Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

3. What is the Role of Ritual in Buddhism?

Buddhism in Five Minutes - Elizabeth J. Harris

Asanga Tilakaratne [+-]
University of Colombo
Asanga Tilakaratne graduated from Peradeniya University, Sri Lanka, specializing in Buddhist Philosophy. He has published, both in Sinhala and English, more than one hundred papers on Buddhist studies. Of his more recent academic works, Theravada Buddhism: the View of the Elders (2012) was published by University of Hawaii Press. He co-edited with Prof. Oliver Abenayaka 2600 Years of Sambuddhatva: Global Journey of Awakening (2012), a work covering the history and the current status of global Buddhism of all three traditions. Prof. Tilakaratne founded Sri Lanka Association of Buddhist Studies (SLABS), an academic and professional organization of Buddhist scholars in Sri Lanka, and continues to serve as its joint secretary.


In order to answer this question, we need to make a distinction between two types of followers of Buddhism: those whose sole aim is to make an end to suffering by realizing nirvana and those who are happy to enjoy being in the round of birth and rebirth, which is saṃsāra, until they reach nirvana some day in the future. For the former, the path is quite straightforward. They would be satisfied with a bare minimum of possessions and be singularly motivated by the goal of nirvana. Rituals would not be necessary. For the members of the monastic Sangha in this category, ordination ceremonies and recital of disciplinary rules would be part of their lives—from a Theravada perspective, they would be considered legal requirements of the Vinaya (their code of disciplinary conduct) and not ritual. The second type comprises householders who have their families to look after, wealth to enjoy, and social duties to perform. The need for ritual basically came from this group.

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Tilakaratne, Asanga. 3. What is the Role of Ritual in Buddhism?. Buddhism in Five Minutes. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 14-18 Nov 2021. ISBN 9781800500907. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=40740. Date accessed: 22 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.40740. Nov 2021

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