World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
Space does not permit World Scripture to do justice to the wide variety of rituals and rites by which people of the world worship God. The rituals ordained in scripture fall into several broad classes practiced in the world's religions. Some texts mandate the worship and remembrance of the transcendent God through symbols and images. The Christian Eucharist represents in the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ; the Hindu puja, is a rite in which images of the gods are worshipped with bathing, flowers, food offerings, obeisance, and mantras; fire represents God's righteousness in Zoroastrian fire worship; veneration of relics is common to many religions, particularly Buddhism; the three great symbols of Shinto represent the Sun Goddess Amaterasu; and the peace pipe, in Native American religion brings forth the blessings of the Great Spirit.
Other rituals center on sacred space and time. Pilgrimage, the journey to the sacred place, is a religious duty in many religious traditions, especially in Islam where the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, was ordained by Abraham as a central rite. Rituals to set apart sacred time can include the many actions and symbols to mark the beginning or ending of festival days; thus the Jewish law of the Sabbath sets it apart as a day of rest.
Many rituals are concerned with purity and purification. Ritual bathing, baptism, hand-washing, and other forms of cleansing are symbolic of purification of the soul. The Vedas teach the merit of bathing in the Ganges, and the Bible prescribes the Christian rite of baptism. Dietary laws, prohibiting one from eating certain unclean foods or requiring foods to be prepared in a prescribed manner, such as the Jewish laws of kashrut and Hindu teachings on vegetarianism, are helpful for purifying body and spirit.
The concluding passages deal with worship through offering animal sacrifices. Since only the rituals of living religions are relevant for modern man, we must distinguish these from the ritual practice of the ancients as preserved in scripture. Offerings of animals are still made in contemporary Chinese religion, in Islam as one rite of the hajj, in some primal religions, and rarely in Hinduism. But for most Hindus the vedic sacrifices have been spiritualized and supplanted by puja, and Judaism regards study and prayer as fulfilling the biblical commandments to sacrifice animals.
1 See the relevant passages: Satapatha Brahmana 18.104.22.168-3, p. 864, and Menahot 110a, pp. 864f. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5: Cf. Kularnava Tantra 5, p. 486, on the mystical meaning of several of the objects used in Tantric ritual.
Let us do it The way it is usually done So that we may have the usual result.
African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
Those who, knowing my true nature, worship me steadfastly are my true devotees. Worship me in the symbols and images which remind you of me, and also in the hearts of my devotees, where I am most manifest.... Observe the forms and rituals set forth in the scriptures, without losing sight of their inner spirit.
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts! Worship the Lord in holy array; tremble before him, all the earth!
Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 96.7-9
Thy fire, O Lord, mighty through Righteousness, swift and powerful-- We would that it may be a resplendent support For him who exalts it; but for the enemy, O Wise One, According to the powers of thy hand, the clear showing of his trespasses!
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 34.4
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is [broken] for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
Christianity. 1 Corinthians 11.23-25
Then the Sun Goddess Amaterasu imparted unto the first emperor the myriad Magatama beads and the mirror which had been used to lure her out of the cave as well as the sword Kusa-nagi... and said, "This mirror--have it with you as my spirit, and worship it just as you would worship in my very presence."
Shinto. Kojiki 39.2-3
In due time they purified the bones of the deceased Saint with the finest water, and, placing them in golden pitchers in the city of Mallas, they chanted hymns of praise, "The jars hold great relics, full of virtue, like the jeweled ore of a great mountain, and the relics are unharmed by fire, just as the sphere of Brahma in heaven is unharmed [though the whole earth be burned up]. These bones, pervaded with universal benevolence, and not liable to burning by the fire of passion, are preserved under the influence of devotion; though they are cold, they still warm our hearts."
The wise know the virtues of the Buddha to be such that, given equal purity of mind, the same fruit will be won either by reverencing the Seer during his worldly existence or by doing obeisance to his relics after the Parinirvana.
Buddhism. Ashvaghosha, Buddhacarita 27.76-78, 28.69
Yasna 34.4: Fire is the central symbol of Zoroastrian worship. It represents both God's righteousness and the ordeal at the judgment by which the wicked are separated from the righteous. 1 Corinthians 11.23-25: These words are spoken at the Eucharistic service in Christian churches. Kojiki 39.2-3: These three sacred symbols of Shinto are in the possession of the emperor of Japan. But the mirror, which is placed at the center of Shinto altars, is especially significant. Besides being a symbol of the sun, it represents the kami within. The reflection of the self is the reflection of kami. On the origin of the sword, see Kojiki 19, p. 626.
