The Urban Dharma Newsletter... February 10, 2004


In This Issue: Buddhist Weddings

1. A Chinese Buddhist Wedding
2. A Sri Lankan Buddhist Wedding
3. A Buddhist Wedding Ceremony
4. Buddhist Weddings
5. Setting Up Your Buddhist Home
6. Temple/Center/Website:
Our Buddhist Wedding - Japan - Photo Album, Our Buddhist Wedding - Thailand - Photo Album
7. Book/CD/Movie: It's Easier Than You Think
...by Sylvia Boorstein


1. A Chinese Buddhist Wedding


WHO ARE THEY? Lai-Quin ('Queenie') and Michael

WHERE DID THEY LIVE BEFORE THE WEDDING? They had a civil marriage ceremony so that they could live together at Michael's parents' home without anyone in their community thinking badly of them. However, they are not regarded as properly married until their Buddhist wedding.

CHOOSING THE DAY Traditionally a fortune teller used to pick a lucky wedding day. For Queenie and Michael it is Michael's mother who chooses a good day for them to marry.

THE PARTY This takes place the day before the wedding. It involves family, friends, games, music and food - but not the bride-to-be. Traditionally, she can't see Michael before the wedding day.

GIFTS AND CEREMONIES A roast pig is brought as a gift for Queenie's parents. According to tradition, they cut the pig into three and keep the middle part. The rest is sent back, with fruits in the middle, for Michael's family. After cutting the pig they have a tea ceremony, in which the couple serves tea to the elders of the family and receives a 'red packet' in return, containing money or jewellery. The couple also say prayers and receive blessings. The tea ceremony is repeated at Michael's house.

THE WEDDING DAY Early in the morning, the groom and the groomsmen decorate the car and drive over to where Queenie is staying at her sister's house. At the door, Queenie's friends have prepared a lot of tricky questions for the groom to answer, and tests for him to undergo, to prove his worthiness to marry her. The last test is a financial test: the groom pays the bridesmaids some 'red packets' (full of good fortune). Only then are Michael and the groomsmen allowed into the house.

THE CEREMONY At Michael's house, prayers are said and offerings made to his ancestors at a small altar and to the Gods outside in the garden. Then the couple kneel before their parents and serve them tea. It's this tea ceremony that is the single most important part of the proceedings. Without it, Michael and Queenie would not be married in Chinese eyes. Then the relatives and friends take it in turns to give them their blessing and good wishes.

THE BRIDAL BED Michael's bed is prepared for the marriage, with brand-new bed linen. According to tradition, this is done by someone who has many children - especially boys. After it has been made up, no one can sleep in it until Michael and Queenie on the wedding night - so Michael sleeps on the sofa!

Following the ceremony, Queenie and Michael go up to the bedroom and stand on either side of the bed. Between them a little boy jumps up and down on the bed. This is done because they believe it to be lucky and it will bring them a lot of children. It is always a little boy because in the Asian culture boys are considered 'more useful'.

Queenie and Michael are officially husband and wife.

WHAT COMES NEXT? Three days after the wedding, the bride is expected to return to her family. She brings gifts for the family and, traditionally, they return some gifts to Michael's family.

2. A Sri Lankan Buddhist Wedding


Sri Lankan Buddhist Weddings are influenced by the Hindu culture which gives prominence to ‘Nekath’, the auspicious times.

The ‘Nekatha' is derived from the horoscopes of the Bride and the Groom which is created based on their dates and times of birth.

Of the many traditional events that take place during a Buddhist wedding, the ‘Poruwa’ ceremony is the most important. Therefore it is strictly guided by  Nekath.

'Poruwa’ is a beautifully decorated wooden platform on which the traditional Buddhist marriage ceremony takes place. Therefore this event is called the ‘Poruwa Siritha' (Ceremony).

The Poruwa Siritha (Poruwa Ceremony) appears to have existed in Sri Lanka before the introduction of Buddhism in the 3rd Century B.C.

Through the ages, many innovations have been introduced to the Poruwa Siritha. By and large, the men and women of present day society realize the value of their heritage and are motivated to protect and preserve something of their past for posterity.

The Poruwa Siritha was as valid custom as a registered marriage until the British introduced the registration of marriages by Law in 1870. Today's Poruwa Ceremony has been influenced by both upcountry and low country customs of Sri Lanka.

The bridegroom and party assemble on the left of the Poruwa and the bridal party on the right.

The bride and groom enter the Poruwa leading with the right foot. They greet each other with palms held together in the traditional manner.

Shilpadhipathi (master of ceremonies) presents a hand of betel leaves to the couple, which they accept and hand back to him to be placed on a height of the Poruwa.This symbolises the offering of betel to gods.

The bride's father places the right hand of the bride on that of the groom as a symbolic gesture of handing over the bride to the bridegroom.

The groom's brother hands a tray to the groom with seven sheaves of betel leaves with a coin placed in each. The groom holds the tray while the bride takes one sheaf at a time and drops it on the Poruwa. The groom repeats this process. This is a custom carried out to remember seven generations of relatives on each side. 

The groom's brother hands a tray to the groom with seven sheaves of betel leaves with a coin placed in each. The groom holds the tray while the bride takes one sheaf at a time and drops it on the Poruwa. The groom repeats this process. This is a custom carried out to remember seven generations of relatives on each side.

The bride's maternal uncle enters the Poruwa, ties the small fingers of the bride and groom with a gold thread and then pours water over the fingers. Water and earth being the eternal verities, the water so poured and the earth on which it falls are intended to be the lasting witnesses to the marriage. The uncle then turns the couple clockwise, three times, on the Poruwa.

Next the groom presents to his bride a white cloth which in turn is presented to the bride's mother. This is an expression of the groom's gratitude to his mother-in-law for bringing up his bride.

Next, the groom's mother will present the going away saree to the groom. The groom hands it over to the bride and she in turn gives it to her mother.

The bride's mother will then present a plate of milk rice and kavum, cooked with special ingredients befitting a marriage ceremony, to the bride who feeds a piece of each to the bridegroom. The bridegroom feeds the bride in return.

As the newly weds step down from the Poruwa, helped by a couple from the bridegroom's party, Shilpathipathi breaks a coconut in two.

The bridal couple lights a brass oil lamp to signify their resolve to keep the home fires burning.

3. A Buddhist Wedding Ceremony


Buddhist wedding ceremonies are becoming increasingly popular in the west, and are not just restricted to those who follow the faith.

WHEREAS in many religions (both Asian and western), marriage is a sacrament and an essential aspect of religious duty, marriage in Buddhism is purely a secular affair. A Buddhist's decision to wed is not affected by or intertwined with a desire to continue the Buddhist faith. Marriage is considered a personal concern; there are no religious directions on whether or not one should marry or remain unwed. There is also no formal wedding service. This does not, however, mean that Buddhist weddings do not have a rich tradition. Throughout the subcontinent, Buddhist communities have assembled creative wedding ceremonies out of Asian and Buddhist rituals.

Pre-Wedding Rituals

In the cultural pervasion of religion that all Asia has experienced, many Buddhist weddings are arranged. A wedding broker is normally responsible for the match between bride and groom. He or she will visit families of the area assessing their wealth, health, social status and prospects. When visiting families, the wedding broker can easily suggest a match for their child, having mentally catalogued the available people of the area.

A family will likely take the marriage broker's advice and pay a preliminary visit to the family of the person suggested. The parents of the two families will meet without the children to assess each other's prospect, checking the informational intelligence of the marriage broker. After several more visits, including one with an astrologer, the couple to be wed will meet and hopefully give the final okay to the wedding.

After having agreed upon a dowry amount, the astrologer will decide on a mutually auspicious date for the couple to wed. During the pre-wedding days, the couple may choose to receive monks in their new home. The monks will bless the house with holy water and recite verses from the Tipitaka (Buddhist holy book). As the monks complete their blessing, the groom's family will offer them alms (gifts) to bring good luck to the marriage.

