August 31, 2007

Enlightenment Ceremony

In the Chinese calendar, the 7th lunar month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month, in which spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, will roam among the living. The Ghost Festival is on the 14th day o the month. It is believed that on the 13th day of the month, the three realms of Heaven, Hell and the living are open and the Taoists and Buddhists would perform rituals to absolve the sufferings of the deceased.

This year, the Ghost Festival fell on Sunday, August 26. In conjunction with this, Nilai Memorial Park organized the Enlightenment Ceremony from Friday, August 24 till Sunday, August 26. The theme for the ceremony this year was "Messages with Love, Remembrance with Gratitude", a ceremony held in the traditions of Buddhism and Taoism to honour the departed and to promote good deeds, love and filial piety. Prayers were held at specific times on all three days to release the departed souls from suffering and usher the departed souls into the realm of Heavenly Peace and Eternal Happiness. Families of the departed could choose one of six choice of altars, ranging from RM300 to RM10,000. We purchased the RM500 package, which included prayers for up to three departed souls, which we included dear old dad, and his parents.

We arrived at Nilai Memorial Park slightly after 12 noon last Sunday and the place was already packed with people. There were many stalls offering fruits, drinks, snacks and religious publications and CDs set up around the park, lending a festive atmosphere to an otherwise somber and peaceful area. We quickly located the position at which the altar was placed among the hundreds, if not thousands of altars in the makeshift prayer's hall. Praying materials and offerings were provided at the altar so we performed our prayers at the altar, before heading to the columbarium which held dad's ashes for another quick prayer. Vegetarian lunch was also served FOC. At 1.15pm, the monks performed a round of prayers around the makeshift prayer's hall before commencing the ritual prayer that would culminate in the burning of paper offerings. The line-up of paper offerings was impressive – there was a ship, some mansions, cars, horses, not to mention cartons and cartons of offerings of gold and paper money. After the prayers in the prayer's hall, family members and volunteers carried the hundreds of altars and arranged them on the ship, which signifies giving directions to the spirits, before the monks performed the final ritual prayers, circling around the paper offerings. The Chief Reverend Chi-Di then lighted the paper offerings and within seconds, the offerings disappeared underneath the huge ball of fire. We left soon after without staying for the closing ceremony to avoid the traffic jam when droves of people would be leaving the park.


jazzmint said...

wow..such a big celebration!!

Zara's Mama said...

Nilai Memorial really very clever to find ways to make $ huh?

Looking at the amount of offerings, I can imagine the $ they are raking!

A Mom's Diary said...

jazz, first time we attended. was surprised by the enormity of the event.

zara's mama, they must be making lots. there are people paying RM10k for an altar, just for 3 days.