Essay Sample on Buddhism: Chanting, Rituals, and Liturgy

Paper Type:  Term paper
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  1031 Words
Date:  2023-05-07


In Buddhism, liturgy is an official service and worship. The readings inform that liturgy mainly involves chanting or reciting a sutra, a mantra, and several Gathas. Sutra is a Buddhist scripture (Oxtoby, Amore, & Hussain, 2014). Mantra is a word or phrase that is repeated during worship to emphasize meditation. Gatha is any Prakrit and Pali verses that mean singing, speaking, and extolling (Suzuki, 2011). Chanting and rituals are conventional approaches to changing moral and doctrinal ideas into experience. They give shape to moral values, abstract doctrines, communal identity, and individual concerns (Suzuki, 2011).

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Participants submit petitions, sing praises, receive blessings, request absolutions, make confessions, give offerings, present dedications, and transfer the merit of the ritual to others (Suzuki, 2011). These practices can be conducted at the temple or home. Occasionally, it is performed in front of objects of worship and characterized by offerings of incense, light, food, and water. Rituals also accompany liturgy practice as a way of prayer. The readings inform that various rituals can be performed by priests to honor kami and Buddha.

The readings also inform that the practice of liturgy is the path to salvation in Zen Buddhism. This belief is, according to Oxtoby, Amore, & Hussain (2014), who maintained that the Zen tradition emphasized the practice of liturgy through seated meditation as the way to enlightenment and salvation. The liturgical practice also involves Buddhist ceremonies such as funerals and memorials, weddings, house blessings, naming, and animal ordinations that mark significant moments in the Buddhist religion (Abe & Waddell, 2002). These celebrations are known as Abbey ceremonies that are mainly performed on Sundays.

View of Reality

The view of reality implied by the practice of liturgy is beliefs. As noted, Zen Buddhists believe that Chanting and rituals are conventional approaches to changing moral and doctrinal ideas into experience. The uses and types of chants and rituals are different, beginning from the ones performed by people as regular customs to the Abbey ceremonies conducted at home and temple (Suzuki, 2011). Zen Buddhists also hold the view that rituals are performed for different reasons. Some are for severe ascetics in need of enlightenment, while others are for casual believers seeking earthly benefits like wealth, spouse, and health.

Liturgy turns out to be incredibly significant with the precepts and ethical containers at the center of the Zen tradition. In fact, Zen liturgy has been an essential part of Zen practice since its beginnings. Liturgy means the work of the people or public service (Suzuki, 2011). Within the context of Zen, it is believed that liturgy makes visible the invisible, creating awareness of the collective experience of a group (Oxtoby, Amore, & Hussain, 2014). In theistic religion, liturgy builds the relationship of the believers with God. However, Zen is nontheistic, so it focuses on realizing the nature of Buddha or the self (Suzuki, 2011). Making the invisible visible implying bring whole lives together. Liturgy symbolically expresses that fullness, which opens the way of existing in the world.

According to Zen Buddhism, chanting and rituals as performed as prescribed actions and a means by which participants express their concerns. The regular performances give believers their religious identity. Zen Buddhists also believe that worship, as a spiritual practice, takes the form of meditation, devotion, and living with moral purity in the believers' thoughts (Oxtoby, Amore, & Hussain, 2014). During worship, submit petitions, sing praises, receive blessings, request absolutions, make confessions, give offerings, present dedications, and transfer the merit of the ritual to others (Suzuki, 2011). These beliefs might affect an individual view of Zen Buddhist practice linking it to Christianity because they have some similar practices during worship. For instance, they both submit petitions, sing praises, receive blessings, request absolutions, make confessions, give offerings, present dedications during worship.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Using Metaphysical Approach for Studying Zen Buddhism

The advantage of a metaphysical approach for studying Zen Buddhism is that it provides insight into understanding how people perceive Zen Buddhism. Like other religions, Zen Buddhism has to do with divine reality, immorality, the meaning of life, human relationship with the divine, and the choice of right and wrong. Suzuki (2011) perceived that humans have a natural tendency towards metaphysics. Naturally, humans focus on the original ideas of pure reason. In this context, using metaphysics in the study of Zen Buddhism helps the researcher to understand the realities beyond mere thinking. Therefore, metaphysics is based on the premise that there is more to reality than is perceived with senses. It is this reality that helps in the understanding of the history and beliefs of Zen Buddhism.

The metaphysical approach also increases the capacity and desire to learn Zen Buddhism. One only has the interest and willingness to learn something after understanding the facts behind the subject. The reality presented by metaphysics in understanding Zen Buddhism increases the interest of other people in becoming familiar with the religion. In other words, the metaphysical approach helps in understanding Zen Buddhism from both religious and philosophical perspectives. It contributes to empirical knowledge about the subject. Most importantly, the metaphysical approach attempts to solve various problems and criticisms associated with Zen Buddhism by connecting different ideas and opinions of multiple theorists.

The drawback of this method in studying Zen Buddhism is that it crystalizes and petrifies the concept of deities at a particular time and place. The deity does not grow, expand, or consider new cultural forces, which results in a conflict between science and religion. Also, the metaphysical approach relies on individuals' ideas and opinions, which may lack proof. For instance, the claim that divine beings or gods are using the philosophical approach raises metaphysical questions about the nature of reality and existence. This problem compromises the credibility of the understanding of Zen Buddhism.


Abe, M., & Waddell, N. A. (2002). The Heart of Dogen's Shobogenzo. New York: State University of New York Press.

Oxtoby, W., Amore, R., & Hussain, A. (2014). World Religions: Eastern Traditions (Vol. 4th). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Suzuki, D. T. (2011). An introduction to Zen Buddhism. New York: Grove Press.

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