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When a soul passes through the River of No Return, it is said to be in the Realm of Underworld. Hence, it is said to be 'dead' . However, If it manages to return before passing through the river, then the person will survive and continue to live for another day.
One year before my late pa passed away, he was suffering
from cancer. I used to pray for his well beings then. One day he suddenly told
me that he had a strange dream. In that dream, he was forcefully being dragged
out from our house by two men in black. In the midst of pushing and pulling,
they came to a stream. There is a very narrow wooden bridge that can only let
one person pass through at one time. So, the man in black who led the way
walked first, my pa was in between and the second man in black was at pa’s
back. While they were in the middle of the bridge, the bridge suddenly
collapsed and all of them fell into the river. My pa finally found his way back
I think the stream my pa was about to pass through was known
as the ‘river of no return’ (冥河),
and that wooden bridge is known as the ‘bridge of no return’.
According to Chinese belief, when a person dies, his soul
will travel out of his body and continue to walk straight until he reaches the
bridge of no return. If the soul passes through the bridge; then it will reach
the realm of underworld. However, if the soul managed to return, then the
person will recover and live for a period of time. This bridge is what is
called the ‘realm of in between’.
Folks believe, dead souls will live freely in the realm of
in between. Before passing the bridge, the soul suffers considerably. However,
once the soul gone into the underworld, the suffering will be gone. This is
because a dead soul is a fragile body; it fears sunlight, rain, wind and also
These dead souls will remain in the underworld until it is
time for them to be reborn again.
There is a saying that goes:
“Once reborn, no one wants to die; after death, no one wants
to be reborn.”
The saying refers to the situation when a person dies, he
will suffer tremendously. It is conversely true that when a ghost in the
underworld wanted to be reborn, it also suffers tremendously too.
In the ritual that leads to underworld travels, the human
relatives can only wait at the edge of in between to wait for the deceased love
ones to come and meet them. It is said that anyone who pass through the bridge
of no return will not be able to come be to human realm.
If you say that it is too much to talk about life in
underworld; as we are still ignorant of
our present life and that there are many things to explore. Ha! Don’t worry, it
is not usual that everyone will attain enlightenment this life; we probably
will end up in the underworld anyway. By the way, have you heard of ‘underworld
journey’ (观落阴)? Well,
when the time comes, I will bring everyone to journey ‘down under’.
Basically Taoists believe the underworld life styles are
similar to our present life style: the township, houses even up to the extent
of the facial features and the way of speaking are the same. What makes the
difference is that the ghostly bodies are formed by ‘chi’ (气) and they are not solid as we human. That also
explains why ghosts can transform their shapes and features.
In the underworld, when ghosts sleep; their shape will
disperse; and when they awake, their shape will gradually formed. Ghosts
consume by smelling and hence gaseous substances are their best foods. If we
offer them cold dish, then they will not be able to consume the dish. The
bodies of ghosts are very fragile unlike the human counterparts; they will
disintegrate in breeze and under the sunlight as well.
It is believed that ghosts’ food, house, utensils etc. are
transformed by ‘chi’. Perhaps by burning joss papers, paper car and houses, our
ghostly relatives can indeed benefit from our deeds? Maybe what has been depicted
in Chinese ghost stories that some fortunate or unfortunate folks unwarily ventured
into ghostly realms and visited beautiful mansions, but the place transformed
into graveyards on daybreaks are founded after all.
I was told that the ghosts that dwell in the underworld
seldom return to our world; those spirits that roam in our human world are
earthbound and they have no way of go into underworld. Old folks believe that
it is during the 7th month of Lunar Calendar that the underworld
folks are permitted to come to surface as if our humanly holiday season.
Whatever case that may be, we will need plenty of ‘money’ in
the underworld as with our humanly world. There is a saying that goes: ‘money
is everything!’ That also explains why a Taoist will need to burn a large
quantity of hell money during the journey to underworld ritual.
