The Master Confucius said, Without ritual, courtesy is tiresome: without ritual, prudence is timid; without ritual, bravery is quarrelsome; without ritual, frankness is hurtful.
Confucianism: The Analects 8:2
Recite that which has been revealed to you of the Book [the Holy Koran] and keep up prayer; surely prayer keeps (one) away from indecency and evil, and certainly, the remembrance of Allah is the greatest.Islam: Holy Koran 29:44
He said to them, I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, Take this and divide it among yourselves: for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes. Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.
--Christianity: Luke 22:15-19
If the practice is properly carried out, one session of meditation is one session of Buddha; a day of meditation is a day of Buddha. Or, as the ancients have said, One inch of meditation, one inch of Buddha; so inch by inch to the six-foot Buddha.
--Zen Buddhism: Amakuki Sessans commentary on Hakuins Song of Meditation.
Then, by means of the knowledge of the art of worshiping the lotus-eyed deity [Vishnu], he [the worshipper] should place water for bathing, cloth, sacred thread, ornaments, scents, flowers, incense, lamps, and edibles.
--Hinduism: Puja described in the Agni Purana
When Tzu-kung arrived [at the funeral], he found one of the dead mans friends weaving frames for silkworms, while the other strummed a lute. Tzu-kung hastened forward and said, May I be so bold as to ask what sort of ceremony this is, singing in the very presence of the corpse? The two men looked at each other and laughed.--Taoism: Chuang Tzu, section 6.
The first and second quotations (from Confucianism and Islam) declare something of the profound importance of ritual in Confucianism and in Islam. What are the benefits of following religious ritual, according to these claims? Do you think they are right?
What is worship?
Jesus words above are the traditional basis for the Christian sacrament of the Lords Supper (or Eucharist). What do you know about this ritual and how it is based upon these actions of Jesus? Do you think Jesus meant for this action to become a major, central religious ritual?
The wedding ceremony and the Bar Mitzvah depicted here are Hindu and Jewish rituals, respectively. There are, of course, also Jewish weddings and Hindu coming-of-age rituals. Can you think of other rituals that mark stages in life for these or other religions? What kind of stage of life seems to be sanctified here?
The man in white depicted here is a Sufi mystic of the Mevlevi order, or what is often called a Whirling Dervish. His dance is a kind of communication with God for some Muslim mystics, yet it may seem very different from the Muslim prayer suggested in the second quotation. Might the dance ritual be more like the Zen meditation mentioned in the fourth quotation?
The Indian with a peace pipe might seem like a clich, but certainly, Christmas with Santa is an even worse clich. What might be the real meaning of such ritual? Is it possible to forget or terribly misunderstand the rituals of others or even of ourselves?
What might be the point of the men laughing in the last story? Note that there is an almost humorous traditional rivalry between the Confucian emphasis on ritual and the philosophical Taoist suspicion that ritual is a distraction. Might there be reasons to reject ritual?
What is Ritual?In the broadest sense, ritual is nothing more than any kind of repeated action that carries with it some kind of extra, perhaps symbolic, significance beyond the action itself.repeated action believed to carry performative character in religious contextReligious ritual in particular, then, could be defined in this general sense, with one very obvious addition: reference or connection to the Sacred Ultimate Reality. Repeated, stylized actions and words that have their significance explicitly or implicitly tied to the Holy are, by definition, religious rituals.(Richter pp. 227-28)
Religious RitualsRites of PassageOther Transformative RitualsSeasonal RitualsCommemorations
Religious RitualsRites of Passagepassages of identity, stages of lifee.g., Bar Mitzvah, marriage, etc.baptismvision quests[rejection of ritual]
Religious RitualsRites of PassageOther Transformative RitualsDefinition: deal with the transformation of the human being or the world, by or for the power of the Sacred.meditation ritualsritual washingsself-inflicted punishmentsmagicothers . . . e.g., the Mass/Eucharist?
Religious RitualsRites of PassageOther Transformative RitualsSeasonal Ritualse.g., ThanksgivingModern Wicca, Solstice, etc.Festival of Booths
Religious RitualsRites of PassageOther Transformative RitualsSeasonal RitualsCommemorationsChristmas (but cf. Sol Invictus)PassoverVesak (Buddhism)Night of PowerEliade: reenactment at the root of all ritual
Worship, Prayer, and MagicWorshipPrayerMagic
Worship, Prayer, and MagicWorshipWorship is the ritual performance of proclaiming the value and greatness of the Sacred, delcaring its worth and glory. (Ricther, 237)worship vs. venerationsalat as worshipliturgy vs. spontaneity
Worship, Prayer, and MagicWorshipPrayerrequests for aid and lovemay acknowledge that the god/God may refuse
Worship, Prayer, and MagicWorshipPrayerMagicif prayer is believed to be automatically effective, it takes on the form of magicincantationspersonal prayer may evolve from magic
Value of Ritualunity to the communitysense of identity to the peopleguidance in stages of lifeconsistent relation to the Sacred
Problems with RitualFormality (vs. spontaneity)Manipulation (vs. submission)
Is ritual necessarily dead, lifeless, boring, etc.?
Ritual and GlobalizationReligious ritual and public ritual (in the secular, modern world)Primary identity: national or religious?Religious rituals become secularized?Sports: a new public (religious) ritual?Other (religious) rituals . . .?