Buddhist worship services vary among Mahayana, Theravada, and other
Buddhist groups. Incense may be burned before an image of Buddha and is
regarded among Buddhists as an aid to meditation. Buddhist scripture may
also be recited. The goal of Buddhists is nirvana, or passionless peace. They
believe that nirvana can be achieved through perfect self-control, unselfish-
ness, knowledge, and enlightenment.
The monks robe (Bonze), as well as his shaven head, identifies him as a
man of religion. Among Theravada Buddhists only saffron (orange) robes
seem to be worn, whereas monks of other Buddhist groups wear shades of
white, brown, or yellow without reference to order or status. Groups other
than Theravada seem to prefer the color yellow for worship services and
religious or civic ceremonies.
A string of 108 beads, each symbolizing one of the 108 desires to be over-
come prior to enlightenment, is used by devout Buddhists while meditating.
Gongs are used in Buddhist pagodas and homes for three basic purposes:
1. To announce the time of a service or meeting
2. To mark the different phases of a ceremony
3. To set the tempo for Buddhist chants
Light from candles and lamps symbolizes Buddhas teachings leading to
enlightenment. Incense is burned as an offering in memory of Buddha and as
an aid to meditation.
Food, wine, and water are placed before the altars of Buddha and
symbolize that the best is first shared with Buddha. Only the essence of the
food is essential for purposes of worship, and the items themselves are later
used as food by the worshipers.
A Buddist bell and drum are located in or near the porch of the pagoda or
temple. The bell is rung to announce a meeting or special event. The drum is
normally sounded when dignitaries are present.
Lustral Water or holy water is water which has been poured over a
statue of Buddha under the proper conditions to attain Buddhas virtues.
This water may be used to pour over the hands of a corpse at a funeral, the
hands of a bridal couple at a wedding, or to sprinkle about a new house.
Flowers are placed on family altars in the home and on graves, used
during worship in the pagoda, and presented when calling upon the monks or
Buddhist Symbols and Artifacts
The majority of Buddhist symbols and artifacts will be found in the
pagoda or temple. Symbols of Buddhism include the various statues of
Buddha, (see figure 2-15), the wheel of life, and the Chu Van which is
identical to the swastika but has a religious connotation. Often, figures of
dragons, the Phoenix, and other symbols are interwoven with the accepted
symbols of Buddhism.
THE WHEEL OF LIFE.This is one of the earliest symbols of
Buddhism and consists of a circle (wheel) with either eight or twelve divisions