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The use of rituals

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Comments

  • Exactly @Jeffrey it is a false selfie dream. :o

    We have to train ourselves out of the bad rituals ... and even the new age smiley DharmaLite. :)

    There are many ways to do this and surprisingly the rituals of dharma can help in reprogramming and eventually deprogramming

    FREEDOM here I comes ... ;)

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran
    edited November 2019

    I came across this, which seems relevant.

    https://suttacentral.net/sn42.6/en/sujato

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited November 2019

    @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.

    I've found it very intriguing that even Chimpanzees appear to indulge in ritualistic behavior - that is, ritualistic behavior with what appears to be a metaphysical component (as opposed to repetitive behavior that is related mostly to practical concerns of efficiency, avoidance of the need for making continual small decisions, etc.)

    When the rains have continued for a very long time, chimps have been documented as gathering together and performing a sort of primitive circle dance - a rain dance - not to call down the rain, but to make it stop. Yes, that's speculative, but it certainly looks a lot like metaphysically oriented ritual.

    If we feel the need for a ritual, we come by that honestly. It's in our genes.

    adamcrossley
  • Interesting about chimps.

    The repetitive action of ritual and in ritual may be a kind of comfort zoning. A mothers heartbeat or rocking in another form ...

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran
    edited November 2019

    @Fosdick said:
    When the rains have continued for a very long time, chimps have been documented as gathering together and performing a sort of primitive circle dance - a rain dance - not to call down the rain, but to make it stop. Yes, that's speculative, but it certainly looks a lot like metaphysically oriented ritual.

    Still, it is the age of science. We know a lot more about what moves the world than we did a thousand years ago, and with that background, ritual as a way of praying for the rains to stop does not make a lot of sense. A modern man could leave a lot of that behind, and it would benefit you by making your inside clearer and happier.

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    @lobster said:
    We have to train ourselves out of the bad rituals ... and even the new age smiley DharmaLite. :)

    There are many ways to do this and surprisingly the rituals of dharma can help in reprogramming and eventually deprogramming

    FREEDOM here I comes ... ;)

    While I’m not sure the rituals of dharma can help us with deprogramming, that there is a need for deprogramming is definitely obvious. It is the whole inner world which can get cluttered with rituals that need to be performed in order to keep the world running correctly.

    I was watching a documentary called Sacred Wonders in which there was a ritual to move the kami, nature spirits in Japan, from a temple to a sacred waterfall and back in order to revitalise them. The path had to be cleansed with fire, and huge totems moved by carriers, it was very impressive.

    It is interesting to see what is woo and what is worthwhile, and how each of us makes this judgment. But I do think it is important to have some education in skepticism and cultural anthropology.

    Alex
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 2019

    I stumbled upon this old musing of mine today. Not sure if it's relevant or intelligible to those who didn't experience this exhibit, but:

    While admiring a ritual-themed art exhibit, I got to thinking about the possible connections between art, aesthetics, and ritual. From one perspective, ritual can be seen as the combination of repetition and reverence that, when properly and sincerely acted out, leads to salvation or freeing of the mind, but which over time tends to lose its deeper meaning and settles instead into a cultural tradition that becomes a psychological cage. In a way, culture can be seen as the reflection of ritual within the realm of our daily lives, the habitual motions we perform for ourselves and others. And from this point of view, art can be seen as an expression, and in some cases subversion, of ritual within the realm of creative self-reflection manifested in material form—the ultimate aim being transcendence and the experience of genuine, spontaneous, salvific creativity and forms of self-expression that liberate artist and admirer alike. In art's ideal form, then, one can say that the immediacy of reverence and meaning, of life itself, is expressed by and through the artist in a way that transcends the boundaries of convention and culture and can be experienced directly, via the senses, leading one to an experience of the 'sublime and beautiful.'

    adamcrossleyKerome
  • It can be as you say @Jason.
    ... however too many artists are egoic, derivative, crazy and neither inspired or inspiring. They are interesting, like gargoyles or trumps but how many are sublime and beautiful inside?

