Space does not permit World Scripture to do justice to the wide varie-
ty of rituals and rites by which people of the world worship God. The
rituals ordained in scripture fall into several broad classes practiced in
the world's religions. Some texts mandate the worship and remembrance of
the transcendent God through symbols and images. The Christian Eucharist
represents in the bread and wine the body and blood of Christ; the Hindu
puja, is a rite in which images of the gods are worshipped with bathing,
flowers, food offerings, obeisance, and mantras; fire represents God's
righteousness in Zoroastrian fire worship; veneration of relics is common
to many religions, particularly Buddhism; the three great symbols of
Shinto represent the Sun Goddess Amaterasu; and the peace pipe, in Native
American religion brings forth the blessings of the Great Spirit.
Other rituals center on sacred space and time. Pilgrimage, the
journey to the sacred place, is a religious duty in many religious tradi-
tions, especially in Islam where the hajj, the pilgimage to Mecca, was
ordained by Abraham as a central rite. Rituals to set apart sacred time
can include the many actions and symbols to mark the beginning or ending
of festival days; thus the Jewish law of the Sabbath sets it apart as a
day of rest.
Many rituals are concerned with purity and purification. Ritual bath-
ing, baptism, hand-washing, and other forms of cleansing are symbolic of
purification of the soul. The Vedas teach the merit of bathing in the
Ganges, and the Bible prescribes the Christian rite of baptism. Dietary
laws, prohibiting one from eating certain unclean foods or requiring foods
to be prepared in a prescribed manner, such as the Jewish laws of kashrut
and Hindu teachings on vegetarianism, are helpful for purifying body and
The concluding passages deal with worship through offering animal
sacrifices. Since only the rituals of living religions are relevant for
modern man, we must distinguish these from the ritual practice of the
ancients as preserved in scripture. Offerings of animals are still made
in contemporary Chinese religion, in Islam as one rite of the hajj, in
some primal religions, and rarely in Hinduism. But for most Hindus the
vedic sacrifices have been spiritualized and supplanted by puja, and
Judaism regards study and prayer as fulfilling the biblical commandments
to sacrifice animals.
1See the relevant passages: Satapatha Brahmana 188.8.131.52-3, p. 864, and
Menahot 110a, pp. 864f. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5: Cf. Kularnava Tantra 5,
p. 486, on the mystical meaning of several of the objects used in Tant-
Let us do it
The way it is usually done
So that we may have the usual result.
African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
Those who, knowing my true nature, worship me steadfastly are my true dev-
otees. Worship me in the symbols and images which remind you of me, and
also in the hearts of my devotees, where I am most manifest.... Observe
the forms and rituals set forth in the scriptures, without losing sight of
their inner spirit.
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.5
Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
Worship the Lord in holy array;
tremble before him, all the earth!
Judaism and Christianity. Psalm 96.7-9
Thy fire, O Lord, mighty through Righteousness, swift and powerful--
We would that it may be a resplendent support
For him who exalts it; but for the enemy, O Wise One,
According to the powers of thy hand, the clear showing of his trespasses!
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 34.4
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he
had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is
[broken] for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way also
the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
Christianity. 1 Corinthians 11.23-25
Then the Sun Goddess Amaterasu imparted unto the first emperor the myriad
Maga-tama beads and the mirror which had been used to lure her out of the
cave as well as the sword Kusa-nagi... and said, "This mirror--have it
with you as my spirit, and worship it just as you would worship in my very
Shinto. Kojiki 39.2-3
In due time they purified the bones of the deceased Saint with the finest
water, and, placing them in golden pitchers in the city of Mallas, they
chanted hymns of praise, "The jars hold great relics, full of virtue,
like the jewelled ore of a great mountain, and the relics are unharmed by
fire, just as the sphere of Brahma in heaven is unharmed [though the whole
earth be burned up]. These bones, pervaded with universal benevolence,
and not liable to burning by the fire of passion, are preserved under the
influence of devotion; though they are cold, they still warm our hearts."
