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The use of rituals

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

If it’s all about what is in the mind, then what is the use of rituals?
108 bows, this many mantra repetitions, that many times taking refuge... what does it actually do?
Are these just the outward forms, signifying nothing?

Mindfulness, bringing peace, silence, gentleness, these things I understand.
A devotee’s robe, a Namasté in greeting, they are statements that say something.
Developing the patience to just sit and let the mind settle.

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Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said:
    If it’s all about what is in the mind, then what is the use of rituals?
    108 bows, this many mantra repetitions,

    Devotion. Buddhism is a religion, after all, and just as in every relition there is ritual which is symbolic of devotion, dedication and commitment. It's an open and evident sign of how seriously the devotee takes their practice.

    that many times taking refuge... what does it actually do?

    It's a reminder to Self about what we are, what we do, and how much importance we attach to what we follow.

    Don't you do any of these things?

    Are these just the outward forms, signifying nothing?

    Of course not!

    Mindfulness, bringing peace, silence, gentleness, these things I understand.

    These are not necessarily a manifestation of a religious practice.

    A devotee’s robe,

    What difference does a robe make to practice, that differs from 108 prostrations?

    a Namasté in greeting,

    Namaste is a general greeting and is not singularly confined to Buddhism. I believe in parts of Asia, 'Namaste' is said in much the same way as we say 'Hi', or italians say 'Ciao'.

    they are statements that say something.

    Not necessarily. I don't agree that a simple robe is a statement of devotion or dedication. A Burqa for example, is an outward manifestation of a strict adherence to dogma, but doesn't necessarily denote evotion...

    Developing the patience to just sit and let the mind settle.

    Again, this is nothing to do with a dedication to a specific Religious practice.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 22

    We seem to be approaching things from different ends again, oh dear... for me the ritual forms don’t mean very much at all. You say they are a “open and evident sign of how seriously the devotee takes their practice”, but most practice is private, these signs are usually not public or open, and so really you are just making signs to yourself. Namasté is actually Hindu and means, “I bow to the divine in you”, so in origin it’s certainly religious.

    Meditation I can understand, that has a definite effect, but a lot of other ritual is arcane and seems to have little purpose. At the most I sometimes light some incense before meditating, I suppose that is a small ritual that helps bring me calm. There is a certain humbleness that you can take from doing a number of prostrations, it is a good way of making the will supple, that is true as well.

    But my view is that devotion and truth spring from the heart, they are things you carry inside and the need to remind yourself of them through ritual is just joy through familiarity. It’s not that I don’t respect people who perform the rituals, it’s just that I see the activity as inherently empty.

    There is a famous Zen story about a wandering Zen master who spends the night at a deserted temple, and decides to do something about the cold. When the monk tending the temple returns, he finds one of the temple’s large wooden Buddha statues burning in the square yard warming the master, who tells him there are two more statues inside should the need arise.

    I also think this has to do with the different kinds of people you find in Buddhism. On the one hand you find the very devout laypeople, on the other hand the highly trained and intelligent monks who aim for enlightenment through practice and study of the dharma. Where we as western Buddhists are supposed to sit is not entirely clear.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    You say that for you the ritual forms don't mean very much at all.
    Emphasis on the 'for you'.

    If they don't mean very much at all, that's fine. For others they do.

    Who cares? You walk your way, others walk theirs...

    I guess it all depends on whether you view and practise Buddhism as a Philosophy or a religion.
    You seem to be practising it as a personal pursuit to improve your Mind-set and general spiritual well-being.

    Others approach Buddhism in a far more devotional, religious, and doctrinal way.

    The more seriously and intently you adhere to Buddhism, I guess the more "important" ritual may be.

    Does it matter?

    adamcrossley
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 22

    @federica said:
    Does it matter?

    Well, it would be nice to know how my fellow NewBuddhists hang their hats... it could be that I am missing something, or that someone else is... its all in the beautiful interplay of words and opinion, we discuss and learn from eachother.

  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran Veteran

    I think it's important to note that there are many different approaches to dharma because there are many different types of people.

    Ritual is great for people who enjoy dharma tools and the complexity of working with such tools. There is a lot of benefit in the Tantrayana system to using such tools. I won't go into it because it's probably not appropriate.

    But I can talk about prostrations for instance. Prostrations link the breath with body and mind and feeling tone. There is a natural sync that happens when one does a lot of prostrations. For people who are devotional in nature this is a great way to purify arrogance and really physically give themselves to the Three Jewels.

    And there are internal effects that occur from doing such activities.

    Same with lighting candles, walking around stupas, going to pilgrimages. There is a lot of merit (energy) and impressions one can cultivate.

    Obviously the creme of the crop is being able to work with mind directly, but that isn't possible for a lot of people.

    So these seeming external activities do actually help people to slow their minds down. Get their body and feelings in sync with what is most sublime.

    I remember a beautiful story of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, whom is really a Buddha without any doubt making prostrations to a gigantic Guru Rinpoche Statue. Why would a Buddha bow to a Buddha? They are the same mind stream.

    But that is the nature of devotion. The body when it is full of energy and love, just wants to prostrate to that which is Highest.

    So a couple things: on the path it is useful for some people. when one is a Buddha it is the natural out pouring of one's nature. And one I kind of alluded to is doing the magical aspect of Dharma.

    Hope this helps.

    lobsterperson
  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran Veteran

    Also another note to consider is that we aren't just minds.

    We have a physical dimension to us. We have an energetic dimension to us. All of these need to be integrated into our dharma practice and life.

    The use of rituals allows for a concrete way to bring dharma into our lives. Writing out sutras. Making tsatsas. Drawing the Buddha, etc. Are all ways one can bring the most coarse elements of our lives into dharma.

    In some sense that is more real and more valid than just conceptualizing dharma on the internet. Or just endless philosophizing. There is a honesty and power to just physically doing activities that create virtuous momentums in our lives.

    lobsterpersonadamcrossleyFosdick
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said:

    @federica said:
    Does it matter?

    Well, it would be nice to know how my fellow NewBuddhists hang their hats... it could be that I am missing something, or that someone else is... its all in the beautiful interplay of words and opinion, we discuss and learn from each other.

    No, that's not what I meant by 'does it matter'. What I meant was, does it really matter that rituals exist, people practise them, but you don't?

    The main point of rituals is that they are meaningful to those who make them part of their devotions. Rituals are as old as History. Those both low and high, have incorporated rituals into their lives, perhaps to instil some sense of order, focus and rhythmic harmony, an anchor to rely on....

    Whether they mean little to you or not, is actually irrelevant, and I don't mean that unkindly.

    To others they are a precious and intense connection to something perhaps intangible... @Jason's and @taiyaki's posts are substantially rich in expanding on that.

    Rituals are not just frivolous, meaningless exercises done for the sake of doing them. They're gratifying, satisfying, calming, reassuring, comforting and they provide pleasure on many different levels.

    Hopefully you're seeing from everyone here, 'what they actually do'.

    image

    adamcrossley
  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran Veteran

    I kind of somewhat understand the sentiment that outer displays of religiosity is somewhat shallow. Like for instance if someone is wearing a mala then I automatically avoid them. Or if they are very outwardly Buddhist or Spiritual then I avoid them.

    There is a kind of aversion to outward forms of Spirituality. If you saw me, there is just no way you'd know I was a Buddhist. I frankly won't even talk about anything dharma or spiritual.

    Outward displays can seem shallow and very cookie cutter spirituality.

    It all comes down to intention in that respect and personal taste.

    But there is also a tendency to toss the baby out with the bathwater.

    Zen especially focuses on this because the emphasis is on cutting to the root.
    I understand that sentiment as well.

    But Thankfully Zen has also a lot of cool rituals as well. Have you ever done orioki?

