14 July 2015

Eastern pro-life

Qingshui Temple (艋舺清水巖) in Taibei

Belated thanks to the Western Confucian for clueing me in to this old news story, about Taiwanese Buddhist and Daoist temples performing rites for the souls of unborn children who have been aborted. And particularly interesting is this part:
Religious groups were once at the forefront of the anti-abortion movement, railing against the legalization of the practice in 1985. Now, with the battle effectively lost, some temples are trying to spur soul-searching among women who have had abortions.

Ching Shui Temple is a leading proponent of the new approach.

It touted its elaborate “baby souls mourning” ritual as a chance to help unborn children be reincarnated, possibly into well-to-do families, provided the mothers pray hard enough, says temple priest Chen Chun-kai.

“We tell the women fetuses are complete with souls and must not be removed on a whim,” Chen said. “In the old days, babies only died at birth or through natural deaths, they were not aborted.”

While most young women dismiss the baby souls mourning ritual as superstition, a vocal minority appear to embrace it, Chen said.

“When they ran into mishaps in their lives or careers, they began to wonder if the aborted babies were taking revenge,” he said.
It would be fascinating to observe if similar prayer rituals take place on the mainland, or if the cultural and political climate is just too different. At any rate, Daoism is an incredibly interesting philosophy that I have long felt has strong links to existentialism (apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so), though I had no idea that Daoist temples took such strong moral stands on these kinds of issues. I shall have to crack open that Peerenboom translation of the Huanglao Silk Manuscripts I’ve got lying around somewhere, and while I’m at it revisit Zhuangzi!

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