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Buddhist Rituals and Festivals

            Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama commonly known as the Buddha "the awakened one". The Buddha's experiences have shown that there is a way to escape from the world of suffering, and that it can be achieved through one's own efforts. There are several types of Buddhism denomination, namely: Pure Land schools, Theravada ("Way of the Elders"), Mahayana or Zen ("Greater Vehicle"), the largest school of Buddhism in Japan and Vajrayana Buddhism (Diamond Vehicle) also commonly called Tantric Buddhism (Buddhism denominations). The two major branches of Buddhism are Theravada and Mahayana. Both branches practice rituals but some rituals are not heavily emphasized in Theravada schools. The Theravada Buddhists believe that Gautama Buddha was only a man and, by becoming a monk and following his example and teachings, one can achieve enlightenment. The Mahayana Buddhists believe in order to achieve enlightenment it is not necessary to become a monk but depends on good deeds performed during one's lifetime. .
             Buddhist rituals and festivals have been important activities in Buddhist communities. There are diversity practices across Buddhist lands and schools but the main features, however, are invariable. Most rituals are in commemorating and celebrating the Buddha and 'famous' saints of the past. Rituals are also a way of showing respect, thankfulness and devotion to the Buddha, the sangha and the Dharma – The Three Jewels. The Three Jewels also known as the Three Refuge and are the three things that Buddhists take refuge in, and look toward for guidance. In Buddhism, rituals are performed because they are helpful for those who participate. It is often said that you have to practice Buddhism to understand it (O'Brien). The power of the rituals manifests when you engage in them fully and give yourself to them completely, with your entire heart and mind.

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