UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Supreme Master Ching Hai World Society Christopher, Stephen Jun 9, 2018

Your browser doesn't seem to have a PDF viewer, please download the PDF to view this item.

Item Metadata

Download

Media
52387-Christopher_Stephen_Supreme_master_ching_hai_2018.pdf [ 323.88kB ]
Metadata
JSON: 52387-1.0385823.json
JSON-LD: 52387-1.0385823-ld.json
RDF/XML (Pretty): 52387-1.0385823-rdf.xml
RDF/JSON: 52387-1.0385823-rdf.json
Turtle: 52387-1.0385823-turtle.txt
N-Triples: 52387-1.0385823-rdf-ntriples.txt
Original Record: 52387-1.0385823-source.json
Full Text
52387-1.0385823-fulltext.txt
Citation
52387-1.0385823.ris

Full Text

Poll: Religious Group (v5) Published on: 09 June 2018Date Range: 1986 CE - 2018 CERegion: Transnational Cybersect, East/Southeast Asia,California (predominately among Chinese andVietnamese diasporic communities)Region tags: Asia, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Vietnam,Cybersect, Global, China, Hong Kong SpecialAdministration Region, East AsiaThe regions in East/Southeast Asia and the UnitedStates most associated with Suma Ching Hai(Chinese: Guanyin Famen; Vietnamese: Thanh Hải VôThượng Sư). Certainly there are other Ching Haifollowers scattered throughout the world.Topographic mapping does not reflect the "digitalecologies" that construct match digital forms ofcommunal belonging with new methods ofdissemination common to New ReligiousMovements (NRM).Supreme Master Ching Hai World SocietyBy Stephen Christopher, Kyoto UniversityEntry tags: New Religious Movement (NRM), Quan Yin Method, Cybersect Buddhism, Surat Shabd Yoga,Sant Mat, Hinduism, Indic Religious Traditions, Christian Traditions, Buddhist Traditions, Religious Group,"Divine Presence" Christian SnycretismAs Ching Hai initiates do not prefer to speak of their community as religious, it may be more precise todescribe Suma Ching Hai as a transnational cybersect primarily composed of diasporic East and SoutheastAsians. Suma Ching Hai is inseparable from a vast mediascape of online lectures, videos, chat groups,commercial enterprises and tightly-controlled official messaging. Sum Ching Hai is also a New ReligiousMovement that blends together aspects of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and messianic theology. Thecharisma of the Supreme Leader Ching Hai, called Thanh Hải in Vietnamese, binds the communitytogether. She is often revered by initiates as partly divine, as a perfected being who preaches the propermeditation style (Quan Yin Method) and spreads compassion and the uplift of spiritual consciousness. Bornin Vietnam, raised in the West and now based in Taiwan, Ching Hai teaches a syncretistic theology. Basedon her time in India, she incorporates Sant Mat traditions, Surat Shabd Yoga (emphasizing divine soundand light), and Radhasoami as practiced in Beas. There are many similar theological touch points: 2 1/2hours of required daily meditation; spiritual progression through stages of consciousness; abilities toexperience astral planes; and total devotion on the spiritual master as an aspect of divinity. Practitioners ofChing Hai are given initiation after watching and summarizing (in written essays) 90 lectures of Ching Hai(available online) and practicing vegetarianism for at least 3 months. They are initiated by either Ching Haiherself or, more likely, by about twenty disciples who are authorized to perform initiations. Children ofinitiates are given "half initiation" at 6 and "full initiation" at 12 based on their spiritual advancement.Practice of Ching Hai depends on region: in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam especially) andChina, governments have branded Ching Hai as an "evil cult" and news stories abound about confiscationsof illegal religious material or cult-like forms of psychological manipulation of initiates. In Vietnam, forexample, Thanh Hải followers in Hanoi do so surreptitiously, with fear of government reprisal. Theirmeditation center is secret. Conversely, Thanh Hải followers in Ho Chi Minh City are building an officialmeditation center and do not live under the same shroud of fearful secrecy. Besides official adherents,there are many people who practice Quan Yin Method privately and consume online material related toChing Hai without identifying explicitly with a community or even community of faith. The globalcommunity of Ching Hai followers could be briefly summarized as bounded together by a range oftheological beliefs, meditation practices and forms of digital consumption. Significant communities exist inTaiwan (called Qinghai Wushang Shijie Hui), where the main headquarters were established in 1986. OfVietnamese origin, several thousand are practitioners and refer to Ching Hai affectionately as Chi Hai("eldest sister" in Vietnamese). Other concentrated populations of practitioners are in mainland China(although banned officially), South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan and California. Based on fivenormative precepts -- which includes not taking life and eating a vegan diet -- non-initiates of a veganpersuasion may discover this NRM by visiting one of 160 or so Loving Hut restaurants -- from Prague toHanoi to San Jose -- where they will be exposed to Ching Hai's spiritually-infused artwork on the walls andher teachings beaming through 24 hour satellite TV. A cursory glance through online and printed mediahighlights the importance of veganism and these restaurants in shaping the public perception of ChingHai (which is sometimes branded a "Vegan Cult" in Vice, for example).Status of Participants:✓ Elite ✓ Religious Specialists ✓ Non-elite (common people, general populace)SourcesPrint sources for understanding this subject:Notes: For a range of print-medium journalism on Suma Ching Hai, see: Agence France Presse (AFP). 9Source 1: Thornton, Patricia M. 2008 "Manufacturing Dissent in Transnational China: Boomerang,Backfire, or Spectacle?" in Popular Protest in China, edited by Kevin J. O’Brien. Boston: Harvard UniversityPress (pp. 179 - 204).—Source 2: Irons, Edward A. 2018. "The List: The Evolution of China’s List of Illegal and Evil Cults." CESNUR2(1):33-57.—Source 3: Suma Ching Hai. The Key of Immediate Enlightenment(http://www.shabkar.org/download/pdf/The_Key_of_Immediate_Enlightenment.pdf).—DOI: URL: https://religiondatabase.org/browse/570This work is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution 4.0 International license.Please see our Terms of Use here:https://religiondatabase.org/about/creditsPage 1 of 19© 2019 Database of Religious History.The University of British Columbia.For any questions contactproject.manager@religiondatabase.orgSeptember 2000. "China Sentences Two Followers of Taiwanese Sect to Three Years Imprisonment."(FBIS-CHI-2000-0909 9 Sept. 2000/WNC) Chua-Eoan, Howard. 1997. “The Buddhist Martha.” Time.January 20: 47. Claiborne, William. 1996. “Self-Styled Zen Master Has Attained Financial Nirvana.” TheRecord. December 20: A40. Goldberg, Carey. 1996. “Cult-like Group Linked to Refused Clinton Donations.”The Commercial Appeal. December 22: 11A. Nissenbaum, Dion. 1996. “Sect Master a No-show, RumorsHad Ching Hai in Lake Elsinore.” The Press-Enterprise. December 31: B01. Washington Post. 1997.“Unusual Cast of Asian Donors Emerges in DNC Funding Controversy.” The Washington Post. January 27:A8. _____. 4 May 2000. "PRC Security Targets Taiwan-Based Buddhist Group." Chinghai.com. n.d."Precepts." _____. n.d. " Quanyin." Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, Hong Kong. 9September 2000. "Human Rights Sources Say China Begins Suppression of Buddhist Sect." (BBCSummary 12 Sept. 2000/NEXIS)Notes: For a range of theorization about NRMs and the prominence of female leadership and critiques ofpatriarchy/ideologies of power, see the above citations.Online sources for understanding this subject:Notes: 1. http://www.lovinghut.com/images/LovingHutVeganChainStores.pdf (list of Loving Hutrestaurants worldwide). 2. Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. 2001. China: Meditation practicecalled "Kuan Yin Famen" (Guanyin Famen, Guanyin Method, Quanyin Famen); treatment ofpractitioners, particularly in Shandong. 3. World Religions & Spirituality Project (WRSP). VirginiaCommonwealth University. Entry by Helen Merianos (https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/08/suma-ching-hai/).Relevant online primary textual corpora (original languages and/or translations):Notes: 1. https://www.facebook.com/SMCHNewsMagazine/ (The official news magazine). 2.http://thechinghaicult.blogspot.com/ (Written by a former Ching Hai follower). 3.https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=8&ved=0ahUKEwjS_dqo0ILbAhXHxrwKHVd9D8AQFghRMAc&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.crisis2peace.org%2Fdownload%2Fdownload_pdf.php%3Ffile%3DFrom%2520Crisis%2520to%2520Peace%2520Organic%2520vegan%2520way%2520is%2520the%2520answer%2520agosto%252020151105%2520(low).pdf&usg=AOvVaw0TYsryIFVHP_lzxbmBZgfr(PDF copy of Ching Hai's "From Crisis to Peace: The Organic Vegan Way is the Answer")General VariablesMembership/Group InteractionsAre other religious groups in cultural contact with target religion:Source 1: Female Leaders in New Religious Movements. 2017. Edited by Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen andChristian Giudice. Sweden: Palgrave.—Source 2: The Oxford Handbook of New Religious Movements, Volume 2. 2008. Edited by James R.Lewis, Inga Bårdsen Tøllefsen. Oxford: Oxford University Press.—Source 3: A Historical Introduction to the Study of New Religious Movements. 2018. W. Michael Ashcraft.London: Routledge.—Source 1 URL: http://suprememastertv.com/en1/—Source 1 Description: Primary dissemination of Ching Hai material -- 24/7 broadcasting.—Source 2 URL: http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/402a3c7c4.pdf—Source 2 Description: Vietnam Country Report from 2003 by the Immigration and NationalityDirectorate Home Office (in the UK). Describes human right violations including against Ching Haifollowers in Vietnam.—Source 3 URL: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/kwkaz9/the-restaurant-chain-owned-by-a-cult—Source 3 Description: "Vice" article about the opening of a Loving Hut (Ching Hai-associated Veganresturant) in California and describes the so-called "vegan cult".—Source 1 URL: http://www.edenrules.com/—Source 1 Description: Primary database for Ching Hai audio/video teachings (in English and Vietnamese)categorized by subject, date, location.—Source 2 URL: http://www.godsdirectcontact.org/—Source 2 Description: Primary "official" website of Ching Hai advertising her charitable work, commercialenterprises (jewelry, books of poetry/photography, fashion), teachings and world tour locations (amongother things such as her daily maxims).—Source 3 URL: https://lovinghut.us/—Source 3 Description: List of Loving Hut restaurants (associated with Ching Hai and her TV channel) inthe USA and globally.—Yes—Is the cultural contact competitive:Notes: Ching Hai theology is intrinsically pluralistic and draws on at least Buddhism, Hinduism(surat-shabd yoga) and Catholicism (and other messianic traditions). However, a quick surveyof online literature demonstrates that interlocking worldviews -- especially Christianity andCommunist-inspired atheism -- are critical of the Ching Chai. For example,https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiwk5ffiYPbAhWCLpQKHXTBBJkQFghPMAM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.christianfaith.com%2Flookout%2Fthe-supreme-master-ching-hai-religious-showbiz-guru-of-glitz&usg=AOvVaw16JoAzWRUSX0toBlPmPKND.Yes—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 2 of 19Does the religious group have a general process/system for assigning religious affiliation:Notes: The general process for assigning affiliation begins with formal initiation. For a short discussionof the initiation, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kReObCngY68. Ching Hai teaches that formalaffiliation begins with the erasure of most negative karma, a boon bestowed by her to initiates. Asdescribed in her book "The Key of Immediate Enlightenment" -- "The initiation into the Quan YinMethod is not an esoteric ritual or a ceremony for entering a new religion. During the initiation, specificinstruction in meditation on the inner Light and inner Sound is given, and Master Ching Hai providesthe 'Spiritual Transmission'. This first taste of Divine Presence is given in silence. Master Ching Hai neednot be physically present in order to open this 'door' for you. The Transmission is an essential part of theMethod. The technique themselves will bring little benefit without the Grace of the Master." In ChingHai's Europe International 3-Day Retreat in Hamburg, Germany (1995), she describes how believersmust never doubt the authenticity of the Master, but should instead question their level of devotion.Believers should never ask for blessings for anyone but the Master, otherwise they will lower their levelof consciousness. The general process of affiliation is bolstered by such warnings about having implicitand total faith in the Master and in her teachings, which are described as the highest level ofconsciousness.Is the cultural contact accommodating/pluralistic:Notes: Adherents describe how Ching Hai is a community of practitioners of the QuanyinMethod and not a religion per se. This non-religious religion tag practically translates intoeveryday accommodations of other faiths. It is common for a Ching Hai follower (in Vietnam,for example) to perform external Buddhist rituals in a pagoda and practice internal Quanyinmeditation simultaneously. However, this kind of pluralism is sometimes rejected by ChingHai, who encourages followers to follow "wholeheartedly" their first religion (and if it is notsatisfying, to leave it totally and embrace Ching Hai with the same wholeheartedness. See:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMxBeDwDQzA (minute 23 onward).Yes—Is the cultural contact neutral:Notes: It depends on the region and local sensibilities. In Southeast Asia, Ching Haipractitioners are sometimes arrested and literature confiscated. In Cambodia, see:https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/police-confiscate-illegal-religious-texts-105425/. InVietnam, see:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276220908_New_Religious_Movements_in_Vietnamese_Media_Discourse_since_1986_A_Critical_Approach).Despite these conflictual engagements with the media and state, at the theological levelChing Hai often contacts other religious worldviews with value neutrality.Yes—Is there violent conflict (within sample region):Notes: Occasionally. For example, the Vietnamese government officially banned Ching Hai in2004 (based on allegations of illegal dissemination of religious material). The Vietnamesemedia have skewered the NRM as "the most dangerous, evil cults’ ever known to Vietnameseauthorities and the public." In China, Ching Hai is officially listed as a heterodox "evil cult" (xiejiao) and banned by the central government since 1995. These discursive forms of violence areoccasionally met with violent detention and suppression (see: Information Centre for HumanRights and Democracy in Hong Kong. http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be1b34.html).Yes—Is there violent conflict (with groups outside the sample region):Notes: The debate about the legitimacy of Ching Hai largely plays out through cyber forumsfrom YouTube vidoes to cult warning websites. Christian missionary groups are particularlyinterested in debunking Ching Hai even though they may have no direct contact with theorganization. These online forums often devolve into misunderstanding and exaggeration andChing Hai adherents often express hurt and disappointment when they discover suchmaterial. Conversely, some adherents have disaffiliated after encountering anti-Ching Haimaterial.Yes—Yes—Assigned at birth (membership is default for this society):No—Assigned by personal choice:Notes: The initiation ritual and transmission are based on the desire of the initiate to raise hisor her level of consciousness.Yes—Assigned by class:Notes: Adherents come from many classes and social segments.No—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 3 of 19Does the religious group actively proselytize and recruit new members:Notes: Not really. Of course Ching Hai herself uses 24 hour satellite TV programming to reach out topotential new recruits. It is more often the case the among the Five Precepts the edict of veganism ismost actively promoted as lifestyle worth spreading among non-believers. For example, see:https://news.godsdirectcontact.net/why-a-vegan-diet-is-the-best-solution-for-halting-biodiversitly-loss/.Does the religion have official political supportNotes: Not only does Ching Hai not have official political support, it is actively suppressed in Vietnam,Cambodia, and mainland China.Is there a conception of apostasy in the religious group:Notes: Ching Hai often chides her followers to disaffiliate if they ask too many questions about theirlack of progress in meditation or about her spiritual authenticity. Moreover, since affiliation is throughformal initiation only and then based on personal adherence to the Five Precepts and Quan YinMeditation technique, there is not a strong sense of communal belonging and therefore apostasy andcommunal shaming/distancing is rare.Size and StructureNumber of adherents of religious group within sample region (estimated population,numerical):Notes: Estimates vary. According to https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/08/suma-ching-hai/, Ching Has has upto 300,000 followers in Taiwan and 2,000 in California. Certainly there are several thousand more inSoutheast Asia. According to the Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Hong Kong,Ching Hai has about 500,000 followers in 20 provinces (municipalities) in mainland China.Number of adherents of religious group within sample region (% of sample regionpopulation, numerical):Nature of religious group [please select one]:Assigned at a specific age:No—Assigned by gender:Notes: Although certainly Ching Hai especially appeals to women. One adherent describedhow she really likes that the leader is a woman. If she was a man, people would be moresuspicious of him and connect him to politics. "Because she’s a woman, she has more freedom.Jesus was killed because he was a man who threatened the social order. [Vietnamese] societydoesn’t care so much about women – it is more patriarchal – and this gives protection to ChingHai because she is overlooked and viewed as insignificant." For a more detailed discussion ofthe critique of patriarchy and appeal to female devotees by NRMs, see Female Leaders in NewReligious Movements (edited byInga Bårdsen Tøllefsen and Christian Giudice).No—Assigned by participation in a particular ritual:Notes: As described in her book "The Key of Immediate Enlightenment" -- "The initiation intothe Quan Yin Method is not an esoteric ritual or a ceremony for entering a new religion. Duringthe initiation, specific instruction in meditation on the inner Light and inner Sound is given,and Master Ching Hai provides the 'Spiritual Transmission'. This first taste of Divine Presence isgiven in silence. Master Ching Hai need not be physically present in order to open this 'door' foryou. The Transmission is an essential part of the Method. The technique themselves will bringlittle benefit without the Grace of the Master."Yes—Assigned by some other factor:Notes: However, they must follow the 5 Precepts: 1. Refrain from taking the life of sentientbeings; 2. Refrain from speaking what is not true; 3. Refrain from taking what is not offered; 4.Refrain from sexual misconduct; 5. Refrain from the use of intoxicants.Yes [specify]: After initiation, Ching Hai stresses that adherents do not need to be physicallyconnected with her, do not need to meet with her and can even distance themselves from heronline teachings.