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Book: Chinese Buddhism Today

Chapter: Ritual as Symphony

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.43518


The authors begin this chapter by surveying the history of Buddhist attitudes toward ritual and contrasting this with the importance accorded to ritual in traditional Confucian society. This leads into a discussion of merit transfer. They point out thatItis hardly an exaggeration to say thatthe Mahāyāna was constructed by generalizing the transfer of merit and abolishing the condition that it is possible only when the person who receives the merit is aware that it is being transferred to them. In contrast, in the tradition of Chinese Buddhism, as followed by FGS, the commonest form of communal ritual centres on transferring merit to the dead, particularly to one’s own parents and other ancestors. They point out how busy FGS temples are and how much of the activity is communal and describe a number of common rituals including musical performances. Attention is also paid to funeral rituals and to rituals practiced overseas.

Chapter Contributors

  • Yu-Shuang Yao ( - ysyao) 'Fo Guang University, Taiwan'
  • Richard Gombrich ( - richardgombrich) 'University of Oxford / Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies'