Rituals and Rites!
Acceptance, inner peace and coming “Home” after the loss of a loved one are not easy. Culture, tradition and religion seek to provide a path to follow, rituals and rites to perform and prayers for the departed. But do these rituals, prayers and the funeral rites help us find peace or are just a blind person’s stick to help steady us during the initial period of loss and confusion?
What is Ritual?
According to the Oxford dictionary ritual is defined as “A religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order:” However if we are just following the prescribed actions without the intention or thought of what we are hoping to achieve from it, it ends up being an empty, hollow, useless physical exercise.
My friend Seani says and I quote him “For me ritual is the practice of tuning in to a more meditative space and then using that space to access different states of consciousness. This can be for grounding, or self-awareness or emotional release.” Further he elaborates “Rituals are probably the best way to tune into spirituality. Most religions have quite empty and shallow rituals that don’t really touch the magic or the spirit”.
Nearly every religion and culture has got rituals and rites of passage at birth, coming of age, marriage and finally at death. I hadn’t realised the importance of ritual in the grieving process. However I am not sure we understand the meaning of these rituals. In our tradition we bathe and clean the body and bury it in a particular manner. I presume its the same case in other traditions. I am sure each religions priests can explain the meaning far better than me. I am not sure how much of the compliance to these rituals is due to fear of causing displeasure to a vengeful god, but as long as the rituals fulfil a basic human need for honouring the dead they are valuable!
What I can’t understand is why if we show such respect to the dead, we do not show the same respect and honour the living.
Prayer another ritual, If not just a mere repetition of chants, verses or hymns and is a true communion with “Spirit” can be transformative and bring peace. It’s said that the prayer of the prophet Mohammed and his companions was such a communion. Is our prayer like that now? If not why not?
However is there only one way of prayer and are one set of rituals better than others? Let alone the conflict amongst the various religions, I found such diverse opinions even in our own family regarding beliefs and rituals related to death and burial. One insisting that we recite the Quran daily and not confine it to set days, that we do not follow certain rituals as they are “unislamic” and another suggesting we follow some rituals that are perhaps a bit tainted by the influence of the prevailing culture of India! Doesn’t religion get influenced by culture? Is any religion an exact representation of the founders teachings?
Perhaps its more important that instead of debating what is authentic and what is not, creating schisms and conflict, violence and death, blindly following “a series of actions performed according to a set order” as the Oxford dictionary defines and follow my friend Seani’s line of thinking,” touch the magic, tune into that deep meditative space and use these rituals for gaining self awareness, emotional release and spiritual growth” and learn compassion, they would help us more in finding that inner peace and come “Home”