- Examine the rites of passage in the Theravada tradition of...
Examine the rites of passage in the Theravada tradition of Buddhism, their meanings and how they are practiced
Rites of passage are celebrations or rituals, marking out stages
of the lives of a person's social, religious and sexual status
throughout their lives. Birth, puberty, marriage and death are the
most commonly celebrated stages, but there are many others involved
within different religious traditions; this essay will focus on the
rites of passage celebrated by the Theravada Buddhist tradition,
what they mean and how they are practiced.
Van Gennep was one of the first anthropologists to study rites
of passage as a social function and found that they are universally
experienced throughout the world and it is only the finer details
that change from culture to culture. He analysed two most common
forms of rite of passage: initiation and funeral rites. These
happened also to be the two main rites of passage celebrated in the
Theravada Buddhist religious community.
Some time after the death a period of almsgiving will take
place, this ritual places merit onto the deceased and enriches the
karma of those donating money, food and materials to the Bhikhus.
This ritual act of dana, thoughtful donation, is practiced
throughout the year to support the monastic community.
This essay has highlighted some of the most significant rites of
passage observed by the Theravada Buddhist community. Death and
adolescence are the most important aspects of life for any Buddhist
and are commemorated in a way that relates these life experiences
directly to the Buddha and to the sangha.