    Artists such as Turner and Mozart were sublime and beautiful in their art but outwardly, in other words integrated, made whole ... maybe not so much so ...

    There are ritualistic art forms that do integrate for example in Zen Buddhism, Calligraphy and flute playing and in Tantra, yantra and sand mandalas.

    In Sufism arts and crafts are used extensively as 'ritualistic' and meditative/spiritual vocational unfolding ...

    adamcrossley
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    Perhaps. But I was mainly talking about art in its idealized form, much like how literature can be just stories to churn a profit or a means of revealing truth through fictional narratives. That kind of veers away from the topic of ritual, but the art exhibit in question definitely made me see art in the context of ritual and vice versa in a new way. Think of Tibetan mandalas.

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    @Jason said:
    From one perspective, ritual can be seen as the combination of repetition and reverence that, when properly and sincerely acted out, leads to salvation or freeing of the mind, but which over time tends to lose its deeper meaning and settles instead into a cultural tradition that becomes a psychological cage.

    This did strike a certain chord. In some ways ritual is unavoidable, even something as small as making a morning coffee can become a ritual. But most rituals do lose their deeper meaning and end up becoming an automatism.

    Perhaps such an automatism is accompanied by movements of the mind as well as those of the body, like saying a prayer, but that can become an automatism as well. The original mind, the original flavour, is often long gone. Perhaps bringing mindfulness to our originality is as much as we can hope to do.

    lobsteradamcrossley
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Kerome said:

    @Jason said:
    From one perspective, ritual can be seen as the combination of repetition and reverence that, when properly and sincerely acted out, leads to salvation or freeing of the mind, but which over time tends to lose its deeper meaning and settles instead into a cultural tradition that becomes a psychological cage.

    This did strike a certain chord. In some ways ritual is unavoidable, even something as small as making a morning coffee can become a ritual. But most rituals do lose their deeper meaning and end up becoming an automatism.

    Perhaps such an automatism is accompanied by movements of the mind as well as those of the body, like saying a prayer, but that can become an automatism as well. The original mind, the original flavour, is often long gone. Perhaps bringing mindfulness to our originality is as much as we can hope to do.

    Yes, I agree. Mindfulness is the key to all of it really, from prayer and meditation to our normal daily activities. It is what prevents something like ritual from becoming automatism.

    lobsteradamcrossleyDavid
  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran UK Veteran

    I remember a talk by Thich Nhat Hanh in which he said smiling was like yoga for the face. Instead of a happy thought or feeling producing a smile, smile first and the happy thoughts and feelings might follow. We usually lead with our mind; why not lead with our body for a change?

    That makes me wonder if some rituals are ways of "leading with the body". For example, a teacher once told me that in the act of bowing there's something very meaningful in raising one's heart above one's head.

    I totally agree with the idea that mindfulness is the key. Without mindfulness, it's all empty ritual. But with mindfulness, even the ritual of making coffee in the morning is full.

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    Mindfulness is certainly important, but many rituals also evoke other feelings the first time you see them. It’s the beginner’s mind, I’m not sure you will ever regain that sense after it is all familiar and you have done it for a few years.

  • adamcrossleyadamcrossley Veteran UK Veteran

    There is no doubt that the practice of giving (dana), moral conduct (sila), meditation (samadhi) and wisdom (pañña) are the best way of honoring the Buddha — they are called the puja of practice (patipatti-puja), but offerings and chanting are found useful by many people as it stimulates practice. It is only when sakkara-puja, the puja with material offerings, supplants patipatti-puja that there is the danger that peoples' "Buddhism" becomes mere ceremonials. In time, these tend to become complex, like a strangling vine overgrowing the majestic tree of the Buddhasasana (the Buddha's teachings).

    Bhikkhu Khantipalo, Lay Buddhist Practice

  • There may be mystical elements to Buddhism, and in fact I have had some coincidences that I cannot logically explain.

    Good post.
    Level the head.
    Open the heart.
    Follow The Way.