Are you still curious about underworld? Why not follow me to
travel underworld once? If we burn a mansion for us now, when we kick our
buckets; there is no fear of house price hike in the underworld. Do you believe
it or not? Hahaha…
The Indian ‘Shadow Man’ or the Taoist’s ‘Original Soul’ may
not be anyone’s cup of tea. So as an alternative, Taoist has another method to
offer which is pretty similar to the former two methods.
This alternative is known as ‘Yin Spirit’; which is the
opposite side of ‘Yang Spirit’. Well, honestly it is pretty difficult to
accomplish the Yang Spirit too as one must have pretty solid foundation in
Taoist meditation though not necessary at an advance level; at least he/she
must accomplish the automatic circulation of chi minor circle and achieving the
pure yang body.
Now, Taoist has a method to induce the release of our Yin
Spirit by using a mirror.
First, we must find ourselves a large mirror which must be
able to reflect our whole body.
When everything is ready, we should stand before the mirror
and dim the light around us. After adjusting our breathing, we can now
concentrate on the reflection in the mirror. When our vision is starting to
blur, we shall turn our attention onto the surface of the wall in front of us.
At this point, the residue impression will still linger in our sight for a few
seconds or so.
With some consistent practice, we will be able to see our
other selves in front of us.
The basic principle behind Taoist Yin Spirit is actually similar
to the Western out of body (OOB) exercise.
The production of Yin Spirit is not encouraged in standard
Taoist practice because there are many problems with this method. For example,
there are just too many examples that the Yin Spirits fail to return to their
own bodies. Problems will also occur when our mental states are not stable or
our health conditions are not good. Having said so, reading about is still
okay; whatever you do, please don’t do it alone for your own good!
The practice of shadow man is yet another yogic meditative
practice, which incidentally is almost similar with the Taoist original soul.
First, we must choose a sunny day with clear sky, because
this will enable our shadow to be cast in front of us. In doing this exercise,
we must half close our eyes as in meditation and stare at the bottom of the
shadow’s neck. We may close our eyes when our eyes get tired for a few seconds
and we should lift our head and look into the clear sky when we reopen our
We will see a shadowy figure and we should continue to look
at this figure as far as possible. If we are diligent in our exercise, then
this shadow will become transparent and that we should be able to see two
figures at this time.
The first shadow is the outer shell, it will gradually fade.
While the second shadow will gradually become clearer and slowly the features
of the second shadow will stand out. Finally, we will notice that the figure is
ourselves. Otherwise, we also may do the exercise under the moonlight too.
An experienced practitioner can foretell and take charge of
his/her future. This shadow man can also show a person’s health conditions and
other secrets as well. According to scriptures, anyone who has practiced this
method for 12 consecutive years then this shadow man will follow the person
everywhere and guide him/her on every matter.
After following this practice for a lengthy time, this
shadow man can also be projected onto a screen or a wall. When we can
physically ‘see’ this shadow man, we can control our breathing and hence order
it to perform our deeds.
Hence, the practice of shadow man will enable us to
understand ourselves more. And when are at this stage, then we will have the
power to control others and perhaps achieve enlightenment.
People believe that everyone is accompanied by an angel and
a devil. All one’s good deeds are triggered by the angel while the bad ideas
are generated by the devil. This is a common scene in Disney cartoon shows.
There is another method to call upon the darker side of our
souls. Call it the devil if you will. For folks who like to try the grey magic,
please do so at their own risks.
This is an old Malay method to summon a familiar spirit:
First, one must find a large single anthill located far away
from general public and go to the location on a full moon night, preferably on
a Thursday night.
One should also bring a cane and some benzoic incense.
At the anthill and under the full moonlight, find a position
where one’s shadow casts directly onto the anthill. When a suitable location is
fixed, burn the benzoic incense and start hitting the shadow with the cane.
For every strike, say to the shadow:
“Hey shadowy one, come to me!”
