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Life Cycle Rituals
There are numerous religions in this world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In all religions, people go through the same stages in life, such as, birth, adolescence, adulthood, marriage and death. However, in these states of life, not all religions have the same rituals and practices that they perform to celebrate these events. Every religion has a different belief but our main goal is the same. Everyone’s goal is to be united with the Ultimate Reality or God. According to Nostra Aetate, all people should respect what is holy and true within their religion and those outside of their own religion. The life cycle rituals that are practiced in all five religions are somewhat consistent with what is considered to be the “ true”, teaching of Christianity.
Hinduism believes that every person is in a cycle determined by karma, which is the moral law of cause and effect.
“When a person dies, it is only the physical body that dies; that person lives on in a non-physical body, which carries the impressions of his past life. It is these impressions that determine his next life. In this intermediate state he makes and dissolves impressions by the light of the Self.”(
Under karma, which one is and how one now acts are determined by deeds in the person’s previous lives. Hinduism believes that though the physical body dies, the eternal atman lives on in another body. They believe that it is holy and true to perform good deeds and gain good karma in one’s life. Therefore, all the life cycle rituals in Hinduism are for the purpose of gaining good karma. Hindus follow 16 rites of passage called Samskaras throughout their lifetime. These rites of passage include conception of a child, male rite, hair parting, birth ceremony, naming ceremony, feeding, ear-piercing, hair-cutting, formal education, fit or proper season, beard-shaving, settlement of aim or word-giving, marriage, preparation of dead body, cremation and scattering the ashes. All of these rites of passage are equally important. However, not all of them are consistent to what is holy and true. The rituals that are not considered to be holy and true in Nostra Aetate are male rite and ear piercing. Male Rite is a ritual that happens during the third month of pregnancy. During this ritual, a prayer for a male child will take place. This is inconsistent with what is holy and true because as Christianity, we believe that everyone is equal because we are created in the image and likeness of God. However, this ritual shows that Hinduism favours man and therefore it is not what is true. Another thing that we believe as Christianity is to take good care of ourselves. God wants us to appreciate our body just like how he creates us. The ritual of ear piercing is not holy and true because it is an act of harming our body. Ear piercing is considered to be one way of changing God’s creation, showing that God creation is not good enough and therefore it is considered to be unholy. Despite these two life cycle rituals, Hinduism’s life cycle rituals and practices are considered holy and true.
Buddhists do not have special birth or childhood rites. To Buddhists, being able to free themselves from the endless cycle of samsara is their ultimate goal. It is what is true and holy in Buddhism. So, as a child enters adulthood, one must live the life of a monk and take the Three Jewels. Buddhism does its ritual and practices based on their beliefs - the four noble truths and eightfold path, which are considered “ holy and true” according to Nostra Aetate. Death rites are the most important of all their rituals and practices. The state of mind of the person at death is an important influence on the state of rebirth because it determines what the person will come back as if he has not already been liberated. The ceremony for the dead usually includes saying prayers
to help the dead travel to their next life and the body is usually cremated and burnt.
Death is considered to be a sacred act in Buddhism and therefore it is holy and true for Buddhists. Another ritual that is considered to be holy and true for Buddhism is marriage. Like Christianity, during the marriage ceremony, a scripture is read and the bride and groom would recite the traditional vow.
"Towards my wife I undertake to love and respect her, be kind and considerate, be faithful, delegate domestic management, provide gifts to please her.’ As for the bridegroom: ‘Towards my husband I undertake to perform my household duties efficiently, be hospitable to my in-laws and friends of my husband, be faithful, protect and invest our earnings, discharge my responsibilities lovingly and conscientiously.’" (Sigilovdda Sutta
Similar like Christianity, Buddhists also make promises to love and take care of each other like how Jesus wants us to be, which makes this ritual to be consistent with what is the” truth”. The Buddhist life cycle is also based on the scriptures such as Vinaya Pitaka, Sutra Pitaka, and Abidharma Pitaka. These teachings teach Buddhists to live their lives for what is considered “holy and true”
Judaism has numerous life cycle rituals that are holy and true. Their life cycle rituals reflect their faith to their only God, and therefore it is considered to be true and holy. One of the rituals for Judaism is circumcision. Boys are circumcised shortly after birth to symbolize God’s covenant with His Chosen People. It is stated in the bible, Torah and therefore it is considered to be what holy and true is.
