Burning incense is more than colored smoke

Published: 25/03/2010 05:00



The burning of incense has been a sacred tradition in Vietnam for centuries. Its roots are tied to religious belief and the practice is tied to festivals, ceremonies, . . .

A visitor burns incense at Quan The Am Pagoda in HCMC’s Phu Nhuan District.

Blue gray smoke curls its way up the altars in the pagodas and temples around Vietnam as a form of worship to Buddha and important goddesses and as an expression of gratitude for national heroes.

“Burning incense is a sacred and meaningful religious practice of the Orientals. In Buddhism, burning incense is offering sincerity and respect to Buddha as well as praying for blessings for the soul,” said Monk Nhuan Tu of Quan The Am Pagoda in HCMC’s Phu Nhuan District.

“I often come to the pagoda to burn incense. It is a holy moment as at that time I find myself in the stillness of the pagoda. The practice is always accompanied with prayers for good health and good luck for my family and friends,” said Thao, a pilgrim at Quan The Am Pagoda.

Catholics often hold an incense ritual at Mass. “Our ancestors made burnt offerings of healthy cattle or early-harvest fruits and vegetables to present their thankfulness to God. Today, people do not need to make burnt offerings but just incense not only to extol, to thank God, but also to expel demons and evil spirits,” said Father Cuong, a parish priest.

The custom seems engraved on the minds of all Vietnamese. The great majority of households, therefore, have altars for the worship of ancestors and goddesses and the burning of incense. Buddhists often have altars for worshipping the god of the earth or the god of prosperity. Catholics do not burn incense in altar worshipping of God but at altars commemorating their ancestors.

“I am not a Buddhist or a Catholic but I burn incense every day to worship some gods or an unknown spirit to pray for good luck for my family and to keep the house safe,” said Dung, a Saigonese.

Incense is burned at funeral ceremonies to clean up the dead body and also in the tomb to commemorate the departed. Many people consider death a trip into another world and incense smoke tells them they will remain in the hearts and minds of those left behind.

In traditional weddings, the bride and groom and their fathers burn incense in front of family altars. This is to announce the wedding to former generations and to ask them for spiritual support for the newlyweds.

People often burn incense for luck in business. Some markets, shops, restaurants and even companies have altars for burning incense. Sometimes people can see incense in front of cars. That means the driver is praying for safety as well as for fortune.


Provide by Vietnam Travel

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