The Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam has issued an official document suggesting that Vietnamese people following the religion refrain from burning joss paper at Buddhist temples nationwide.
A number of Vietnamese people send this kind of offerings to dead relatives in the afterlife in the belief that their spirits can live comfortably there and help them in many aspects in return.
The document is signed by Venerable Thich Thanh Nhieu, permanent vice-chairperson of the Sangha’s managing committee.
It proposes that the Sangha chapters in municipalities and provinces across Vietnam give directions to local monks and nuns heading monasteries or pagodas, especially those recognized as historical relics, regarding the organization of celebrations in a civilized, thrifty and non-ostentatious fashion in accordance with the Vietnamese and Buddhist traditions.
Categorizing joss paper burning as superstitious, the document also underlines that lectures at the above places should draw attention to the preservation of positive points in national customs, and spread the value of compassion, generosity and religious tolerance to the listeners.
On the official website of the Sangha, Venerable To Lien disapproves of the ghost money practice by affirming that the Buddha did not teach anything on that.
Conventional wisdom has it that the dead have needs similar to those they have when alive; and many people, out of great love for the deceased, purchase various paper offerings in the form of houses, cars, air-conditioners, mobile phones and U.S. banknotes in order to send them, he wrote.
“Where amongst Buddhist scriptures and Confucian doctrines can Vietnamese intellectuals find the philosophy of burning joss paper?” he asked.
The monk added that since no such findings emerge, Buddhists are recommended to abolish paper offerings.