Get­ting Lost In Rit­u­als

The Economic Times - - The Edit Page -

The daugh­ter of my close friend said in ex­as­per­a­tion, “I’m feel­ing a sense of re­li­gious suf­fo­ca­tion.” When asked to elab­o­rate she said it was the con­tin­u­ous rit­u­als that her re­li­gious and rit­u­al­is­tic family co­erced her to do all the time, all through the day, year af­ter year, that was chok­ing in­stead of lib­er­at­ing her. That which was mak­ing her rebel her faith rather than em­brac­ing it more deeply. I know the par­ents of this girl to be oth­er­wise quite lib­eral minded but it is pres­sure that is put upon them by the com­mu­nity that com­pels them to fol­low the oth­ers sim­ply so that they can be seen to ‘belong’ to the com­mu­nity and its fol­low­ers.

It is true that rit­u­als, in­clud­ing those of study, recita­tion, chant­ing, puja and other forms, com­prise an in­te­gral part of al­most ev­ery faith. How­ever, un­like con­ven­tional sub­jects and streams of study, rit­u­als don’t help us much in our spiritual de­vel­op­ment. In fact, Bud­dhists are con­vinced be­yond doubt that with­out prac­tice even study be­comes an ob­scu­ra­tion on the path. We can­not af­ford to lose our prac­tice in the rit­u­als. Are rit­u­als re­ally re­quired? In­deed yes, but only up to a cer­tain point. All three ve­hi­cles in Bud­dhism have elab­o­rate rit­u­als men­tioned in the Su­tras and Tantras. They help us in two ways: to un­der­stand the sub­ject bet­ter and to help us fo­cus our mind on the vi­su­al­i­sa­tion. How­ever, just as the ve­hi­cle is of no use to us once we ar­rive at our des­ti­na­tion, sim­i­larly once our prac­tice is sta­bilised, we no longer need the rit­u­als.

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