The Wedding Ceremony

The wedding day is begun at a local temple where the couple separately asks for the blessings of Buddha. Both bride and groom are then dressed in outfits traditional to their region.

At the mutually auspicious astrologically designated wedding time, the bride and groom are individually taken to the shrine room of their local temple or a hall hired for the occasion. Here, the couple sees each other for the first time on that day.

Spiritual Buddhist wedding traditions don't necessarily require the presence of monks or the use of a temple's shrine room. For these traditions, the wedding location would be equipped with a shrine to Buddha featuring candles, flowers, incense and a statue or image of Buddha.

The ceremony begins as the entire assembly recites the Vandana, Tisarana and Pancasila readings. The couple then lights the candles and incense sticks surrounding Buddha's image and offers him the flowers within the shrine. Because of the secularity of Buddhist weddings, there is no assigned set of marriage vows. However, the bride and groom will recite their expected undertakings using the Sigilovdda Sutta as a guide. The Sigiloydda Sutta says:

"In five ways should a wife, as Western quarter, be ministered to by her husband: by respect, by courtesy, by faithfulness, by handing over authority to her, by providing her with ornaments. In these five ways does the wife minister to by her husband as the Western quarter, love him: her duties are well-performed by hospitality to kin of both, by faithfulness, by watching over the goods he brings and by skill and industry in discharging all business."

After these vows are spoken, the bride and groom can exchange rings. If monks are present, the marriage vows will be both preceded and proceeded by their chanting.

After the Wedding

Once officially married, the couple receives their guests with the huge feast and decorations prepared in the previous days to the wedding.

4. Buddhist Weddings



There are a number of different sections of Buddhism, and the beliefs of each group vary slightly. In general, Buddhists believe in life as a process of change, moving towards greater wisdom, awareness and kindness. The mind is the decisive factor in the changing of the self, and meditation is used to develop the mind to a more positive state.

The main concern to Buddhists is that there is suffering in the world. There is no sense of a creator God in Buddhism. The Buddha (a title, rather than a name, which means one who is awake to reality) was a human being who transformed himself, through enormous effort, to a state of profound Enlightenment.

Buddhists follow Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha where there is suffering, caused by wanting. This suffering can end completely by using the Eightfold Path, which develops good understanding, thought speech, action, work, effort, mindfulness and meditation. Buddhism is an open religion that believes that all people are equal, and welcomes those of any age, gender, nationality or background.

Legal Requirements

A couple can be married in the eyes of the law by having a Buddhist ceremony as long as the person who conducts their ceremony is registered to conduct weddings. If this is not the case, a civil ceremony will also have to be held

The legal requirements to be fulfilled are those that apply to civil marriages. However, if the building in which the couple wish to marry is in a different registration district to where they live, the superintendent registrar needs proof that the building is the couples normal place of worship. If this is not possible, the couple are required to give notice in the registration district in which the building is situated after having met the necessary residency requirement.

If there is no building in the couples registration district, they will be permitted to marry in a building in the nearest registration district that has one.

A superintendent registrar may also need to attend the ceremony. If the building in which the couple intend to marry is not registered for the solemnisation of marriages, a civil ceremony must be arranged beforehand to comply with the requirements of the law.

Buddhism and divorce

Buddhism holds great store in peace, and not causing harm to any other living thing. Therefore it is held by most Buddhist groups that if every form of reconciliation has failed, the couple should be allowed to peacefully separate rather than cause any more suffering. The couple are asked to take into consideration the position and future of any children, so as not to cause them unnecessary suffering.

Preparations for a Buddhist Wedding

It is traditional in some communities on the morning of their wedding for the bride and groom to visit a monk who has taken a vow of poverty and give him food in return for his blessing.

