Customs and Rituals

Do Buddhists engage in ritual sacrifice?

Sacrifice has never been part of mainstream Buddhist ritual. The Buddha himself rejected the ancient Hindu sacrificial heritage as spiritually bankrupt, as did many others among his contemporaries. Some later popular devotional Hindu sects retained animal sacrifice as an essential feature of ritual. But Theravada and Mahayana popular devotion have, in effect, spiritualized the concept of sacrifice. Traditional forms of sacrifice typically aim to appease a divine power. Buddhist tradition virtually does away with the concept. When worshippers make offerings of flowers, incense, and other symbols, they are not giving gifts to a spiritual power but offering signs of reverence and providing reminders for themselves of life’s impermanence.


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