—No—No—No—Estimated population, numeric: 600000—Estimated population, percentage of sample region: 1—Small religious group (one of many small religious groups in sample region)—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 4 of 19Notes: Ching Hai is not without precedent as a NRM in Southeast and East Asia. It can be bestdescribed as a transnational cybersect theologically inspired primarily by Hinduism and Buddhismand placed within a messianic framework which resonates with Christianity.Are there recognized leaders in the religious group:ScriptureDoes the religious group have scriptures:Scripture is a generic term used to designate revered texts that are considered particularly authoritativeand sacred relative to other texts. Strictly speaking, it refers to written texts, but there are also “oralscriptures” (e.g. the Vedas of India).Yes—Is there a hierarchy among these leaders:Notes: Ching Hai is alone as a Spiritual Master. However, Ching Hai World Society is thecorporate entity behind the Quan Yin Method and is affiliated with several other media outlets(World Peace; Oceans of Love Entertainment; Supreme Master Television, among others). TheLoving Hut vegan restaurants may also sell her merchandise. These commercial enterprisesmixed into the religious messaging require a re-conceptualization of how social hierarchy andleadership is measured in NRMs.No—Are leaders believed to possess supernatural powers or qualities:Yes—Powers are acquired by individual deeds carried out in past lives:Notes: Supreme Master Ching Hai often describes her many rebirths and theacquisition of spiritual consciousness through reincarnation.Yes—Are religious leaders chosen:Notes: Ching Hai describes how anyone can become a Supreme Master based on the UniversalPlan and "karmic pattern of the world at a specific time". (see:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vKpyfC9Txc).No—Are leaders considered fallible:Notes: Suma Ching Hai is infallbile and at the time of giving initiation can perform KarmicAnnulation (destruction of most negative karma) and Karmic Manipulation (stretching outnegative karma to make it tolerable over time). As the Supreme Master, she is consideredinfallible and partly divine.No—Are close followers or disciples of a religious leader required to obediently andunquestionably accept the leader's pronouncements on all matters:Notes: Ching Hai stresses the scientific and supernatural basis for the truthfulness of hermethod and teachings. She often chides followers who express doubt.Yes—Yes—Are they written:Notes: Scripture is famously elusive to define. Instead of subjective a priori definitions ofscripture that hinge on sacred texts revealed by divinity, in the case of Ching Hai it may bemore profitable to describe scripture more generally as what it does than what it says or how itwas created. Such an approach is ex post facto and draws more closely to phenomenologicaland anthropological approaches to the study of the sacred. From this vantage, Ching Haiscripture (in various aesthetic, textual and virtual mediums) provides adherents with a moralsystem (the Five Precepts and countless other social proscriptions enumerated during lecturesand transcribed), with a sense of purpose and meaning leading to personal fulfillment, with asense of bounded community, and with a Geertzian cultural system. With this sense ofscripture in mind, the below texts qualify: 1.http://www.shabkar.org/download/pdf/The_Key_of_Immediate_Enlightenment.pdf 2. MasterTells Stories: Available in English, Au Lac, Korean and Thai. 3. Silent Tears: a book of poemswritten by Master. 4. Photo Albums: collections of photographs depicting many aspects ofMaster's life. Volumes 1-13, with notations in English and Chinese. 5. The Wu Tzu Poems: a bookof poems written by Master. Available in Au Lacese; and Chinese. Many texts begin with:"Contents and original words in this book are permeated withgrace and blessings of SupremeYes—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 5 of 19Architecture, GeographyIs monumental religious architecture present:Are there different types of religious monumental architecture:Are there specific sites dedicated to sacred practice or considered sacred:Notes: However, the Loving Hut restaurants sometimes function as sacred sites and places ofmeditation. As described above, they are replete with sacred symbols (usually paintings and statuesmanufactured by Ching Hai and purportedly made by her) which transmit spiritual teachings andpower.Are pilgrimages present:BeliefsBurial and AfterlifeMaster Ching Hai."Are they oral:Notes: For the most comprehensive database of audio/video lectures of Ching Hai, see:http://www.edenrules.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=59Yes—Is there a story associated with the origin of scripture:Notes: The scriptures (oral and textual) are so closely bound up with the digital disseminationof religious material as a cybersect that most adherents understand the commingling ofcommerce and theology that is both its origin and perpetuation.No—Are the scriptures alterable:Notes: However, multiple and changing additions are available of "sacred texts" and oralscriptures and theological precepts have changed over time. Ching Hai is particularly unclearabout the role of wealth/poverty in attaining spiritual consciousness. She sometimes affirms aprosperity doctrine and other times promotes the creativity, spirituality and even "fun" ofpoverty. Critics latch onto this scriptural ambiguity as a dissembling technique to raisedonations.No—Are there formal institutions (i.e. institutions that are authorized by the religiouscommunity or political leaders) for interpreting the scriptures:Notes: Ching Hai organizes transnational tours during which she propounds on the scripture.Many online videos and published materials are available which show employees of SumaChing Hai International Association asking for points of theological clarification to Ching Hai.Ching Hai alone offers interpretation.No—Is there a select group of people trained in transmitting the scriptures:Notes: While Suma Ching Hai International Association formally disseminates the scripture,what is striking is how decentralized scriptural transmission is through various digital media.There are dozens of private websites, social media websites and YouTube channels dedicatedto promoting Ching Hai and offering personal testimonials.No—Is there a codified canon of scriptures:Notes: The totality of videos, lectures, art books, poetry books, texts written by Ching Hai (orcomposed of her transcribed speeches) and even literature/posters available at Loving Hutrestaurants all constitute a very loose and decentralized canon that change based on countryand the personal temperament of the believer.No—No—No—No—No—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 6 of 19Is a spirit-body distinction present:Answer “no” only if personhood (or consciousness) is extinguished with death of the physical body.Answering yes does not necessarily imply the existence of Cartesian mind/body dualism, merely thatsome element of personhood (or consciousness) survives the death of the body.Belief in afterlife:Reincarnation in this world:Yes—Spirit-mind is conceived of as having qualitatively different powers or properties thanother body parts:Notes: The physical body is described as essential for spiritual practice. "The longer you stay init, the better for you -- the longer you can practice and your level will be higher based on thehealth of your physical body." Being able to chose a human birth demonstrates the merit ofyour karma from past lives. So while the spirit/body dichotomy is strong, Ching Hai does notdenounce the body. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKLRkWiJRSsYes—Spirit-mind is conceived of as non-material, ontologically distinct from body:Notes: According to Ching Hai, we are all "mini gods" because we are part of the whole of God.The divinity in is is ontologically distinct from the body although it is helped by healthymaterial human bodies. However, we have forgotten our share of divinity as we makecompromises to exist in this world and get trapped in the material/embodied self. See:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUP2EgjOwaYYes—Other spirit-body relationship:No—Yes—Is the spatial location of the afterlife specified or described by the religious group:Yes—Afterlife in specified realm of space beyond this world:Notes: Ching Hai teaches a version of afterlife similar to Tibetan Buddhism. Forexample, she encourages adherents to follow the harsh Buddha Light as described inthe Bardol Thodol and not get stuck in astral existence. See:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlZEN_SUoqY. Ching Hai offers teachings on how toprepare for the afterlife. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BNzE0VGLTo.Yes—Afterlife in vaguely defined “above” space:Notes: Buddhaland and The Kingdom of God (Buddhist and Christian) are usedinterchangeably.Yes—Afterlife in vaguely defined “below” space:Yes—Afterlife in vaguely defined horizontal space:No—Afterlife located in "other" space:No—Yes—In a human form:Notes: Described as a privileged form for reaching supreme mastery.Yes—In animal/plant form:Yes—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 7 of 19Are there special treatments for adherents' corpses:Notes: Although Ching Hai offers several discussion about cremation during moral teachings, there isno formal theology concerning the treatment of corpses.Are co-sacrifices present in tomb/burial:Are grave goods present:Notes: Not as theologically required, but Asian practitioners coming from a Buddhist backgroundinfluenced by Chinese popular practices regarding ancestor worship may offer special kinds of gravegoods.Are formal burials present:Supernatural BeingsAre supernatural beings present:In form of an inanimate object(s):No—In non-individual form (i.e. some form of corporate rebirth, tribe, lineage. etc.):No—Reincarnation linked to notion of life-transcending causality (e.g. karma):Notes: See: http://godsdirectcontact.eu/eng/teachings/t-karma.htm. It is worth noting thatChing Hai often quotes the Bible ("As you sow, so shall you reap") as an equivalent idea ofkarmic consequence within Christianity.Yes—Other form of reincarnation in this world:No—No—No—No—No—Yes—A supreme high god is present:Notes: Ching Hai often preaches God Quality (GQ) which is variable within us all. She likenshumans to light bulbs of different wattage and the electricity the GQ. Supreme Masters arethose individuals of the highest GQ.Yes—The supreme high god is anthropomorphic:Notes: Ching Hai theology is complicated in this regard. Ching Hai is considered a"Supreme Living Master" who can give "direct contact with God". She is also consideredpartly divine. She often describes the highest emanations of God as an essence, awattage, and she is currently the sole Supreme Master who has reincarnated inhuman form to spread compassing and teaching like a Buddhist Bodhisattva.Yes—The supreme high god is a sky deity:Notes: Emphasis is on light and sound as manifestation of divinity. Supreme Masterdoes not emphasize geographic locality of the high god.No—The supreme high god is chthonic (of the underworld):No—The supreme high god is fused with the monarch (king=high god):No—The monarch is seen as a manifestation or emanation of the high god:Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 8 of 19No—The supreme high god is a kin relation to elites:No—The supreme high god has another type of loyalty-connection to elites:No—The supreme high god is unquestionably good:Notes: Supreme Master emphasizes the goodness of faith similar to prosperity gospelin the Evangelical tradition. For example, she often praises the merit and fortune of herfollowers for having discovered her teachings. She emphasizes that God is spoilingthem if only they accept the gifts from God.Yes—Other feature(s) of supreme high god:Yes [specify]: Emphasis on light and sound and sameness with self-actualized believer.—The supreme high god has knowledge of this world:Yes—The supreme god's knowledge is restricted to particular domain ofhuman affairs:No—The supreme high god's knowledge is restricted to (a) specific area(s)within the sample region:No—The supreme high god's knowledge is unrestricted within the sampleregion:No—The supreme high god's knowledge is unrestricted outside of sampleregion:Yes—The supreme high god can see you everywhere normally visible (inpublic):Yes—The supreme high god can see you everywhere (in the dark, at home):Yes—The supreme high god can see inside heart/mind (hidden motives):Yes—The supreme high god knows your basic character (personal essence):Yes—The supreme high god knows what will happen to you, what you will do(future sight):Yes—The supreme high god has other knowledge of this world:Yes [specify]: Supreme Master emphasizes the dual sameness of the believerand high god -- so that knowledge of self is knowledge of God, and vice-versa.For example: Do not forget that you have your own goodness inside you. Donot forget that you have God dwelling within your body. Do not forget that youhave Buddha within your heart—The supreme high god has deliberate causal efficacy in the world:Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 9 of 19Supernatural MonitoringIs supernatural monitoring present:This refers to surveillance by supernatural beings of humans’ behaviour and/or thought particularly as itrelates to social norms or potential norm violations.Notes: This is theologically tricky: in some teachings, the self and God fuse throughinner knowledge. In other teachings, karmic laws are given priority (creating theexpected karmic causality found in Hinduism and Buddhism).Field doesn't know—The supreme high god has indirect causal efficacy in the world:Notes: This depends on the interpretation of specific followers.Field doesn't know—The supreme high god exhibits positive emotion:Yes—The supreme high god exhibits negative emotion:No—The supreme high god possesses hunger:No—Is it permissible to worship supernatural beings other than the high god:Notes: Emphasis is on how following Supreme Master is not a religious path and oneshould not renounce another faith tradition. Instead, the spirituality of Supreme Masteris constructed as hybrid and syncretistic, and much theological material directly citesscripture from other religions.Yes—The supreme high god possesses/exhibits some other feature:Yes [specify]: Light and south are given prominence.