I don't think bowing, or wearing modest clothing are superfluous at all, they were both around in the Buddha's time and have in my eyes quite important functions. It might be better to turn this around and ask why people think that bowing and wearing modest clothing isn't important? Why it's not worthy of being practised?
With regards to the actual superfluous rites and rituals - That have crept in over the centuries, such as holy water, incense, flowers etc - They provide for those who are simply concerned with faith and making merit - Which is probably a great degree of the Thai population, for example.
Don't underestimate the power of these simple things to bring some happiness to someone's day. When I was staying at Bodhinyanarama, a Thai lady brought her Cambodian neighbour in one day - They brought some food for lunch and came up to the Sala to receive a blessing. The Cambodian lady's story was quite heartbreaking. My friend Stepan told me her husband was a Kiwi who knew Cambodian and had gone over there and brought her back. His previous wife was a Thai lady, who had broken it off with him earlier. This time around the hubby thought he had it sussed, and kept his wife on a very tight leash - He wouldn't let her out of the house, she didn't know how to speak English or anything. Then he got sick, and died. His wife didn't even know where her passport was, nor any of her papers, she didn't know who to turn to after that, not being able to speak English. Luckily her neighbour (a Thai lady) could speak some Cambodian, so she was helping her out.
This lady was obviously in quite a state and situation. With no way of getting help and fear that if she sought help she might be deported.
When the monks chanted the blessing, got her to pour the holy water and administered her the 5 precepts, I could see the tears rolling down her face, she didn't have anything in this strange world, but the joy that those rituals brought her was enough to provide some comfort, that's all she wanted - some comfort, some reassurance.
It made me think that not everyone's ready to strive for Nibbana. But that Buddhism has something to offer everyone. I say if rituals bring people happiness then that's fine, the problem in my eyes is when Buddhism is simply reduced to ritualism, not the acts unto themselves. Let's not chuck the baby out with the bathwater as they say.
Last edited by BlackBird
on Sat Nov 14, 2009 4:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." -