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Song Tiantai Ghost-Feeding Rituals

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Chapter Summary

Among the different rituals dealing with both the benign and dangerous dead in Chinese Buddhism, rituals for feeding hungry ghosts are often associated with the esoteric rubric. While most of these rituals operate under the normative understanding of merit-transfer - often mediated by monastics - translations of the Foshuo jiuba yankou egui tuoluoni jing in the eighth century introduced the Chinese to a different Buddhist motif and method for human-ghost interactions. These ghost-feeding rituals still figure prominently in the ritual lives of many Buddhists in East Asia today. The earliest Chinese evidence of the practice of the Flaming Mouth Sūtra comes from Song Tiantai communities in the form of two collections. While the doctrinal reasons that informed Zunshi's advocacy of ghost-feeding rituals should not be overlooked, it is helpful to note also that by Zunshi's time, many monasteries in his area had chapels reserved for the performance of these rituals.

Keywords: Chinese Buddhism; ghost-feeding rituals; Song Tiantai communities; Zunshi



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