Devotion is a vital part of the Buddhist tradition, and of human spiritual practice. Devotion includes strong admiration and enthusiasm, dedication and commitment to the Three Jewels – the Buddha or possibility of Enlightenment; the Dharma or truth and teachings for realization of the truth; the Sangha or community of enlightened, and enlighten-ing, beings.

There is a rich tradition of artistic representation of Buddhahood. There are Buddhas of many colors and forms, each one illustrating and aspect of awakened mind. Sometimes we become drawn to a particular Buddha figure – the imperturbable ‘see things as they are’ quality of the Buddha Akshobya, for example –  and we want to make a stronger connection, so we surround ourselves with the Buddha’s color, images of the figure, and readings about his qualities. This is devotional practice.

In the Triratna approach to Buddhist practice we embrace devotion and ritual in a number of forms.

  • Chanting mantras, or words and sounds that invoke and symbolize enlightened qualities of the Buddhas
  • Recitation of devotional verses,  many of which describe in poetic detail the beauty to be found in spiritual practice and realization. Puja  is a series of recited verses taking us through several moods or aspects of our relationship to the potential for enlightenment.
  • Bowing to a representation of Enlightenment, such as a Buddha statue or placing our hands together in anjali mudra in front of our heart as we chant, recite or dedicate our practice
  • Display on a shrine or around the home of images and objects that represent our ideals: enlightenment, compassion, and wisdom
  • Reading, telling and bearing in mind the lives of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

All of these practices engage our emotions and physical energy, not only our intellect and reason. In addition, ritual and devotion are frequently practiced with others, creating a strong atmosphere and shared experience. The combined effect can create a very positive state of mind that is more receptive than usual to enlightened possibilities, where we can imagine ourselves embodying the clarity or love or enlightened wisdom that we are drawn to.

Some people find their way to devotion and ritual readily; others want to take their time and take on devotional practice after some exploration and when they feel moved to do so. At Aryaloka there is opportunity to experience Buddhist ritual and devotional practice and decide for oneself when it feels right to participate.