Time to Eliminate Rituals from Buddhism
Posted on May 1st, 2011

Article 6

Rituals are not limited to worshiping statues or engaging in various ceremonies.  In fact some ritualistic practices include animal sacrifices and bloodletting, which are primitive and barbaric habits.  In the 21st century, there is no rationale and place for such practices.  Watching such cruel practices being performed on helpless animals or humans will only make the psyches of participants more disturbed and certainly not develop peace or tranquility.  In fact, rituals that increase delusions, greed and hatred are contrary to Buddha’s teachings.

Do we need rituals?

Many statues and religious structures (stupa) are architecturally symbolic and archaeological treasures.  However, the Buddha did not state that it is necessary to engage in rituals or processions to remember him.  Instead, the Buddha encouraged the practice of Dhamma, over the performance of rites and rituals.  Rituals, which are adapted to suit cultures, are aesthetically pleasing and festive events that have become part of societal activities.  What is important for Buddhists is to remember the unique qualities of the Buddha, and follow these virtues and his teachings, developing wholesome qualities leading to sustaining a higher stability of the mind.  Going to Refuge is the connecting thread to understand and practice Dhamma.

Buddhist Culture and Shardawa

However, wouldn’t it be more fruitful for a person to engage in regular meditation and practice of Dhamma and develop mindfulness, eliminate greed and attachments, and develop generosity, rather than engage in rites and rituals?  People play drums, offer materials such as flowers, incense, water, oil lamps or lights to Buddha statues and shrines while reciting stanzas.  However, if such are performed without understanding the meanings of such offering and the stanzas, then such activities become meaningless rituals.  On the other hand, if these are performed while admiring Buddha’s unique qualities, his teachings on the impermanence of us and the universe, etc., then that would facilitate the development of right insight in practitioners.  Many such practices, which are engraved in Buddhist cultures, seem to have been instituted as Buddhist practices after the passing away (parinibbana) of the Buddha.

Among others, politicians and wealthy individuals are disproportionately drawn to such rituals, in part because of greed and selfishness, and perhaps not being trained to seek what is moral in a pious way.  Some engage in these practices for instant publicity, fame and gain, or to associate with other wealthy and powerful people.  Same people also wilfully exploit Buddhist platforms, functions and opening ceremonies, using monks, processions, and overdo chanted thread (pirith nool) anticipating personal gains””‚to attract attention, publicity, and wealth.  They are willing partners in marketing their patronage.  This is not Buddhism or a part of the Dhamma.  Sangha must discourage these in their sermons, dissuade the perpetrators to avoid such practices instead of accepting their participation and gifts which encourages them.

Annexing rituals into Buddhism:

In recent years, the fair-minded and literate people worldwide have begun to question the validity of bringing ritualistic artefacts into Buddhism.  With the increasing numbers of intellectuals embracing Buddhism and the ever growing enthusiasm among them, one could predict that material-based worship would be gradually eliminated from Buddhism in a matter of time.

Bringing ritualistic activities into Buddhism (which is rightly or wrongly identified by some as “Vishnu Buddhism”) is unlikely to be successful or sustainable in the long term.    Educated individuals and in particular, the younger people are rightly questioning the validity of such practices.  Many people generally look for practical, environmentally friendly, sustainable, and empowering ways to enrich their lives.  Neither do they wish to believe in hearsay or hear stories, nor do they wish to recite or read religious verses in incomprehensible languages.

Bhakthiya and Pirith Nool

Growing sections of the population wish the religions to provide specific ways and means to help control of their lives and destinies.  However, some sections of the population need such avenues especially in stressful situations, which are not completely discouraged in Buddhism.  Such includes keeping balanced minds during acute psychological extremes.  Most major religions have sustained themselves for centuries providing this style of communication and community support.  One can argue that the adaptation of rituals including Bodhi poojas might have played a part in the preservation of Buddhism in certain Asian countries in the face of intermittent threats from other religions and rulers.  Even today, in Islamic, Christian, Jewish and Hindu societies even the educated and the youth do not always question all their rituals and may even at times indulge in them on their own accord.  Nothing wrong with such activities.

