Human Life in Society
Life and Culture
Traditions, Customs and Festivals
Buddhism is open to traditions and customs provided they are not harmful to the welfare of others.
The Buddha advised
us not to believe in anything simply because it is the traditional custom.
However, we are not advised to suddenly do away with all traditions. 'You
must try to experiment with them and put them thoroughly to test. If they
are reasonable and conducive both to your happiness and to the welfare
of others, only then should you accept and practise these traditions and
customs.' (Kalama Sutta)
This is certainly one of the most liberal declarations ever made by any
religious teacher. This tolerance of other's
traditions and customs is not known to some other religionists. These religionists
usually advise their new converts to give up all their traditions, customs
and culture without observing whether they are good or bad. While preaching
the Dhamma, Buddhist missionaries have never advised the people to give
up their traditions as long as they are reasonable. But the customs and
traditions must be within the framework of religious principles. In other
words, one should not violate the religious precepts in order to follow
one's traditions. If people are very keen to follow their own traditions
which have no religious value at all, they can do so provided that they
do not practise these traditions in the name of religion. Even then, such
practices must be harmless to oneself and to all other living creatures.
Rites and Rituals
These are included
within customs and traditions. The rites and rituals are an ornamentation
or a decoration to beautify a religion in order to attract the public.
They provide a psychological help to some people. But one can practise
religion without any rites and rituals. Certain rites and rituals that
people consider as the most important aspect of their religion for their
salvation are not considered as such in Buddhism. According to the Buddha,
one should not cling to such practices for his spiritual development or
Genuine and sincere Buddhists do not observe Buddhist festivals by enjoying themselves under the influence of liquor and merry-making or holding feasts by the slaughtering of animals. The true Buddhists observe festival days in an entirely different manner. On the particular festival day, they would devote their time to abstaining from all evil. They would practise charity and help others to relieve themselves from their suffering. They may entertain friends and relatives in a respectable way.
The festivals that have been incorporated with religion sometimes could pollute the purity of a religion. On the other hand a religion without festivals can become very dull and lifeless to many people. Usually children and youths come to religion through religious festivals. To them the attraction of a religion is based on its festivals. However, to a mediator, festivals can become a nuisance.
Of course, some people
will not be satisfied with religious observances only during a festival
. They naturally like to have some sort of merry-making and outward show.
Rites, rituals, ceremonies, processions and festivals are organized to
quench that thirst for emotional satisfaction through religion. No one
can say that such practices are wrong, but devotees have to organize those
ceremonies in a cultured manner, without causing a nuisance to others.
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