as carry out sacrifices to the ancestors; not be rebellious; show love, respect and support; display courtesy; ensure male heirs, uphold fraternity among brothers; wisely advise one’s parents, including dissuading them from moral unrighteousness; display sorrow for their sickness and death; and carry out sacrifices after their death.” The Analects of Confucius verse 3.12 mentions that sacrifices to ancestors are in the form of food and drinks.

The Analects of Confucius clearly did not relate filial piety with ancestry worship but stressed how one should treat their parents when they are still alive and to offer sacrifices of food and drinks after their death. In fact, verse 1.11 state; “One who does not alter his late father’s dao for three years may be called filial” would imply that the children that do not follow their parent’s instruction to conduct their funeral according to BAITIANGONG way of obsequies are considered not filial. Is the act of holding an expensive funeral ceremony for your parent an act of filial piety? Is bowing and praying to your parent considered an act of filial piety? Is using a joss stick to pray to your parent an act of filial piety? Is wearing a mourning pin, a small piece of coloured cloth pinned on your shirt sleeve for 49 days or 100 days an act of filial piety?

Xian Sheng repeatedly reminded us during obsequies that filial piety means to be good to your parents when they are alive. Filial piety means to spend some time and money to take your parents to dinners and not to only spend tens of thousands of dollars for their funeral. Xian Sheng like to explain filial piety using the story of a penniless son. He said that a good son is a penniless son. He is penniless because he would save up all his money during the early years of working and use his savings to buy an overseas holiday package for his parents. Xian Sheng continued to say that most children would promise to send their parents for an overseas holiday when they become millionaires; but unfortunately for the parents, they would be too old to travel by then. This story reminded us that parents do not want a grand gesture like an expensive overseas holiday as a sign of filial piety, but in the little things that we do like taking our parents out for dinners during the weekends.

In BAITIANGONG, the practice of filial piety is not restricted to 49 days or 100 days. Filial piety for BAITIANGONG is a lifelong practice. When we pray to the CREATOR, we would recite the Prayer to pray to the CREATOR followed by our request i.e. pray for all the saints in heaven; pray for forgiveness for our ancestors and if they are deserving, to give them a place in heaven; pray for blessing for our family members and conclude with any other request. We would pray for our ancestors a minimal of two times a day, upon waking up and before retiring to bed. And we would pray in the same manner, every day, for the rest of our lives. This is the way BAITIANGONG practices filial piety, not only to our parents but also to our grandparents, our great grandparents and anyone up the family tree that we do not even know. The practice of filial piety in Chinese customs is only restricted to the sons, as daughters who have married away from her parents do not pray at her parent’s ancestral altar. However, in BAITIANGONG, both the husband and wife each pray for their ancestors respectively. Xian Sheng explained that no one in this world that can claim to practise more filial piety than BAITIANGONG brothers and sisters.

Praying to your ancestors vs. praying for your ancestors

The Singapore Infopedia on Chinese Death Rituals states that according to Chinese folk religions, death is a disruption to the cosmological balance. The performance of death rituals is therefore aimed at re-establishing order and harmony. In addition, the Chinese believe that the dead continue to influence the fortunes of the living. As such, funeral rituals not only exemplify respect and filial piety, but are also done for the sake of recompense.(3)National Library Board Singapore. Singapore Infopedia. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2015-11-30_175737.html The Chinese pray to their parents and ancestors to seek their protection and blessing from them as well as appeasing them so that they will not bring bad fortunes to the family.

The following is a summary extracted from the 39th Anniversary book entitled “Incident of seeing dead grandmother in hell”. On 12th April 1978, Xian Sheng conducted a meditation session at the Woo’s residence in Taiping, Perak. Sis Woo Kean Lian was only 14 years old and she meditated along with the rest of her family and the BAITIANGONG followers. She achieve a state of meditation and found herself floating through a dark lane until she reached her destination where she was immediately accosted with the screams of people suffering from terrible agony. She estimated more than twenty souls were chained by their hands and legs and subjected to continuous lashing. The sight of their tattered clothes that hung off their bloodied bodies made her cry out in fear. She noticed that one of them was her grandmother. Her grandmother’s body was badly lacerated with deep gashes that showed between the tattered rags as she was dragged away in chains. Sis Woo tried to move towards her grandmother to talk to her, but she was stopped by an invisible force; a voice told her that her grandmother does not recognise her anymore. Sis Woo felt extremely sad and cried until she woke up from her meditation.