With a love for the happiness of different beings Shiva Puja shall be performed--so say the wise men. The pedestal represents Shiva's consort Parvati and his phallic emblem represents the sentient being. Just as lord Shiva remains ever in close embrace of the Goddess Parvati, so also the phallic emblem holds on to the pedestal forever.... The devotee shall install the phallic emblem and worship it with the sixteen prescribed types of homage and services: invocation, offering the seat, water offering, washing the feet, water for rinsing the mouth as a mystical rite, oil bath, offering of cloth, scents, flowers, incense, lamps, and food, waving of lights, betel leaves, obeisance, and mystical discharge and conclusion.... Everywhere Shiva accords benefit as befitting the endeavor put in.
Hinduism. Shiva Purana, Vidyeshvarasamhita 11.22-35
You are as wide as the world and sky And wider still! Your feet go deeper than the abyss And deeper still! Your crown stands high above the universe And higher still! You are imperceptible, past understanding, Unlimited and incomparable. But coming to the palm of my hand You have taken the form of Linga, So small and effulgent: O Lord Kudala Sangama!
Hinduism. Basavanna, Vachana 743
Shiva Purana: Puja is the rite of image worship with its many ceremonies. It is the chief style of worship in popular Hinduism. This passage is an extract from a lengthy discussion of the worship of Shiva as represented by the linga. Note that the linga is devoid of any connotation of sexual license; it is a spiritual symbol of the cosmic unity of male and female principles. It has taken on an abstract and aniconic character, in contrast to the images of gods and goddesses which adorn most Hindu worship. Cf. Shiva Purana, Rudrasamhita 18.3-22, p. 367. Vachana 743: The Lingayats of South India worship Shiva in the form of the Ishta-linga, a personal linga carried in a small container suspended on the neck. It is a tiny stone, oval in shape and black in color, which symbolizes the transcendent Deity. Meditating on the Ishta-linga, surrounded by all the articles of puja (as mentioned in the previous passage from the Puranas)--flowers, rosary beads, sacred ash, incense, candles--the devotee gazes on the linga held in the open left palm raised to the level of one's nose while reciting the Shiva mantra and singing devotional songs. Use of the Ishta-Linga as a symbol for deity emancipated worship from the temple and priesthood, as each individual became his own temple of God, see Vachana 820, p. 211.
The woman entered the circle... a very beautiful woman, dressed in the softest deerskin which was ornamented with fringes and colors more beautiful than any woman of the Lakota had ever worked. Then she served the men with food, and when they had feasted she told them that she wished to serve them always. She said that they had first seen her as smoke, and they should always see her as smoke.
Then she took from her pouch a pipe and willow bark and tobacco and filled the pipe with bark and tobacco and lit it with a burning coal. She smoked a few whiffs and handed the pipe to the chief and told him to smoke and hand it to another. Thus the pipe was passed until all had smoked. She then instructed the council how to gather the bark and the tobacco and prepare it, and gave the pipe into their keeping, telling them that as long as they preserved this pipe she would serve them. But she would serve them in this way. When the smoke came from the pipe she would be present and hear their prayers and take them to the Wakan Tanka and plead for them that their prayers should be answered.
After she remained in the camp for many days... she called all the people together and had them sit in a circle about the fire. She stood in the midst of the circle, and when the fire had burned to coals, she directed the shaman to place sweetgrass on it, making a cloud of smoke. The woman entered the smoke and disappeared. Then the shamans knew that it was Wohpe who had given the pipe. They appointed a custodian for it; it was to be kept sacred and used only on the most solemn and important occasions.
Native American Religions. Sioux Tradition of the Sacred Pipe
And when We settled for Abraham the place of the House, "You shall not associate with Me anything. And do purify My house for those that shall go about it and those that stand, for those that bow and prostrate them- selves;
"And proclaim among men the Pilgrimage, and they shall come unto you on foot and upon every lean beast, they shall come from every deep ravine, that they may witness things profitable to them and mention God's name on days well-known over such beasts of the flocks as He has provided them, 'So eat thereof, and feed the wretched poor.' Let them then finish with their self-neglect and let them fulfill their vows, and go about the Ancient House."...
And the beasts of sacrifice--We have appointed them for you as among God's waymarks; therein is good for you. So mention God's name over them, standing in ranks; then, when their flanks collapse, eat of them and feed the beggar and the suppliant. So We have subjected them to you; haply you will be thankful.
The flesh of them shall not reach God, neither their blood, but godliness from you shall reach Him. So He has subjected them to you, that you may magnify God for that He has guided you.
Islam. Qur'an 22.26-37
Sioux Tradition of the Sacred Pipe: Cf. Gros Ventres Tradition of the Pipe Child, p. 247; Winnebago Invocation at the Sweat Lodge, p. 373. Qur'an 22.26-37: These verses sanction the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and describe some of its rites. The origin of the pilgrimage to Mecca, and the Kaaba that houses the sacred black stone, goes back to Abraham. The rites had been corrupted by the pagan Arabs, who installed their idols at the Kaaba, and only with Muhammad was the rite restored to its original purpose: to magnify the One God. The first hajj was the crowning achievement of Muhammad's own life, when he could successfully subjugate the idolators and return from exile to the city of his birth (see Qur'an 9.1-28 and Ibn Hisham, pp. 618f). Ever since, the pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime has been a religious aspiration for all Muslims. Note the inner purpose of the ritual and its sacrifice: not to satisfy God's hunger for worship, but that the people may express holiness and magnify God.
