IMPORTANT RELIGIOUS PRACTICES
Worship and Prayer
Individual worship may be carried out in the temple shrine or in the shrine at home. Many Buddhists may meditate rather than pray, as the Buddha taught that prayer was unnecessary because there is no 'One' to pray to. One of the most important acts of worship is taking refuge in the triple gem (the three treasures).
Worship is a relationship.
Collective worship is at a monastery, or shrine or temple. People take off their shoes before entering, then go and sit on mats facing the image of Buddha. Worship is silent as, in general, people meditate on the Buddha's teaching and example.
As part of worship Buddhists put their hands in 'anjali', i.e. they:
place the palms of their hands together before their forehead then stretch them up towards the Buddha's image.
prostrate three times in honour of the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
give offerings of flowers and lighted candles.
The literal meaning of 'anjali' is respect.
The Buddha himself demonstrated the importance of meditation since he presented a clear outline of meditation in the last three stages of the Eightfold Path i.e. right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. Buddha taught that the purpose of meditation is to help achieve enlightenment and eventually nirvana. A key sacred formula called the Three Refuges is often spoken, or may be chanted regularly during meditation. These are:
'I go to the Buddha for refuge.'
The three Refuges are also the initial initiation into Buddhism along with the 5 precepts.
Meditation is coming to an understanding of what life means. An insight into reality and truth.
Buddhists have a number of special places which have become centres of pilgrimage. Many of these places are closely associated with the life of the Buddha in some way, such as at Bodh-Gaya where Buddha sat under the Bo Tree and became enlightened. When Buddha died and was cremated some of his remains (called relics) were sent to various Buddhist centres where shrines are built to house them. One of the most famous is the Temple of the Sacred Tooth at Kandy in Sri Lanka.