Living as we understand it, is an outcome of a complex network of relations, transformation and transmissions of energy, which are constantly changing, over which one may not have total control.  Yet, some parts of our destiny can and should be controlled by ourselves.  Such reactivity is encouraged in the teachings of the Buddhism.  Regrettably, meaningful learning opportunities are scarce, while the opportunities that arouse greed, hatred, temptations are abundant.  Instead of encouraging the standard practices of reciting complicated stanzas and reading complex texts, simplified versions of the messages of such texts in their local languages should be made available to the public by Buddhist societies, monks and teachers.

Vishnu banner in Dambulla

Examples of Deviations from Buddhist Practices:

The practice of placing platters of offerings, such as fruit and money, before images of gods to seek favours is a practice that has been adapted from Hinduism.  These are relatively recent adaptations to Buddhist practices that have nothing to do with Buddhism.  Such practices have been extended to include offerings, animal sacrifices, and worshiping gods and non-human beings, which regrettably, sometimes take place in the premises of Buddhist temples.

The platters and money that devotees place in shrines in temple premises are presumed gifts to hypothetical non-human beings or images as gods.  It is important to note that when one makes offerings to non-human entities, our Confidence (bhakthi) in the Three Refuges, the Nobel Triple Gem is naturally weakened.  Perhaps, people engage in these kinds of activities more when they lose their self-confidence and are placed in desperate situations.  Nevertheless, after some time, these activities become habits for some.

On the other hand, Buddhist leaders and clergy must be conscious of the need for alternative practices to engage a significant subset of the population who do not feel comfortable in meditating, and engaging in religious or spiritual activities. This subset certianly include little children.

Such adopted habits of fantasizing the unseen have been used effectively in controlling the society by intimidation, coercion, or perceived “protection”.  Although there may not be any practical value in these practices, they unfortunately have become a powerful and profitable business for some, and for some keep remain in the power.  In fact, the same tactics are frequently used by now a day rulers.  One has to remember that “non-control of yourself will make you into a robot.”

Construction/Annexing of Kovils in Buddhist Temples:

Hybrid statues

Historically, there had been a few occasions when Lankan kings married Indian Hindu princesses.  To appease the religious hunger of these queens and the in-law royalty, Lankan Kings had constructed kovils within Buddhist temple premises so that the two religious groups could attend religious ceremonies together.  This is thought to be the origin of the introduction of Hinduism into Buddhist and Hela (Lankan) culture.

Over the past several centuries, there had been many living examples of the results of foreign invasions during, where Buddhist shrines had been demolished and replaced with churches and mosques.  While in most cases, Buddhists temples were totally replaced by other religious structures, in others, temples became a minor affair in that locality.  It is perhaps the noted tolerance of Buddhists that had allowed this destruction to occur unresisted.

Why People Engage in Rites and Rituals:

People who do not have place Confidence in the Three-Refuges and benefit from such a mentality (and lacks self-confidence), become easy prey to ritual performers and gullible to those who wish to make easy money.  Those in the grasp of belief in entities and their agents make offerings of expensive gifts and in return, pray for all types of benefits and solution to complex problems.  Obviously, there is no way that solutions will materialize except by chance or as a result of taking appropriate courses of action.  And in many cases, most issues and problems resolve with time anyway (A problem is a diamond with many different facets.  Roll it over in your mind.  What others have missed, you can explore.””‚Clint Weyland).

Nonetheless, it must be remembered that when one performs a ritual which one assumes is necessary for the solution of the looming problem; one would attain an upgraded mental status due to the derived mental stability and satisfaction, which could then lead to taking appropriate course of action in resolving the problem by oneself.  Therefore, it is realized that such rituals could be contemplated as alternatives or substitutes for meditation practices advocated by philosophical Buddhism. 

Buddhist Traditions

 

Those who make such offerings do so because of fear, an unbalanced mind, desperation, or a lack of self-confidence.  Perhaps they believe that gods can be appeased by such offerings and are gullible enough to do favours for them.  Are the Gods and other supernatural entities capable of accepting material or money, and will they be benefitted from such material offerings?  On the other hand, owners and the caretakers of the property are.  A cynic might say that these occult forces would treat a person reasonably well as long as offerings are made (i.e., at least for a while from the psychological perspective), but may make problems when offerings cease!  Nevertheless, vulnerable people get trapped in such negative, vicious cycles with offerings, pushing them into deeper trouble, debt, and more poverty.  If one believes Buddhist teachings, there is no reason to rely on such external beings.

