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Jonah Engler Explains Buddhist Rites of Passage

All religions in the world have a specific structure, a framework comprising strict rules and regulations that all disciples must abide by. This is what helps to maintain the order and sanctity of the religion. In Buddhism, there are several rites of passage that every follower must go through in order to be considered a full-fledged member of the faith.

What is a Rite Of Passage?

According to Jonah Engler, a rite of passage is defined as a ceremony or event that marks an important milestone or change in a person’s life. In many cultures, such rites are often associated with specific stages in a person’s life, such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death.

Jonah Engler‘s Guide to Buddhist Rites Of Passage

There are many different rites of passage in the Buddhist tradition; different groups abide by different rites. But according to Jonah Engler, some important ones are common to all schools.


The first is birth, which is seen as a very significant event. Buddhists believe that every person is born with the potential to achieve enlightenment and attain nirvana. However, it is vital that this potential be nurtured from a young age.

Vow of Bodhisattva

The second major rite of passage is taking the bodhisattva vow, which is a commitment to achieving enlightenment for oneself and all sentient beings. This vow is taken by those who have decided to dedicate their lives to the Buddha’s path.


The third rite of passage is the initiation rite, which is typically carried out when someone first decides to convert to Buddhism. This involves taking refuge in the Triple Gem, which comprises the Buddha, his teachings (Dhamma), and the monastic community (Sangha). Once this has been done, the person is officially considered a Buddhist. This ceremony is followed by the ordination rites, which involves shaving their head and donning the robes of a monastic.

Eight Precepts

The fourth rite of passage is known as the Eight Precepts Ceremony, and it usually takes place during special festivals or holy days. During this ceremony, Buddhists take eight vows that are designed to help them lead a moral and ethical life. The precepts include things like abstaining from killing, stealing, and lying. 


The fifth rite of passage is known as the Upasampada, and it is the ordination ceremony for monks and nuns. This ceremony marks a person’s official entry into the monastic community, and it involves taking several vows that commit them to a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience.


Another prominent Buddhist rite of passage is the Parinirvana Ceremony, or the funeral rites, carried out after someone has died. The main purpose of these rites is to help the deceased person’s soul to be reborn into a better life. It is followed by cremation rites, a ceremony that is carried out when a monk or nun dies. It involves cremating their body and dispersing their ashes in a river. This is done in order to symbolically release them from the cycle of rebirth.

Bottom Line

Jonah Engler believes that initially grasping the concept of the various rites of Buddhism may feel intimidating, but with time you’ll get the hang of it. Only when you comprehend the true meaning of these rites can you properly abide by them.

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