Saturday, August 18, 2007

What is Daoism’s concept of the soul?

Another extract from my book on Daoism.

What is Daoism’s concept of the soul?

Unlike the single soul concept in many religions, Daoists do not believe that only one soul exists in every individual. In fact, we believe that an individual is made up of a committee of ten spirits. These ten spirits are divided into Yin and Yang and together they rule over different aspects of the human. The Yang components are called Hun and there are three of them. They are Shuangling, Taiguang and Youjing. Plants are said to possess only one Hun while animals are given two. Having only one Hun gives plants the minimal requirement for existence as a living thing but lacks the power of locomotion and intelligence. With two Hun(s), animals are endowed with the basic intelligence to hunt, breed and avoid danger in order to survive. It is with mankind who have the three Hun(s) and the functions of a highly developed intelligence and consciousness that makes it possible for him to rule over the rest in the ecology. The Yin counterparts on the other hand have seven of them and they are Shigou, Fushi, Queyin, Tunzei, Feidu, Chuhui, and Bichou. They are often associated with the negative aspects of human nature.

Daoists believe that a human life is conceived when the three Hun(s) are merged together. However the fetus is still not fully formed until the seven Po(s) come in and reside in the body. This process will take forty-nine days, as one Po will enter the fetus every seventh day from conception until all seven of them are consolidated in its body.

Since the universe is made up of the Yang and Yin, it is only natural that the ancients had the concept of a soul with dualistic compositions. As tradition has it, the world in its primordial state consisted of Qi, the energy essence. With the gradual concentration of this Qi, a major part of it started to take Xing (Form) and in the process was given Zhi (Substance). Via the same process, the Hun(s) and Po(s) were created with the former as the manifestation of Qi and the latter as Xing (Form) and Zhi (Substance). In the human body, the Hun(s) are said to control our ability to think and judge, giving us the power to reason, in other words the mental aspect. The Po(s) are then the ruling force behind our somatic aspects. Daoists believe that when a person dies, he or she will become a Shen (divine being) if the Hun(s) are stronger. If the Po(s) are stronger instead, he or she will become a Gui (ghost).

Death occurs when all the three Hun(s) leave our body at the same time. However, if only one or two of them were ousted from the body, the person will immediately fall into a trance-like state since the Hun(s) control our psychological abilities. Such events can happened due to a shocking accident or untimely exposure to powerful Yin energies in places the person had gone before. If the Po(s) are lost alternatively, the person will lose control of his body. Either way, rituals will have to be performed at the site where the Hun-po was believed to be lost in order to have them back and restore the person’s physical and mental health.

Alvin Chua

Written by Alvin Chua. All rights reserved. Copyright @. Not for commercial use of any kind.

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