The wise know the virtues of the Buddha to be such that, given equal pur-
ity of mind, the same fruit will be won either by reverencing the Seer
during his worldly existence or by doing obeisance to his relics after the
Buddhism. Ashvaghosha, Buddhacarita 27.76-78, 28.69
Yasna 34.4: Fire is the central symbol of Zoroastrian worship. It represents
both God's righteousness and the ordeal at the judgment by which the wicked are
separated from the righteous. 1 Corinthians 11.23-25: These words are spoken
at the Eucharistic service in Christian churches. Kojiki 39.2-3: These three
sacred symbols of Shinto are in the possession of the emperor of Japan. But
the mirror, which is placed at the center of Shinto altars, is especially
significant. Besides being a symbol of the sun, it represents the kami within.
The reflection of the self is the reflection of kami. On the origin of the
sword, see Kojiki 19, p. 626.
With a love for the happiness of different beings Shiva Puja shall be
performed--so say the wise men. The pedestal represents Shiva's consort
Parvati and his phallic emblem represents the sentient being. Just as
lord Shiva remains ever in close embrace of the Goddess Parvati, so also
the phallic emblem holds on to the pedestal forever.... The devotee shall
install the phallic emblem and worship it with the sixteen prescribed
types of homage and services: invocation, offering the seat, water offer-
ing, washing the feet, water for rinsing the mouth as a mystical rite, oil
bath, offering of cloth, scents, flowers, incense, lamps, and food, waving
of lights, betel leaves, obeisance, and mystical discharge and conclu-
sion.... Everywhere Shiva accords benefit as befitting the endeavor put
Hinduism. Shiva Purana, Vidyeshvarasamhita 11.22-35
You are as wide as the world and sky
And wider still!
Your feet go deeper than the abyss
And deeper still!
Your crown stands high above the universe
And higher still!
You are imperceptible, past understanding,
Unlimited and incomparable.
But coming to the palm of my hand
You have taken the form of Linga,
So small and effulgent:
O Lord Kudala Sangama!
Hinduism. Basavanna, Vachana 743
Shiva Purana: Puja is the rite of image worship with its many ceremonies. It
is the chief style of worship in popular Hinduism. This passage is an extract
from a lengthy discussion of the worship of Shiva as represented by the linga.
Note that the linga is devoid of any connotation of sexual license; it is a
spiritual symbol of the cosmic unity of male and female principles. It has
taken on an abstract and aniconic character, in contrast to the images of gods
and goddesses which adorn most Hindu worship. Cf. Shiva Purana, Rudrasamhita
18.3-22, p. 367. Vachana 743: The Lingayats of South India worship Shiva in
the form of the Ishta-linga, a personal linga carried in a small container
suspended on the neck. It is a tiny stone, oval in shape and black in color,
which symbolizes the transcendent Deity. Meditating on the Ishta-linga,
surrounded by all the articles of puja (as mentioned in the previous passage
from the Puranas)--flowers, rosary beads, sacred ash, incense, candles--the
devotee gazes on the linga held in the open left palm raised to the level of
one's nose while reciting the Shiva mantra and singing devotional songs. Use
of the Ishta-Linga as a symbol for deity emancipated worship from the temple
and priesthood, as each individual became his own temple of God, see Vachana
820, p. 211.
The woman entered the circle... a very beautiful woman, dressed in the
softest deerskin which was ornamented with fringes and colors more beaut-
iful than any woman of the Lakota had ever worked. Then she served the
men with food, and when they had feasted she told them that she wished to
serve them always. She said that they had first seen her as smoke, and
they should always see her as smoke.
Then she took from her pouch a pipe and willow bark and tobacco and
filled the pipe with bark and tobacco and lit it with a burning coal. She
smoked a few whiffs and handed the pipe to the chief and told him to smoke
and hand it to another. Thus the pipe was passed until all had smoked.
She then instructed the council how to gather the bark and the tobacco and
prepare it, and gave the pipe into their keeping, telling them that as
long as they preserved this pipe she would serve them. But she would
serve them in this way. When the smoke came from the pipe she would be
present and hear their prayers and take them to the Wakan Tanka and plead
for them that their prayers should be answered.
