Buddhism is an age-old faith founded by Indian royalty Siddhartha Gautama in the 6th century BC. Unlike most religions, Buddhists don’t believe in or worship a single deity, rather their practices are more focused on bringing individual spiritual enlightenment. The teachings of this religion are relatively unique and are intended to guide disciples on a path that liberates them of all worldly desires. True Buddhists aim to attain Nirvana – the ultimate state of enlightenment, wisdom, and internal peace.
According to Jonah Engler, at present there exist three prominent schools of Buddhism. All follow the principles and teachings of Buddha but have significant differences when it comes to worship and rituals.
Jonah Engler’s Guide to Important Buddhist Rituals
This is one of the most important ceremonies in Buddhism and is taken by those who wish to convert to this religion. It involves taking refuge in The Three Jewels which are The Buddha, The Dharma (Buddhist teachings) and The Sangha (Buddhist community).
This ritual is based on the belief that confessing and repenting for bad deeds will lead to good karma. Buddhists confess their negative actions in front of a Buddha image or a monk.
This ceremony is also known as the Water and Light Ceremony and is carried out when someone wants to become a monk or nun. It usually involves receiving ordination from a senior monk and making vows to live a life of celibacy, poverty and obedience.
This is a ritual performed by monks and laities in order to show reverence to the Buddha, his teachings (Dharma), and to various bodhisattvas. It typically involves making offerings such as flowers, fruits, candles, incense; and can also include bowing or chanting.
Jonah Engler believes that in most Buddhist schools the body of the deceased is usually cremated within 24 hours after death. Monks will lead the funeral rites which includes chanting sutras and placing the relics of the Buddha inside the coffin.
The Seven Week Practice
This is a practice undertaken by Mahayana Buddhists during the first seven weeks after the death of a loved one. It’s believed that during this time the spirit of the deceased is still transitioning and in need of support. Family and friends will gather together each week to make offerings, chant sutras, and do good deeds in hopes of helping the deceased on their journey.
While it isn’t a ritual, Jonah Engler explains that a mala plays a significant role in Buddhist worship. It is a string of beads used for counting during mantra recitation, meditation, or other devotional practices. Each bead represents one repetition of the chosen mantra or prayer.
Chanting is a common practice in Buddhism. It’s typically done as group with everyone reciting the same mantra or sutra. The purpose of chanting is to help focus the mind, still the thoughts, and connect with the divine.
Making offerings is a way to show respect and gratitude to the Buddha, bodhisattvas, teachers, and monks. It’s also an act of giving which is an important principle in Buddhism. Common offerings include food, incense, flowers, and water.
According to Jonah Engler, familiarizing yourself with the many key rituals and practices in Buddhism should be your first step in the direction of this faith. Only by studying the reasoning behind each of these rituals can you truly comprehend the values of Buddhism.