    Just a life ritual ... 😌

    AlexFoibleFull
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    Interesting @foiblefull ... I haven’t yet come across the Buddha teaching any rituals in the sutra’s I’ve read but it could well be they are there somewhere. The psychological aspects of ritual are clear, in that prostrations for example help the mind become flexible and avoid pride.

  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    @lobster said:

    There may be mystical elements to Buddhism, and in fact I have had some coincidences that I cannot logically explain.

    Good post.
    Level the head.
    Open the heart.
    Follow The Way.

    Just a life ritual ... 😌

    eye smile.

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Interesting @foiblefull ... I haven’t yet come across the Buddha teaching any rituals in the sutra’s I’ve read but it could well be they are there somewhere. The psychological aspects of ritual are clear, in that prostrations for example help the mind become flexible and avoid pride.

    The rituals are taught by teachers, not in the books. And my teacher is a Tibetan Lama, so that tradition is FULL of rituals. OMG, too many. But that is the only kind of Buddhist teacher in my city, so that is what I practice.

    It is always better to have a teacher. Even with Theravadan .. if at all possible. if nothing else, the teacher role-models what you are striving towards, and the non-verbal understanding you gain by observing them is very motivating and instructive. I have red that Zen says it is a waste of time if you practice Zen without a teacher. And Tibetans say that their traditions will "drive you crazy" if you don't have a teacher to guide you (I've heard that from many Tibetans, both monks and non-ordained). Theravadan is designed for not having a teacher, but there too, you learn faster with a teacher than without. Theravadan tends to appeal the most to our logical Western minds, and there is little belief or ritual involved with it.

    lobsteradamcrossleyAlex
  • I’m being taught under a program Sravasti abbey monastery offers , second year here, and the one thing that is taught and pointed out. Rituals and prostrations mean nothing ..... without intent. Rituals are a great way to get your intentions in line before meditation. Because if all you do is daydream during your meditation than what food was it sitting there for x amount of time.

    My two cents, hope it helps

    Alex
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    I came across this today in an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh:

    Can a ceremony make someone a Buddhist?

    No, it’s not by ceremony that you become a Buddhist. It is by committing to practice. Buddhists get caught in a lot of rituals and ceremonies, but the Buddha does not like that. In the sutras, specifically in the teaching given by the Buddha right after his enlightenment, he said that we should be free from rituals. You do not get enlightenment or liberation just because you perform rituals, but people have made Buddhism heavily ritualistic. We are not nice to the Buddha.

    From here: https://www.lionsroar.com/be-beautiful-be-yourself-january-2012/

    Great interview by the way. I haven’t been able to track down the exact sutra which he refers to, it may well be a Mahayana one and I’m not so familiar with those sources.

    But worth thinking about, and it may well be a reason why thay’s communities are so relatively light on ritual forms.

    Alex
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited February 2020

    @Kerome said:
    I came across this today in an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh:

    Can a ceremony make someone a Buddhist?

    No, it’s not by ceremony that you become a Buddhist. It is by committing to practice. Buddhists get caught in a lot of rituals and ceremonies, but the Buddha does not like that. In the sutras, specifically in the teaching given by the Buddha right after his enlightenment, he said that we should be free from rituals. You do not get enlightenment or liberation just because you perform rituals, but people have made Buddhism heavily ritualistic. We are not nice to the Buddha.

    From here: https://www.lionsroar.com/be-beautiful-be-yourself-january-2012/

    Great interview by the way. I haven’t been able to track down the exact sutra which he refers to, it may well be a Mahayana one and I’m not so familiar with those sources.

    But worth thinking about, and it may well be a reason why thay’s communities are so relatively light on ritual forms.

    In a couple of suttas, the Buddha discussions four types of clinging, one of which is clinging to rules and observances (or rites and rituals). An example is MN 11. What I interpret this to mean is clinging to a particular practice as if the action itself is magical or salvific, i.e., leading to awakening. I think there are two parts to this. One part is trying to warn about the dangers of clinging in general and missing the point of what you're doing, and the other is pointing towards the dangers of going through the motions without doing the hard internal work of developing insight, letting go, etc.

    For example, the Buddha likened his path of practice to a raft. At times, it's skillful to cling to the raft when you're using it appropriately, to get you through dangerous waters to the safety of the farther shore. But once you're done with it, you let it go. You don't carry it with you. The same can be said of various rituals, such as daily meditation sittings. You cling to the habit when it's useful/appropriate, and let it go when it's not. In addition, it's not just the sitting in once spot that leads one to awakening or more skillful mental states, it's the internal observations and the like that are important.

    This, of course, relates to things like refuge taking ceremonies. Are they necessary? No. But there's also nothing wrong with them, and they can often help one to more deeply internalize the precepts and the refuges. Where the danger lies is when one performs a refuge ceremony and thinks that in and of itself makes them awakened or saved or a real Buddhist, not the actual work of developing the eightfold path. As I mentioned before, I think rituals are a useful psychological tool if one can guard against attaching to their forms as ends rather than skillful means. As with anything, it is how they influence our thoughts, words, and deeds that truly matters, and their usefulness can only be judged by oneself through constant mindfulness and self-reflection.

    lobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Jason said:

    @Kerome said:
    I came across this today in an interview with Thich Nhat Hanh:

    Can a ceremony make someone a Buddhist?

    No, it’s not by ceremony that you become a Buddhist. It is by committing to practice. Buddhists get caught in a lot of rituals and ceremonies, but the Buddha does not like that. In the sutras, specifically in the teaching given by the Buddha right after his enlightenment, he said that we should be free from rituals. You do not get enlightenment or liberation just because you perform rituals, but people have made Buddhism heavily ritualistic. We are not nice to the Buddha.

    From here: https://www.lionsroar.com/be-beautiful-be-yourself-january-2012/

    Great interview by the way. I haven’t been able to track down the exact sutra which he refers to, it may well be a Mahayana one and I’m not so familiar with those sources.

    But worth thinking about, and it may well be a reason why thay’s communities are so relatively light on ritual forms.

    In a couple of suttas, the Buddha discussions four types of clinging, one of which is clinging to rules and observances (or rites and rituals). An example is MN 11. What I interpret this to mean is clinging to a particular practice as if the action itself is magical or salvific, i.e., leading to awakening. I think there are two parts to this. One part is trying to warn about the dangers of clinging in general and missing the point of what you're doing, and the other is pointing towards the dangers of going through the motions without doing the hard internal work of developing insight, letting go, etc.

    For example, the Buddha likened his path of practice to a raft. At times, it's skillful to cling to the raft when you're using it appropriately, to get you through dangerous waters to the safety of the farther shore. But once you're done with it, you let it go. You don't carry it with you. The same can be said of various rituals, such as daily meditation sittings. You cling to the habit when it's useful/appropriate, and let it go when it's not. In addition, it's not just the sitting in once spot that leads one to awakening or more skillful mental states, it's the internal observations and the like that are important.

    This, of course, relates to things like refuge taking ceremonies. Are they necessary? No. But there's also nothing wrong with them, and they can often help one to more deeply internalize the precepts and the refuges. Where the danger lies is when one performs a refuge ceremony and thinks that in and of itself makes them awakened or saved or a real Buddhist, not the actual work of developing the eightfold path. As I mentioned before, I think rituals are a useful psychological tool if one can guard against attaching to their forms as ends rather than skillful means. As with anything, it is how they influence our thoughts, words, and deeds that truly matters, and their usefulness can only be judged by oneself through constant mindfulness and self-reflection.

    The above is much the same idea as SN 51.15, using desire for the sake of abandoning desire.

  • Rituals and prostrations mean nothing ..... without intent. Rituals are a great way to get your intentions in line before meditation

    Intent is the skilful alignment or temporary ferry/raft @Jason mentions ... that works for many of us. Perhaps the simple sitting and lighting of incense on a home shrine, a round of mantra or prostrations before meditation or the days mindlessness ritual Buddha mindfulness cosplay ...

