Initiation Ritual Mahayana Buddhism Religion Essay

The Ordination Ceremony is presented by a monk, who later becomes the disciple’s primary instructor. During this ceremony, the monk says the Three Jewels and the Five Precepts which are repeated by student several times and then followed by the Bodhisattva Vows. Afterwards, the participant is a follower and he or she then receives a certificate and a Buddhist name. As a result, the participant is formally initiated as a member and associated to a monastic order, in which he or she dedicates himself or herself to the Three Jewels, the Five Precepts, and Bodhisattva Vows. The Ordination Ceremony is conducted by monastic orders only. The Buddhist Faith Fellowship translates the Five Precepts as:

I practice the training of love, I refrain from killing. I practice the training of generosity, I refrain from stealing. I practice the training of contentment, I refrain from sexual misconduct. I practice the training of mindful speech, I refrain from harmful speech. I practice the training of mindful consumption; I refrain from intoxicants and harmful substances that harm me, society and the environment.

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The Bodhisattva Vows as:

Sentient Beings are numberless; I vow to save them all. Sufferings are inexhaustible; I vow to end them all. Dharmas are boundless; I vow to learn them all. The Buddha Way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it (Becoming a Buddhist).

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One of the first things that person should do to become a Buddhist is to join a Buddhist temple or group, be supportive and get support from the group, continue to learn about Buddha’s teachings, relate them in his or her life, go to services, open the heart and mind to the working of Great Compassion. Understanding in Buddhism is the most important and it takes time. A person can formally become a Buddhist by taking the Three Jewels or Three Refuges, which is the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Taking refuge in the Buddha is to take refuge in understanding, faith, and compassion symbolized as the Buddha of Eternal Life and Light, as the supreme teacher, and the personification of our human potential. To take refuge in the Dharma is to perceive reality as an “Ocean of Oneness,” which means that a person is a part of the universe as a whole and so are other beings and they are all connected and part of each other as a one reality. A person also must study the Buddha’s teachings of understanding, faith, and compassion. To take refuge in Sangha, is to take refuge in community that follows the Buddhist path and attempts Enlightenment here on Earth. These Three Jewels are presented in the whole universe and in every person and other beings as well (Bachert Gombrich 90-92).

The Fivefold Precepts have the capability to guard life and make a person’s life full and beautiful. They are guidelines to ethical living of awakened person’s life. Through compassion, a person is empowered to move forward in the direction of joy, peace, and awakening. These Precepts are the basis for the happiness of the person, family and the whole society, and they help a person avoid suffering, mistakes, and fear, and bring understanding, enjoyment, and peace into a person’s suffering life.

Paulik 4 The Bodhisattva Vows are the very fundamental of the Mahayana Buddhism that is lighting a person’s spiritual path. The Bodhisattva Vows are like a ship that transports a person to the awakened side, and leads one in this life with compassion and love. A Bodhisattva is a being who dedicates himself or herself to compassion and is determined to benefit all beings in a quest of their Enlightenment. By taking refuge in the Bodhisattva Vows, a person commits to a life of higher understanding, compassion, love, and unselfish service. As a result, a person recites and performs the Vows frequently. Before a person becomes a Buddhist, he or she should have at least a basic understanding of the concepts such us karma, rebirth, Four Noble Truths, and Eightfold Path. A person does not have to completely accept all of these concepts in the beginning, but he or she should be at least familiar with them. The Buddhist concept says that a person needs to prove it true for oneself and therefore no one should be in a hurry to become Buddhist. A person should take his or her time, ask questions, investigate, experience, consider facts and think about teachings in order to make any conclusions and decisions (About Buddhism).

Death Ritual in Mahayana Buddhism

When someone is dying in a Buddhist home, monks come to comfort the person by chanting verses. According to Buddhanet these verses go like this: “Even the gorgeous royal chariots wear out; and indeed this body too wears out. But the teaching of goodness does not age; and so Goodness makes that known to the good ones.” After death, as the dead person is being arranged for the funeral fire, the monks keep on to chanting in order to help the dead one’s positive energies to be freed from his or her vanishing personality. Usually, the monks come with the whole family to the funeral. The family and all their friends offer food and candles to

Paulik 5 the monks. Kindness is created by these gifts and it is believed that the kindness helps the remaining spirit of the dead person.


The Buddha’s body was cremated because of the Indian custom of burning the body at death and this set a model for many Buddhists. Buddhists believe that a living being goes through life cycles of birth, suffering, and death, and his or her progress through these cycles is controlled by karmic power. This essence of Buddhism is never ending change. In the Mahayana tradition, there is the concept of consciousness, a stage in which we are conscious and awake, getting information from our senses. Mano consciousness is the stage, where consciousness functions are independent of the senses something like a sub consciousness. And finally there is another stage alaya consciousness. The consciousness exists and continues even during death. Buddhism sees the foundation for someone’s delusions and desire in the alaya consciousness in the form of a concealed energy, as “karma.” The fear of death is based on a fear that the alaya consciousness is going to vanish and a person will not exist anymore, which is not true. Through experiencing the consciousness, a person can transform from negative karma to positive one and that also passes on the moment of death. In the alaya consciousness a great mirror of wisdom comes into view. This is the wisdom where a person is able to see all things precisely as they are. The wisdom that comes from the mano consciousness is referred to as non discriminating wisdom where a person is able to see and recognize the basic equality of all living beings (The Buddhist Outlook on Life and death).

