The controversial culture of burning votive paper

Burning votive paper with expensive items, in different sizes, has distorted the long-standing spiritual culture of the Vietnamese people. The fact that the burning of votive paper continues to be abused, has been happening in many places, leading to serious environmental problems and high fire hazard risks.

The custom of burning votive papers has existed for a long time and is also opposed by a part of the people. For a long time, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha has suggested that Buddhists and relatives get rid of the custom of burning votive papers. Besides those who still maintain this custom, many people strongly support the elimination of the practice of burning votive papers.

According to statistics, each year Vietnam burns about 50,000 tons of votive paper, and in Hanoi alone, people pay around 400 billion VND for buying votive paper and paper money. Using real money with economic value to buy paper coins and votive papers and then following the fire to ashes is wasting precious resources that could be used to save thousands of other lives, but also leads to waste, causing much harm to the environment.

One of the most obvious environmental problems is that as paper is made from wood, burning votive paper means more trees are cut down to meet the market demand. Moreover, burning votive paper can seriously pollute the water environment when many people still think that after burning votive papers, they must pour the trash into rivers, ponds, lakes... with the same belief that thanks to the coolness from the water, liberation and the lost will be received easily. According to Mr. Minh Nhat, a representative from the Garbage Lovers Club in Ho Chi Minh City, “Anything that is not clean water that is poured into rivers and lakes has negative consequences for the creatures living in rivers, lakes, and votive papers in large quantities, also causing unpredictable consequences for the ecosystem. People should understand that burning votive papers has no meaning, and if they want their deceased loved ones to be saved, they must do merit and good deeds and dedicate them to them. That is the right cause and effect and right from the point of view of Buddhism”.

Besides, there have been multiple fires at residential houses due to burning votive paper at home, as the wind can easily blow the ash to new destination. For example, on February 4, 2021, a fire engulfed a fourth-grade house in Lane 8, Tam Khuong Street, Dong Da District, killing four victims, and the reason is due to burning votive paper on an important national holiday.

From the belief that the after life should be the same as the current one, many Vietnamese families have spared no expense in shopping for their deceased loved ones, from houses, cars, or even TVs, flight tickets and any thing that you could imagine. Realising the negative impacts of burning votive paper, along with the spreading education of Buddhism, more and more Vietnamese families are cutting down (or completely eliminating) the action of burning votive paper, instead, switching to other options like planting trees, donating money to charities, etc.

Source: the Internet