Practices and rituals signify the activities that the followers of a religion are required to engage in. They provide an avenue for strengthening their religious beliefs. Similarities and differences can arise when considering the rituals and practices in religious practice, thereby offering a unique perspective in determining the significance of religion to its followers.
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The religious activities also act as a record of what characterizes a specific religion. Most of the rituals have been conducted through the ages and passed over generations. They have become part of individuals’ identity and a means of social integration (Clarke, 2013).
Practices and rituals are the physical manifestations of the activities of religion. Such actions are given a spiritual meaning by the followers. In Hinduism and Jainism, followers engage in different rituals during religious festivals, holidays, and events. Though differing in nature, the activities give followers a means of communication with a spiritual being, or they strengthen their beliefs, as the case is with Jainism (Warrier, 2004).
Ritual practices by Hindus are seen as a way of ensuring the spiritual enhancement and the general well-being of the individuals. Devotees can eliminate prarabdhas (past karma) and asanas (bad tendencies), thereby guaranteeing their well-being in both the short-term and the long-term.
In the long-term, spiritual enhancement changes the follower’s attitudes and personality by merging their life with faith and spirituality. In the short-term, it helps with good health and warding off evil and misfortunes. In the end, the devotee is believed to become contented and happy (Cort, 2001).
The practice of public worship or Puja is essential in Hindu rituals and practices. Individual destinies are impacted by malefic influences of the planets. This results in suffering and pain. Only activities like the Puja, which are guided by astrological calculations, provide a way of easing the suffering of the believers. Ritual fire or home ceremonies are also a common Hindu practice for achieving various needs, like becoming knowledgeable and gaining wealth and good health (Warrier, 2004).
Hinduism is composed of a multitude of deities, comprising of the major divinities like Siva, Ganesh, and Krishna. There are also semi-divine divinities like nagas (serpents) and yakshas (tree spirits), as well as the rural village gods and the goddesses. They are not subject to specific ritual traditions, but a Hindu’s choice on any deity is determined by the family or through personal choice.
Altars are common in a typical Hindu home, where they reflect familial and regional preferences. Community and individual circumstances are easily adaptable. There is no single authoritative body or texts that dictate ritual and practices that are expected. Numerous ritual manuals exist, but the context of the practices is obligatory (Clarke, 2013).
Jains have regular rituals or kriyas for followers, which guide them on a journey towards the ‘inner’ self from the ‘outer’ self. Regarded as the ‘right conduct,’ rituals occur with the complete understanding of the meaning of various activities and devotions. For Jains, ‘empty’ ritualistic practices are not beneficial.
In other words, ritual practices are not merely observed for the sake of appearances or as a result of habits. Both laypeople and ascetics conduct six essential rituals. The rest of the rituals are conducted in differing ways by the two groups (Warrier, 2004).
Jains have a series of religious practices that are conducted at varying frequencies. Those that are essential are sometimes carried out once in a lifetime. The practices are also dissimilar amongst the different Jain communities and sects. Murtipuka is a sect of Jains who worship images and have colorful rituals in temples. They differ greatly with the non-image worshiping Sthanakvasi. The rituals amongst Jains also vary locally, where devotees are given the option to choose their variations for rituals (Cort, 2001).
Jainism lacks a religious leader to guide its practices and rituals. This is unlike the Hindu’s Brahmin caste, for instance, which acts as a priesthood. The ascetics in Jainism hold the role of being religious guides to laypeople, but they do not consider themselves as priests.
Ascetics are respected and venerated during religious rituals, but they do not act as a link between deities and the laity. Moreover, they are not involved in the administration of temples. Some ritual functions that can be conducted by qualified specialists or Vidhikaarak also exist (Warrier, 2004).
My social environment is characterized by varying religions, with different beliefs and practices. Many people are religious, as religiosity provides a way of finding inner peace, dealing with problems that arise in life, while also acting as a way of appreciating the assistance from the divine being.
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Religious practices and beliefs are part of the way of life of a Hindu or a Jain, and it can be seen in their day-to-day activities. In my experiences with Hindu devotees, I have come across the various rituals conducted before and after birth. These comprise a life ritual, where a child’s naming ritual is conducted. It signifies the sanctity of the child. The pregnant mother’s hair is also braided as a way of purification.
Practices and rituals of faith can act as representatives and provide the dimensions of religion as supernatural. Devotees get a better understanding of what is expected of them by following a set of complex ritualistic practices. Religion traverses a huge part of people’s social life if it is easier to see the manifestation in the day-to-day lives of the people.
Clarke, M. (2013). Handbook of research on development and religion. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
Cort, J. E. (2001). Jains in the world: Religious values and ideology in India. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Warrier, M. (2004). Hindu selves in a modern world: Guru faith in the Mata Amritanandamayi mission. London, UK: Routledge.