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Yesu-jae is a ceremony offered while one is still living in order to pray for a rebirth in the Pure Land after death. In other words, it is offered for the living to be reborn in a better realm among the six possible realms of rebirth. The ceremony is also called “Saengjeon Yesu-jae” or “Saengchil-jae.” Korean temples usually perform Yesu-jae in the leap month which occurs once every four years. Buddhism established Yesu-jae by incorporating Daoist belief in the ten kings of the dark realm (十王信仰). Yesu-jae is also closely related to faith in Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva.
To prepare for Yesu-jae, one first erects an altar in the center of the Dharma hall for the three bodies of the Buddha (三身佛檀): Vairocana, Amitabha and Sakyamuni Buddha. To the east, erect an altar for Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva and to the west, an altar for the guardian deities. Outside the Dharma hall, erect an altar for the ten kings of the dark realm (冥府十王壇). This arrangement of altars represents the belief system of esoteric Buddhism. The Kṣitigarbha Sūtra offers the following explanation.
When a man dies without having cultivated goodness,
Having only committed bad deeds during his life,
Even if his family performs meritorious deeds for his sake,
He can receive only one-seventh of these merits
And the rest go to his family, the living.
Therefore, beings of the present and the future
Must cultivate goodness for themselves to receive merit.
- excerpt from Buddhist English (Intermediate 2) published in 2014 by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism