GOD IN THE MONIJIAO TRADITION
There is only one Supreme Deity in Monijiao, although some translations of Monijiao texts refer to other celestial beings as “gods.” These other “gods” are simply celestial beings and do not receive worship from adherents of Monijiao in the same manner as does the Supreme Deity.
The main titles of God are the Chinese words “Shangdi” – a title meaning “The Lord of Heaven” and “Ming Zun” – a title meaning “Radiant Father”. Another title is “Zhen Shen” which means “true God.” The word “God” sometimes rendered “Great King of Light.” Shangdi is above all other beings and is considered outside the plane of existence itself.
THE LIVING SPIRIT
The Living Spirit is a Great Celestial Being emanating from the Great King of Light. The Living Spirit is a manifestation of Pure Light from the very essence of Shangdi. The Living Spirit is referred to as the “Sustainer of the Universe.” All that is good within creation originates with the Living Spirit. Creation is the Living Spirit, but not necessarily all parts of physical creation.
There are many, even countless, manifestations of the Living Spirit. These various Divine Manifestations have been male or female, but history indicates most of these have been in a male form. In Monijiao sacred texts the Living Spirit is referred to as both male and female and sometimes as a third gender. (For more information about “third gender” see the entry “Sexuality in Monijiao”)
While the Monijiao sacred texts refer to his worship, this is not the same worship accorded to Shangdi, who alone receives pure worship. The form of worship accorded to the Living Spirit is a higher form of obedience, honor and service than any other living being in the Celestial Realm.
The Living Spirit, originating from the Light Essence of God, is an absolute perfect reflection of Shangdi, but the two are not one and the same being.
In the beginning the Spiritual World of Light and the Material World of Darkness was separate.
Disciples of Buddha Moni believe humanity currently exists in the Second Age which is characterized by the mixing of Light and Darkness. Monijiao teaches that Light has been trapped in a physical body which was designed by the forces of the World of Darkness. According to divine revelatory texts, it is during the latter part of the Second Age that a Great Buddha of Light will appear in the world of mankind to help bring a message of hope to the world. Disciples of Buddha Moni believe the message of hope with the Great Buddha’s teaching will help individuals realize their true origin and liberate the Light within from the darkness.
The Third Age is future. This age will bring about the division of Light and Darkness once again. The Light that is trapped in the physical body will be separated and return to the Lord of the Universe in the Celestial Kingdom of Light.
MONIJIAO SACRED TEXTS
There are several texts considered authoritative for the purpose of religious teaching and practice. One of these include the “Doctrines and Teaching of Moni, the Buddha of Light” (Chinese)*. Monijiao shares many of the same texts of mainstream religious Buddhism and Daoism. Download a scan of the Scroll of the Doctrines and Teaching of Buddha Moni.
There are also other texts based on the above which are related to tradition and spiritual practices of adherents.
Divine Revelation is also a central concept within the Monijiao tradition. It is believed that Divine Revelation comes down from the Living Spirit in one of his or her Divine Manifestations and all texts that are composed from such Revelation is considered as sacred and accorded the level of Scripture.
Buddhists respect the texts considered sacred by other religions but they also make it clear that such texts are not authoritative or binding on Moni’s followers. In fact, Monijiao has a long tradition of adapting various Buddhist sutras in light of the Blessed Teaching of Buddha Moni.
THE CELESTIAL KINGDOM OF LIGHT
The Kingdom of Light is a divine realm within the Celestial Heights (heaven) in the very presence of Shangdi and the Living Spirit. It is this realm that cloud souls yearn for and wish to return. It is the Kingdom of Light from which these cloud souls originated.
CREATION IN MONIJIAO TRADITION
As mentioned in the section “Three Ages”, before the physical world existed, there was a distinct separation between Light and Darkness. According to Monijiao tradition, forces from the world of darkness waged a great battle against the forces of Light (Heaven). Some of the Light was taken and brought down to the world of darkness where demons created physical bodies and trapped the Light within. According to texts from Divine Revelation, these physical bodies were grotesque and were unable to walk, speak or help themselves. Out of compassion, the Lord of Heaven commissioned that the bodies be developed further and somewhat perfected. So, while the demons are considered responsible for the creation of the human body and other physical shells, Shangdi is ultimately credited for His role in perfecting these bodies because apparently the demons did not have enough knowledge to do this on their own. This is one reason why, according to Monijiao tradition, humans have the natural propensity to seek God and spiritual things in their lives.
Monijiao has a concept of reincarnation that is not the same as what some other religions teach on the subject. It is believed that reincarnation is used for the purpose of sending the stream of consciousness back to the earth for a divine mission. Monijiao tradition teaches that only certain individuals are reincarnated for such a purpose.
According to our Buddhist tradition, all souls (what we call “cloud souls” or “hun”) that are in need of perfecting when the body expires and returns to the grave, are sent to a realm in the celestial heights so they can be given divine knowledge and the opportunity of full enlightenment. This is because there are so many millions of souls that have either never known the Dharma (Dhamma) or who ignorantly rejected it when it was presented to them during their earthly life. After receiving accurate knowledge from God’s celestial beings, either the soul enters the Kingdom of Light or into the Pure Land where they receive rest until all other souls are brought to the celestial heights at the conclusion of the world of darkness.
If a soul rejects the truth that is presented to it, it will go to a plane of existence that is inhabited by beings of darkness, but the original Light that was with that soul will return to the higher celestial realms and is not harmed. The mind of the individual that rejects the Truth will be obliterated with no further hope of salvation. Each individual chooses which path they wish to walk either in this life or in the next.
According to revelatory texts, suicide can cause great confusion to the soul upon entering the “other realm” and is believed to be a transgression, causing harm to sentient life, but such individual souls can still be brought from the darkness if they choose Light over darkness. For cases such as this, it can be a long and drawn out process, because the demons in the hell realm have chained the soul in the darkness of confusion.
Infants, children and other innocent individuals, including mentally ill persons who die, are given a special opportunity in the celestial realm, or one of the Buddha Worlds, so they can be restored to perfection and receive knowledge of the Dharma and obtain full enlightenment.
* For an English translation see G. Haloun and W.B. Henning’s The Compendium of the Doctrines and Styles of the Teaching of Mani, the Buddha of Light, 1952. (Available from the downloads page)