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This lesson explores actions prescribed by various religions.

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Welcome to this tutorial on ritual as sacred action. In this tutorial, we're going to be looking at how ritual action functions in a community. Ritual is necessary for several different reasons. Ritual binds together the individual with the community, making what might just be separate individuals into one common body.

So we could say ritual is necessary for maintaining the social order. In various different traditions, there's also the idea that ritual is necessary for maintaining cosmic order. So ritual balances the forces of nature, it unites people into the cosmos, both with respect to divinity, to the other creatures on the earth, and to nature itself. There's the idea that perhaps the sun wouldn't rise tomorrow if the ritual for the sun is not performed. Ritual can involve a special place and time, such as a cathedral or a meditation hall. And it might be performed at certain auspicious times during the calendar or during the week.

Some examples of important rituals in world religions. We can take the Hajj from Islam, the pilgrimage to Mecca that believers are supposed to undertake at least once during their lives. Or in Hinduism, the lighting of lamps at Diwali, which symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. Or in various wedding services and different traditions. Or in Jewish services the tradition of breaking a glass after the couple is declared married.

There's lots of different interpretations for why the glass is broken. Perhaps it symbolizes the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Or perhaps it's more superstitious and it's meant to drive away evil spirits. And lots of other interpretations. Overall though, we can say that ritual action reinforces the basic tenets of a religion and it does so in a dynamic way, in a living way that brings people together in a community.

Thank you for watching this tutorial on action. We said that ritual can be defined as sacred action. Ritual can be carried out by individuals or entire communities. And that it's a main way of establishing social order over time. Many believers think that rituals even preserve the cosmic order. A ritual can be performed in a special place or a special time for a purpose set aside by the community.

We mentioned examples of both Eastern and Western rituals and we said that these rituals are important for maintaining the vitality of religious belief. In the vocabulary terms, we said that ritual is social action, a set of words or actions that are spoken or conducted in the same way or in a similar way over time according to accepted religious, social, or other convention. And pilgrimage is a journey undertaken by a believer that has a sacred purpose and or sacred destination.

Terms to Know

A journey undertaken by a believer that has a sacred purpose and/or a sacred destination.


"Sacred action"; a set of words or actions that are spoken or conducted in the same or in a similar way over time, according to accepted religious, social, or other convention.