And the Lord said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, You shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed."
Judaism and Christianity. Exodus 31.12-17
Wash away, Waters, whatever sin is in me, what wrong I have done, what imprecation I have uttered, and what untruth I have spoken.
Today I have sought the Waters, we have mingled with their essence; approach me, Agni, with thy power, and fill me, as such, with brilliance.
Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.9.8-9
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Christianity. Acts 2.38
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Christianity. Romans 6.3-11
Exodus 31.12-17: See Exodus 20.1-17, p. 116. Jews observe the Sabbath day on Saturday as a solemn day of rest, study, and worship. Most Christians observe the Lord's Day, Sunday, as the day of Sabbath rest and worship; it was on a Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead, and on Sundays that Christians meet and break bread together to commemorate his resurrection. Rig Veda 10.9.8-9: Bathing at the Ganges is efficacious in washing away sins and receiving divine grace. Acts 2.38: Cf. John 3.3-7, p. 575; Matthew 28.18-20, p. 1027.
You shall not eat any abominable thing. These are the animals you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the hart, the gazelle, the roebuck, the wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Every animal that parts the hoof and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat. Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat these: the camel, the hare, the rock badger, because they chew the cud but do not part the hoof, are unclean to you. And the swine, because it parts the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.
Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and scales you may eat. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall not eat; it is unclean for you.
You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the alien who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner; for you are a people holy to the Lord your God....
You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.
Judaism. Deuteronomy 14.3-21
What does God care whether a man kills an animal in the proper way and eats it, or whether he strangles the animal and eats it? Or what does God care whether a man eats unclean animals or clean animals? "If you are wise, for yourself you are wise, but if you scorn, you alone shall bear it" [Proverbs 9.12]. So you learn that the Commandments were given only to purify God's creatures, as it says, "God's word is purified, it is a protection to those who trust in Him" [2 Samuel 22.31].
Judaism. Tanhuma Leviticus, Shemini 15b
Deuteronomy 14.3-21: The rabbis, following the principle to 'put a fence around the Torah' (see Abot 1.1, p. 820), interpreted these commandments of Torah strictly in formulating the laws of kashrut, determining what foods are kosher. The injunction not to 'boil a kid in its mother's milk' became the basis for the law that milk and meat shall not be eaten at the same meal. Tanhuma Leviticus, Shemini 15b: The rabbis knew that the ritual commandments of scripture are often arbitrary; not only were they ridiculed by educated gentiles, but many Jews themselves found them uncomfortable. This text gives a functional meaning to rituals such as the dietary laws. The commandments have no intrinsic value in themselves. Their purpose is to be a means whereby people can prove their sincerity towards God, to discipline and purify, and that people can make a condition of faith by which God can justify the worshipper. This could be a reply to Jesus' words in Matthew 15.11-20, p. 860. Cf. Sifra 93d, p. 963; also Book of Ritual 7.2.20, p. 467.
Revered Elder who lives on Mount Kenya, you who make mountains tremble and rivers flood, we offer to you this sacrifice that you may bring us rain. People and children are crying, sheep, goats, and cattle are crying. Nwene-ngai, we beseech you with the blood and fat of this lamb which we are going to sacrifice to you.
African Traditional Religions. Gikuyu Prayer (Kenya)
The son of Heaven sacrifices [or presents oblations] to Heaven and Earth; to the spirits presiding over the four quarters; to the spirits of the hills and rivers; and offers the five sacrifices of the house--all in the course of the year. The feudal princes present oblations, each to the spirits of its hills and rivers; and offer the five sacrifices of the house--all in the course of the year. Great officers present the oblations of the five sacrifices of the house--all in the course of the year. Other officers present oblations to their ancestors.... The son of Heaven uses an ox of one color, pure and unmixed; a feudal prince, a fatted ox; a great officer, an ox selected for the occasion; an ordinary officer, a sheep or a pig.
Confucianism. Book of Ritual 22.214.171.124.6-9
Gikuyu Prayer: For other passages on animal sacrifice, see Dinka Invocation, p. 437, over an ox sacrifice to propitiate a malevolent power, and the Korean Shaman's Invocation of the Mountain Spirit, p. 369. Book of Ritual 126.96.36.199.6-9 On auspicious days, when seeking help, or when giving thanks for good fortune, Chinese customarily offer a cooked whole pig or chicken either at the hearth or the temple. They also offer them at the graves of their ancestors on the anniversaries of their deaths. On offering food to spirits and ancestors, see Precious Garland 249-50, p. 301; Digha Nikaya ii.88, p. 372; Khuddaka Patha, p. 374; Satapatha Brahmana 188.8.131.52-3, p. 864.
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