Customs and Rituals

How do Buddhists celebrate birth or initiation or other rites of passage?

Buddhist tradition generally marks fewer of life’s passages than, say, Hindu tradition, and ceremonies are typically much simpler. Rites of passage also vary considerably from one region to another. Here are a couple of representative ceremonies observed by some Japanese Buddhists of one of the Pure Land groups. A celebration marks the child’s seventh day of life. On the one hundredth day, the family gathers at the temple to symbolize the baby’s taking refuge in the Three Jewels and becoming a spiritual child of the Buddha. Some Pure Land Buddhists also acknowledge a variation on the theme of “coming of age” or puberty rite. The young man or woman stands before the altar and reaffirms the desire to adhere to Buddhist values. One symbol of the young person’s attainment of adulthood is a white cloth inscribed “Amida Buddha.” There is no set day for these ceremonies, but they sometimes occur on anniversaries or when the Chief Abbot can be present. Rituals of death and mourning are the most important rites of passage for Buddhists generally, with nuptials perhaps second in importance.


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