Time to Disconnect Rituals from Buddhism:

People who are not Confident in the Three-Refuges may walk from a Buddhist shrine straight to a devale (or a kovil), to invoke the blessings.  No one who has the Confidence of the Three-Refuges needs to go down this route, which wastes precious time and money.  Based on the original Buddhist teachings, no place is allocated in Buddhist temples and shrines to make offerings to gods.  Hence, consideration should be given to separate such from Buddhist shrines and from true Buddhism.

Consequences of excessive stress

People sometimes wonder whether the deities “residing” in shrines and temples are part of Buddhism or Buddhist philosophy.  They do not belong to the Buddha’s Discourses.  It is the Confidence in Three-Refuges that is afforded a special place in Buddha’s teachings.  However, the practice of offering merits, but not material entities to devas has been mentioned in the Doctrine.  It must be emphasized that these devas are not the ones residing in kovils or shrines to receive platters of fruit, money, animal lives, and other offerings.

A person who has Confidence in the “Three Refuges” and lives a righteous life (i.e., practicing Five-Precepts) has no reason to offer poojas or asking favours from devas. Such outcomes do not materialize, except by chance.  A noble Buddhist disciple who takes refuge in the Three Refuges does not need to follow such a path of ignorance, or engage in poojas.

“As rust, arisen out of iron, eats itself away,
even so his own deeds lead the transgressor to the state of woe”
(Dhammapada)

Note:  Some of the material, pictures, poems, and stanzas in these writings may have been published previously, including on the Internet (such as http://what-buddha-said.net and Buddha.direct.net) or obtained from various sources (modified with permission).  The author sincerely thanks all contributors of such materials for their generosity. We anticipate that the brief articles on meditation, Buddhism, and Buddhist philosophy that appear in this column will initiate healthy and positive discussions.

May the Noble Triple Gem bless you

Sunil J. Wimalawansa

Professor of Medicine, Endocrinology, Physiology & Integrative Biology

24 Responses to “Time to Eliminate Rituals from Buddhism”

  1. Dham Says:

    Very true. However one single writer to Lankaweb, Ben Silva has not problems with ritual but he wants to get rid of the core of the Buddhism, Nibbana. May be prof. Wimalawansa should write an article on ¨Buddhism without Nibbana”. Thank you.

  2. nandimitra Says:

    Buddhism in a nutshell is the perception of the moment and perceptions vary from individual to individual. The Truth in Buddhism is not absolute. In that sense Rituals cannot be criticized. What is more important is the Truth behind the Rituals. For instance the Ritual of Bathing the Buddha common in East Asia is a ritual that takes onece mind away from one self. Non Self in short. This has been proven to prevent the stimulation of the Amyglyda the centre of flight and fright which gives you a sense of well being. The same thing that one achieves with meditation. It would be nice if the good professor will be able to analyse the rituals from a medical/neurological point of view. He then would help to bring Buddhism into the 21 st century.

  3. Dham Says:

    Buddha never used the term “The Truth¨. Then why Nandimitra talk about the Truth in Buddhism ?
    It is only in various sects of Hinduism that absolute truth exists. In that sense Nandimitra is right to say there is not absolute truth in Buddhism.
    There is no point bringing rituals of Mahayana and other traditions to argue the case. The professor is not talking about those sects.
    Yes, it is true that some temporary mental health benefit can be drawn form rituals as well as samatha meditation.
    However Theravada Buddhism went beyond all that. Vipassana meditation is different.
    Therefore it not relevant to bring in Christian,Hindu, Muslim practices here. Obviously prof is talking about Sri Lankan style of Buddhism.

  4. nandimitra Says:

    Dham,
    Not every body has the wisdom and the intelligence to observe the pure forms of buddhism. If rituals benefit then we need to substantiate to the the benefit of all Humanity. Thats the way of Buddhism.

  5. Dham Says:

    Nandimitra,
    Agreed.
    But what I understood was while the writer still acknowledges befits of some rituals in moderation, he is saying it it is time to say good bye to rituals borrowed from other religions such as Hinduism. The reason being once to give too much interest to those rituals, the core of the Buddhist teaching will be lost or will be seen as useless or even suicidal (to some stupid few).