As in Ceremonies: Greek Orthodox Greek Orthodox culture, the bed has significance and an older couple may sometimes be called on to prepare the bridal bed and decorate it with lucky talismans such as bags of rice, sesame seeds, coins and, in more rural communities, a tomcat. These symbolise fertility and happiness.

A Typical Wedding Ceremony

There is no specific marriage ritual established in the Buddhist religion. Historically, marriage was a secular observance, but modern Buddhists have developed services for those who wish to marry in the eyes of their religion. In the past it was customary that monks were invited by the couple and their families to chant sutras (classic Buddhist literature) after the secular civil or home ceremony, and, through the passing of time, this has developed into the marriage ceremonies used today. These ceremonies are not standard for all Buddhists, as Buddhism embraces a variety of groups with differing traditions.

The wedding ceremony explained below is the service developed by The International Buddhist Institute of Hawaii. Many sects use this version, which includes the bride and groom exchanging vows, the signing of a register, the issue of a marriage certificate and sometimes an exchange of rings. The wedding can take place during a Buddhist meeting, but more recently it has been normal for a separate ceremony to be held.

The service begins with chanting:

Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa.

Reply: Homage to Him, the Exalted One, the Supremely Awakened One.

Priest: May the wisdom of the Blessed One shine within our hearts, so that the mists of error and the foolish vanity of self may be dispelled. So shall we understand the changing nature of this life and strive to reach that spiritual peace which the Buddha taught. Friends, we are met together today in the presence of this congregation, and in the sight of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, to witness the vows of x and x. I earnestly ask anyone who knows of any impediment to this marriage to make it known now, or else remain silent.

The priest then addresses the couple and says: Before taking of yourselves these vows, remember that it is the duty of the husband to support and cherish his wife, to be faithful to her, to comfort her in sickness or sorrow, and to assist in bringing up the children. It is the duty of the wife to love and help her husband, to be patient and gentle in her manner, and to be faithful to him always.

The priest asks the woman: Will you take this man to be your lawful husband and remain faithful to him always?

Her reply: I will.

The priest then asks the man: Will you take this woman to be your lawful wife, and remain faithful to her always?

His reply: I will.

Priest: Will you both undertake to sustain one another in sickness or in health, in happiness or in sorrow, and cherish one another at all times?

They reply: We will.

If an exchange of rings is to take place, the following will be spoken:

Priest to each in turn: I give you this ring that you may place it on the finger of this woman/man in token of your marriage to her/him, and may its circle remind you both of those things that are eternal.

The priest follows this by joining the couples hands together by placing a rosary (string of beads) round the wrists of their right hands and says:

Brother and sister, in the midst of worldly illusions with their fleeting glamour, try to preserve in your hearts the truths taught by the Buddha. Be compassionate to all, and set your feet on the Path which leads from illusion and sorrow to Enlightenment and Peace. Since you have both agreed to marry according to Buddhist rite, I pronounce you to be husband and wife.

The offering of lights will follow, and anyone who wishes to offer incense to the couple is invited to do so.

After this the Priest says: May the Blessed One receive you from this day forth as his faithful disciples, who take His teaching as your Guide. May peace be with you, and wisdom and compassion surround you at all times.

Reply: Namo Amida Buddha (three times) or Namo Buddhaya (three times).

The five ways that a husband should minister to his wife are read out to the couple as taken from the Duties of Husband and Wife as described by the Buddha in the Sigalovada Sutta:

1. By honour
2. By respect
3. By faithfulness
4. By handing over authority to her
5. By giving her adornments.

In return for being cared for, a wife is compassionate to her husband:

1. By doing her work well
2. By hospitality to her husband, relations and others
3. By faithfulness
4. By protecting what he earns
5. By skill and indulgence in all her duties.

The marriage ceremony may conclude with chanting by the Community of Monks, followed by meditation.

Other Buddhist wedding ceremonies include the offering of flowers to the Buddha, the lighting of candles. Some services ask that the couple bow to each other in reply to hearing the pledges asked of them, rather than saying I will.

Ceremonies may include the couple chanting:

* The Three Refuges or Tisarana as they face the Buddha:

I take refuge in the Buddha (the ideal of Enlightenment).
I take refuge in the Dharma (the teachings and practices of Buddhism).
I take refuge in the Sangha (the Buddhist community).

* The Five Precepts or Pañca Sila may also be chanted:

I undertake the precept to abstain from killing.
I undertake the precept to abstain from taking that which is not given.
I undertake the precept to abstain from sexual misconduct.
I undertake the precept to abstain from false speech.
I undertake the precept to abstain from intoxicating drink and drugs.

5. Setting Up Your Buddhist Home


What newlywed Buddhist couples should have.

* Small home altar
* Buddha statue (also, Tara, Kwan Yin or other Buddhist deity statuary)
* Incense burner
* Offering bowls and small oil lamp (for Tibetan Buddhist altar)
* Thangkas (religious paintings; again, for Tibetan Buddhist home)
* Meditation cushions or benches
* Copies of sacred texts in translation, such as the Dhammapada or sutras
* Calligraphic scroll (for Zen Buddhist home)
* Brocade altar cloth (usually for Zen home altar)
* Small meditation gong with cushion and striker

6a. Our Buddhist Wedding - Japan - Photo Album


About iamagoo


Greetings from Japan. I am from Canada, but have been living in Japan for 7 years (teaching English). All of these shots were taken with a Fuji Finepix S602 camera. I appreciate any and all comments in my guestbook. Thanks for looking!

Our Buddhist Wedding


This album is comprised of shots taken at my wedding. Special thanks go to my friend Matt who came to Japan for the occasion (with Bob & MIke) and took these shots. The resolution is rather low, but the excitement is high!

6b. Our Buddhist Wedding - Thailand - Photo Album


My friend Mick (Anthony) married his wife Kannika in a Buddhist ceremony, which started early in the morning;

The bride's family prepared food for the Monks, which they ate before the wedding.

The wedding was then conducted in the house of the Head Monk (pictured furthest from camera); there were 9 monks present at the wedding.

7. It's Easier Than You Think ...by Sylvia Boorstein (Author)


From Library Journal - American Buddhist teacher Boorstein has crafted a series of accessible lessons about engaging in the Buddhist way of life. With graceful humor, Boorstein teaches the insights of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism by drawing on examples from her own pilgrimage toward the mindfulness wrought by Buddhist practice. A fine introduction to Buddhism cast in the language of everyday experience. Highly recommended.

Amazon.com - Reviewer: A reader from MI USA... This is a great book for people who turn to buddhism to help them cope with life. I have found comfort and have often pulled my head out of my "you know where" due to this book more so than I have found in many years of therapy. I suffer from depression at times and while I'm sure there is a physical reason I'm prone to depression, I'm even more sure that my outlook on life contributes to it more than any other single factor. The teachings of Buddha are to me, more a philosophy rather than a religion. Life is DIFFICULT. For EVERYONE. Accept it and learn not to cling to things, people and dreams. A mind free of wants will be a peaceful mind.

If you are interested in learning about buddhism as a means of learning to survive happily in this world, this is the book for you. It is light, easy to understand and makes a lot of sense.

Amazon.com - Reviewer: A reader from Holbrook, Arizona USA... My wife and I both read this and found it very worthwhile. I have read a great deal of "heavier" Buddhist material and almost think the word "Buddhist" in the title is unfortunate because it may drive away some readers who would profit from this book. It is really more "common sense" than "Buddhist," and even a Bible-thumping fundamentalist would enjoy it.

The author's points are very similar to those of another American Buddhist sage, Charlotte Joko Beck (check out her books as well). The beauty of this book is it's brevity and simplicity. The author basically takes you through her life experiences in short chapters that flow quickly and make their points without preaching. My wife, who has approximately zero interest in the teachings of Buddha, nevertheless found this to be one of the most enjoyable and practical books she has read in a long time. I can't imagine anyone thinking that the couple of hours it takes to read this was time wasted.


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