Eastern and Western Religions -- Rituals One Essay

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Eastern and Western Religions -- Rituals

One of the great divides and differences -- morally and spiritually -- between the Western world and the Eastern world is how people worship, what they believe about God and the universe, and what their rituals are. But how much substantive difference can truly be seen between eastern religions and western religions? This paper points to the major differences in terms of the rituals of four great world religions: Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Confucianism.

Eastern Religions: Rituals of Confucianism

Author Jeffrey Richey points out that the oldest ritualistic practice in Confucianism is ancestor worship. This includes the remembering of (and revering of) a person -- loved one -- that has passed on. The commemoration of and the communication with that deceased person is considered a necessary ritualistic sacrifice, Richey explains. The writer makes clear that commemoration of a deceased person is not unique to Confucianism in East Asian religions; indeed, "one need not identify oneself as 'Confucian' in order to practice…" ancestor worship (Richey, 2008). That having been said, the roots of ancestor worship are deeply held within the Confucian traditions.

Ancestor worship as a ritual has been part of Chinese life "since prehistoric times," Richey explains; in fact the rulers of the Shang dynasty (1570-1045 B.C.E.) are known to have practiced ancestor worship. That is known because there are writings that document those details from the Shang dynasty. Meantime, there is a saying (documented by the Lunyu records) that aptly illustrates the importance of reverence for ancestors through worship: "Observe what a person has in mind to do when his father is alive, and then observe what he does when his father is dead." And, the saying continues, "If for three years he makes no changes to his father's ways, he can be said to be a good son" (Lunyu 1:11 / Richey). This is a good example of the importance of worshiping those that have gone before -- especially a beloved family member.
Other rituals that are part of Confucianism include: bowing and being respectful to older people; taking off shoes before entering a house; and writing thank you notes to those who have helped you (Brockbaker, 2013). Moreover, it should be mentioned that Confucianism does not include worshiping a God or any deity; it is more of an ethical religion than a traditional one.

Eastern Religions: Rituals of Hinduism

The most common religious ritual in the Hindu experience is "…the division between purity and pollution," according to About.com (references used from the U.S. Library of Congress). There is an assumption in the Hindu faith that believers (or practitioners) have some degree of pollution or impurity in their spirit or their daily habits, and so, those impurities must be "overcome or neutralized before and during ritual procedures" (About.com). Hence, to remove those impurities prior to rituals one must be purified with water. Certain impurities must be removed by water prior to the rituals that will be explained in the next paragraph; those impurities might be eating animal flesh, taking the life of an animal, any association with a dead thing -- or with bodily fluids -- is considered an impurity (About.com).

So, once the impurity is cleansed with water, daily rituals may take place. Most Hindus practice their rituals at home, not in a building (or church). Typically, at the dawn of a new day, the women in the home "…draw auspicious geometric designs in chalk or rice flour on the floor or the doorstep"; and following a bath, a common Hindu ritual is to worship gods at the family shrine (in the home) by lighting a lamp and offering food items to the gods while reciting prayers in Sanskrit (About.com). According to Religion Facts, Hindus that are more philosophical about their faith seek "Realization of the Self" by the….....

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