  6. radha Says:

    I think it is quite proper for the intellectual Buddhists to protect the core values and teachings of Lord Buddha. Those who are capable of comprehending them could follow the meditative paths outlined by the writer.

    However, as nandimitra states, not all Buddhists can comprehend the abstract issues of the teaching; their allegiance to the faith is based on devotion, metta or effort (I mean veerya). Rituals are part of that, for example, the Tibetan way of paying homage in front of a Buddha image is physically quite demanding; the typical Sri Lankan Buddhist won’t do the same. Thus there are different ways of linking mind and body for the benefit of individual.

    Buddhism has always been a very tolerant philosophy and way of life, which caters for all range of intellectual levels and capabilties. Therefore, whilst academics can preserve core teachings and engage in deeper metaphysical practices, they should not dictate to the less capable or criticize certain rituals that are important to others. Look at Dasa Paramita’s for instance, which provide opportunity to people exercise their wisdom, metta, as well as effort.

    Buddhism is living and increasingly spreading teaching because it is practical, tolerant and open. So let us leave it like that.

    BTW the writer’s opening lines about ritual killings of animals tend to mislead readers when linking it with the title, coming close behind. Animal sacrifice occurred at the time of Buddha, in pagan faiths, and even now in many other main religions in the world, but not in Buddhism. If anyone does it then I consider them as non-Buddhists who have never heard of the five-precepts.

  7. herman Says:

    Sunil,

    Lord Buddha never tried to totally eliminate rituals, for he knew that some
    devotees will need it for their spiritual development, so he refined many
    rituals to suit their spiritual process provided no blood is spilled, no
    sacrifices of beings and no hurting of living beings and properties etc.

    In my opinion, as long as we are not in the “stream”, we need some form of
    rituals for our progress. Simply, doing meditation day in and out will not
    benefit our spiritual development.

    Unfortunately, many Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monks are not capable of
    guiding lay people using rituals as compared to the Tibetean monks,
    they’re masters of using rituals for the path of liberation!

    Sunil, are you a stream winner? If not, please do not teach or preach but
    search!

  8. Dr.K Says:

    I agree with Prof. Wimalawansa that the core truth of the Buddhism is very clear and nothing else than believing in Three refuge and lives a righteous life observing five precepts and do meditation to achieve higher levels on that path. There is no restriction for any one to do it and attain nirvana.

    But when we talk of a lay person who struggles for his living, brings his family up it’s impossible for him or thousands of millions of laymen like him to practice real Buddhism other than they go for the ritual practices such as offering flowers, incense, water, oil lamps or lights to Buddha statues and shrines while reciting stanzas. Don’t you think those practices showcase Buddhism in the society and make it live passing on to the next generation leaving a big opportunity to the people like you to study and practice Buddhism in details?

    I completely disagree with Prof. Wimalawansa and with his attempted to criticize the innocent ritual practices what lay Buddhist people follow such as offering flowers, lights and tying a ‘Pirith nool ” by comparing them to animal sacrifices, bloodletting and such barbaric practices what other religions’ devotees used to do.

    I thank to Radha who has make a similar comment before me.

  9. Kit Athul Says:

    Herman, did you read full article or you read the comments only. Where did this Lord Buddha come from? His name is Gotham Buddha. TIBETIAN Monks are the most currupt monks in this whole world. These monks go to remote villages and spend the night with the family, get good food and then get family’s young daughter to sleep with him. Dali Lama can go to any village and request a woman to sleep with him no one can refuse it because it is the LAMA tradition. Fortunately Chinese stopped it and jailed lama’s who were caught doing it. Herman who paid you for this comments? Dali, Maduma, or Punchan?

  10. Patriot-but-not-racist Says:

    Sunil
    I 100% agree with you. You are a real product of our valued teacher reverand DR. Kotagama Vachissara. Keep on educating the blind.

  11. douglas Says:

    As I have gathered information there are three characteristics in any religion. (1) Philosophy (2) Mystery and (3)Ritual. Even in Buddhism you can identify these three aspects. But if you look at Buddhism only from the angle of Philosophy, it does not come within the framework of a religion, but fall into more of a teaching like “communism”. (please do not get me wrong in this comparison. It is only meant to explain a point of view) So Buddhism, as presented for centuries contains above three components and that continues to be so todate.

