Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Buddhist weddings and other rituals

Buddhist weddings and other rituals 

 (originally a reply to a student enquiry)

Buddhism started off from India around 2500 years ago, and as it has progressively become known and accepted in different countries, it has been adapting its message and rituals to best suit the local cultures, incorporating local customs and symbols and giving them a new dimension and lease of life.
The whole of Buddhism can be seen as a skilful means, designed to lead those that feel so inspired to walk for themselves the spiritual path, that leads away from unnecessary suffering brought about by my deluded perception of what is happening, fired as it is by my wants, dislikes and distorted seeing; a path that leads to fulfillment, and the healing of the chasm between me and other, and to joyful participation in the great life where we all find our home and origin.
Different cultures place different value on the rituals themselves, but generally speaking they are rites of passage, helping the individuals involved cast aside roles that they have outgrown and help them slip smoothly into other roles better fitting their circumstances, and responsibilities to their immediate family, circle of friends and society at large.  How society is organized is bound to have a big influence on the nature of the roles themselves and the function of the rituals.
A Tibetan clan celebrating a wedding and the coming together of two families in the harsh environment of the Himalayas, where collaboration and mutual support carry an obvious survival advantage, is bound to look and feel rather different from a ceremonial exchange of vows and rings in the Rockhampton Town Hall, sanctioning a union that might not last for more than few years.
The seven Sacraments as known to Catholics are invested with a strong sense of the Sacred, matched by the gravity with which the failure to live up to them is looked at.  
To some extent birth, but especially Ordination in its various forms, and also Death rituals in Buddhism might come somewhat close, but please bear in mind that however solemn, they would always be regarded as undertakings by individuals (or on their behalf),  rather than being invested with the authority of a personal God.
Marriage in particular is regarded more as a civil union/partnership designed to underpin society and provide a safe and loving environment in which children can grow, rather than a relationship by nature carrying an intrinsic value per se : not a coming together of two souls for eternity or even life, but rather a training ground in which wife and husband (or partners) can learn to gradually lay down the burden of me, and open up to other, more easily done where love prevails. However close relationships carry the danger of attachment, possession, dependency and exclusion, resulting in two individuals causing each other an extra layer of suffering, rather than growing together.
So, in the light of all that, the best I can do is to point you to some web resources, that are bound to be culturally/ethnically biased, but at least you will get a feeling of the significance of marriage rituals in a variety of settings.,%20Blog/CE808F25-F3BE-464C-A16D-D0A49B1089FC.html

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