Although most religions believe and worship either a supernatural being or are nontheistic, the ideas of worship differ with respect to the origin of religious denominations. For instance, there exist numerous differences between the religious systems practised under Western religion compared to the Eastern religion. This is highly prompted by the fact that the setting and the norms of these religions have been developed to champion a particular religious outcome. For this reason, even religious services have been designed to bring out aspired outcomes that are in line with the belief systems of the respective religion. In this reflection paper, the specifics that surround an Eastern religious system during a routine service will be analyzed. Precisely, a Buddhist service will be used as the basis upon which this reflection paper will be based on. That is, the paper will analyze the Buddhist service space, the service itself, and the specific ritual performed during the service. Nonetheless, personal reflection following an observation of a Buddhist service compared to the Western religion. Therefore, this paper will give an all-round analysis of a Buddhist service and how it portrays specific details surrounding the Eastern religion.
Buddhist use temples as their official places of worship as well as the central location where religious services take place. However, the outside and inside appearances vary with respect to the Buddhist temple and the immediate population. In this case, the temple has a square base, with the roof taking the shape of a square-based pyramid (Etherton, 2019). Additionally, the roofing is fitted with spires which appear as superstructures that form a tower above the sanctuary as well as the surrounding halls. This is the most noticeable feature that can be noticed from the outside of the Buddhist temple. Also, there is a dome architecture immediately over the square base and a pinnacle at the very top of the temple (Etherton, 2019). Nonetheless, the larger outer and central spaces are characteristically surrounded by an ambulatory that allows the worshippers to walk without difficulty around the temple areas. On the other hand, the inside of the temple has a gold-plated Buddha statue that has been placed in the anterior area of the temple. Also, the inside part has an altar that is lit using candles and decorated with various materials such as portable paintings and Chrysanthemum flowers (Bushra, 2014).
Furthermore, a Buddhist service has both the congregants and the monks. The service starts with the congregants seated on the floor barefooted. The front row is occupied by a monk who is then followed by other congregants, all facing the gold-plated Buddha statue. The service is opened by instruments such as bells that are accompanied by chants from the congregants. This is then followed by the entrance of the lead monk, who is tasked with leading the service (Bushra, 2014). His entrance is considered a remarkable undertaking during the service. This can be evidenced by the fact that, immediately after the entrance of the monk, the congregation rises and bows down in unison with the monk. These actions are guided by a wooden semantron which the monk hits with a wooden mallet. Also, there are congregants who are issued with booklets to follow along the entire service. The monk leads the entire service and performs all rituals, as well as leads the meditation and chanting (Bushra, 2014). Similarly, during various instances during the service, both the monks and the congregants assume a prostration position while still chanting.
In addition, from the start of the service, the monks led the congregation to repetitively chants different mantras as a form of meditation. While this goes on, the monks simultaneously hit the wooden semantron and initiate songs that go hand-in-hand with the chants (Bushra, 2014). Nonetheless, the monks lead the congregants through devotion, where they are all directed to observe the Buddha statue and reminisce about the inspiring qualities of the Buddha. During this time, both female and male congregants are not separated whatsoever, and they observe all rituals in unison. During these rituals, the congregation repeat various hymns while still chanting and prostrating. Also, apart from the monks who head the service, there are other assistants who help the congregants adhere to specific rituals throughout the service. At one point during the service, the monks and the congregants are alerted by the temple’s assistance to turn right and face the paintings in the temple (Bushra, 2014). Immediately after they turn, they all bow down before they continue to sing and chant in unison while the monk continues to hot the wooden semantron.
Generally, the Eastern religion, as portrayed through a Buddhist service, caught me by surprise. This is mainly because, as opposed to the Western system where the preachers or Imams lead the congregants by facing them and preaching using the bible or Quran, the monks and their congregants face the Buddha statue. Also, unlike Western religions, where songs are often accompanied by prayers, the Buddhist system accompanies songs with chants which help them meditate during the services. Similarly, the fact that there are no hairs and the congregants, together with the monk, sit on the floor was a new experience. All in all, I felt comfortable watching the Buddhist service from the beginning to the end, as there were no odd or offensive rituals that are performed by either the monks or the congregants. Nonetheless, I was intrigued that Buddhist assume a prostration position or bow down during prayers which are common operations that are done in Western religions such as Christianity and Islam. Therefore, apart from the meditation part of the Buddha service, most of the undertakings were similar and interesting.
To sum up, Buddhism portrays a perfect picture of what Eastern religion entails in terms of rituals and the general conduction of religious services. That is, it gives a precise portrayal of both the internal and external environment that surround the temples and how they have been designed to serve specific functions. Also, different rituals are used throughout services, all intended to gain a specific result that is essential for all Buddhists. However, the service is somewhat different compared to the Western religious services and church setups. This is mainly evidenced by the fact that while most Western religions are primarily embedded in praying, preaching and singing as essential rituals that are carried out during services, Buddhist focus on chanting, singing and meditation as the critical undertakings during services. Besides these factors, most of the undertakings within the Buddhist set-up are plausible as they are conducted in a manner that is almost similar to that of Western religions. Generally, the greater contradiction brought forth by Buddhism is that Buddhist beliefs are guided by nontheistic philosophies, while Western philosophies are guided by monotheistic undertakings.
Bushra, H. (2014). Buddhist Service [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV9nG5uK0gU
Etherton, C. (2019, June 10). Twenty beautiful Buddhist temples around the world. Travel. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/pictures-of-beautfiul-buddhist- temples-around-the-world