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Worship in Mahayana Buddhism

The most common ritual of worship in Buddhism is a personal worship to respectfully recognize the greatness of the Buddha and Bodhisattva. It is performed daily at home. Also it can be performed at the temple or monastery where is it accompanied with candles, burning incense and by offerings such as flowers, drinks, food, and clothes. For example, a person can clasps his or her hands in the gesture of worship in front of Buddha statue and recites a simple phrase such as “Let my obeisance be to the Blessed One, the Honorable One, the Fully Enlightened One” (Patheos) which is repeated three times and then followed by the Three Jewels, or Three Refuges, the Fivefold Precepts, and the Bodhisattva Vows formulas also three times every each of them.

In addition, seated meditation is especially significant in Mahayana Buddhism. A person sits quietly and the main focus is on person’s exhalation and inhalation. It could also involve silent repeating of a single word or phrase (Fundamental Buddhism).


The Buddhist ritual of worship is fundamentally a respectful recognition of the Buddha as the great spiritual teacher. The ritual also involves an expression of appreciation to the Buddha for discovering and revealing to the human beings the path leading out of the world of suffering besides providing protection and guidance to devotees as well (Patheos).

At the beginning of the meditation, a person completely focuses his or her attention to the present moment. During the meditation a person deepens in compassion from realizing the daily

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suffering and struggle of living. At the end of the meditation the person wishes happiness to all sentient beings (Fundamental Buddhism).

Initiation Ritual in Christian Catholicism

The Baptism ceremony is usually provided in the church by a priest who pours water over the head of the baptized infant and says these words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Typically it is witnessed and celebrated by parents and godparents who would take religious responsibility and care for the child in case the child becomes an orphan.

The Confirmation ceremony follows immediately after the Baptism ceremony or is delayed until the person reaches ten years of age. It is performed by priest or bishop by rubbing aromatic oil on the confirmed person along with these words: “Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Communion ceremony is the last of the initiation rituals in Catholicism and is performed immediately after Baptism and Confirmation or is delayed until the child reaches a reasonable age. In this ritual, a person eats the true body and drinks blood of Jesus Christ.


The Baptism ceremony is entering to the Church through water which cleans a person of guilt and punishment of the Original Sin. The beliefs in this ritual are that it removes a person’s sins, so he or she will not suffer in hell. A person becomes part of a Christ, part of the Church the Mystical Body of Christ on earth, and grows in grace of God within us.

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The Confirmation is considered as a perfection of the Baptism ceremony because it bounds a person more to the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. It unites a person more to the Christ and Church and links him or her more deeply to the divine relationship as the son of God.

The Holy Communion ceremony brings a person into the completeness of his or her life in Christ and affects both the spiritual and physical aspect of a person’s life through the graces (Richter).

Death Ritual in Christian Catholicism

Before the dead body is buried in the ground, there is a funeral ritual. During a funeral mass, a light burns and a small cross or a rosary with a cross is placed in the deceased person’s hands. The body is sprinkled with Holy water and placed in the casket facing the altar. The graves are laid on an east-west axis where the feet face the rising sun. The priest takes control of the service which includes funeral prayer, short verses, the Lord’s Prayer, and blessing. During the lowering of the body in to the ground, prayer may take place. The family, friends and visitors may throw a bit of dirt on the coffin to symbolize the body’s return to the earth (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry).


Only a Catholic person who received Baptism can receive a Catholic burial and be buried in the Catholic cemetery. Since a person’s body is considered to be a temple of the Holy Spirit, placing the dead body to rest is fulfilled with respect and honor. Catholics perceive death as a

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way from life on the earth to the everlasting life as pledged by Jesus Christ. Afterlife soul of the person can go either to Hell or Heaven which depends on persons actions during his or her life. There is also belief that at the end of time the death body will be resurrected (Catholic Funeral Beliefs).

Worship in Christian Catholicism

The most Common worship in Catholicism is the Mass which is practiced every Sunday in the Church. Usually the Gospels, the Old Testament, and Psalms are read and people kneel and pray. A Cross and candles are placed besides altar. During the procession to the entrance, a chant is sung or recited by all the people or by the priest (


For Christians the Sabbath is on Sunday because Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead on that day. The mass renews the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross. This means that Christ is presented in heaven and on the altar when the wine and bread become the Blood and Body of Christ (Richter).


I have personally found Buddhism very fascinating because of the do no harm way of living where karma is the reflection of our actions and predetermines the outcome of our next life. Also the concept of the one universe as a whole with no separate self but as a part of all is very interesting. Consequently, every being deserves respect, compassion, and love because of the daily suffering. In addition, the attempt that everyone has the potential to reach nirvana and

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the concept of meditation to become one with the universe through compassion is worth deeper studying and further exploring. On the other hand, there are also some similarities with Christianity where a person’s actions predetermine his or her outcome for afterlife in Heaven or Hell. The concept of doing good to others with reciting prayers as sort of meditation is kind of similar too. The same when a person dies, there is concern about the spirit or the soul in both religions even though the Christian concept does not have the idea of returning back to earth to live another life in different form. I think the most exciting thing about religions is that as many religions are similar in teachings and concepts, that there are as many differences as well and that is what makes it interesting for everyone. That everyone can find his own preferred way and path to his or her own truth.

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