    I've done both serving in that style and also receiving. It is a highly ritualized from of eating. For the most part it has ruined eating food for me. Haha I can no longer mindlessly just eat whatever.

    But I do share that while serving it was the first time I really felt that I was actually serving food to the Buddhas. Service was a noble and powerful act. I mean I had a panic attack while doing it because it was just so contrived and exact. But no amount of sitting practice could give the result of what happened to me while serving.

    So just a small example of ritual that has powerful effects.

    I am also against the popular murdering of Buddhas and Sacredness. I believe we need to value and venerate as much as possible. And my reason is simple. Destruction of things is very easy. But to create and uphold are very difficult. Ritual and religious patterning are technologies that are dying because people don't want to do the work to learn and continue. These traditions will then die and that would be a tremendous loss of spiritual technology.

    Idk just an opinion of some guy on the internet.

    personadamcrossley
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    I kind of somewhat understand the sentiment that outer displays of religiosity is somewhat shallow. Like for instance if someone is wearing a mala then I automatically avoid them. Or if they are very outwardly Buddhist or Spiritual then I avoid them.

    Thanks for the tips. I will be wearing more dharma bling to repel the outwardly fooled.

    As for ritual ...
    Here is one for the ritualistically worn and torn
    https://tinybuddha.com/blog/life-is-fragile-make-time-for-what-matters-and-let-go-of-what-doesnt/

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    Whenever I was taught rituals, the mental aspect was also emphasized. Simply doing something mindlessly won't have much of an impact of your mind, like you say. Prostrations bring about a mental change of humility and respect, mandala offerings generate a mind of generosity, etc.

    VastmindlobsterShoshin
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The use of rituals

    In a Buddhist nutshell...to train the mind ....nothing more, nothing less...

    Bearing in mind, the ego is a hard nut to crack...

    I guess one could say... rituals are nutcrackers...

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited October 23

    It's a shame @taiyaki that you would avoid me simply because I wear a mala. What interesting discussions we might have had. What a delicious, simple meal we could have taken together. The walk through the park, in this chilly autumnal weather might have warmed our hearts, and the experience of communicating our thoughts could have been of mutual benefit. Ah, well... it will never be. Simply because you see my mala and refuse to look beyond. Thank you for the sentiment. Now I know that you do not avoid me because of my looks, my colour, my gender, my age. The only thing that compels you to avoid me, is this modest, little string of beads. Apparently, I am shallow. Right....

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    That’s interesting, that even some people of the same inclination might avoid you for wearing overt symbols of a faith. Personally I think it’s a good thing if people wear some symbol of their beliefs, it gives you a starting point for a conversation.

    I think it does take a certain amount of courage to do so, because you also open yourself up to persecution. It seems that these days expressions of belief are out of fashion, you don’t often see people wearing anything except a tiny cross on a necklace.

  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran Veteran

    Yes, I am quite shallow when it comes to other people and their display of their religious faith and views. If you wear a mala, I probably won't talk to you. If you seem to have an air of being spiritual, I'll probably avoid you.

    On a basic level of my being I just can't be around people who flaunt their practices.

    To me dharma is a very private affair and so no one should know how or what I practice.

    But that is just my personal preference.

    I am sure you are all wonderful people with good intentions.
    I'm just a very private, introverted person. And I understand that limits probably a huge engagement with people. That's fine with me!

  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran Veteran

    It also relates directly to ritual and ritual objects. There is a time and place where one engages with other sangha members to enact rituals. But apart from those rare instances such items are private items. I don't show my altar or even my Buddha statues to even my roommates. I don't show what books I read. I keep them in really nice brocade because they aren't for public view. I don't share what practices I do, or have done. That is all between myself and my teacher.

    I can see the value and meaningfulness found in showcasing that one is a Buddhist by wearing a mala, hanging out with like-minded Buddhists, being serene and calm, etc. If that is meaningful and jives with you, more power to you.

