Customs and Rituals

What rites do Buddhists practice at home?

Many devout Buddhists pray daily at home before their domestic shrine, a miniature version of the temple or monastic oratory. They show reverence to the image of the Buddha with incense, flower offerings, and a lighted candle. All three of these simple symbols bring home the central realization of impermanence. They give pleasure to the worshipper, who should enjoy them while they last. Unburned incense is analogous to a person who does not use his or her talents. A lotus flower is a reminder of the Buddha’s being rooted in the muck of real life but blossoming above it and in spite of it. These symbols also represent homage to the Buddha, not because the Buddha needs or enjoys that, but because it focuses the mind on his message. Rituals also include reciting the “Three Refuges” and reaffirming the commitment to the “Five Precepts.” Prayers of petition include the same sorts of things people of many traditions ask for—happiness, success, longevity, and salvation. Mahayana devotees might wear a small rosary around a wrist, as they often do when worshipping in the temple.


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