After she remained in the camp for many days... she called all the
people together and had them sit in a circle about the fire. She stood in
the midst of the circle, and when the fire had burned to coals, she dir-
ected the shaman to place sweetgrass on it, making a cloud of smoke. The
woman entered the smoke and disappeared. Then the shamans knew that it
was Wohpe who had given the pipe. They appointed a custodian for it; it
was to be kept sacred and used only on the most solemn and important occa-
Native American Religions. Sioux Tradition of the
And when We settled for Abraham the place of the House, "You shall not
associate with Me anything. And do purify My house for those that shall
go about it and those that stand, for those that bow and prostrate them-
"And proclaim among men the Pilgrimage, and they shall come unto you
on foot and upon every lean beast, they shall come from every deep
ravine, that they may witness things profitable to them and mention
God's name on days well-known over such beasts of the flocks as He
has provided them, 'So eat thereof, and feed the wretched poor.' Let
them then finish with their self-neglect and let them fulfill their
vows, and go about the Ancient House."...
And the beasts of sacrifice--We have appointed them for you as among God's
waymarks; therein is good for you. So mention God's name over them,
standing in ranks; then, when their flanks collapse, eat of them and feed
the beggar and the suppliant. So We have subjected them to you; haply you
will be thankful.
The flesh of them shall not reach God, neither their blood, but godliness
from you shall reach Him. So He has subjected them to you, that you may
magnify God for that He has guided you.
Islam. Qur'an 22.26-37
Sioux Tradition of the Sacred Pipe: Cf. Gros Ventres Tradition of the
Pipe Child, p. 247; Winnebago Invocation at the Sweat Lodge, p. 373.
Qur'an 22.26-37: These verses sanction the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca,
and describe some of its rites. The origin of the pilgrimage to Mecca,
and the Kaaba that houses the sacred black stone, goes back to Abraham.
The rites had been corrupted by the pagan Arabs, who installed their idols
at the Kaaba, and only with Muhammad was the rite restored to its original
purpose: to magnify the One God. The first hajj was the crowning achieve-
ment of Muhammad's own life, when he could successfully subjugate the
idolators and return from exile to the city of his birth (see Qur'an
9.1-28 and Ibn Hisham, pp. 618f). Ever since, the pilgrimage to Mecca
once in a lifetime has been a religious aspiration for all Muslims. Note
the inner purpose of the ritual and its sacrifice: not to satisfy God's
hunger for worship, but that the people may express holiness and magnify
And the Lord said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, You shall keep
my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your genera-
tions, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep
the Sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be
put to death; whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from
among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a
Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord; whoever does any work on the
Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall
keep the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant.
It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days
the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was
Judaism and Christianity. Exodus 31.12-17
Wash away, Waters, whatever
sin is in me, what wrong I have done,
what imprecation I have uttered,
and what untruth I have spoken.
Today I have sought the Waters,
we have mingled with their essence;
approach me, Agni, with thy power,
and fill me, as such, with brilliance.
Hinduism. Rig Veda 10.9.8-9
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for
the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy
Christianity. Acts 2.38
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus
were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by bapt-
ism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of
the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been
united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him
in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with
him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be
enslaved to sin. For he who has died is freed from sin. But if we have
died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we
know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no
longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for
all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider
yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Christianity. Romans 6.3-11
Exodus 31.12-17: See Exodus 20.1-17, p. 116. Jews observe the Sabbath day
on Saturday as a solemn day of rest, study, and worship. Most Christians
observe the Lord's Day, Sunday, as the day of Sabbath rest and worship; it
was on a Sunday that Jesus rose from the dead, and on Sundays that
Christians meet and break bread together to commemorate his resurrection.
Rig Veda 10.9.8-9: Bathing at the Ganges is efficacious in washing away
sins and receiving divine grace. Acts 2.38: Cf. John 3.3-7, p. 575;
Matthew 28.18-20, p. 1027.
You shall not eat any abominable thing. These are the animals you may
eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the hart, the gazelle, the roebuck, the
wild goat, the ibex, the antelope, and the mountain sheep. Every animal
that parts the hoof and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat.
