Saturday, May 14, 2016

Korean Yeongsan-jae, the "Vulture-Mountain Ceremony"

"The Korean Yeongsan-jae or literally “Vulture-Mountain Ceremony” is a religious performance-genre of its own, consisting of various arts such as music, dance, drama, literature and philosophy. It is rooted in classical Buddhism but has merged with diverse Korean traditions, becoming one of the most important and characteristic traditional Buddhist rituals in Korea. It was designated by the Korean government as Major Intangible Cultural Property #50, and since then Bongwon-sa, the "Phoenix-Origin Temple" and the main temple of the Taego Order (2nd-largest Buddhist sect), has taken the initiative to revive and maintain it; it was listed as one of the “Intangible Cultural Heritages of Humanity” by UNESCO in 1989.

Basically, this lengthy and colorful ritual is a re-enactment of a significant event in the career of Sakyamuni Buddha, called the Vulture Peak Assembly, in which he preached the famous Lotus Sutra. The main objective of this ceremony is to soothe the souls of the dead and lead them to be reborn in the Pure Land, but sometimes this ceremony is also held to invoke blessings for the security and development of the entire nation. In front of a large-scale scroll-painting of Buddha and an elaborate altar, offerings are made and various chanting, music and dances are also performed, including the well-known Cymbal Dance, Butterfly Dance and Dharma Drum Dance. In the past, the whole ceremony took three days and nights, but now it is usually finished in a single day. Through it, the deceased and the participants become one for the purpose of awakening the true dharma of Buddha and leading the way to free everyone from earthly suffering and delusion.

The ceremony takes place at Bongwon-sa, the beautiful "Phoenix-Origin Temple, which is isolated in the middle of the urban madness, tucked into a high steep valley on the southern face of Mt. Ansan." David Mason offers special insights on the ritual and its significance.

The following explanation makes the ritual clearer, especially as to why the leading monk for the ceremony asked everyone during the ceremony to remember the victims of the Sewol in their two-year anniversary since their harshly premature death; most of the deceased were children. 
"Yeongsanjae, literally meaning "Rites of Vulture Peak", is a Buddhist ritual performed on the 49th day after a person's death to comfort his or her spirit, and guide it to the Buddhist land of bliss. The ritual, known to have been performed since the Goryeo Period (918-1392), consists of solemn Buddhist music and dance, a sermon on the Buddha's teachings, and a prayer recitation. While it is an essential part of the Korean Buddhist tradition conducted to guide both the living and the dead to the realm of Buddhist truths and to help them liberate themselves from all defilement and suffering, it was sometimes performed for the peace and prosperity of both the state and the people." []

No comments:

Post a Comment