Harvard’s Asia Center holds first-ever Daoist ritual

Harvard’s Asia Center holds first-ever Daoist ritualHarvard’s Asia Center holds first-ever Daoist ritual
via Elisa.rolle (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Harvard University’s Asia Center held its first-ever Daoist ritual in the hopes of igniting interest in establishing Daoist studies centers in the country.
Key points:
  • Around 50 people gathered in the courtyard outside the Divinity School’s Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University on Friday to participate in the Daoist ritual, reported the Harvard Gazette.
  • James Robson, a medieval Chinese Daoism and Buddhism expert who joined the faculty in 2008, noted that the ritual was the university’s first, as there were no archival records of such a ceremony taking place at Harvard in the past.
The details:
  • Five Daoist priests, hailing from temples in the Fujian and Zhejiang provinces of China, performed the ritual, during which they prayed for world peace, contentment among all people and abundant harvests.
  • The group participated in an “Audience Rite for the Three Pure Ones,” which traditionally celebrates the birthdays of the three most revered deities in the Daoist pantheon, namely: The Jade Pure One, The Supreme Pure One and The Grand Pure One.
  • Some of the materials used in the ceremony include incense, bells and paintings of The Three Pure Ones.
  • Meanwhile, the main ritual, performed by the main officiant called the Master of High Merit, involved a meditative visualization practice. According to Robson, the incoming director of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, the officiant “goes on a voyage to the celestial domain,” where he submits petitions “on behalf of those living in this world” to The Three Pure Ones.
  • The five Daoist priests were among the group of people, including scholars on Daoism from the United States, Japan and Singapore, invited for the Harvard Daoist Studies Symposium on April 25-26.
What’s next:
  • Robson noted that witnessing the ceremony ignited his long-term dream of establishing a Daoist studies center at Harvard or even at other universities, as there has never been one in the U.S.
  • “We’re hoping this might be an opportune time to explore the possibilities of establishing one,” he said.
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