    In another respect all religions originated in India propagate achieving the last goal of “no death, no birth” the way to an end the suffering. As swami Vivekaranda points out there are four ways of achiving that goal. (1) Bhakthi Yoga, (2) Yana Yoga, (3) Karma Yoga and (4) Raja Yoga. The word “Yoga” here means “combination” and all these four aspects are important elements of a path to that freedom. Of these four, the first one “Bhakthi” has given rise to “Art”, “Music”, “Architecture”, “Culture” etc. and that contains all the “Rituals”. No doubt it is a long way to achieve the desired goal, but it has its importance in moulding a character leading to that road. So in that respect it is not correct to “destroy” it, but nurture it so that the followers could also come and join the other three paths which ultimately lead to the goal.

  12. Nanda Says:

    I like the folloowing.
    “Bringing ritualistic activities into Buddhism (which is rightly or wrongly identified by some as “Vishnu Buddhism”) is unlikely to be successful or sustainable in the long term. ”
    A man called Ben Silva who boast to be a Sinhala Buddhist patriot is saying just the opposite. He is saying pure Buddhism ( with Nibbana as end of suffering) and when people believe it the whole “Sinhala Buddhist” race is facing extinction.

  13. Nanda Says:

    Patriot-but-not-racist ,
    Dr. Kotagam vachissara is from my temple at Pamankada. He is an excellent scholar but used to smoke in the corridor of Avasa, as I heard.

  14. Nanda Says:

    Douglas,
    You said
    “swami Vivekaranda points out there are four ways of achiving that goal. (1) Bhakthi Yoga, (2) Yana Yoga, (3) Karma Yoga and (4) Raja Yoga. ”

    Who the hell is this swamy ? Is he an arahant ?
    We are talking about Buddhism here. Please do not go outside the topic and make the whole issue complicated. Recently these “swamis” from India has become a part of Buddhism just because the perform some miracles. This is the danger to Buddhism Prof is talking about.

  15. Fran Diaz Says:

    Some Rituals are necessary, as in marriage ceremonies, funeral services, or for children to lean toward Buddhism, or even for adults showing gratitude & adoration to the Buddha. But, when overdone it will ruin the real purpose of the Buddha’s Teachings. With overdone ritualising, we will cease to think, analyse and assess situations. We will be overly emotional. We will be parroting lines from a textbook, usually in Pali/Sanskrit which root languages not too many have a knowledge of (like Latin & English). We do like playing a tape of Pirith at times, as it really soothes the mind. There is a need to understand why we do what we do.

    Ritual is externalised worship, whilst Meditation is internalised worship. Children should be taught at an early age how to do the proper Buddhist Meditation.

    Meditation, as opposed to Rituals, will build up Wisdom, clarity about situations, and self control. It will bring a wealth of benefits including better mental & physical health. Meditation will be more difficult than Rituals, but will bring lasting benefits to the Meditator.

    Professor Wimalawansa has brought in debate over an important issue for which we thank him. It is up to us to follow a path which brings in the living Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Perhaps Prof. Wimalawansa could clarify further through Science the beauty of Buddhism.

  16. radha Says:

    I have already said my bit about the role of rituals in Buddhist practices. The reason that I am writing these lines is to redress some unfair generalization of Tibetan lamas in one of the comments above.

    The questionable behaviour of some clergy described above can be applicable to some of our own Theravada monks. It is common knowledge in villages and communities, and I had my roots in a village, how some monks misbehave, as if it is a form of their own rituals. These are of course not monks of vinaya adherents nor with “seela”, but just opportunists. Kammana vasalo hothie, kammana hothi brahmano (with my amendment to read samano for brahmano) aptly describe the genre.

    In Tibetan form of Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, as applicable to the cloister and hearth, there are adaptations which may be quite strange to us who are so used to the concept of celibacy of Theravada monks. Similar to some form of Zen Buddhism in Japan, monks of certain Tibetan traditions are allowed to have a female partner/ wife. I have in fact visited the inner sanctuaries of some famous Tibetan monasteries in Nepal as a guest of the Head Lamas there, and through them learnt that some lamas are allowed to marry, to have a wife and children within the monstery premises. I have met them too and had dialogues about this peculiarity. For example, a Head Lama may have two adult sons living in the same premises; both are higher level monks (i.e. lamas) but one would remain as a celibate whereas the other would be allowed (and expected) to marry and have children so that the lineage and the traditional rights (i.e. religious status and monastery assets and responsibilities) are passed on to the next generation.

