Essay 2

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Date Submitted: 11/14/2012 06:53 PM

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4. What is the function of ritual in Confucian and Taoist traditions?

“The master said, ‘Respect without ritual becomes tiresome, circumspection without ritual becomes timidity, bold fortitude without ritual becomes unruly, and directness without ritual becomes twisted’” (Analects 8.2.1; qtd. in Kessler 2009: 183). Being religious entails following religious practices with a level of consistency. To be able to practice one’s religion consistently, rituals are needed. Thus they are in place because they clearly outline the way that religious practices should be followed, giving guidance to followers. All religions have some form of rituals, whether it is Judaism’s Shabbat services, or Buddhism’s meditation. As the master says, without rituals everything in life is reversed, rendering it illogical. In Chinese, the word for ritual, li, shares its meaning with words such as “worship”, giving it a religious connotation. However, li has developed to include social practices and propriety (Kessler 2009: 167). In the Confucian and Taoist traditions, ritual functions as the guidelines for religious life, yet its use has expanded so that it helps one to abide by the law, avoid evil and behave properly.

Rituals play a very central role in Confucianism, helping it become known as the ritual religion li-chiao. This religion stresses following both creed and ritual, helping followers from both a religious and social perspective. Part of the reason that Confucianism became known as li-chiao is because of the level of importance that rituals play in the teachings of Confucius and his disciples. Confucian teachings have sustained practices from China’s imperial rulers, such as the worship of Heaven. When Confucianism was established, many of these historic traditions became official rituals, which were then recorded in many books such as the Book of Rites. Within these books, many of Confucius’ teachings were recorded with instructions and interpretations of religious...