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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
for a reduction of the number of sacraments—Christian rituals —or even more radically, the complete elimination of ritual from the church. Sacraments were felt to interfere with the individual’s relation with God. More critically, as far as the Reformers were concerned, priests controlled access to the sacraments. This placed priests in the position of mediating the individual’s relationship with God, and therefore impeding direct experience of the divine. In place of a relationship between the individual and God medi- ated by priests and rituals, many of the Protestant reformers pro- moted the goal of a direct, unmediated relationship. Prayer and reading the Bible for one’s own understanding of divine revelation came to be understood as the vehicles by which such an unmediated relationship could be established. Displacing participation in sanc- tioned sacraments with these individual practices, Christians were to find their own personal experience of the divine. These ideas about ritual as empty of religious significance, and direct experience being the goal of religious practice, have taken up a seemingly permanent residence in Western religious culture. While in popular Buddhist discourse meditation has been given the positive valuation previously held by prayer, and sutra study now takes the place of Bible reading, ritual has retained the negative valuation for- merly attributed to sacraments as interfering in one’s experience of the divine—now recast as “the dharma.” This can be seen in much of the discourse of contemporary Buddhism, which often promotes the superiority of some form of modernized Buddhism over other traditionally rooted forms on the grounds that this modernized Buddhism has been freed from ritual encumbrances and the supersti- tious beliefs that support them. Two primary rhetorical justifications are usually offered for reject- ing ritual in the promotion of modernized Buddhism. One is the recreation or renewal of Buddhism in a form that accords with the beliefs of modern people. According to this justification, what is considered to be the modern belief system—such as rationality, belief in the authority of science, a materialist view of reality, or a psycho- logical understanding of human existence—is employed to determine what Buddhism should be. RICHARD K. PAYNE 81 photo | Mayu Kanamori PRINTEDWITHPERMISSIONOFSEIZANJISHINGONBUDDHISTTEMPLE