“You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner-those who are not your offspring.” (Genesis 17:11-12)3
Another rituals in Judaism that is consider holy and true is Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah. There rituals marked the obligation for boys at the age of 13 and girls at the age of 12 to observe and study the Torah. They become responsible for keeping the Torah and become familiar with God’s moral teaching. For Judaism, the funeral ceremony is also considered to be somewhat consistent with what is holy and true. During this ceremony, blessings are made, psalms are read, and prayers are said. Just like the other four religions, couples are united in the eye of God in marriage. This ritual is considered to be holy and true for Judaism because they believe that the purpose of marriage is to bring a man and woman into one unit, just how God originally created man and woman as. Also, Jews believe that marriage allows them to learn to love and take care of another person, much like God takes care of us and therefore this act is consider to be holy and true according to Nostra Aetate.
Islam believes that the Five Pillars are “ holy and true”. The five pillars of Islam are the profession of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage. They practice their life cycle rituals based on this five pillars and therefore they are also considered to be holy and true. There are two rituals accompanied by the birth of a child and both of them are considered to be holy and true. One of the rituals brings the baby into an awareness of Allah from the first moment of life by whispering the word “ Adam” in his or her ear. The second ritual includes charities to those in need, which makes this ritual sacred and therefore holy and true. Then, at the age of seven, boys and girls begin to follow their adult roles in Moslem society. They begin to undertake some days of fasting during the month of Ramadan. As they grow older, the number of days they should fast will gradually increase. Also, the boys and girls have free will with what they want to do with their Islamic faith. They are responsible in growing their own faith. This act of free will is considered to be holy and true in Nostra Aetate. In Islam, couples are also united through marriage. “And Allah has made for you your mates of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best.” ( Noble Qur’an) The marriage ritual usually takes place in a holy place and a reading from Qur’an would be read, which makes this ritual to be holy and true. However, during this marriage ritual, the groom is responsible to give something valuable to the bride. This is not consistent to what is holy and true because as a Christianity, our mutual love toward each other is what important in marriage not a present. Lastly, for Islam, it is preferable to have “ Shahadah” as the last word on a dying person. Like in Christianity, prayers are said during the funeral, hoping that the person will live forever in eternity. The Funeral rite is another ritual that is considered to be holy and true in Islam. In overall, Muslim life cycles are based on what is holy and true in Nostra Aetate.
The last religion is Christianity. Christianity believes that rituals and practices strengthen their faith in God. Their life cycle rituals are the seven sacraments. They are baptism, first communion, reconciliation, confirmation, marriage, holy order, and anointing of the sick. All these rituals are considered to be holy and true because it strengthens their faith and brings them closer to their only God. Baptism is the first step to the Christian community. It initiates the newborn baby into our God. Then, when the child turns seven years old, they are able to receive the first communion. This sacrament brings the person into communion with Jesus and therefore it is holy and true. “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’.” (Luke 22: 19 –20)4. Reconciliation is another ritual that is considered to be holy and true in Christianity because it allows individuals to exercise their own freewill, to ask God for forgiveness and let God to reach them in his most loving way. At the age of 15, girls and boys are able to receive confirmation. This is an entryway to participate fully in Christian community and as a result brings individual closer to God. Just like the other religions, couples are united through marriage. In this ritual, the couples will take a life long commitment in the presence of God and become one flesh. Another ritual in adulthood is the holy order. This sacrament is for those who choose to continue Jesus’ mission. There are two rituals for the death and old age. There are the anointing of the sick and funeral. Both this rituals are considered to be holy and true.
Each religion has its own life cycles rituals that are holy and true. All religions have certain aspects within them that remain consistent with what is considered holy and true in Nostra Aetate. Therefore, all the religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, are to be respected and valued for every aspect that they have that adhere to what is holy and true.