The action should be repeated until a response is obtained:
a gust of cold wind, a sound or even the shadow itself comes alive…
One should persist through the ritual until the cane frays.
When it did frayed and still no result, then one should come back the next full
According to the grand nanny who taught me this method that
result will be normally be obtained within 3 tries. She also said that this is
another way of getting one’s ‘Hantu Raya’ or you may call it a ‘Huge Spirit’, a
‘Wandering Spirit’ or anything else as it doesn’t matters…
I don’t know what that thing will be, but safe to say that
it will not be a decent one!
Oh, one more thing… Please don’t look back during the
In the nanny’s own words:
What will happen to the one who looked back, only the God
probably not an over statement that Taoist rituals are 50% Hindu rituals. For
example: Taoists worships Brahma (梵天), Kali (玄女), Yama (阎罗) and Marichi (斗母) just to name a few. Even to the
extent that in Taoist magical practices, there is a parallel form of tantric ‘Chaya
I am not
going to explore the Hindu Chaya Purusha in detail, but to run across the
Taoist Chaya Purusha for the sake of comparisons:
magic, Chaya Purusha is known as one’s ‘original soul’ (元神) and there is a set of quite
extensive practice to activate our original soul by stages:
stage is ‘training soul’ (炼神). This is the first step awakens the soul, the practice is somehow similar
to the posting “know your fate, know yourself”.
we should be able to physically ‘see’ our original soul. So, the second step is
same as the Hindu Chaya Purusha; i.e. we must choose a sunny but cloudless
morning at around 10am or so. After that, we should stand against the sun and
stare at our shadows until our eyes are tired. When we feel a sensation in our
heart, we should immediately look into the sky in front of us. With some
practise, one huge shadow will appear in front of us and that will be our
original souls appear, we should inspect if there is anything wrong with our
soul; especially if there is any black spots or black parts. Black always means
mishaps as usual.
are problems, we will need to use the avoiding methods (消灾避死). One most popular is offering oil
lamps to the Northern Stars System (北斗) and walk the previously mentioned star steps (步罡). The rituals must be carried out until the
bad signs are completely gone otherwise death or disasters entail.
After we can
see and communicate our original souls, we have to ask them to ‘shrink’ and fit
their sizes to our physical body or they will be too large to do anything. The
Taoist calls the shrinking of original soul as ‘soul shrinking’ (缩神). It is said that only after our
original souls are in proper sizes that we can handle them to do many tasks.
our original souls are practically us in every human form, they are bound by
all our past good and bad karmic forces and much restricted. These ‘contaminated’
souls will need to be blessed and purified in a ritual known as ‘soul transform’
(变神). In this ritual we transform our
original souls into the appearance of the gods or goddesses that we desire.
Normally a male Taoist will take the form of thunder god (雷神) and a female Taoist will be
Marichi (斗母). I supposed
this is somewhat similar to the Tantric Yidam practice.
you have the complete Chaya Purusha practice, perhaps you can compare. It would
be good if anyone can send me a copy of that too!
One's fate and self are indicated by the Northern Stars and the Southern Stars Systems.
It is confusing just ‘talk’ about Taoist rituals, so let’s ‘walk’
First some theory:
In Taoism, we human are made up of two parts; our fate and
Both of our fates and ourselves can be calculated through
astrology. But astrology can only tell what is coming to us and nothing else.
Taoist rituals are meant to remedy what is short of us; provided that we
discover our shortcomings early.
Now, below is just a very simple exercise that every Taoist
The first is everyone must know his/her own fate. In order
to do that, we must call upon the Northern Stars System as above.
One can light 7 candles, and line them up as above diagram
and after that just walk starting from point 1 to point 7 and return. One must
remember the number of candles that he/she has walked passed. If at any point
one forgets the number of candles he/she is at; remember this position as it
has a big significant on his/her fate. If one is not too tired, then he/she may
sit on that position and meditate; lights may appear but don’t be afraid.
One should remember what kind of light one sees as that will have some meaning to that person.