On 14th January 1979, Xian Sheng told Bro Too Lim Peng and his wife Sis Woo Yoke Leng that her mother (the grandmother of Sis Woo Kean Lian) was no longer in chains and being whipped. This was because Sis Woo Yoke Leng, ever since she joined the BAITIANGONG movement, has been praying day and night according to how Xian Sheng taught us to pray for forgiveness for our ancestors. On 25th February 1979, Xian Sheng went to Taiping and conducted the third meditation session where Sis Woo attained a state meditation again. She was overjoyed to see that her grandmother was no longer being punished and she was wearing her favourite deep blue little flowered Chinese blouse. Her journey to hell was not just her personal experience as her younger sister, Sis Woo Kean Wah who meditated at the second meditation session on 7th May 1978 also saw and collaborated her story. Xian Sheng told Sis Woo Yoke Ling who is still a BAITIANGONG follower at the age of 81 at the time of writing this book, that her mother will have a chance to be reincarnated after she passed away. However, Sis Woo Yoke Leng will have to continue praying to the CREATOR for her mother’s forgiveness.

The testimony of Sis Woo confirmed what Xian Sheng said that a person who passed away would lose all family ties on Earth, as life on Earth is a temporary phase where a soul is reincarnated just to undergo their examination. If the person failed their examination, the soul will go to hell to suffer the punishment for the sins committed on Earth, before reincarnating again. This cycle is known as the Vicious Cycle of Reincarnation. A psychiatrist Dr Brian Weiss wrote a book entitled “Many Lives, Many Masters” that provided documented evidence from his research into reincarnation. His patient Catherine, under hypnosis, gave details of her various lives going back as far as 4,000 years. Dr Weiss quoted, “If you are the soul, you never die,” he says. “When the body dies, you go on.”

Praying to your ancestors, according to the Chinese Folk Religion, is therefore not only an act of futility as the deceased will no longer recognise their family and cannot do anything as they themselves are suffering in hell, but will also accumulate the sins of praying to man-made objects i.e. the ancestral tablet. However, if we pray to the creator of heaven and hell and ask GOD to forgive our ancestor’s sins, GOD may grant them relieve by cutting short their sufferings in hell and allow them to reincarnate.

Why follow so strictly?

Friends and relatives of the deceased may like to express their condolences by sending funeral flowers or banners to the obsequy. However, the BAITIANGONG followers would put them aside and out of view. Those who come and make a monetary contribution known as baijin are not given sweets tied with a piece of red thread. Why is BAITIANGONG way of obsequies extremely strict and uncompromising?

BAITIANGONG way offers the best, pragmatic and economical way to deal all aspects of the obsequies. Funeral flowers and banners are convenient ways for companies and associations close to the deceased to advertise their presence but to sincerely express their condolences, it would be best for the person(s) to attend the obsequy personally.  The funeral flowers are thrown away immediately after the obsequy and are a waste of good money that could have been given as baijin to the surviving family members to ease their financial burden, if they came personally. And when they are present, we would also have the opportunity to preach BAITIANGONG to them and let them witness the practical aspects of BAITIANGONG way of obsequies.

The piece of red thread tied to the sweets are supposed to ward off any malicious spirits that the visitors may pick up at the obsequy. If that were true, then BAITIANGONG brothers and sisters that consistently attended obsequies would have an army of malicious spirits at their homes. The Chinese funeral rituals are riddled with superstition and these continued to be passed down generations after generations by the ignorant. Xian Sheng had warned people not to make money off the dead, but the funeral industries are booming by taking advantage of people’s superstition, lack of knowledge in dealing with the dead and abusing the meaning of filial piety to make money off the dead. The BAITIANGONG way of obsequies has to be strict so that all the non-pragmatic, non-economical and superstitious ways can be stopped at our generation or else they will slowly creep into the future generations of BAITIANGONG followers.

Wearing white

BAITIANGONG brothers and sisters wear white as white represents pure, light and clean. A group of followers dress in white symbolises unity and strength of the movement. Wearing white also signifies that we are brothers and sisters and equal before GOD. In the early days of China, the mourners wear white in funerals to show how close they are to the deceased; hence wearing white in BAITIANGONG obsequies shows everyone that in BAITIANGONG movement, we are all brothers and sisters to the deceased. However, wearing white to the obsequy also serve an additional function, a spiritual function that can be explained in a scientific way.

