Rituals and Worship

Festivals are a hugely popular tradition in Asia. There is textual and artistic evidence supporting the fact that large festivals were being held at stupas within a few centuries after the Buddha's death. The area would be decorated with flags and bright lights, the air would be filled with music and chanting, throngs of people would crowd into the area, and the atmosphere was joyous and friendly.

Today religious festivals are held throughout Asia. In some cases today, a festival may commemorate a historical moment, in others a religious one, and in many cases, representatives of several religions will be involved in preparing for and celebrating a festival. Often festivals are popular in particular regions, such as the Nebuta Matsuri in the Tohoku region of Japan, where locals may spend an entire year creating elaborate, lighted floats representing important moments in history or legend, Buddhist deities, or advertising a product. People gather along the route of the procession to cheer and shout along with the participants. This celebratory atmosphere remains an essential element of the festivals.

Study Questions:
1.     What is the role of tradition in ceremony?
2.     How is the Buddha's birthday celebrated?
3.     Is pilgrimage a sacred rite within Buddhism? Why or why not?

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