Wang Jueyi, a native of Yidu (益都) County, Qingzhou (青州), Shandong (山東), was originally named Ximeng (希孟, lit. student of Mencius); his Daoist name was Jueyi (覺一, lit. Feels unity), and he was also known as the Old Man of Beihai (北海老人). He was a precocious child and studied hard. Despite his family’s poverty, he lived peaceably in accord with Dao and studied hard, immersing himself in the profound teachings of Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism. When he became a shepherd at 12, he came into possession of some proselytizing poetry “in praise of the 5 changes (嘆五更).” On the recommendation of Liu Wanchun (劉萬春) of Erdong (洱東), Yunan (雲南), he became a student of Yao Hetian (姚鶴天) of the Way of Prior Heaven. After becoming a Daoist, he returned to Qingzhou to cultivate deeply, and was subsequently promoted to the rank of preacher (Heavenly Gratitude, 天恩), and he eventually became a leader. In 1877, he declared that he would dedicate himself to the worship of the Eternal Birthless Mother (無生老母), continue the 15 generations of ancestors, and continue to complete ending (收圓, i.e., he had not been forced from his previous position). After taking up his position as an Ancestor, Wang Jueyi spread the meaning of the Way of Prior Heaven through the Confucian Unity Sect, and gave up Gold Red cult alchemical practices (修煉金丹), and concentrated on teaching the Confucian Great Learning principles of “investigate things to extend knowledge” and “nurture and cultivate the mind and human nature,” so the group was gradually Confucianized. His teaching was guided by the principle of “sanji yiguan (三極一貫, uniting the 3 ultimates),” and emphasized “mohou yizhe (末後一著, the ultimate unification)” through mind- to- mind instruction, which became known as the teaching of “ultimate unity.”
Under his leadership, their monastic way was spread to more than 10 provinces, north and south, and became widespread throughout the country, until it was stymied by a government crackdown; in 1884, the group returned secretly to Tianjin (天津). In 1886, Wang passed the baton on to the 16th ancestor, Liu Qingxu (劉清虛), who changed the group’s name to the “Unity Sect.” The 18th ancestor, Zhang Tianran (張天然), took charge of the organization in 1930. He greatly broadened the group’s outlook and spread it to the north and south of the Yangtze river. After he passed away in 1947, the position was taken up by Sun Huiming (孫慧明), who developed the group’s international presence.
From 1946 to 1950 the Unity Sect was spread to Taiwan by way of Shanghai (上海), Tianjing and other areas, and spread out from every large city along the North-South Railway. As Taiwan society at the time was composed of immigrants from Fujian (福建) and Guangdong (廣東) who believed in Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism concurrently, the Unity Sect, which unified the three, expanded rapidly, despite severe repression and a ban from the government. In 1987, the group was legally recognized, and the Republic of China Unity Sect Association was officially formed in 1988. As of 2008, there were 18 organizations and religious associations in Taiwan, boasting over 3 million members.
The Unity Sect advocates rectifying oneself through “xiande houxiu (先得後修, first attainment, then cultivation.” Anyone may join who is of good character and family and displays good conduct. Members need not become vegetarian, or leave their family; the Unity Sect’s religion can be practiced at home. Today, the teachings of the Unity Sect have spread to 86 countries around the world, 9 of which have “Unity Sect Associations”; today, the group has more than 10 million followers around the world.
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