    So, that’s the way things are in some Tibetan traditions. Monasteries in other parts of the world may be practising similar strange cultures. We have to be tolerant of these variations, whilst remaining mindful that the Theravada traditions of Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand etc try to maintain Buddhist teachings and culture in what we believe to be the near original form. Yet we would be egoistic to run down other traditions that have developed in those other regions for many other reasons, and bringing faith and spiritual relief to millions of other lay Buddhists.

    This explanation may be a diversion from the point at issue, but it indirectly refers to variations of ritual. Despite their strange rituals of monkhood, Tibetan vajrayanists strongly and one-pointedly focus on meditation practices. I was very impressed by their level of adherence to the development of insight through meditation, both at clergy and lay buddhist levels, way way beyond what a typical Sri Lankan Buddhists do. Mediatation weekends are retreats are now getting more and more popular in Sri Lanka unlike the time of my childhood. Even so, we in Sri Lanka are traditionally more focussed on rituals, with most monks in temples constantly reminding us about Dana instead of Dhyana. I am not complaining or criticising, but simply observing that ritual is a way of going forward towards the ultimate goal, slowly or fast, but which is mutually conveninet for all parties concerned.

  17. Dham Says:

    radha,
    Thank you for your writing and specially clarifying Lama traditions. It is very relevant to this dialogue, becasue I was shocked to learn Kit Athuls’ alegation.
    Some people are quick to critisize or praise other traditions or even scripts or ideas of other religions as if they are the same as Theravada Buddhism.
    I am also shocked to learn that a person named Douglas using Hindu Swami Vivekananda’s theroy to argue our Buddhism.
    This is more dangerous than any other threat from Christians, Muslims etc as some readers are making alegations.
    Nowadays, Naadi Vaakyam, Sai baba puja , Vivekananda , Raamana Maharshi etc etc has mixing with some so called “Sinhala Buddhist” to achieve their worldly sucess or fight with problems of life.
    In my view , Prof Sunil Wimalawansa is not talking about all rituals in his article. People must read his other article before this. There he is stressing benifts of “devotion”.
    Let other traditions mind there own business. Keep our Buddhism as it was kept for 2600 years. Rituals borrowed mainly from Hindusm in the last 3 centuries can be discussed.Latest rituals from Sai Babas and Vivekanandas etc can be kept by new converts. These should not be allowed to practice in Buddhist temples. (Some temples in Colombo is currently doing Bajan singing on Fridays.)
    Moda Panditas should shut up and bring their new theories or cults to discusss with similar people born with learning difficulties.

  18. Fran Diaz Says:

    As far as I can see/imagine, there were no rituals during the time the Buddha was alive. There must have been a wonderful experience/feeling of heartfelt Purest Love from the Buddha for the would be devotee, which experience compelled the devotee to drop all and follow the Buddha. Meditation must have been practiced by those who were with the Buddha at that time.

    There is no substitute for the living Buddha. So we must carry on and do the best we can by ourselves through whatever Teachings of the Buddha that we can find, or find a living Guruthuma we can trust, who will help us along the Buddha’s path.

    I welcome any debate on the aspect that the living Buddha made all the difference.

  19. Naram Says:

    I valuethis article from Prof Sunil J Wimalawansa. It would be a valuable study if one were to build up the historical narrative. I recall what I learnt in he OLs that after the Parinirvana and exhumation of the in was a Brahmin by the name Dhrona – who divided the remains among the royal families at the time. THe storydid not go to detail the profit he made himself, exceptgoing into history.

    THe statuebuilding was issaid to be a industry that came on with some of the Greek rulers occupying Indu- Iran borders becoming Buddhists. THe spree of building Buddha statues in places of maditation followed by another that of Chityas.

    I heard that Buddha himself spoke in the commoners language ‘Magadha’ close to Pali while Sanskrit was the language of the elite Brahmins, kept closely guarded among the clan. Buddhism itself would have gone through transformations in the course of translations to Sinhala, Pali etc. Buddha advised everone to check in Kalama Sutta.

