3. What is the Role of Ritual in Buddhism?
Asanga Tilakaratne [+]
University of Colombo
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.