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Buddhism:

Customs
By: Katerina Mahdavi and
Dakota Bartosch

Venerating the Buddha, Pilgrimage and


Ordination
Venerating the Buddha differs sharply in activity as Buddhist customs differ throughout the world. For
instance, there are multiple individuals throughout history which have earned the title of Buddha, and
therefore there is no soul almighty spiritual fixture for all Buddhists to totally align themselves with.
The most popular understanding of the Buddha comes from the first of the spiritual line: Siddhartha
Gautama, and so he is generally deferred to as the first Buddha. Buddhists are encouraged to meditate
on the life and qualities of the Buddha, and many Buddhists take these meditations to a monastic
extreme and become ordinated into a Buddhist monastery, where they dedicate their life-long focus to
studying and comprehending the Buddhist practices. They are required to renounce any semblance of a
secular life so as to accept monasticism completely, and are questioned during ordination about their
past behavior in order for the ordinators to determine whether or not they are truly suitable to a devout
lifestyle. Buddhist laypeople are encouraged also to gift alms to these monks and monasteries, as well
as to each other, as it is believed that these charitable exercises grant them spiritual merit. Buddhists
make pilgrimages to four primary places considered to have had held great importance to the life of the
Buddha: Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar, but there are many others as well.

Buddhist Traditions

Meditation
The practice of Meditation is generally meant to allow its practitioner to access a relaxed mental state from which to
experience subjective sensations along the vein of enlightenment, peace, or spiritual awareness, and to deepen their
understanding of and relationship with their own phenomenological reality. The state of meditation is an altogether
indescribable mental frame, as it is extremely individualized, and the complexities of the mind are often times simply
too phenomenally obscure to convey through our contemporary understanding of language. Meditation almost
always heavily involves the employment of certain breathing techniques and mental exercises; it is worth mentioning
also that there are a sundry of alternative meditation techniques which have been developed throughout history.

Working with the Mind

Sacred Mandalas
In Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala is a symbolic picture of the universe usually representing an imaginary palace,
contemplated through meditation. Mandalas can be paintings on a wall or scroll, created with intricate colored sands.
There are thousands of various types of mandala, each holding different lessons to teach. It is believed sand
mandalas convey positive energy to the environment and people who observe them. The mandala sand painting
procedure is strenuous and takes absolute concentration and patience. Small tools such as metal funnels are used to
construct the mandala. They cause the sands to flow like liquid when the metal funnels are grated with a metal rod.
After the mandala is finished, a ceremony takes place where the perfectly constructed mandala is destroyed by
munks. The destruction of the mandala acts as a reminder to the impermanence of life. In order to reenergise the
environment and universe the colored sand is spread throughout flowing water.

Sand Mandalas/Tools

Buddhist Worship
As far as buddhist worship extends, it can take place either in a spiritual temple or somewhere as simple as home.
Buddhists frequently create a shrine specifically in a separate room of their home dedicated to Buddha to represent
their worship. The best known temples are the pagodas of China and Japan. Every Buddhist temple holds an image
or statue of Buddha. Buddhist temples are constructed to symbolize the five elements: fire, air, water, wisdom, and
earth. There are many forms of Buddhist worship consisting of worshippers taking part in prayers, listening to monks
chant religious texts, and chanting while facing the image of Buddha. A mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid
concentration in meditation. It is thought that mantras have the ability to leave a profound spiritual effect on people.
Prayer beads are used commonly to mark the number of repetitions of a mantra. Mantras may be expressed on a
prayer wheel or written on a prayer flag. When displayed upon a wheel, mantras are repeated by spinning the wheel.
However, when displayed upon a flag, mantras are repeated every time the flag moves in the wind. Prayer wheels
range in size from pocket height to statue length. These physical prayer aids are highly ordinary in Tibetan Buddhist
regions.

Temples, Buddha, Mantras and Prayers

Works Cited
"Archaeologists Discover World's Oldest Buddha." DigVentures. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
"Meditation and Brain Update 2014." Jon Lieff MD. N.p., 10 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2016.
Russell, Jeremy. The Eight Places of Buddhist Pilgrimage. Journal of Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre. Mahayana Publications, 1981. Print.
28 Mar. 2016.
"The Power of Meditation: How to Start - Karma Juice." Karma Juice. N.p., 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
"Tibetan Monks Painstakingly Create Incredible Mandalas Using Millions of Grains of Sand." My Modern Met. N.p., 21 Apr. 2014. Web.
28 Mar. 2016.