    I'm not saying all people who do that is shallow or cookie cutter. But we also must acknowledge there is a trend to popularize Buddhism and make malas into fashion statements. Or to appear spiritual, etc. The commodification of dharma cheapens the dharma imho.

    That's why I understand the sentiment that Zen asserts. The direct way without rituals or ritual items. Because in the end it's your inner state that matters more so than any manipulation of external forms.

    So it may be a stylistic trait of my lineage I follow. But we emphasis showing zero outer display of any spirituality and assimilating perfectly into the culture-society-time. No one knows I am a Buddhist and I don't need or feel compelled to share that I am.

    My intention isn't to offend or to call anyone of you shallow because you do x, y, and z. It is just what I do and ultimately just an opinion I hold.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @taiyaki said:
    But we also must acknowledge there is a trend to popularize Buddhism and make malas into fashion statements. Or to appear spiritual, etc. The commodification of dharma cheapens the dharma imho.

    This is an American thing? It’s not so noticeable over here in Europe, spiritual personal accoutrements are really rare here, very few people show that side of themselves.

  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @taiyaki said:
    But we also must acknowledge there is a trend to popularize Buddhism and make malas into fashion statements. Or to appear spiritual, etc. The commodification of dharma cheapens the dharma imho.

    This is an American thing? It’s not so noticeable over here in Europe, spiritual personal accoutrements are really rare here, very few people show that side of themselves.

    It isn't all of America. It is just very prevalent in the city I live in. It is very hip to be Buddhist or Spiritual.

    Maybe on some level that is a good thing. Or it could be what American's are really good at: reappropriating everything into the lowest common denominator to make some cash.

    C'est la vie~

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran

    In the way of looking at different ways of being Buddha traditionally in a Tibetan Buddhism text says there are five Buddha families of Buddhas and one of them is solitary realizer who keeps their teacher and teachings secret. So it's just one way of being and it does bear the fruits of its practice. That's how I put Taiyaki's aesthetic preference of not sharing malas in a category like "oh solitary realizer is a valid way of being". I am somewhat like that at least I was 15 years ago I went to a Japanese restaurant and for some reason the hostess greeting at the door mentioned casually something about her meditation experience that morning. And I've never in casual chit chat had anyone talk about meditation and I missed my opportunity because I didn't tell her that I also meditated. I did ask her about how meditation that day went for her but I didn't share that I was also a meditator.

    lobsteradamcrossley
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    There is a prevalence in the UK to sell stone and resin statuary for display within the home or garden, and a lot of people do (literally) buy into this. i once remonstrated with a section manager at a garden centre of all places, that alongside the numerous depictions of the Buddha or Hotei, I could see no statues of Angels, Christ or Mary. To my embarrassment, he took me round to the other side of the display where, among the gnomes, cute rabbits, frogs, dwarves and hedgehogs, stood statues of an angel, two Christs and 4 Marys.

    However, I have to say that is distinctly a rarity. Normally it's mainly Buddhas and the occasional Ganesh. Christian statuary is conspicuous by its general absence.
    So I do get the commercialisation and yes, I am offended by it.

    I wonder if I can get as much public opinion against such a commercial habit, as there is about Fracking?

  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran Veteran

    @Jeffrey said:
    In the way of looking at different ways of being Buddha traditionally in a Tibetan Buddhism text says there are five Buddha families of Buddhas and one of them is solitary realizer who keeps their teacher and teachings secret. So it's just one way of being and it does bear the fruits of its practice. That's how I put Taiyaki's aesthetic preference of not sharing malas in a category like "oh solitary realizer is a valid way of being". I am somewhat like that at least I was 15 years ago I went to a Japanese restaurant and for some reason the hostess greeting at the door mentioned casually something about her meditation experience that morning. And I've never in casual chit chat had anyone talk about meditation and I missed my opportunity because I didn't tell her that I also meditated. I did ask her about how meditation that day went for her but I didn't share that I was also a meditator.

