Orthopraxy vs. Orthodoxy Essay

It is frequently said of Asian customs that right practice is more important than right belief. Shinto is based on orthopraxy, rather than orthodoxy. In other words, the most important thing is not what you believe, but rather that you perform correct ritual actions. You don’t have to convert to Shinto to start being a practitioner of Shinto. If you perform the various rituals and routines of Shinto, then you are practicing Shinto. Buddhism isn’t interested in right action, as action itself is tied up in the obliviousness and desire that Buddhism is intended to overcome.

Buddhism is primarily interested in realizing the shunyata of action and thus achieving enlightenment.

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As Buddhists find themselves faced with a world that demands decisions in the core of this quest for enlightenment, however, they have found it useful and appropriate to comment on what would establish right practice in such an environment. Buddhist orthopraxy is demonstrated in rituals and monastic orders. Rituals of one form are practiced by all Buddhists and relate to actions whose worth can be applied toward achieving nirvana or a better position in the next reincarnation.

This includes participating in ceremonies, acts of piety, and other symbolic acts. Monastic orders offer a more disciplined approach, including an increased enforcement of orthopraxy in order to assist in aligning one’s actions with the path to enlightenment.

Do I think orthopraxy being the main focus is a good way to go? No. An excessive level of orthopraxy cannot compensate for the lack of orthodoxy, just as an excessive level of orthodoxy cannot compensate for the lack of orthopraxy. Without orthodoxy, orthopraxy is impossible to define, for true orthopraxy must branch from true orthodoxy. Otherwise, how would one know what is right practice?

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