Bhutans religion | Buddhism | The Buddhist ritual | A path out of this world

The ritual as path out of this world

The way to attain release from the cycle of rebirths is marked by detailed ritualism. The tantric tradition makes use of methods of the psycho-physical training as it has been known in India for centuries. In tantrism, they underwent further development into an extremely complex system.

That the master is extremely important can also be seen in the course of most rituals. The person performing the ritual starts off by evocating the line of his teachers, which renders the rite valid. Then one verbally seeks refuge with the Buddhas and bodhisattva to take the vow to attain enlightenment and to use one's religious merits for the redemption of all living beings. By this confession and the reciting of sacred formulas (mantra*) one cleanses oneself of one's sins.

 


Only after these preparations can the next step be taken - the procedure of mentally creating the phenomenal existence. The one meditating makes a deity appear out of »emptiness«, according to its iconography. The deity leaves its numinous state in the sphere of the absolute, in which it rests in its »form as absolute consciousness«. This is an exercise which requires extraordinary concentration to be performed. In a »sudden move« the disciple identifies with the deity; he becomes a deity himself.

In a next step the mental creation of identification with the deity is destroyed and the deity is released again into its area of the absolute. This should lead to the experience that the conventional way of seeing the world, splitting object from subject, is a similar illusion to the conventional ideas of one's own self and the existence of deities are. In this way the monk experiences the real nature of appearances: their emptiness. With this insight, the interpretation of the self starts waning, the True Reality has been seen and the one who is searching has reached his destination and is enlightened. It is, however, totally pointless to rationally know these things; this last insight must be experienced and lived in meditation.

Ultimately, this means that, in a certain sense, the gods themselves do not exist. That, however, only applies to the insight of the one who has already become enlightened. For those caught in relative reality, on the other hand, the deities definitely exist and show effect. These statements seem contradictory, but only so at first sight: The gods must be understood as helpers on the way to enlightenment.

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Gods and Sacred ..


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Under the auspices of a highly placed head lama, a ritual for long life is performed at the Tamshing monastery in the province of Bumthang.
Photo by Christian Schicklgruber

In a ritual the lama uses ritual objects as expression of philosophical contents. Specific movements with bell and diamond sceptre symbolise the lifting of all duality and the final aim of insight - the emptiness of all beings.
Photo by Christian Schicklgruber