    Well that way of being doesn't particularly apply to me because I practice Mahayana extensively. It is more along the lines of why Tantrayana is the path of secret mantra.

    The solitary realizer doesn't particularly have a teacher or even a teaching in their present life...rather they are riding the momentum of previous karmic imprints. I don't really fit that description.

    The aesthetic maybe I am getting at is a shared way of being with a lot of practitioners. Some things should just be private. Like whom you sleep with. What practice you do. Things tend to lose intimacy and power when just shown casually to whomever. It isn't a stance of withholding because one can actually help much better without using the language of "dharma".

    A mala for instance loses its power if seen casually by others. For instance you spend hours working with a mala day in and day out. It has a certain potency. If you don't believe that at least it has intimacy and care and meaning to you alone. And to show that casually to others or fault it to make some display that you're a Buddhist, you're special, etc is just somewhat wrong.

    It's a question of sacredness and what is private and not private.

    Jeffrey
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited October 24

    Yeah I don't practice with a mala but it is said that I do have connection to my contact person as a distance learner and a connection to the educational materials I read. I kind of get what you say though I used to say an awakening bodhicitta mantra and a refuge mantra when I would read or listen or transcribe dharma talks and I had that in my head and my heart and then I started saying it every morning in the shower. That was fine and then at one point I had the realization that I would start saying the mantra in a public locker room or bathroom at the YMCAish gym and I was automatically saying the mantra (not in English and not out loud but in my head) to myself to relax myself so I could use the bathroom in a public place which might make me nervous otherwise to start the flow of urine. So I would admit it feels odd to take refuge for the purpose of bathroom expediency and efficiency! But I guess calming practice is ok to use in many situations and my practice is going over and over getting calm and probably I'm getting it pretty good now and can start looking at the teachings for insight when and if insight decides to happen!

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    I'm just a very private, introverted person. And I understand that limits probably a huge engagement with people. That's fine with me!

    Fine with probably everyone here too. 💗🙏🏽🌈🙏🕊

    So you are wearing your dharma preferences in a public cyber space and comfortable telling us about your sacred mala abacus. Mine incidentally is based on fingers. Maybe I should wear gloves in case my digits become sanctified ... 👍🏻😉

    Talking of standing up and being counted as @federica did ... I find that behavour is copied/ritualised/formalised from Ye Wise to us beginner plebs (as the Mahayana like to humble themselves to ...)

    OM MANY PERME HUMBUG
    as we say nearing critical X-M@ss 💒⚓️🤪👨🏻‍💻🦞

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    When it comes to Buddhist practitioners and to be or not to be open about their beliefs/practice....

    Whatever floats one's raft and keeps it afloat...

    Out and proud in your face Buddhists or in the closet Buddhists, they all have their reasons for doing what they do...

    It's possible some closeted Buddhists may not live in an environment where it is safe to express their belief, if they did they would be frowned upon and possibly ostracized for being different....

    And perhaps the in your face Buddhists just want to promote what they feel is the greatest thing since sliced bread ...

    Either way ....each to their own...Whatever makes them happy...no skin off my nose :)

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 24

    Hmm, when the Buddha says he will not answer certain questions because they do not lead to enlightenment, it makes me wonder what else we should not do because it does not lead to enlightenment. Ritual seems to me to be the trappings of religion, with little positive effect on the practitioner... I guess in that way I am a little Zen like.

    But for external signs, I am in favour. I think it is a good thing to express a little spiritual / Buddhist identity, and to let it become part of fashion.

    lobster
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Ritual seems to me to be the trappings of religion, with little positive effect on the practitioner...

    Not all positive effects are for oneself... There is at least the possibility that Buddhist rituals benefit others. Currently, there's space in my worldview for this possibility, as there is for many of the more metaphysical elements of Buddhist faith.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @adamcrossley said:

    @Kerome said:
    Ritual seems to me to be the trappings of religion, with little positive effect on the practitioner...

    Not all positive effects are for oneself... There is at least the possibility that Buddhist rituals benefit others. Currently, there's space in my worldview for this possibility, as there is for many of the more metaphysical elements of Buddhist faith.

    I agree totally, but what if going through the motions of rituals gets you caught in the mind? After all chanting mantra’s is kind of hypnotic, kind of somnolent. It is not a point at which you gain awareness, it sends you to sleep.

    I can agree that some expression of community through rituals makes sense, once there is a community, but this is not something that comes to us through the Buddha or the sutra’s. It is best to keep it somewhat minimal.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    After all chanting mantra’s is kind of hypnotic, kind of somnolent.

    Tee hee. Indeed.
    Some insomniacs and those wishing to engage the power of the subconscious may find this useful.

    All mindless behaviour is ritualistic, hypnotising if repetitive and [yawn]ing ... However the dharma anarchists are on it ...

    Vastmindperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @lobster said:

    After all chanting mantra’s is kind of hypnotic, kind of somnolent.

    Tee hee. Indeed.
    Some insomniacs and those wishing to engage the power of the subconscious may find this useful.

    All mindless behaviour is ritualistic, hypnotising if repetitive and [yawn]ing ... However the dharma anarchists are on it ...

    So if one were to think of an exercise in awareness, how would you arrange that? A series of unexpected happenings that come at chaotic intervals? You’d almost think that some forms of computer games might be good for that.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    A mala for instance loses its power if seen casually by others. For instance you spend hours working with a mala day in and day out. It has a certain potency. If you don't believe that at least it has intimacy and care and meaning to you alone. And to show that casually to others or fault it to make some display that you're a Buddhist, you're special, etc is just somewhat wrong.

    To you, maybe. Always remembering this isn't sacrosanct fact, it's just your view. Right?

    It's a question of sacredness and what is private and not private.

    Which again, is for the individual to decide for themselves.
    There is no concrete measure, nothing set in stone, to indicate what is wisdom in such behaviour, and what is folly.

    I may wear a mala, but only I know its significance, to me. Others see it as a decorative string of beads, and never mention it. Not once, have I ever been questioned or asked about its provenance or significance. Either people are not interested, or they're unaware.

    For a moment there, I felt chastised by you.
    Then it quickly dawned on me of course, that frankly what I do is none of your business, and if you choose to not engage with me socially, SOLELY on the basis that, according to YOUR perception, I am shallow, then that isn't on me. It's an extremely self-limiting evaluation.

    The problem is entirely yours. It's not mine.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    So if one were to think of an exercise in awareness, how would you arrange that? A series of unexpected happenings that come at chaotic intervals?

    The chaos or dharma is ever present. @federica in her post, illustrates a realignment from chastisement to the middle way, recognising where the skill and ignorance/dukkha can be addressed. B)

    In terms of a teacher or teaching, the chaos or supposedly anarchic presentation is quite ritualised in some Zen/cChan and Tantric guru/disciple interactions. Our role as friends and learners is to try and find what is useful to our and others situation ...

    Hope that is helpful (As we often ritualistically suggest ...) <3

    Kerome
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @taiyaki said:
    I'm not saying all people who do that is shallow or cookie cutter. But we also must acknowledge there is a trend to popularize Buddhism and make malas into fashion statements. Or to appear spiritual, etc. The commodification of dharma cheapens the dharma imho.

    I have to say, I see it as a good thing. The commodification of the symbols of Buddhism makes them easily accessible to many people, and I think lots of people instinctively connect to what the Buddha stands for, meditative peace and harmony and kindness. That allows for the spread of Buddhist symbology.

    That's why I understand the sentiment that Zen asserts. The direct way without rituals or ritual items. Because in the end it's your inner state that matters more so than any manipulation of external forms.

    As far as ritual is concerned I agree with you, I think it is empty. I do have a certain respect for the places of ritual, as people have often tried to make them beautiful and that matters. But the artful arrangement of a single flower and a piece of calligraphy can be as beautiful as a whole wall of Buddha statues.