  20. Fran Diaz Says:

    Naram: The Buddha’s body was Cremated, not buried and exhumed. It was the custom of that time that people of consequence were cremated, never buried. After the cremation, whatever ashes were found, were distributed among the Sakya Clan, and possibly others. Worship of relics was never done by the Buddha himself. It was a creation of his devotees, out of devotion to him and his priceless Teachings. If I am wrong in these statements, please feel free to correct me.

    The Buddha images are very beautiful and each of us relate to them in different ways. As a teenager I used to wonder “what did the human form of Buddha really look like ?” …. Buddha images are used in the west especially as beautiful images to grace gardens and living rooms, and to bring a feeling of peace to the environment. Feelings of Devotion are felt by the sincere devotee in front of the Buddha image. However, to my understanding of the Dharma, the Essence of the Buddha is within us all, to be found through Meditation.

    Can someone also clarify the term “Truth” in Buddhism ? In my understanding, this word ‘Truth” is akin to Satya/God/Nirvana/Brahma/Allah/Life Force, etc. and is the eternal energy source that gets reborn along with lessons learnt, Karma, etc. To me, it is like, say, air or water. There are many words for these essentials in life, but it means the same thing, even though some people put different interpretations to the words.

  21. Naram Says:

    Yes, Fran – yor right right Gautham Buddha’s body was cremated. But I think the ‘Dhatu’ that remained after cremation was distributed among all Royals who made a bid, not necessarily Sakyas. I was taught that Sakyaa, were a small clan, not a military power in any way comparable with King Koshala’s Koshala Deshaya, Bibmisara & later Ajathasatta’s ruled Magadha Deshaya though respected for the quality of people.

    THe pictures of Buddha is rarely drawn todepict his possible state at the time of achiving BNirvana – a state he reached after grat deal of thought after six years of mosochistic prractices, wherehe was reduced to aheaap ofbones stomach shrunken that hecould feel the spine moving fingers in front.

    I have seen sculptures of that state for sale in Nepal. However in Sri Lankan paintings one sees only the glorified states – smart prince acceptingKiri Pindu Dana from Sujatha.

  22. douglas Says:

    My comments dated May 2nd have caused immense distress to Nanda and Dham. I am so sorry and apologize to two of you for causing a provocation. I am only a student trying to learn and analyze issues from various angles and only in that process looked at this question of “rituals”from the point of view of other philosophies, specially of Indian origin. The best approach I have found was the interpretation given by swami Vevekananda in a lecture series he conduted in the west and as well as in India and Ceylon in the 1800s. I think even Dr. Wimalawansa too try to explain its (rituals) usefulness in moulding a character if followed with due respect and adherence to main teachings. This is all I was trying to communicate, but of course explain its value in creativity of art, music, architechture etc.

    Nanda – You asked me who the hell is this swamy? Is he an arahant. I don’t know whether he is in hell or somewhere else. I only read some of his lectures explaing this subject of “Bhakti” according to Vedanta philosophy.

    Dham – You said “Moda Pandithas shut up and bring thier new theories or cults to discuss with similar people born with learning difficulties”. Please follow the path chosen by you and achieve your goals. I am no member of any cult who try to influence anyone with any philosophy. Hence I am no destroyer of any religion.

    However, if some one, pherhaps Dr.Wimalawansa while on this subject can educate us further on the subject such as “Seelabbatha Paramasa” connected with rituals in Buddhist philosophy, it will be of great value to all of us.

    In metta.

  23. Dham Says:

    Douglas,
    You are a true gentleman and it is my turn to apologise for the harsh words. Harsh words are not good. Not samma vacha. However, point I made were true. Taking Hindu gurus teaching and mixing it up with Buddhism is the greatest harm to Buddhism.
    Moda panditaya is not directed at you. It was to someone else who is spreading evil in this forum.

  24. Dham Says:

    Fran,
    I am not sure how Buddhist became corrupt by the word TRUTH.
    Sathyam, Shivam, Sundaram, dircribed what you said (correctly) TRUTH in Hinduism ( including the word Nirvana) . There is no such metaphysical TRUTH in Buddhism. It is certainly not Nibbana. Nibbana is not Life Force or God. It is very bad to describe Nibbana using such words.
    Four Noble Truth is not a metaphysical TRUTH or Ultimate reality. Please read the following and you will get an idea of Nibbana correctly.

    http://www.buddhanet.net/4noble.htm

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