—The supreme high god communicates with the living:Notes: This depends on if you view the high god as an aspect of the realized self or as adiscrete entity.Field doesn't know—Previously human spirits are present:No—Yes—There is supernatural monitoring of prosocial norm adherence in particular:Prosocial norms are norms that enhance cooperation among members of the group, includingobviously “moral” or “ethical” norms, but also extending to norms concerning honouring contractsand oaths, providing hospitality, coming to mutual aid in emergencies, etc.Notes: A variety of ethical claims and prosocial norms around goodness, animal rights andsuffering bind the community. The restaurants function as both community meeting placesand reminders of the moral normative claims around veganism.Yes—Supernatural beings care about taboos:No—Supernatural beings care about murder of coreligionists:Yes—Supernatural beings care about murder of members of other religions:Yes—Supernatural beings care about murder of members of other polities:Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 10 of 19Yes—Supernatural beings care about sex:Yes—Adultery:Yes—Incest:Yes—Other sexual practices:Yes [specify]: Under the Five Guidelines: Refrain from Sexual Misconduct.—Supernatural beings care about lying:Yes—Supernatural beings care about honouring oaths:Yes—Supernatural beings care about laziness:Yes—Supernatural beings care about sorcery:Field doesn't know—Supernatural beings care about non-lethal fighting:Yes—Supernatural beings care about shirking risk:Field doesn't know—Supernatural beings care about disrespecting elders:Yes—Supernatural beings care about gossiping:Yes—Supernatural beings care about property crimes:Field doesn't know—Supernatural beings care about proper ritual observance:Yes—Supernatural beings care about performance of rituals:Yes—Supernatural beings care about conversion of non-religionists:No—Supernatural beings care about economic fairness:Yes—Supernatural beings care about personal hygiene:Yes—Supernatural beings care about other:No—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 11 of 19Do supernatural beings mete out punishment:Do supernatural beings bestow rewards:No—Yes—Is the cause/purpose of supernatural rewards known:Yes—Done only by high god:Yes—Done by many supernatural beings:Yes—Done through impersonal cause-effect principle:Yes—Done to enforce religious ritual-devotional adherence:No—Done to enforce group norms:No—Done to inhibit selfishness:No—Done randomly:No—Supernatural rewards are bestowed out in the afterlife:Notes: Although many references are made to heaven, Supreme Master most oftenemphasizes the imperative to create heaven on earth within this temporality. She oftendescribes heaven as the Buddha Land of Amitabha and access is not through death butthrough initiation and raising consciousness while alive.Field doesn't know—Supernatural rewards are bestowed out in this lifetime:Yes—Supernatural rewards in this life are highly emphasized by the religious group:Yes—Reward in this life consists of good luck:Yes—Reward in this life consists of political success or power:Yes—Reward in this life consists of success in battle:Field doesn't know—Reward in this life consists of peace or social stability:Yes—Reward in this life consists of healthy crops or good weather:Field doesn't know—Reward in this life consists of success on journeys:Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 12 of 19Messianism/EschatologyAre messianic beliefs present:Field doesn't know—Reward in this life consists of mild sensory pleasure:Yes—Reward in this life consists of extreme sensory pleasure:Yes—Reward in this life consists of enhanced health:Yes—Reward in this life consists of enhanced reproductive success:Field doesn't know—Reward in this life consists of fortune visited on descendants:Yes—Other [specify]Field doesn't know—Yes—Is the messiah's whereabouts or time of coming known?Yes—Alive, identified:Notes: Ching Hai identifies her current incarnation within the succession of messianicfigures including Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad.Yes—Coming in this lifetime:No—Coming on specified date:No—Coming in unspecified time in near future:No—Coming in unspecified time in distant future:No—Coming has already passed:No—One in a line of many past and future messiahs:Yes—Is the messiah's purpose known:Yes—Messiah is a political figure who restores political rule:No—Messiah is a priestly figure who restores religious traditions:Yes—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 13 of 19Norms and Moral RealismAre general social norms prescribed by the religious group:Is there a conventional vs. moral distinction in the religious group:PracticesMembership Costs and PracticesDoes membership in this religious group require celibacy (full sexual abstinence):Notes: Ching Hai does not strictly require celibacy. Her attitude about sexuality can be nicelysummarized here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2ddC1FMXisDoes membership in this religious group require constraints on sexual activity (partial sexualabstinence):Notes: Ching Hai generally preaches monogamy to store up energy and focus for meditation. See:http://sos-klimawandel.info/eng/meditation/refrain-4.htmDoes membership in this religious group require castration:Does membership in this religious group require fasting:Notes: Suma Ching Hai said in a teaching about juice fasting: “It is not just a one week fast, it alsoawakens our inner courage. At least in a short period of time after the fast, you would have thecourage that you can do anything and you can fast for an even longer time, let alone just change to avegetarian or vegan diet. Therefore, after one or two weeks of fasting, you would feel you areinvincible.”Does membership in this religious group require forgone food opportunities (taboos ondesired foods):Notes: Veganism is at the heart of the normative ethics of Ching Hai. She describes the all-loving, all-constructive force of veganism which can melt away negative energy. The first of the Five Precepts isto "refrain from taking the life of sentient beings" (which necessarily entails veganism). For an exampleof Ching Hai's cooking classes, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJUA2ZPqlhA; For an example ofethical teachings about veganism, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wW3SjPubLw.Does membership in this religious group require permanent scarring or painful bodilyalterations:Does membership in this religious group require painful physical positions or transitorypainful wounds:Notes: To teach the proper mode of meditation -- the Quan Yin Method -- increasecompassion and aid practitioners in raising their God Quality.Yes—Field doesn't know—No—Yes—Monogamy (males):Yes—Monogamy (females):Yes—Other sexual constraints (males):Yes—Other sexual constraints (females):Yes—No—Yes—Yes—No—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 14 of 19Does membership in this religious group require sacrifice of adults:"Adults" here referring to an emic or indigenous category; if that category is different from the popularWestern definition of a human who is 18-years-old or older and who is legally responsible for his/heractions, then please specify that difference in the Comments/Sources: box below.Does membership in this religious group require sacrifice of children:"Children" here referring to an emic or indigenous category; if that category is different from the popularWestern definition, please specify that different in the Comments/Sources: box below.Does membership in this religious group require self-sacrifice (suicide):Does membership in this religious group require sacrifice of property/valuable items:Notes: However, many media outlets and scholars of cult followings warn about the coercivetechniques of extracting wealth from followers.Does membership in this religious group require sacrifice of time (e.g., attendance atmeetings or services, regular prayer, etc.):Notes: Attendance at Ching Hai teachings and workshops, for example. Much time is spent consumingdigital archives of Ching Hai's broadcasting. But there are not formal, regularized services.Does membership in this religious group require physical risk taking:Notes: In the sense that Ching Hai is banned in several countries, restricted in others. Followers oftendescribe feeling attacked (most directly through online venues such as anti-Ching Hai chat boards andwebsites). The media (Western and otherwise) is littered with quick exposes attacking the "vegan cult".This creates some sense of risk (and then there is the real risk of arrest or harassment in Southeast Asiaand China).Does membership in this religious group require accepting ethical precepts:Notes: The Five Precepts.Does membership in this religious group require marginalization by out-group members:Notes: Not required, but often happening.Does membership in this religious group require participation in small-scale rituals (private,household):Notes: Although membership in the community is focused on small-scale rituals (such as householdmeditation, visits to Loving Hut, trips to Ching Hai retreats and so on).Does membership in this religious group require participation in large-scale rituals:I.e. involving two or more households; includes large-scale “ceremonies” and “festivals.”Notes: Large-scale rituals could be construed as trips to retreats based on Ching Hai's internationaltour.Are extra-ritual in-group markers present:E.g. special changes to appearance such as circumcision, tattoos, scarification, etc.Notes: Although some members wear Ching Hai's jewelry as objects of religious devotion imbued withher power and also markers of identity in a social sense.Does the group employ fictive kinship terminology:No—No—No—No—No—Yes—Yes—Yes—No—No—No—No—Yes—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 15 of 19Society and InstitutionsLevels of Social ComplexityThe society to which the religious group belongs is best characterized as (please chooseone):Notes: A transnational Buddhist/surat-shabd/messianic cybersectWelfareDoes the religious group in question provide institutionalized famine relief:Notes: https://news.godsdirectcontact.net/lia-reports/assisting-red-cross-alleviate-hunger-famine-170594/Is famine relief available to the group's adherents through an institution(s) other than thereligious group in question:Notes: Various forms of relief may be supplied by state governments based on the location of ChingHai practitioners.Does the religious group in question provide institutionalized poverty relief:Notes: Ching Hai teaches sharing wealth as central to her teaching. See:http://www.godsdirectcontact.org.tw/eng/news/155/qa3.htm. For a list of self-reported charitabledonations through the "Love in Action" assistance program, see: https://news.godsdirectcontact.net/lia-reports/expenditures-supreme-master-ching-hai-international-association-charitable-relief-activities-formosa-november-2014-june-2015/.Is poverty relief available to the group's adherents through an institution(s) other than thereligious group in question:Notes: State governments and other NGOs.Does the religious group in question provide institutionalized care for the elderly and infirm:Notes: As reported through Love In Action: "Before Tết Quý Tỵ (New Year of the Snake) in 2013,Supreme Master Ching Hai sent a gift of US$20,000 and asked our Association members to kindly usethe sum to help the elderly individuals living alone or in hardship." It goes on to describe (with pictures)the charitable donations to elderly citizens.Is institutionalized care for the elderly and infirm available to the group's adherents throughan institution(s) other than the religious group in question:Notes: Various state governments and NGOs.EducationDoes the religious group provide formal education to its adherents:Notes: The policy is that children must wait until 18 to become initiates. An exception, however, ismade for children of parents who are already initiates. For those children, they are taught "half-initiation" at as you as six years old, and can become full initiates at 12 years old.Fictive kinship terminology universal:No—Fictive kinship terminology widespread:Notes: "Brothers" and "Sisters" fictive kinship terms are frequently used.Yes—Fictive kinship terminology employed but uncommon:Yes—Other [specify in comments]—Yes—Yes—Yes—Yes—Yes—Yes—No—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 16 of 19Is formal education available to the group’s adherents through an institution(s) other thanthe religious group:BureaucracyDo the group’s adherent’s interact with a formal bureaucracy within their group:Notes: This is highly variable based on individual adherent. Some do not interact with the bureaucracyafter initiation. Their interaction is limited to contacting the "contact person" for the area in which theylive. See website for list here: http://www.godsdirectcontact.org.tw/eng/cp/index.htm. Potential initiatesare instructed to summarize 90 lectures by Suma Ching Hai, be vegan for at least 3 months, and thenwait for a formal initiation ceremony. They are instructed in proper Quan Yin meditation method, afterwhich time they may maintain close ties to the bureaucracy (through local centers and headquarters)or move into a more liminal engagement with official bureaucratic organization (limited more to theconsumption of Supreme Master TV and related official websites).Do the group’s adherents interact with other institutional bureaucracies:Notes: State and local bureaucracies.Public WorksDoes the religious group in question provide public food storage:Is public food storage provided to the group’s adherents by an institution(s) other than thereligious group in question:Does the religious group in question provide water management (irrigation, flood control):Is water management provided to the group’s adherents by an institution(s) other