Yet of those that chew the cud or have the hoof cloven you shall not eat
these: the camel, the hare, the rock badger, because they chew the cud but
do not part the hoof, are unclean to you. And the swine, because it parts
the hoof but does not chew the cud, is unclean for you. Their flesh you
shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch.
Of all that are in the waters you may eat these: whatever has fins and
scales you may eat. And whatever does not have fins and scales you shall
not eat; it is unclean for you.
You shall not eat anything that dies of itself; you may give it to the
alien who is within your towns, that he may eat it, or you may sell it to
a foreigner; for you are a people holy to the Lord your God....
You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk.
Judaism. Deuteronomy 14.3-21
What does God care whether a man kills an animal in the proper way and
eats it, or whether he strangles the animal and eats it? Or what does God
care whether a man eats unclean animals or clean animals? "If you are
wise, for yourself you are wise, but if you scorn, you alone shall bear
it" [Proverbs 9.12]. So you learn that the Commandments were given only
to purify God's creatures, as it says, "God's word is purified, it is a
protection to those who trust in Him" [2 Samuel 22.31].
Judaism. Tanhuma Leviticus, Shemini 15b
Deuteronomy 14.3-21: The rabbis, following the principle to 'put a fence around
the Torah' (see Abot 1.1, p. 820), interpreted these commandments of Torah
strictly in formulating the laws of kashrut, determining what foods are kosher.
The injunction not to 'boil a kid in its mother's milk' became the basis for
the law that milk and meat shall not be eaten at the same meal. Tanhuma
Leviticus, Shemini 15b: The rabbis knew that the ritual commandments of
scripture are often arbitrary; not only were they ridiculed by educated
gentiles, but many Jews themselves found them uncomfortable. This text gives a
functional meaning to rituals such as the dietary laws. The commandments have
no intrinsic value in themselves. Their purpose is to be a means whereby
people can prove their sincerity towards God, to discipline and purify, and
that people can make a condition of faith by which God can justify the
worshipper. This could be a reply to Jesus' words in Matthew 15.11-20, p. 860.
Cf. Sifra 93d, p. 963; also Book of Ritual 7.2.20, p. 467.
Revered Elder who lives on Mount Kenya, you who make mountains tremble and
rivers flood, we offer to you this sacrifice that you may bring us rain.
People and children are crying, sheep, goats, and cattle are crying.
Nwene-ngai, we beseech you with the blood and fat of this lamb which we
are going to sacrifice to you.
African Traditional Religions. Gikuyu Prayer (Kenya)
The son of Heaven sacrifices [or presents oblations] to Heaven and Earth;
to the spirits presiding over the four quarters; to the spirits of the
hills and rivers; and offers the five sacrifices of the house--all in the
course of the year. The feudal princes present oblations, each to the
spirits of its hills and rivers; and offer the five sacrifices of the
house--all in the course of the year. Great officers present the obla-
tions of the five sacrifices of the house--all in the course of the year.
Other officers present oblations to their ancestors.... The son of Heaven
uses an ox of one color, pure and unmixed; a feudal prince, a fatted ox; a
great officer, an ox selected for the occasion; an ordinary officer, a
sheep or a pig.
Confucianism. Book of Ritual 184.108.40.206.6-9
Gikuyu Prayer: For other passages on animal sacrifice, see Dinka Invoca-
tion, p. 437, over an ox sacrifice to propitiate a malevolent power, and
the Korean Shaman's Invocation of the Mountan Spirit, p. 369. Book of
Ritual 220.127.116.11.6-9 On auspicious days, when seeking help, or when giving
thanks for good fortune, Chinese customarily offer a cooked whole pig or
chicken either at the hearth or the temple. They also offer them at the
graves of their ancestors on the anniversaries of their deaths. On offer-
ing food to spirits and ancestors, see Precious Garland 249-50, p. 301;
Digha Nikaya ii.88, p. 372; Khuddaka Patha, p. 374; Satapatha Brahmana
18.104.22.168-3, p. 864.