I would like to add a side note here that the Northern Stars System is also being used in Flying Star Feng Shui to find out the best house direction for a place. If one's fate matches with the house direction, then it will be good or else the house cannot be dwelled.
On the following week, do the exercise for the Southern
Stars System as above but line up 6 candles or incenses as shown for the
Southern Stars. Walk the star walk repeatedly until at one point one feels a
sensation. After that, he/she may sit on that position and meditate for this
position will have some relation with that person.
There are more extensive rituals and prayers to the gods and
goddesses of the stars to increase merit; but the above is just a simple exercise
to try out for fun. It is safe provided that one should not meditate for too
long or problems may occur.
Anyway, reading about it is pretty safe. At best don’t try
them without detail guidance and supervision for we are tempering with our own
fate and self; and no one want to mess these two elements up if you know what I
The 28 heavenly houses represent both the major and minor chi cycles in Taoist internal breathing exercise.
Taoist ceremonial magic has profound hidden meanings.
Outsiders only amazed by its fanfares, while it is no harm if outsiders don’t
understand the hidden meanings of Taoist ceremony; well if a Taoist
himself/herself is the one who is ignorant, then this is would be a little
In Taoist ideology, immortality is achieved through the symbolic
worship of heavenly bodies and mother earth. In reality, the primitive Taoism
has nothing to do with cycles of rebirth (轮回).
The heaven and earth are the products of yin-yang evolutions and hence these
evolutions give forth everything in this universe. The term ‘Tao’ truthfully refers
to the never ending cycles of existence between human and Mother Nature.
Taoist internal training borrows symbolism from ceremonial rituals
to achieve the union of heaven and earth. Perhaps you have heard of the ‘major and
minor cycles’ (大小周天) in Taoist
meditation? The minor cycle refers the movement of chi from dantian to the
bottom of our vertebrate, and then the route moves upwards to the centre point
of our skull. After that this chi moves downwards through our forehead and then
the route continues through the tip of the tongue and finally ended back into
dantian. A major cycle is when the chi is continued to be led downwards from
the sides of our thigh and then down to both soles; with a short pause on the
soles and finally this chi is led back to dantian through inside of our thighs
These major and minor cycles of chi symbolise the 28 houses
of heavenly bodies (廿八星宿）.
It is certainly aimless to have endless of chi cycles without
doing anything. It needs to stay put at one point similar to the idea of Buddhist
Nirvana. In the worship of star rituals and in Ziwei Astrology (紫薇斗数); two stars of importance
are the Ziwei (紫薇) and the
Both of the above stars used to be guarded secrets of
previous masters. I would disclose this secret here that the Ziwei refers to
the centre point of our skull, while the Tianfu refers to the area between our
reproductive organs and the ass hole (会阴).
Taoist believes, the North Star system (北斗)
rules over death, while the South Star system (南斗) rules over the living. Hence in Ziwei Astrology,
our ‘fate’ is ruled by the North system, while our current ‘self’ is ruled by
the South system. The ruler of North is the Zewei and the ruler of South is
If at one point, we want to stay in heaven, we would concentrate
our chi in the centre of our skull. If we want to be reborn into human form,
then our chi should be concentrated onto the bottom.
In order to have a perfect and good life; we should
circulate our chi amongst the 5 stars: Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter and
Mars. These five stars again correspond to our 5 internal organs: heart, lungs,
kidney, spleen and lever. The weaker elements can be replenished through
rituals, breathing exercises and star walks.
So, Taoist rituals and Astrology is not so complicated after
According to my faint memory that during my standard six
while I was still studying in a primary school in Kuala Kangsar. I had a friend
call Ming. Behind Ming’s house was an extensive banana plantation. I always
follow Ming home on Friday after the school to spend a day or two there. There
was a stream running at the back of the banana plantation; Ming and I always
swim and fish in the stream then.
