Circumambulation is the act of moving around a sacred object or idol.
Circumambulation of temples or deity images is an integral part of Hindu and Buddhist devotional practice (known in Sanskrit as pradakśiṇā). In Judaism and Christianity one has the circumambulation of Jericho by the Israelites in the Book of Joshua. The Jewish faith uses circumambulation during Hoshanah Rabbah at the end of the Festival of Sukkot, and a Jewish bride circumambulates the groom during the wedding ceremony. In the Catholic Church, a priest sometimes circumambulates an altar while incensing it with a thurible not for the sake of circumambulation but because one needs to get around the altar to do so - incensing the altar is in the tradition of the priestly rites of Moses and Aaron. At some Catholic shrines it is also a tradition to circumambulate around the cult object of the place, usually relics of a saint or an image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Often this is performed three times, as a reference to the Trinity. In Islam, circumambulation is performed around the Kaaba in Mecca, in a counter-clockwise direction.
In many Hindu temples, the temple structure reflects the symbolism of the Hindu association of the spiritual transition from daily life to spiritual perfection as a journey through stages. Ambulatory passageways for circumambulation are present through which worshipers move in a clockwise direction, starting at the sanctuary doorway and moving inward toward the inner sanctum where the deity is enshrined. This is a translation of the spiritual concept of transition through levels in life into bodily movements by the worshipers as they move inwardly through ambulatory halls to the most sacred centre of spiritual energy of the deity. Circumambulation is done in a clockwise direction and in an odd rather than even number of times. Circumbulatory walking around the shrine, by keeping time, is a common form of Hindu prayer. The circumbulary pathway made of stone around the shrine is called the Pradakshina path.
Tawaf (طواف) is one of the Islamic rituals of pilgrimage. During the Hajj and Umrah, Muslims are to circumambulate the Kaaba (most sacred site in Islam) seven times, in a counterclockwise direction. The circling is believed to demonstrate the unity of the believers in the worship of the One God, as they move in harmony together around the Kaaba, while supplicating to Allah.
Also the Kaaba is the most circumambulated structure in this world. The Kaaba is constantly circumambulated by pilgrims at all times except for the time of prayers, when small birds and angels are said to circumambulate the Kaaba.
In Zen Buddhism kinhin is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen. Practitioners walk clockwise around a room while holding their hands in shashu, with one hand closed in a fist, while the other hand grasps or covers the fist. During walking meditation each step is taken after each full breath.
In Levan Pheras which is performed during wedding ceremonies, the four rounds of pheras symbolize the warding off of evil by circumambulating a purifying and transforming object, in this case the holy book, the Granth Shib.
Bahá'ís perform circumambulation of both the Shrines of the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh during their pilgrimage to Haifa and Bahjí, in Israel. While circumambulating, observance of these Manifestations of God is done in complete silence and also performed on holy days such as the birth and ascension of Bahá'u'lláh as well as the birth and martyrdom of the Báb.
The Bönpo in the Northern Hemisphere traditionally circumambulate (generally) in a counter-clockwise or widdershin direction, that is a direction that runs counter to the apparent movement of the Sun.
Candidates for the three principle degrees of Freemasonry circumambulate the altar in the lodge room. This part of the ritual is distinct from many other world rituals in that it is done in a clock-wise fashion. The number of times which candidates ambulate around the altar depends on which degree is being presented.
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- Buddhamind.info: Circumambulation
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