than thereligious group in question:Does the religious group in question provide transportation infrastructure:Is transportation infrastructure provided for the group’s adherents by an institution(s) otherthan the religious group in question:Notes: The charitable wing of Ching Hai provides various forms of relief to refugees, the poor, infirmand elderly. Some critics of Ching Hai claim that there is not an equitable redistribution of donations.TaxationDoes the religious group in question levy taxes or tithes:Notes: In San Jose, for example, a collection box is passed around at the Center and people giveanonymously. There is not a formal set amount one should donate. In addition to tithing, manyadherents are eager to buy Ching Hai-related products (jewelry, paintings, statues, photo books,fashion and so on) to feel connected to her.Are taxes levied on the group’s adherents by an institution(s) other than the religious group inquestion:Notes: State and local taxes and whatever tithes are required from adherents based on their otherreligious affiliations.Yes—Is extra-religious education open to both males and females:Yes—Yes—Yes—No—No—No—Yes—No—Yes—Yes—Yes—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 17 of 19EnforcementDoes the religious group in question provide an institutionalized police force:Do the group’s adherents interact with an institutionalized police force provided by aninstitution(s) other than the religious group in question:Notes: In some countries in East and Southeast Asia, Ching Hai is branded an "evil cult" by thegovernment and police have notably arrested Ching Hai followers and charged them with illegaldissemination of religious material.Does the religious group in question provide institutionalized judges:Do the group’s adherents interact with an institutionalized judicial system provided by an aninstitution(s) other than the religious group in question:Notes: Various government judicial systems based on location.Does the religious group in question enforce institutionalized punishment:Notes: Most Ching Hai initiates describe Suma as a friend foremost and not a punishing/wrathfulteacher. However, Ching Hai can strongly condemn doubtful or self-focused practitioners and thatsocial shaming is a kind of powerful punishment in itself.Are the group’s adherents subject to institutionalized punishment enforced by aninstitution(s) other than the religious group in question:Notes: Disaffiliation among Ching Hai practitioners is not strongly condemned as many adherents areloosely interconnected as a transnational cybersect and so strong forms of communal ostracism arenot possible.Does the religious group in question have a formal legal code:Notes: The Five Precepts and veganism above all.Are the group’s adherents subject to a formal legal code provided by institution(s) other thanthe religious group in question:WarfareDoes religious group in question possess an institutionalized military:No—Yes—No—Yes—No—Yes—Do the institutionalized punishments include execution:No—Do the institutionalized punishments include exile:Notes: Not exile, but Ching Hai practitioners are more likely to find religious freedoms in thediaspora outside Southeast and East Asia.No—Do the institutionalized punishments include corporal punishments:No—Do the institutionalized punishments include ostracism:No—Do the institutionalized punishments include seizure of property:No—Yes—Yes—No—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 18 of 19Do the group’s adherents participate in an institutionalized military provided byinstitution(s) other than the religious group in question:Are the group’s adherents protected by or subject to an institutionalized military providedby an institution(s) other than the religious group in question:Notes: Many Ching Hai followers practice with fear of reprisal from the military, government andmedia. Several adherents described to me being harassed by Christians and atheists for practicing acult. For one such case of detention and suspicion in Cambodia, see:https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/police-confiscate-illegal-religious-texts-105425/.Written LanguageDoes the religious group in question possess its own distinct written language:Notes: Not its own distinct written text. However, one feature of Ching Hai is the linguistic genderblurring of God. For example: She + He = Hes (như trong từ Bless); Her + Him = Hirm (như trong từ Firm);Hers + His = Hiers (như trong từ Dear)Is a non-religion-specific written language available to the group’s adherents through aninstitution(s) other than the religious group in question:Is a non-religion-specific written language used by the group’s adherents through aninstitution(s) other than the religious group in question:CalendarDoes the religious group in question possess a formal calendar:Notes: May 8th is Ching Hai's birthday and an important celebration. Many adherents are aware ofChing Hai's lecture tour, which provides an important chance to gain initiation and hear her teachings.For an example of her 1999 tour, see: http://www.godsdirectcontact.org/eng/lecture/tour99/.Is a formal calendar provided for the group’s adherents by an institution(s) other than thereligious group in question:Food ProductionDoes the religious group in question provide food for themselves:Notes: Although the Loving Hut restaurants (and other vegan restaurants associated with Ching Hai)are important sites of communal feasting and opportunities to preach the theology of veganism to thewider community. For an example of this in San Jose, see: https://www.vegetarianhouse.us/about.html.Is food provided to the group’s adherents by an institution(s) other than the religious groupin question:No—Yes—No—No—No—Yes—No—No—No—Christopher, Database of Religious History, 2019 Page 19 of 19

Cite

Citation Scheme:

        

Citations by CSL (citeproc-js)

Usage Statistics

Share

Embed

Customize your widget with the following options, then copy and paste the code below into the HTML of your page to embed this item in your website.
                        
                            <div id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidgetDisplay">
                            <script id="ubcOpenCollectionsWidget"
                            src="{[{embed.src}]}"
                            data-item="{[{embed.item}]}"
                            data-collection="{[{embed.collection}]}"
                            data-metadata="{[{embed.showMetadata}]}"
                            data-width="{[{embed.width}]}"
                            async >
                            </script>
                            </div>
                        
                    
IIIF logo Our image viewer uses the IIIF 2.0 standard. To load this item in other compatible viewers, use this url:
https://iiif.library.ubc.ca/presentation/dsp.52387.1-0385823/manifest

Comment

Related Items