Drawing from the Buddhist Tradition

Many westerners of various backgrounds are attracted to Eastern religion and philosophy, especially Buddhism. And there is much to draw from in a tradition that encompasses a wide variety of beliefs and practices.

A beautiful Buddhist bride and Catholic groom.

Quick Buddhist primer: Buddhism is based on the teaching of the Buddha, whose name was Siddhartha Gautama, a rich and privileged prince who discovered there was suffering in the world and wanted to understand why. His awakening or enlightenment, and the teachings and insights that resulted, have been inspiring humans ever since. Buddha lived in India, probably between 563 BC to 483 BC.

Today it is estimated that there are about 350 million (6% of the world’s population) who practice Buddhism. The reason people who are not born into this faith are drawn to Buddhism is its focus on wisdom, ethical conduct, and the goals of happiness and freedom from suffering.

The Dalai Lama is perhaps one of the best-known Buddhists in our time. Using some inspiration from this religion in a wedding ceremony can be beautiful.

The works of Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist Monk, author, poet and peace activist, are among my very favorites, as well as the Buddhist Scriptures themselves, where you will find writing like this:

Like the energy from within the sun, a great marriage is a sum more than its parts:

it shines like rays of goodness from the fusion of souls in harmony.

And like the sun, its brilliance knows the relationship to time, a brilliance that will light your path, and warm your hearts, and guide you safely forward into the journey of your life.

Let this marriage be that fusion of inspiration for those to follow.

For ritualistic ideas consider lighting incense, hanging prayer flags or using special flowers such as lotus, orchids and peonies.

The Tibetan ceremonial scarf, called a ‘khata’ that is placed around the neck, is lovely. It should be white and can be incorporated by draping around the necks of the bride and groom as a blessing, or a welcoming or leaving ‘thank you’ gesture.

The ribbon knotting ceremony – so similar to the Celtic handfasting – is one in which the couples wrists are bound together with a yellow ribbon.

The use of bells or gongs adds a particular beauty, to open and close the ceremony.

There are symbolic colors, different in various countries and cultures. Red and gold in China, saffron and brown in Thailand, Burma, India, Sri Lanka Laos, and Vietnam, black and gray in Japan and Korea and red, blue, green, white and yellow in Tibet.

It is interesting to note that in the Buddhist view marriage is basically a secular affair, and not a sacrament, and falls under civil laws.

Its always important to remember, however, that ‘cultural appropriation’ is the taking of traditions and identity, and misusing them in insensitive ways, such as using sacred objects for fun or to sell things. Drawing lovingly from traditions with respect is honoring them. Perhaps you will find something inspiring.

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