We were fearless then, added to that there weren’t any
issues with securities as today. We even slept in the plantation during hot
nights. Frankly speaking, there was peace and quiet in the plantation that the
banana plantation has to offer. Only that one thing that puzzled both of us was
that: we always see a beautiful lady in green stripped herself off and then
swim in the stream.
We were also quite naïve to hide across the stream bank to
peep the lady. It seemed that the lady was very open and played alone in the
stream; looked like she doesn’t mind any peeping tom around perhaps. At times,
this beautiful lady would turn her head and looked into our directions as if
she knew that we were watching her. Of course, we would then retract our tiny
heads in fear that she would not come to this place again. At times, we would
release ourselves on site due to our physiological needs.
Gradually I can see this lady appeared in Ming’s house; she
was especially fond of combing her long hair in Ming mother’s room. At time, we
would be dreaming of playing and fondling with this unnamed lady until ejaculation.
We only learnt of our lustful dreams during our casual talk then.
As time goes by, our face looked pale with black eye sockets
and our feet and palms were icy cold. So, Ming’s grandma brought us to a spirit
medium and according to the medium; we were troubled by a ‘banana spirit’. We
were given some talismans and told not to go to the banana plantation again.
When my mom learnt about the incident, she arranged me to be transferred to a
secondary school in Taiping. Since then, I seldom contact Ming.
A few years back, I met Ming’s eldest sister in a market; it
transpired that Ming has passed away for a few years already. Looks like Ming
didn’t really escape the grasp of this banana spirit after all. Perhaps, Ming
had married the banana spirit?
Many years lapsed since then; I had a second encounter with
a Siamese banana spirit.
I was not that I want to bother her; I annoyed this
beautiful spirit when I was trying to help my friend. My pal’s wife found a
Siamese magician to put a death curse on my pal because he wanted to divorce
her. I was quite innocently involved when I tried to undo the curse; hence the
magician sent his banana spirit to attack me.
I was a novice to Siamese magic then and have lesser knowledge
on the power of Siamese banana spirit. I could still remember that, when I
returned home that day, I started to cough; not even a good doc could help me.
Consequently, my Kurba Archan possessed my body and he used the cupping method
to remove a large quantity of liquid from my body. It was fair to say that my
body was covered by large and small of water pockets, a pretty awful site but I
Oddly enough, I went to Bangkok according to the Kurba
Archan’s pointers and found the Siamese magician in a narrow lane. Well, the
magician was kind enough to pass his banana spirit to me. And that was how I
got my banana spirit.
If you were to ask: If I am willing to deal with banana
spirits again? My answer is that perhaps not, I am too old for that kind of
stuffs; it is best look after the well being of my body so to speak.
The practice of Malai Ngai is rarely being discussed openly
as this is a dangerous ritual to evoke a spirit similar to the Thai ‘Phi Phop’
and the Malaysian Penangalan or more commonly known as the ‘flying head ghost’
locally. Basically Malai Ngai is not suitable to be practiced by anyone with
small children or if a pregnant lady is around.
As with the Penangalan, Malai Ngai likes blood so it will
attack the children especially the pregnant ones and cause miscarriage or even haemorrhage
during childbirth and indirectly harm the mother and her baby.
In Vietnamese Ngai practitioner circle, Malai Ngai is priced
with its capability to be able to ‘fly’ in the air amongst other magical
It is not difficult to do this ritual but first one must
plant one or two blood lilies.
When everything is set, the ritual is best to be done at 4am
daily for 100 days consecutively.
First of all, draw the above yant on an egg and place the
egg at the root of the blood lilies.
Now, start calling the three masters or simply say: “Heavenly
masters, protect me” for 3 times followed by the ‘chu’: “pho lo co vi la la lo
lo co vi la…” for 49 times.
It is a norm to see flash lights or red orbs appearing
during the ritual, so do not be panic and the ‘chu’ must be completed before
leaving the place.
After the 100 day’s period, Malai Ngai must be fed with
animal intestines at least three times a year.
