Ritual, Rite of Passage, Meme

  • A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value.
  • A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person’s progress from one status to another.
  • Meme (pron. meem): A contagious information pattern that replicates by parasitically infecting human minds and altering their behavior, causing them to propagate the pattern. (Term coined by Dawkins, by analogy with “gene”.) Individual slogans, catch-phrases, melodies, icons, inventions, and fashions are typical memes. An idea or information pattern is not a meme until it causes someone to replicate it, to repeat it to someone else. All transmitted knowledge is memetic.  ~ Glenn Grant

A week ago, seven people took Refuge  in a rite of passage ritual to publicly announce their dedication to Buddhist principles and their determination to practice in daily life.

Immediately thereafter, four other people accepted  ordination  as Zen priests in another rite of passage ritual.

Kneeling during Ordination Ceremony

The general purpose of rituals, and specifically rites of passage, is to convey to everyone involved that something is different afterwards than it was before.

The ritual “convinces” people that something has changed.

The spread of an idea, through ritual or via any other manner of idea propagation, is the spreading of a meme or memes.

Last weekend, I accepted the meme of ordination as a Zen priest. In so doing, it also reinforced the memes of Buddhist principles, Buddhist practice and of Taking Refuge in the minds of all those who attended.

Spreading these memes was here accepted consciously, with some understanding of their positive implications and potentials.

As such, this example stood as an exception to the rule of memes spreading by becoming implanted/accepted unconsciously and taken to be ” part of oneself” / “that’s just how I am” without any assessment of whether the idea/behavior/set of beliefs makes sense or is even healthy.

Memes may harm terribly, such  as ” Smoking is cool.

Some memes are neutral, like ” Blue is a boy baby’s color.”

Some are positive and beneficial, such as the Four Bodhisattva Vows:

However innumerable beings may be, I vow to save them all.
However inexhaustible the passions may be, I vow to transform them all.
However limitless the Dharma may be, I vow to comprehend it completely.
However infinite the Buddha’s Truth is, I vow to realize it.

As long as we live in a world full of memes – that is, painted by thought, paying attention to thought, and therefore heavily influenced by thought – we may as well discourage some kinds of thoughts which are harmful or maladaptive, and encourage others which are helpful or adaptive.

Sounds like Mahayana Buddhism, redescribed.

Another set of memes; a very worthwhile set.

Worthwhile enough to follow for a lifetime..


Opening quotes #1 and #2 are from Wikipedia, at these urls:



The definition of a meme is from this page: http://maxwell.lucifer.com/virus/alt.memetics/what.is.html

The Bodhisattva Vows came from here: http://www.shastaabbey.org/teachings-glossary.html#f

For more on the Bodhisattva vows, see the Wanderling site: http://the-wanderling.com/Bodhisattva.html

Photograph of four to-be priests was taken onsite by S. using the author’s camera. The author is kneeling 2nd from the left.

Pic of the Buddha statue came from here: http://tenguhouse.typepad.com/tengu_house/2009/01/index.html


About dominic724

A former seeker starts blogging.
This entry was posted in Human Experience, Memes & Memetics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Ritual, Rite of Passage, Meme

  1. Pingback: Rite of Passage is “complete” | Pioneers of the Shattered Waters

  2. Pingback: Rite of Passage is “complete” | Pioneers of the Shattered Waters

  3. Pingback: ??!??!!-rite of passage? taboo? « The SAHM Chronicles

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