Rites and Rituals in Chinese Buddhism

Both Theravada and Chinese Mahayana Buddhism recognised that the ten fetters (十纏) stand in the way of enlightenment. The Theravada described fetter as suffering attachments that will permanently trap us in the cycle of death and rebirth (Khuddaka Nikaya's Itivuttaka 1.15; SN 35.232)(Chinese Buddhist Encyclopaedia, 2019) and Chinese Buddhism has similar description as “被此十法缠缚。不能出离生死之苦。证得涅盘之乐” (俱舍論卷二十一、大智度論卷七) (辭義淺釋, 2019). The similarity unfortunately ends at this agreement.

There are differences in the listing of ten fetters between the Theravada and Chinese Mahayana Buddhism. Theravada states the ten fetters as Self-identity view (sakkaya ditthi), Sceptical doubt (vicikicca), Attachment to mere rites and rituals (silabbata paramasa), Sensual desire (kama raga), Ill-will (patigha), Desire to be born in fine material worlds (rupa raga), Desire to be born in formless worlds (arupa raga), Conceit (mana), Restlessness (uddacca) and Ignorance (avijja) (Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, 1995) while the Chinese Mahayana list includes no sense of shame無愧, no sense of dishonour 無慚, jealousy 嫉, stinginess 慳, remorse 悔, sleep 眠, excitement 掉舉, stupor 惛沈, rage 忿, and concealing one's wrongdoings 覆 (品類足論卷一僅立八纏;大毘婆沙論卷四十七至卷五十又加忿、覆二纏,明示十纏)(辭義淺釋, 2019).

The absent of “rites and rituals” as fetters in the Chinese Buddhism thoughts therefore give rise to seemingly more religious duty, observance, rite, practice and custom in Chinese Buddhist temples. Are these Chinese Buddhist “rites and rituals” in line with the Buddha teaching of impermanence of all forms (Norman Fischer, 2019) and equanimity (Narayan Liebenson, 1999) of no curving (non-attachments (Barbara O Brien, 2019)) and dislike (hatreness)?


Barbara O Brien, Why do Buddhists avoid attachment?, https://www.learnreligions.com/why-do-buddhists-avoid-attachment-449714, accessed 3 Oct 2019

Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi, Sabbasava Sutta – the middle length discourses of the Buddha, Wisdom Publications, 1995

Chinese Buddhist Encyclopaedia, 2019

Narayan Liebenson Grady Cultivating Equanimity, Insight, pp. 42-43, Spring 1999

Norman Fischer, Impermanence is Buddha Nature, https://www.lionsroar.com/impermanence-is-buddha-nature-embrace-changema..., accessed 3 Oct 2019

辭義淺釋, 何謂十纏, http://avalokitesvara-temple.blogspot.com/2016/02/blog-post.html, accessed 3 Oct 2019


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