Q: You always condemn ritualism, but what is wrong with expressing our respect and gratitude?
A: There is nothing wrong with that. Respect and gratitude are not rituals. Rituals are when you don’t understand what you are doing, when you are doing something just because somebody asked you to. If deep inside you understand, “I am paying respect to my parents” or “I am paying respect to a particular god or goddess”—then, see: What are the qualities of that god? What are the qualities of that goddess? Am I giving real respect to that god and goddess by developing the same qualities within myself? Am I giving real respect to my parents by developing their good qualities? If the answer is yes, then you are doing these actions with understanding, and they are not rites or rituals. But if you perform something mechanically, then it becomes a rite or ritual.
For meditation and reflection
The Buddha taught to avoid “empty” rites and rituals – in this quote S.N. Goenka helps us to understand why, focusing on the importance of respect and understanding.
How do respect and understanding feature in your daily life and practice as a Buddhist?