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3 Refuges · Chanting
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Study · Pilgrimage

Buddhist devotion is an important part of the practice of most Buddhists.[1] According to a spokesman of the Sasana Council of Burma, devotion to Buddhist spiritual practices inspires devotion to the Triple Gem.[2] Most Buddhists use ritual in pursuit of their spiritual aspirations.[3]

Examples of devotional practices:

  • bowing:
    • to images of the Buddha, and in Mahayana also of other Buddhas and bodhisattvas; such images originated some centuries after the Buddha's time
    • to religious superiors:
      • a monk to a monk ordained earlier
      • a nun to a nun ordained earlier
      • a nun to a monk, regardless of date of ordination
      • a lay person to a monk or nun
  • offering flowers, incense etc. to images
  • chanting:
    • the Three Refuges
    • protective chanting: in the Samyuktagama, the Buddha is portrayed teaching a verse and mantra that monks may chant to protect themselves from snakebite. The verse is mainly about loving-kindness, compassion, and doing no harm to all beings. The mantra is given in Chinese transcription of the Sanskrit. This episode does not occur in the counterpart sutta in the Samyutta-Nikaya, and may have been added after the Sarvastivada/Vibhajjavada split.[4]
    • mantras and dharanis in Mahayana: includes the Heart Sutra and om mani padme hum
    • homage to Amitabha in Pure Land Buddhism
    • homage to the Lotus Sutra in Nichiren Buddhism
  • pilgrimage:
    • according to sources[5] recognized by most scholars as early, the Buddha, shortly before his death, recommended pilgrimage to four places:
      • his birthplace (Lumbini, now Rummindei in Nepal)
      • the site of his enlightenment (Bodh Gaya)
      • the site of the preaching of his first sermon (near Benares)
      • the place of his death (Kusinara)

Other places were later added, particularly in other countries, where pilgrimage to the original sites would be daunting.

A very important form of Buddhist devotion is Pure Land Buddhism, which is practised by most Chinese monks, some combining it with Chan (Zen).[6] It exists as a group of independent denominations in Japan, the most radical, and largest, of which, Jodo Shinshu, holds to a subtle idea of effortless salvation .

See also


  1. Harvey, page 170
  2. Morgan, pages v, 73
  3. Macmillan (Volume One), page 139
  4. Choong Mun-keat, The Fundamental Teachings of Early Buddhism: A comparative study basted on the Sutranga portion of the Pali Samyutta-Nikaya and the Chinese Samyuktagama; Harrassowitz Verlag, Weisbaden, 2000, pages 105-106. See also Anguttara Nikaya, volume II, page 72 (Pali Text Society edition pagination) and the Atanatiya Sutta in the Digha Nikaya, number 32, in volume III.
  5. Digha Nikaya, volume II, pages 140f (PTS pagination)
  6. Welch, page 396


  • Harvey, Peter, An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices, Cambridge University Press, 1990
  • Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004
  • Morgan, Kenneth W., ed, The Path of the Buddha: Buddhism Interpreted by Buddhists, Ronald Press, New York, 1956
  • Welch, Holmes, The Practice of Chinese Buddhism, 1900-1950, Harvard University Press, 1967