    So it may be a stylistic trait of my lineage I follow. But we emphasis showing zero outer display of any spirituality and assimilating perfectly into the culture-society-time. No one knows I am a Buddhist and I don't need or feel compelled to share that I am.

    Here it is one of the taboos of our time. I have to go back a long way in time to recall having seen a monk in a habit on the street or on public transport, it’s just not done.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Exactly @adamcrossley

    Ritual can be empty (in the sense of empty of meaning)
    or the formal expression of the whole range of communicating The Ultimate Empty ...

    adamcrossley
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited October 26

    I am reminded that only under rare circumstances do people take the trouble to make their spaces and places look beautiful. It’s one of the things that made Osho’s ashram in India special, that the whole ashram looked cared-for.

    Anyway it seems that quite a few people are still attached to rituals, that’s cool.

  • techietechie Veteran India Veteran

    Rituals give us a sense of comfort, and it has nothing to do with religion per se. For instance, I need to do certain activities in a certain order. This is also a kind of ritual. To develop habits is also 'ritualistic' - you repeat a set pattern every day. Almost everything you do could become a ritual if there's a certain order to it, fixed timings/method etc. All this gives us comfort. Religious rituals are no different.

    Shoshinperson
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    A very good friend of mine is going through some rituals after the death of a relative. The deceased has been cremated and the ashes distributed among the family to honour in their own way. My wonderful friend has come to terms with the passing of their family member, but is considerate enough to know others may still be feeling emotions which need expressing and dealing with as they see fit.
    These rituals are there not only to honour the memory of the deceased, but to bring comfort, closure and serenity to those still living.
    Some rituals really, really matter.

    adamcrossleylobsterVastmindperson
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited October 27

    If you think about it... most of what we do is ritualistic ....From brushing teeth to wiping bottoms...It's a ritual that we perform...(in the same way over and over again)

    lobster
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    If it’s all about what is in the mind, then what is the use of rituals?
    108 bows, this many mantra repetitions, that many times taking refuge... what does it actually do?

    They train the mind. And can also show you how it's functioning. For example, if one has aversion to performing some ritual, that is telling you something about your mind and how filled with aversion it is.

    Ritual seems to me to be the trappings of religion, with little positive effect on the practitioner... I guess in that way I am a little Zen like.

    Zen masters have no problem burning Buddha statues. But at the same time, traditional zen practice has tons of rituals! So they have no problem with rituals either. If one does have a problem with performing rituals, that is showing you something about yourself. That is one reason why the zen training at the head soto temple Eiheiji is so rigorous. It's challenging you to let go of aversions. Retreats do the same thing. :)

    lobsteradamcrossleyperson
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    @Shoshin said:
    If you think about it... most of what we do is ritualistic ....From brushing teeth to wiping bottoms...It's a ritual that we perform...(in the same way over and over again)

    Much of it we do in a trance (bad sleep ritual). However ... a ritual I learned on retreat ... look in the dark corners and note are they experienced as trick or treat? In other words do not be entranced by the casual/ordinary. Be mindful of The Lite.

    OM MANI PEME ... DI WALI

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I was watching a bbc series, Around the World in 80 Faiths, and that was nearly all rituals. From firewalking to dung fights to church processions to swimming in ice water. It seems almost any kind of ordeal could be termed religion somewhere in the world.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited October 28

    @Kerome, As @seeker242 tactfully points out, Rituals are universal and it seems, unavoidable anywhere. The only one who seems to have a 'problem' with Rituals (Aversion, dislike) here - is you. We're all fine with it.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I don’t have a problem with rituals, I even enjoy them from time to time. However, I find it difficult to understand the supernatural value that some people attach to them, as they seem to have little real impact. They are just a bit of fun, and as long as that’s understood, it seems harmless.

