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Cheondo-jae collectively refers to any Buddhist ceremony offered for the deceased. Some of these ceremonies are: Suryuk-jae (水陸齋), the ceremony for lonely, wandering spirits in the water and on earth; Sasipgu-jae (四十九齋, 49齋), the ceremony offered over a period of 49 days from the date of one’s death, Yeongsan-jae (靈山齋), Korea’s traditional dance performance that reenacts the Buddha’s teachings at Vulture Peak; and Yesu-jae (預修齋), the ceremony in preparation of one’s own death. Cheondo-jae is intended to expunge all negative karma and resentment that accumulate during one’s life, to purify one’s mind and to help people obtain a favorable rebirth.
Cheondo-jae mostly consists of teachings such as the Formless Precepts (無相戒) so that the spirit of the deceased will understand that death is a natural phenomenon occurring in the flux of all things and thus is nothing to regret. It further exhorts the deceased be reborn in the Pure Land by arousing in them an aspiration for enlightenment based on the perfect teachings of the Buddha.
- excerpt from Buddhist English (Intermediate 2) published in 2014 by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism