Foundations of Daoist Ritual, 9



Daoist Ritual from the 2nd through the 6th Centuries

John Lagerwey


p. 135 the early-3rd century Chr.E. commentary on the San-guo Z^i

[from the Dian-lu:, cited in San-guo Z^i 8.264] in Chr.E. 172-84, there were :

in the __


who __


Luo Yao

"taught his people how to meditate."


Z^an Jiao

"created the Dao of Great Peace."

Han-zon region

Z^an Xiu

created the Dao "of the Five Bushels of Rice."

pp. 138-9 reception, at various ages, of registres of generals of deities; titles of such recipients

p. 138 DZ 463 Yao-xiu Ke-yi Jie-lu: C^ao, 10

p. 139 Wai-lu Yi 18b-19a

age of recipient

registre received

title of rank : "libationer __"





1 general

"of the distribution of energies"


10 generals

"who preserves the energies"


75 generals

"who maintains the energies"


150 generals

"who bathes in the energies"

p. 138 the 150 generals

The 150 comprise 2 sets of 75 each : one set is exterior (outside the body) and one set is interior (within the body).

The double set of 75 each (totaling 150) "was originally the register received by a couple when, together, they were led through the ritual of sexual union called "the union of energies", or "the passage"."

pp. 140-1 [according to the Dun-huan manuscript] exteriorization (sending forth from one’s body) by the adept of internal (within one own body) spirit-officers; and the ensuing invocations

p. 140

"the priest exteriorized his officers and read the memorial of transmission. ... the priest is ... not to bring his officers back into his body but, on the contrary, to exteriorize in addition the soldiers and scribes of his own register of 150 generals, referred to as "the immortals and powers of the two officers of my body". {Originally this would have been phrased (instead of "my body") "our [twain] bodies", referring to the couple in "the union of energies".} The priest begins by recalling for the agents the request dispatched the day before for "the adepts, male and female ...". ... After having prayed that the various officers and generals be "transmitted ... into the bodies of these mortals", the priest reads the register to the initiates who ... announce their names. ...


The incantation says : How majestic the Most High ...! ... The talismans set in motion from the registers produce a thousand miles of light rays ... . Quickly, quickly ..."


The priest now ... invokes "the four lords who so ... summons ..." and many other spirits to "summon the ... ancestors ..., male or female, to the third, fifth, and seventh generations, that they may come ...". ...

p. 141

The priest now spews water on the adept three times ... . Then, with his left hand {hence, Vama-cara is referred to the "left hand"}, he transmits the register to the disciple. The male adept receives it with his left, the female with her right hand, and both pass it around the waist three times." {for the 3 and ˝ coils of Kun.d.alini?} ...

The priest exteriorizes a large number of ritual agents and ... gives them to following charge : "From the moment ... will have been transferred and transmitted into the body of this mortal ... . ..." Transmitting a register thus meant transferring into the body of the adept the {supernatural} clerks ... who would henceforth protect him".

p. 141 interiorization ("into my body") of deities by means of incense

[quoted from Den-z^en Yin-jue 3.7a Wei Hua-cun (libationeress in the Heavenly Masters, d. 334) : Secret Instructions. Cedzich 1987, pp. 33, 77] "May the Old Lord of the Five Powers of the heavenly principle of the Most High summon ... :

the dragon lords of the left and

tiger lords of the right ..., and

the orthodox spirits of the three energies.

May they ascend quickly to inform the Lord of the Dao of the heavenly principle of the Most High of the three heavens that so-and-so is here burning incense and going in audience before the gods. I ask that the orthodox energies of the eight directions come into my body, and that my prayer be conveyed rapidly before the Thearch."