If one keeps the Malai Ngai for 3 years or more, then this
spirit can unite with the owner’s soul and make the owner fly with his/her head
too… with his/her internal organs together of course.
I suspect this practice is somehow related to ‘penangalan’
as the word ‘malai’ in Vietnamese refers to ‘Malay’; hence giving a tell tale
sign that Vietnamese Malai Ngai is originated from the Malay Archipelago.
If I say that there is hidden knowledge inside the joss
paper we burnt then you may not believe me.
There is a set of knowledge taught by Feng Shui masters of
old that can let people know the deceased's death.
The approach is very simple: If the deceased is of unknown
sex or origin, then before Qingming; Or it can also be done in front of the
grave, or in front of the coffin if someone have burnt some joss paper. We can
take a look at the paper ashes of what it was like:
•If the ashes yellowish white, that the deceased
might be male.
•If the ashes is black, and that the dead was a
•If ashes show red colour, that the cause of
death was bleeding or bleeding to death due to injury.
•If there are white spots within gray ashes, that
the cause of death was due to drowning.
•If yellow is seen in ashes, the cause of death
is due to edema or long illness.
•If erythema then the person is believed to have died
•If the colours are red and green then the cause
of death is crushed by woods.
•If the colours are yellow and red, then the
cause of death is crushed by stones or soil such as in mud slide.
•If the ashes are with yellow stripes then the
person is died of strangulation.
•If the ashes show black lines then the person
was killed in a foreign place.
•If red stripes are seen crisscrossing, then the
person died during a fight.
•If there is no paper dust found than the dead
was a loner, it is now described as unbelievers Taoism.
•If the paper ashes are wet and black in colour,
then the bones already turn black and rotten.
I can’t stand by if the above tell tale signs will be
accurate enough, but it is suffice to deem them as part of our cultural
In Chinese customs, when a person dies in a foreign land; it
is believed that his soul will have no way to return to his homeland even
though his body is transported back home. Hence, his soul will linger on in
this foreign land and no way of enjoying any of the food offerings given to him
by his/her love ones. Of course, he/she also has no way to be delivered through
any of the religious ceremonies.
If such condition persists, then his soul will always in a
foreign land and no chance of being reborn. We perhaps can imagine that this
poor soul will be in a pretty sorrow and pitiful stage.
Unless a ‘soul calling’ ceremony is carried out by the
deceased’s next of kin; then could the dead soul return home with the ‘soul
banner’ together with its love ones.
It is a norm that the ‘soul calling’ ritual is led by a monk
or Taoist with banishing the ‘soul banner’; some folks even bring along a
colourful booth with a ‘soul tablet’ (神主牌)
inside. The function of a ‘soul tablet’ is to let the soul to temporary attach
onto it. It is certainly that the deceased’s love ones must also present or
else the dead soul will not follow a stranger.
First of all, the group must go to the place where the
deceased passed away to carry out this ‘soul calling’ activity. Before the
ritual, candles and incense are burnt together with some joss papers. After
that, the Taoist master will hold a ring in his left hand and the soul banner
in his right while reciting lengthy pitiful soul calling mantras.
It is believed that only after the soul calling ritual that
the dead soul can attach properly onto the soul tablet and hence be brought
home for worship.
What was being said above refer to where the body and location
of the death can be identified; but what happen if both of the information is
unavailable? Then, the soul calling ritual will be fruitless.
What to do?
Have no fear. Taoist has a ritual known as ‘breaking castle’
(破城). As the name implies, ‘breaking
castle’ refers to a situation where the dead soul is trapped or imprisoned for
some reasons. In order to release this trapped soul, we will have to rely to
the powers of gods.
First of all, the Taoist must carve a head out of wood or
replace the head with a bun (馒头).
When everything is ready, then the ceremony can be carried
out to release the dead soul.
Soul calling ceremony is frequently seen in Malaysia, but ‘castle
breaking’ scene is pretty rare now days.