    One of the ceremonies I was watching yesterday was in Shinto, they carried a number of effigies up to a sacred waterfall and then cleansed the path leading back to the temple by carrying huge flaming torches up and down it before the effigies were taken back to the temple. This was to please the spirits called kami, and ultimately give the whole of Japan a good year to come.

    There was spectacle, and effort exerted for the spirit world, which is fine, but if you take the priest’s explanations literally, you will end up creating a whole fake dimension in your head which may have no relationship to what actually exists.

    I’m not saying that there is no such thing as a spirit world, just that in contacting such a place one finds it is very different from the imaginings of the priests, who almost always are not themselves mystics or in direct contact with such a place.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Of course rituals are comforting because they give you the idea that you can do something to affect the invisible world, to change your destiny.

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran Veteran
    edited October 28

    If you take the priest’s explanations literally, you will end up creating a whole fake dimension in your head which may have no relationship to what actually exists.

    True. The Diamond Sutra says, “Wherever there is perception, there is deception.” Our impressions of any reality, visible or invisible, are at least in part fake. In Shintō culture, the spirit world is a very real place. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that one’s perception of the spirit world is incomplete than it is to say the spirit world is fake, since that isn’t verifiable.

    The Shintō ritual you described seems to be a “cleansing of pollution” ritual. Without going into how this worldview benefits environmentalism, I think it’s beautiful, meaningful, and in a sense true. True to Shintō culture, true to one’s impulse to venerate and protect the natural world. Keats said, “Beauty is truth, and truth beauty.”

    In the ritual and the spiritual, that kind of truth might be more important. As @seeker242 says, the Zen way is to perform ritual and discard it at the same time. That way we honour what should be honoured but acknowledge that we don’t yet fully perceive or understand it.

    person
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said:
    I don’t have a problem with rituals, I even enjoy them from time to time. However, I find it difficult to understand the supernatural value that some people attach to them, as they seem to have little real impact. They are just a bit of fun, and as long as that’s understood, it seems harmless.

    One of the ceremonies I was watching yesterday was in Shinto, they carried a number of effigies up to a sacred waterfall and then cleansed the path leading back to the temple by carrying huge flaming torches up and down it before the effigies were taken back to the temple. This was to please the spirits called kami, and ultimately give the whole of Japan a good year to come.

    There was spectacle, and effort exerted for the spirit world, which is fine, but if you take the priest’s explanations literally, you will end up creating a whole fake dimension in your head which may have no relationship to what actually exists.

    I have to say I'm beginning to get a little irritated - pissed off, even - at your continued insistent belittlement and dismissal as "a bit of fun" for rituals and ceremonies that have existed before you or I were even imagined.

    I get that you don't get it. But don't impose your understanding (ot evident lack of it) onto rituals as being 'harmless fun'. That's trivialising rituals and holding them to contemptuous ridicule and I for one perceive you're overstepping the mark.

    You don't go in for rituals. I get it.

    Please don't disrespect them or hold them up to scrutiny as if they can be laid aside and dismissed. Just because they hold no deep value to you, do not assume it's ok to express that as a fact for others. That's just plain rude.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited October 28

    Zazen itself is a ritual. All of zen practice is a ritual. The ritual of being present, attentive, mindful, compassionate, etc, etc. :)

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Well, my opinions are only that, opinions. It is not my intent to annoy anyone, it is only clumsiness of expression. Usually I’m pretty careful about that, but sometimes it gets away from me.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran
    edited October 28

    @Kerome said:
    Of course rituals are comforting because they give you the idea that you can do something to affect the invisible world, to change your destiny.

    For myself I was always a bit skeptical, more so now, that rituals were creating some magical effect. I adopted the view that whether they actually did or not they affected the mind of the people undertaking them.

    So if you say the mental world is the invisible world and shaping your mind changes your destiny then I do believe that rituals have an unseen impact.

    Kerome
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited October 28

    In a way trying to become "happy" is just a ritual itself. It's just the one we are taught in our culture from the get go. The view is to be happy!

    lobster
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