Cedzich 1987= Ursula-Angelika Cedzich : Das Ritual her Himmelmeister im Spiegel fru:her Quellen. PhD thesis, University of Wu:rzburg.

p. 142 above one’s head, the 4-faced god

"the Thearch to whom he speaks just above the fontanelle : ...

the ritual agents informed the "true officer of place, him with four faces", and

{Is this 4-faced god Praja-pati or else 4-headed Phanes?}

asked him in turn to communicate with heaven."

p. 144 sexual rite of initiation

"The Guodu yi (Protocol of Passage) 8s the ritual for "conjoining energies" ... ... Having perfumed the body with incense. the couple ... makes its request of the master ... regarding ... desire to "ask for life", and then the master enjoined the couple to face east for a series of visualizations that activate the basic energies of their bodies. ... the master exteriorizes the officers of his body before addressing the gods in hierarchical order :

the great limitless Dao of the Most High,

the lords of the three energies, the spirits of his body,

the Three Officers and their armies of inspectors, and, last,

the lords of the old energies, demons, and bandits. ...

He explains to them ... that he is about to

transfer the names of the couple from the register of the dead to that of the living so that they will become part of the "seed-people" : the elect.

{[quoted from DZ 1294.6b10] "we will be erased and removed from the death records, and our names be inscribed for longevity on the jade registers. We will cross over and ford (guodu ...) the nine calamities and become the seed people of the next world." ("WY&R", p. 88)}

After a series of invocations of calendrical spirits and of visualizations of bodily energies,

the master unclasps the garments and hair of the couple.

{"Section fourteen begins with ... Releasing the Knots ... in which the master undoes the disciples’ clothes and loosens their hair." ("WY&R", p. 90)}

Seated, the couple "deploys the nine palaces" [fn. 14 : "See Kalinowski 1985."], that is, creates by interlacing their fingers the eight trigrams ...

{"In section fifteen, ... the couple creates the cosmological schema known as the Nine Palaces with their fingers and toes." ("WY&R", p. 91)}

... the couple ... massage the other’s body, using alternately the hands and the feet. ...

{"Section 16, includes ... Treading the Meridians (nieji ...), a complex set of massages following various paths along the body, performed by the male on his female partner, followed by the female massaging her male co-initiate, following the same sequence but in reverse." ("WY&R", p. 91)}

After a renewal of the invocations of the three basic energies of the left, the right, and the center,

{[quoted from DZ 1294.14b6] "Thrice say, Left Wushang, Right Xuanlao, and [Centre] Taishang" ("WY&R", p. 96). (These 3 are respectively azure, yellow, and white "spirits" -- ibid. p. 91.)}

the male mounts the female and the sexual act begins,

{"The male now enters the gate of Life." ("WY&R", p. 97) (" "gate of life" refers to the vaginal opening" – ibid. p. 94.)}

accompanied by invocations, visualizations, and movements."

{"The rite continues with a reies of deeper and shallow insertions, accompanied by incantations and visualizations." ("WY&R", p. 97)}

"WY&R" = Gil Raz : "The Way of the Yellow and the Red : ... sexual initiation rite of Caelestial Master Daoism". NAN NU: 10 (2008):86-120.

Kalinowski 1985 = Marc Kalinowski : "La transmission du dispositif des Neuf Palais". In :- Michel Strickmann (ed.) : Tantric and Daoist Studies in Honour of R. A. Stein. Bruxelles, 1985. vol. 3, pp. 773-811.

pp. 146-7 southern Daoism & the Numinous Treasure tradition

p. 146

"The southern Daoist tradition ... gave rise to a whole category of cosmic writings called tu, "drawings, maps", or zhenxing tu ..., "maps of the true shape", that is , of the deep structures which underlie ... all things ... composed ... of energies ... . ... The most famous of these maps or charts, mentioned already by Ge Hong, were those of the Three Sovereigns ... and Five Peaks ... . But the most important for the history of Daoist ritual were the "talismanic mandates" ... to be found in a text of the third century, the Taishang lingbao wufu xu (Array of the Five Talismans of the Numinous Treasure of the Most High). [fn. 18 Gil Raz : Creation of Tradition : the Five Talismans of the Numinous Treasure. diss.] These five drawings ... are described as having been "deployed by Yu of the Xia" ... in accord with the "veins of the earth". ... In the Array these talismanic drawings are configurations of the energies which created the world. ...

p. 147

The beginning of this part of the Array tells how Yu obtained these magic documents that enable the person who possesses them ... "... to bring the Five Thearchs down from heaven and, thereby, live forever"."


[according to C^i-s^u Yu-jue ("Jade Instructions of the Red Document"), a book in the new Lin-bao canon] The "Lord of Heavenly Authenticity ..., after the appearance of the writs in the heavens at the beginning of time, ... comments on the formation of the hymns "by mixing of the five sounds"." [fn. 21 : this is a quotation from DZ 97 Z^u-tian Nei-yin]

pp. 148-50 how Numinous Treasure scriptures were revealed in heaven

p. 148

[according to the Jiu-you Min-z^en Ke ("Code of the Ninefold Darkness of the Alliance with the Perfected")] "in a celestial garden ... the Heavenly Worthy of the Primordial Beginning ... is teaching ... to a huge audience of disciples. Then he "emits rays of five colors which illumine with a penetrating light" ... paradise ... . ... the Disciple of Superior Wisdom asks for the revelation ... that would enable future generations to ... go to paradise. The Heavenly Worthy responds by telling the "divine humans who fly in the heavens ..." to


open the Code so as to transmit it to the disciples.

{cf. the opening of the dharma-paryaya in the Sat-dharma Pun.d.arika}


... music starts up ... , dragons and unicorns dance, the living and the dead are in a state of euphoria ... . ... The Lord of the Dao of the Most High now comes forward to ask the Heavenly Worthy whether ... possible to [quoted from DZ 1411 Min-z^en Ke 15b] "ransom and save all souls, cause them to come out of the long night of the ninefold darkness, enter into the light ...". This time ... the explanations, which are transmitted ... to "worthy and enlightened" people under oath, ... the divine humans who fly in the heavens ... provide ... . ...

p. 149

According to the divine humans who fly ... "In order to anchor the Five Thearchs", each writ must be held in place by a metal (gold) dragon and by rolls of silk of the five colours. ... The ritual, which begins with ... the exteriorization of the officers, consists primarily in expressions of vows addressed by turns to the gods ... .

p. 150

For seven days and seven nights, all the stars cease to turn and the earth, transformed into jade, becomes perfectly flat. Once all the Perfected have taken up their places, the Heavenly Worthy, seated on a lion of five colours suspended in space, begins to recite anew :


[quoted from DZ 1 Lin-bao Wu-lian Du-ren-s^an-pin Miao-jin 1.1b]

After one recitation, ... the deaf recovered perfect hearing.

After the second recitation, the eyes of the blind were opened.

After the third, the dumb could speak;

after the four, the lame ceased to limp;

after the fifth, the chronically ill recovered their health;

after the sixth, white hairs became black again and fallen teeth grew back;

after the seventh, the old were rejuvenated and the young renewed their strength;

after the eighth, women became pregnant, as did animals and birds ...;

after the ninth, the earth revealed what was hidden, and jade and gold became visible;

after the tenth, dried bones returned to life, and all became humans."

p. 153 the two basic types of fast, according to the Wu-gan Wen ("Book of the Five Sentiments") by Liu Xiu-jin

type of fast

its canon





pp. 155-6 S^en-z^ou Jin

p. 155

"The Shenzhou jing (Scripture of Divine Incantations) is a text from the same period as Lu Xiujing produced by a splinter group of the Heavenly Masters. ...

p. 156

The sect of Divine Incantations also incorporates Zhengyi practices :

the rite of sexual initiation,

the pure chamber in each household,

family registers,

the rice tax, and

three annual assemblies.

