Death in Taoism


Interview to Master Tian Cheng Yang, February 2002.

Special program by BTV (Barcelona Television).
"Different Religions' Views and Beliefs about Death."
Kindly provided by the Master for this Web page.

BTV: What is your name?

Master Tian: I am Su Chun Tien. Cheng Yang Tian is my Taoist name.

BTV: Your nationality?

M.T.: Chinese.

BTV: Which part of China?

M.T.: Of the province of Shang Dong; the same land of Confucius.

BTV: What is your religion?

M.T.: Taoism.

BTV: What is your office within this community?

M.T.: In Taoism is called Jian Yuan, similar to an abbot in Christianity. Jian means Superior and Yuan is the Temple

BTV: What are the fundamental principles of your religion?

M.T.: Taoism considers two very important aspects. One thing is life and another thing is the praxis.

BTV: Do you think that to speak about death is a taboo subject?

M.T.: In Taoism to speak about death is not taboo, but to speak about death at night is taboo in Taoism; is better not to speak about the subject of death at night.

BTV: Why?

M.T.: Because death is a part of the Yin and that is not good for the living. The energy of life has two parts, the energy of the Yin and the energy of the Yang. For people the Yang energy is better. At night energy belongs to Yin. When we speak about death, it takes from Yin energy, which is not good for people alive.

BTV: Explain what is Yin and what is Yang?

M.T.: Yin and Yang, are two sides that represent many things in the Taoist culture. For example the day is Yang and night is Yin. The sun is Yang and the moon is Yin; man is Yang, woman is Yin; life is Yang and death is Yin, but for living beings more Yang energy and less Yin energy is better. When Yang energy is lost we die.

BTV: You have said that for Taoism, life and the praxis are of most importance?

M.T.: Yes.

BTV: This praxis consists of . . .

M.T.: Taoist praxis is used for this life. Because for a person alive, the most important thing it is this life. Through the praxis, life can be perfected and prolonged to be able to enjoy it and to extend it in order to arrive at a higher level.

BTV: When you speak of a higher level, what are you talking about?

M.T.: With a higher level--with the praxis, the great event of life and death can be solved. For example, with the praxis it is possible to unite what in Taoism is called the Three Treasures, those are of most importance for people. One is the essence of the body; another one is the spirit, and another one is Chi (in the West is like energy). These three things, with the Taoist praxis can be united within the body. This in Taoism is called Inner Alchemy.

With the praxis, we can unite the Three Treasures within the body, and soon with the Inner Alchemy is possible to raise it and to exit it over the head. That is the spirit of the person. Through the praxis, the spirit can spread throughout the universe. That is the highest level. When we reach this level we no longer have the problem of life and death. For that reason it is always possible to live as much as the Tao on the universe.

BTV: For your religion, what is death?

M.T.: In Taoism we do not fear death. The book of Chuang Tse says, "Life and death are like day and night." Is a natural thing; in Taoism we say, "Death and life have the same root, like twins." For that reason when we have life, death exists. When a person is born has life, the path is from life to death, but in Taoism it is possible with the praxis, to return to the origin of life, to defeat death and life can be prolonged, and be able to solve the great event of life and death.

BTV: Is it important for your religion the way in which we die?

M.T.: In Taoism, the best thing is the praxis; therefore it is possible to decide the course of death. For example, the best way is to seat and later the spirit leaves the body. Then the spirit can decide the course of death.

BTV: Can destiny be decided after death?

M.T.: It can with practice. For example, Cheng Ying Ning the Master of my Master was born in 1880. At the time of Mao, he became the first President of China Taoist Association. He said, "With my peaceful life, I will have no problem living 120 years." But soon, when The Cultural Revolution in China began, and the country little by little was submersed in chaos, then he thought that he could not live any longer and wrote his last memoirs. In 1967 he said, "I can not live any longer, but since I am a follower of Taoism, if I were to have a short life, no one will think that Taoist praxis is real." He was then 87, but in China we add one more year so he was 88. Then he said, "Better will be in two years when I reach 90 . . . I will leave the world." And told my Master, "I must live". Then he sat and his spirit left the body. That is a way of dying in Taoism.

BTV: Can the energy of death influence children? Please explain.

M.T.: In Taoism it is very important when a person dies, to preserve his body in the best Feng Shui site. In Taoist Feng Shui we have two equally important parts. A part of Feng Shui is for the person alive, for example in a house for a family as the energy of people circulate. That is Yang Feng Shui. Another part is Yin Feng Shui for the dead person; it is Feng Shui of the grave. In Taoism when a person dies, to bury his body, we look for a site with good Feng Shui. If the site has good Feng Shui his body and his energy can be preserved; this will influence his children and grandchildren.

BTV: What do you think is there after death?

M.T.: After death depends on each person. We say in Taoism that when a person dies, the spirit no longer exists. The spirit is Yang when a person is alive and when his spirit dies changes to Yin. Yin is the soul and can leave the body; that is when the person dies, but in Taoism with the praxis, the Yang energy the can be preserved. When the person dies, is when the body no longer can maintain its spirit, then this spirit must look for another place. This spirit can leave the body. The difference has to do with the praxis or lack of it.

BTV: Are Spirit and Soul the same thing for Taoism?

M.T.: In Taoist culture, when a person is alive the spirit exists; when a person dies, the Yang energy no longer exists, only the soul. The spirit is Yang energy and the soul is Yin energy.

BTV: How would you like to die?

M.T.: In Taoism it is with praxis--through the praxis; the minimum that can be decided is the date of death and later the course of death can be decided.

BTV: Would you like to die?

M.T.: I would not like to die. The best thing for me with the praxis would be a long life, and when the time comes for me to die, I could seek a better state than that of this world.

BTV: Are you afraid of death?

M.T.: No, not in Taoism, Chuang Tse said: "When a person is born cries and when dies is necessary to laugh". Lie Tse said "We work while we are alive; rest while dead".

BTV: Based on Taoism, what would you like to say to society in general . . . to the Western world, about death? What would be a message hope?

M.T.: Death is a natural thing. Don't be afraid--is natural, like day and night they change. In general for people in Taoism, it is more important when alive, because each person can decide about their life. But since people normally when die do not know where they are heading, that is a dark path. The best thing is life, with the praxis. To take advantage of this life it is the most important thing and in Taoism praxis is used to serve life. For example, Tai Chi and Chi Kung, meditation, inner alchemy, everything is used for the body of each person. Life can be lived healthy, prolonged and perfected. This is very important and when it is possible to decide about your own life, it is also possible to decide about death, which is very important.

BTV: If death could have a face, how would it be?

M.T.: The face of the death in China has a myth, it goes like this: The face of death is like that of a person, with a very long face and very white; with a very long tong--it is a very ugly face. But that is a myth. Death is a type of energy, does not exists in a fixed form; when the soul dies, leaves the body, does not have a fix shape, is in a state, a state of energy. Yin energy cannot be seen as we see a person--is not the same.





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