A reader once commented that he had been exploring Buddhism for about five years but could not relate to Buddhist rituals. He loved the “spiritual” side of Buddhism, he said, but hated the ritualistic side. The rituals made Buddhism “just another religion.”
This was my answer: “Regarding the rituals — without knowing what tradition you’re working with I can’t comment specifically. Most of my experience is with Zen rituals. But it’s all skillful means. The power in Buddhism is found in giving yourself to it.
“Remember, it’s all about realizing the ephemeral nature of ego. As Dogen said, ‘To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening.’ In ritual, quiet yourself and let the myriad things experience themselves. It can be very powerful.
“If you’re standing apart from it and judging it, it’s not helping you much. But perhaps Buddhism is not the right practice for you.”
The reader didn’t care for this answer. It proved to him that “Buddhism, like all other religions, has its rigid robots who know everything about their religion’s ritual and nothing about its heart.”
Since my answer was unskillful, I want to try again. Ritual and Buddhism — The Purpose of Buddhist Rituals