Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A matter of seeking divine permission

Yesterday was the 15th day of the third Chinese lunar month and as usual, I was at the Kongsi in George Town, Penang, for our prayers to the Poh Seng Tai Tay (also known as Tai Tay Eah) on the occasion of our resident deity's birthday.

Hardly had I alighted from the car that the excited voice of my vice-president came floating to my ears. That's strange, I thought to myself, he doesn't normally come around to the Kongsi this early when we have such prayers. I looked at my watch and it wasn't even ten yet. But like I said, he sounded excited.

The moment I stepped into the premises, he told me that the joss-stick urns for the deities were not aligned properly. We have two urns on the main table and I took a close look at them. Yes, by golly, he was right. But not only were the urns not placed centrally on the table, they were also very slightly turned away from the main door. My suspicion was that some people could have been careless while cleaning the altar and urns previously, and had shifted the latter out of their normal alignment. Not many people would have noticed that, if not for the eagle eyes of my vice-president.

Then we should correct them as soon as possible and there's no better time than today when it is the deity's birthday, I suggested. He agreed. And so began our task of shifting the urns. First of all, we had to ask our resident deity for permission.

"Erm, you better do the asking," my vice-president urged me. And he reminded me that the first time we wanted to change the position of two boxes on the altar during the Tung Chik prayers last year, I had allowed one of the Trustees to seek permission and it was denied him. It should have been me doing that, he said.

Oh well, if as the Kongsi's president, I have to do it, then I must. The ceremonial task is mine. So I picked up the two red blocks of chiao pai wood, went to the altar and asked the deity for his divine permission to shift the urns and change the positions of the two wooden boxes on the altar.

When I threw the chiao pai and they were falling down, I was thinking to myself: what if they come up head-head or tail-tail? Lately with my luck and past experience performing such tasks, it was very likely that I'd get a denial from the deity. And you can ask only once. I can't throw the wooden blocks continuously until I achieve a head-tail combination. It doesn't work that way.

When the wooden blocks turned up head-tail on my first attempt, I heaved a silent sigh of relief. Okay, we can proceed. So under my direction, my vice-president started moving the first urn, the one made of copper. He pushed it bit by bit while I was facing the altar to give direction. Then it was the turn of the ceramic urn. Again, he tried to rotate it slowly until I told him to stop. Yes, that's it, I said, enough. Let me give them a small minor adjustment, I added. So finally, the urns were aligned properly with the altar now.

Let us ask whether the deity was now happy with the re-positioning, I said. So I threw the chiao pai blocks again, more confident this time, and was so glad when the head-tail combination appeared on the first try. Yes, our Tai Tay Eah was satisfied and therefore, we were satisfied too. Hopefully with this re-alignment, our resident deity will shower us with his blessings and we can take the Kongsi forward.

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