Similarities between the Zen Buddhist Tea Ceremony and the Eastern Orthodox Divine Liturgy are perhaps not as obvious as in the other examples, but they are there. Because they each have so much to do with what can be experienced in a sensory way, the sheer sensory differences may seem overwhelming. Spend some time comparing the accounts. Keep in mind the danger of generalizing from these specific forms of right action to all forms of right action in either tradition. Be mindful of how much may be involved implicitly in the actual practice of these specific forms that may be going unsaid in the two accounts just given. Answer the following questions.
- Identify as many similarities as you can, looking beyond the surface to underlying similarities in function and purpose. (Consider, for example, how each involves the participant bodily with all of the senses; co~mon or similar ritual gestures; the role of religious art and architecture; the significance of aesthetic beauty; the sense of mystery and the evocation of wonder; how each is a sacred communal meal; the extent to which each forges a sense of unity or bonding among participants; the extent to which each involves a divine-human exchange of gifts; etc.)
- Assuming that both of these movements exemplify the same generic way of being religious in two distinct religious traditions, what if anything do the similarities identified in answer to the first question indicate that is essential to that way of being religious (which the framework identifies as sacred rite)?
- What, if anything, do these two movements have in common regarding their respective means of approach to ultimate realityo?
- What characteristic existential problems is each concerned with and seeking to address?
- Is there anything that indicates the characteristic way each interprets its broader tradition's scripture and symbol system as distinct from other traditional ways of taking them? What sorts of features of the larger tradition's conception of ultimate realityo does each specifically highlight? Is there a different kind of "face" that each envisions that ultimate realityo to have relative to the "faces" envisioned in the examples of the other ways of being religious?
- What sorts of social structures (social organization, group activity, roles and responsibilities, etc.) does each have or recommend?
- What specific virtues in the practice of its religious life does each appear to commend, whether explicitly or implicitly, and what specific vices in that practice does each appear to condemn? (Be careful here to distinguish criticisms each may apparently offer of the religious practices of others from critical expectations set for its own members.) That is, what ideal(s) of practice does each uphold? And what sorts of things would fall short of those ideals?
- What differences can you find beyond the many profound similarities? (Consider, for example, the explicit references to theological realitieso in the one and the virtual absence of explicit references in the other; the strong presence of nature and natural forms in the one and their minimal presence in the other; the different roles of silence and speaking in each; the relative intimacy of the one as compared with the large group involvement of the other; the different value placed on intuitive spontaneity and simplicity; the openness in principle to anyone's participation in the one and the exclusion to full participation of all but official members in the other; how the one traces its origin all the way back to the religion's founder while the other's origin is obscure and of more recent vintage; the way encouragement is given to expression of the individual creativity much more so in the one than the. other; etc.)
- What among the differences identified in question 3 seem specifically due to differences in the central sacred stories and theologicalo convictions of Buddhism (or specifically Zen Buddhism) and Christianity (or specifically Eastern Orthodox Christianity)?