  • OP, you have a point, in that the Buddha was anti-ritual. It's too easy to get attached to ritual for ritual's sake. But on the positive side, I think requiring 108 prayers, etc. can help build discipline and provide structure to our practice. It all depends on how you treat these things; as empty, mindless busywork to get through as fast as possible? As forms to cling to? Or as helpful tools to focus our attention, create a space for us to contemplate our devotion to the Dharma, and the like. Then, maybe, when we become adept practitioners, we may no longer need some of the tools...?

    lobsterShoshinAlexperson
  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran
    edited February 2020

    @Dakini said:
    OP, you have a point, in that the Buddha was anti-ritual. It's too easy to get attached to ritual for ritual's sake. But on the positive side, I think requiring 108 prayers, etc. can help build discipline and provide structure to our practice.

    I think you are right that rituals can have some positive effects, they help individuals focus, they bind communities together and so on.

    But I am very sympathetic to the Buddha’s point that we should be free from them, they should not bind you and limit your freedom. In that way it might be nice to institute some days of being without rituals. It doesn’t have to be only for advanced practitioners, but it might give everyone hints of where their practice has taken them...

    AlexDakini
  • AlexAlex UK Veteran

    Namaste all 🙏 I use that phrase because last year, I travelled through India and I found that phrase used in daily life. It’s rather touching and resonant.

    Since I last posted/commented, I’ve been (and remain on) my own spiritual journey, mainly Zen, but I’ve also explored Islam and Hinduism, particularly during and after my India jaunt.

    Anyhow, ritual.

    I’m (in so much as there is an ‘I’, which there is not) personally not an adherent, nor do I personally feel it ‘necessary’. Buddha, Christ, Krishna, Mohammed were not followers and therefore, did not have or need outward statements of their faith or philosophy, they just ‘were’. I personally believe that being a Buddhist is following the teachings of Buddha after an examination of what works, what fits. That’s what the Buddha wanted, a near scientific analysis by each and every one of us. I don’t believe that worshipping Buddha is what he wanted, nor what Buddhism is about.....A lot of ritual and doctrinal complication has developed from Cultural influences, but at a spiritual level have nothing to do with Buddha or his teachings, which were simple.

    So, are ritual or outward trappings ‘required’ ? Absolutely no.

    If someone feels that these things deepens their connection to the source and it makes them feel more spiritual, or they just enjoy them as part of their personal philosophy that they are following? Go for it !

    If ego or idol worship is in play with ritual, etc., though or a ‘hey, look at me’ angle, then that surely would go against the central tenets of Buddhism. Is ritual ‘grasping’ or a form of attachment ? Strokes chin, ponderously.

    I wore a mala in India, because I thought it looked pretty cool, which was ego and probably wrong of me from my own argument there. One night, when I couldn’t sleep (I was in Delhi, horrendous pollution to the point where just breathing was strained), I grabbed my mala In The darkness and merely counted to 108 until I slept. It worked. So I can see the benefits on a calming and practical level too.

    Each to their own,I guess. Ditto my confused ramblings.

    Namaste 😉🙏

  • AlexAlex UK Veteran

    As an addendum, being more from the Zen zone, Kerome and I would lean less towards ritual, whereas other Buddhist traditions would lean more so. I see ceremony or ritual as a cultural development of Buddhism. One could be the most devoted adherent to ritual, but be a rubbish Buddhist in terms of how you treat others. One could eschew all forms of ritual, yet stick to the path vigorously. The four noble truths and eightfold path. That’s it, isn’t it ?

  • KeromeKerome Lovingness is the way The Continent Veteran

    @Alex That sounds like you’ve been exploring lately. It’s been quite a few years since I was in India, but I remember it well, I hope you enjoyed your time there! What did you find that resonated most strongly with you?

    I do largely agree with what you said about ritual, it’s a question of personal inclination, but I’m also thinking that the Buddha’s wish for us to be free from ritual is something we should try to respect. It would be good to make en effort to loosen the ties that bind us to ritual, once in a while.