At the age of puberty, in order to "protect oneself against all misfortune", the rite of sexual union had to be performed "... under the direction of a master of the Three Grottoes, not with Taoists of the red and the yellow" (p. 141), that is, not with members of the rival church of the Heavenly Masters."

p. 157 description of the "Mud Fast", according to the Wu-s^an Bi-yao ("Essence of the Supreme Secrets" – "an encyclopaedia compiled on imperial order around the year 574")

[absolution through confession of sins]

"By means of confessions, he hopes that his name

will be stricken from the black list of the right (death) and

added to the blue register of the left (life)."

pp. 159-61 circumstances of the soul after death [quoted from DZ 336 Tai-s^an Don-xuan Lin-bao Ye-bao Yin-yuan Jin ("Scripture of the Karmic Retributions of the Most High" – "a text which dates to the end of the Six Dynasties or the Sui"), 8th chapter]

p. 159

"when someone is close to death, it is because the earthly [spirit] authorities {such as the stove-god} have informed the heavens by memorial, and the heavens have undertaken an inspection on the basis of the details in the memorial. On the basis of the registers contained in the relevant departments, they will sign the death warrant and order the officers of ... the four bureaus ... to capture the person’s heavenly and earthly souls and interrupt his breathing. Illness ... – known forms of misfortune – are caused by the investigations carried out and fines inflicted by the authorities of the underworld.

It is meet then to create fields of merit on a grand scale, to ... come to the succor of the poor and help those in difficulty ... . First, an image of the Heavenly Worthy who Saves from Distress ... must be made, and the flags of the gods for going through trouble, saving life, extending [longevity-]accounts, prolonging [favorable] destiny, and averting catastrophes. ... Everything one owns – wealth, treasure, land, houses, ... silk, brocade of high quality, carriages, horses, precious objects, high class clothing, vessels, and curtains – all that one must give ... . Then the Three Offices will release the earthly and heavenly souls, they will extend the number of years [of longevity], and (the person for whom the ritual is done) will come back to life.

If destiny fixed by Heaven is finished and the account is empty, it is not possible to save him, and he will go into the great darkness. In this case, as the end nears, make promises and confessions for him, give away ... all he owns ... . That is what will give the most merit, in unimaginable quantities. On the day of his death and up to the seventh day thereafter, ... succor the poor, day and night without ceasing, in order to save the deceased, so that he may be born in heaven. ...

As death approaches and up to the seventh day after death, heavenly lads and all the officers of the three worlds, the five emperors, and the four bureaus come to inspect and, on the basis of the deceased person’s

p. 160

acts of merit ..., write up a report to the heavenly palaces. I then send seven divine lads to make the final inspection and draw up the balance sheet of good ... and decide where the deceased is to be reborn. If he has done good, he will be reborn in heaven, and his children and grandchildren will be blessed with good fortune. They will live happily and quietly, ... in a pure house where everything they do succeeds. ...

Once that time is passed, on every seventh day, the lads verify the registers of the earthly and heavenly souls of the dead person. They come to the house and take note of acts of merit ... . After seven times seven days, the generals of the five heavens descend to take possession of the heavenly souls, and the messengers of the nine earths grab the earthly souls. ... That is why, every seventh day after the first seventh day, the family must "open the light and make him pass over" so that he will be reborn in a good place and will know happiness and quiet. ... Seven days after his death, have seven statues of the Venerable Worthy who Saves from Distress made, copy this book, prepare a flag of the gods, and light seven lamps. ...

The Lord of the Dipper says : The seven divine lads are the spirits of the stars of the Bushel (Big Dipper) in the sky. When people are in the womb, in the

p. 161

seventh month, they descend into the human body and open his seven orifices to the light."


ASIEN- UND AFRIKA-STUDIEN DER HUMBOLDT-UNIVERSITA:T ZU BERLIN, Band 33 = Florian C. Reiter (ed.) : Foundations of Daoist Ritual. Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2009.