Xian Sheng explained that the various dimensions or planes of heaven, hell, Earth and other dimensions exist within Nothing, and these dimensions overlap and crisscross with each other; but because of the different vibration frequencies, these planes are separated and isolated from each other. On Earth, there are unlimited planes that exist as well and the soul of the departed could be in any one of these planes. Roaming souls or popularly known as ghost, exist in any one of these planes too. If the soul of the departed exists in a plane with frequency vibrating around the blue frequency, that soul would be able to see blue colour objects from our plane, but not red or green or other colour objects as they would appear black to that soul. The colour white reflects all colours from the entire spectrum of visible light from violet to red. Therefore, that soul would be able to see a person kneeling down wearing white or blue. That is why the family, relatives and BAITIANGONG brothers and sisters take turns to pray to the CREATOR to remind that soul to also join them by kneeling down to pray too. Once that soul kneels down to pray, that soul will realise that he or she has passed away and will be able to leave our plane of Earth to move to another dimension.

What to do when a family member passes away

  1. Inform the Elder or Area co-counsellors (ACCs) in your area or the office of BAITIANGONG Universal Spiritual Movement immediately. Please state the name, sex and age of the deceased. The office can help with the booking of the funeral parlour, coffin, crematorium and boat to scatter the ashes into the sea. If you have made your own arrangements for the above, please state the details e.g. location and contact number.
  2. Family endorses Letter of Authorisation (If required).
  3. Clean the body and dress the deceased in white clothes with five yellow buttons, white socks and white shoes. The family members are encouraged to do this themselves under the guidance of the BAITIANGONG brothers and sisters.
  4. No makeup is necessary for the deceased. No personal jewellery like rings, necklaces or bangles is to accompany the deceased in the coffin.
  5. If the venue of the obsequy is at the family’s home, Elders or ACCs from that area will help the family to place the special BAITIANGONG signboards at road junctions to direct everyone to the venue of the obsequies. If the deceased is a BAITIANGONG follower who resides overseas, their family members should inform their respective Elder or ACCs who would, in turn, inform the office of BAITIANGONG Universal Spiritual Movement.
  6. Inform the family members and relatives to wear white to attend the obsequy.
  7. Elders or any authorised brother or sister will conduct the obsequy. The services are monks or priest is not required. Any form of offerings to the deceased like food, hell money or paper paraphernalia, funeral band and etc. are strictly forbidden. Any funeral flowers or banners sent by companies or associations are to be placed away from the obsequy.
  8. At the obsequy, family members, relatives and BAITIANGONG brothers and sisters will continuously take turns to pray for the soul of the deceased in the following manner:

GOD, please forgive him/her of his/her sins.
Please let his/her soul leave peacefully.
If deserving please give him/her a place in heaven.

  1. No one should pray to the deceased, but to the CREATOR for the deceased as described in 8.
  2. Cremation of the deceased is strongly encouraged and the ashes are to be scattered into the sea, river or any place where the ashes cannot be retrieved. Burial is acceptable, but instructions are placed at the tomb to inform everyone not to pray to the tomb or make any offerings. Joss sticks are not necessary. Pray for the soul of the deceased as described in 8. Please refer to the 8th and 21st Anniversary book for details of BAITIANGONG burial.
  3. Non-BAITIANGONG family members, relatives and friends can pay their last respects by praying for the soul of the deceased as described in 8.

Letter of Intent

If the follower is the only BAITIANGONG person in the family, it is important that he or she signs a Letter of Intent to inform his or her family members and relatives of his or her intention that his or her body be treated according to the BAITIANGONG way of Obsequies, to avoid any unnecessary disputes upon his or her death. The original Letter of Intent will be kept by the Elder in charge in BAITIANGONG Universal Spiritual Movement. A photocopy will be kept by BAITIANGONG follower, the witnesses in the signatories and made known to his or her family members and relatives.

If the follower is the only BAITIANGONG person in the family, it is important that he or she signs a Letter of Intent to inform his or her family members and relatives of his or her intention that his or her body be treated according to the BAITIANGONG way of Obsequies, to avoid any unnecessary disputes upon his or her death. The original Letter of Intent will be kept by the Elder in charge in BAITIANGONG Universal Spiritual Movement. A photocopy will be kept by BAITIANGONG follower, the witnesses in the signatories and made known to his or her family members and relatives.

BAITIANGONG obsequies can be conducted without obligation for non-BAITIANGONG person who wishes to observe the BAITIANGONG way of Obsequies when they pass away. The Person in charge will sign the Letter of Intent and the family members must agree to observe all the BAITIANGONG way of Obsequies guidelines without exception.

A sample of the Letter of Intent is shown below.

 

 

Letter of Intent
Letter of Intent

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References   [ + ]

1. Wikipedia. Funeral. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funeral
2. Preparing a Letter of Intent. Tape number: 56-1999
3. National Library Board Singapore. Singapore Infopedia. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2015-11-30_175737.html

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