    It reminds me of the Zen story about a wandering Zen master who came on a cold evening to a temple, and finding it deserted and with no other means of warming himself, burnt one of the wooden Buddha statues in the courtyard. When a monk came the next morning, he was asked indignantly why. He replied, it was cold and it’s only a wooden statue.

    Alex
  • AlexAlex UK Veteran
    edited February 2020

    Hi @Kerome India was incredible. In fact, simplicity was the thing that resonated. People with nothing, still enjoying their lives and with amazing faith and daily simple practice, be they Buddhist or Hindu. Islam attracted me, but ultimately, again, it’s very rigid and structured around daily prayers, which seemingly ARE required. I met some great people though, of all faiths, and it was hugely inspiring.

    For me, Buddhism is a ‘mind thing’, an awareness and seeing reality thing and a personal conduct thing out in the World, via our daily actions - tolerance, compassion, kindness, ethics. Everything else isn’t needed (in my rustic view). Sure, ritual might conceivably form part of some strands of Buddhism, but, personally, I don’t believe ritual is ‘of the Buddha’. I believe it’s cultural and may or may not derive from practices in various geographic regions for various different strands of Buddhism. If it helps someone settle into practice (someone mentioned CBT above), then I understand that. I found mala helped me on one occasion in achieving a settled state, but that was an exception and even as a noob, I don’t feel they’re required or even helpful in my meditation practice, so I question why I would do it. For image ? To feel pious ? To feel serious ? Hmmmmm......ego.....! I am serious, without trappings, which are, of course, of the outside World.

    I wouldn’t criticise another for using ritual. What I would say is that it would make them no more a better person, or even better Buddhist, if we are going with labels, than someone with little or no ritual practice or doctrinal experience. It just means that they adhere to cultural and ceremonial aspects of Buddhism which I choose to discard. We have daily teachers, I don’t need to mimic someone from a temple in South East Asia to feel I’m on the right track. But that’s me.

    I like a Buddha statue as much as the next person, I just don’t pray to it. I’d worry if I did. I’d be deifying somebody that didn’t want, ask or accept being deified. If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha ! I just see these things (statues, etc,,) as useful reminders.

    As the Army say.....KISS ! Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.😂

    🙏

  • AlexAlex UK Veteran

    @Kerome I just came across this in a book by Buddadhasa. He was controversial (a rebel Therevadan), I believe, just thought this might interest you.

    “ The Buddha’s Dhamma was genuine and pure Dhamma, without trappings, without any of the numerous things that have come to be associated with it in later times. Now we call those trappings “Buddhism.” Due to our carelessness, Buddhism has become so nebulous that it now includes many things that were originally foreign to it.
    You should observe that there is Buddhism, and then there are the things associated with Buddhism. These latter things are endless in number and variety, yet we mix them up with the former and call it all “Buddhism.”
    The real Buddhist teachings alone are already abundant, as many as all the leaves in the forest. But what has to be studied and practiced is merely a handful. Nowadays we include those things that are merely associated with the teachings, such as the history of the religion or an explanation of the psychological aspects of the teachings. Take the Abhidhamma (“Higher Dhamma”): some parts of it have become psychology and some parts philosophy. It’s continually expanding to fulfill the requirements of those disciplines. In addition, there are many further offshoots, so that the things associated with Buddhism have become exceedingly numerous. They have all been swept in together under the single term “Buddhism,” so that it has become an enormous subject.
    If we don’t know how to take hold of the essential points, we will think there are too many and we won’t be able to choose between them. It will be like going into a shop that sells a great variety of goods and being at a loss as to what to buy. So we just follow our common sense—a bit of this, a bit of that, as we see fit. Mostly we take those things that agree with our defilements (kilesa), rather than let ourselves be guided by mindfulness and wisdom. Then spiritual life becomes a matter of superstition, of rites and rituals, and of making merit by rote or to insure against some kind of fear; and there is no contact with real Buddhism.

    Let us know how to separate true Buddhism from those things that have merely come to be associated with it and included under the same name.”

    Kerome
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