Well, you do not really understand these rites and rituals. You pass judgement on them, and on chanting and prostrations, but quite frankly you don't understand these methods. You've dismissed them without a full understanding. That's fine, really. I'm guessing that you've been conditioned, by whatever life events or circumstances, to have an internal bias against things which are "religious" and your teacher therefore appeals to this bias. It's skillful means. Heck, we don't even have to call our technique "Buddhist"--that surely allows it to be less off-putting to those who are biased against religion, or against Buddhism, specifically.
Maybe you could explain their purpose to me, and we could discuss them. I'm not a closed book when it comes to my practice, Ive incorporated other enlightened teachings into my life and I'm really very interested in other practices and how they liberate. I may not fully understand these rituals but what I have seen of them does not appeal to me and never has appealed to me my entire life. Some of my family members are intense followers of christianity, and I have discussed my take on life with them to no avail, they are set in their beliefs and refuse to accept my non religious beliefs structure. They preach and preach about Jesus, and I ask, do you follow the ten commandments? Um ahhh um ahhh, excuse after excuse is made why Jesus did not really mean for us not to act this way and its ok for us to hate muslims, jews, indians because they do not follow Jesus and they are going to hell. This is what I have been brought up with my entire life it sickened me and I wanted nothing to do with it. I went in the other direction, there is no God, and when your dead your dead, so nothing matters. I had no morals did and acted as I felt, drank, smoked, ran with women, fought, stole, got arrested, my only concern was myself and my own pleasures. I put distance between myself and every other human on this planet unless they served a purpose to please me in some way or another, and if they got in my way watch out. Most people have that little voice in their head that hears another human beings suffering, and this voice stops you from beating another human to a pulp, I lost that voice in my head and it wasn't until I'd punched every tooth out of a your head, broken your jaw, and twisted your leg until I heard a crack would it be enough, most times people would have to tear me off of some poor fella, I just would not stop. I was infused with rage/anger all the time, I had no peace in my life.
In the end, Lowlydog, all these "rites and rituals" you've dismissed can have a profound effect on the mind, and, in some cases, can be more effective and yield quicker results than the samadhi practices you've embraced. It is no doubt true that, for some people, these rites and rituals may be "pleas to another power," but even then, you shouldn't dismiss them as ineffective. After all, if there is no subject and object in reality, what does it matter whether the liberating power is seen to be internal or external?
I know about this other power.
It was the night I quit drinking and started on the path. Completely shitfaced drunk, I came stumbling in the door after driving home once again. My wife holding our baby girl in her arms screaming at me, when are you going to stop? I can't take this anymore, did you drive home again? where were you, blah blah blah is all I heard, I couldn't care in the least, I was probably going to be killed by someone or just kill myself. Who would care? what difference would it make? Then everything narrowed into a tunnel like vision and all sounds became muffled, my wife was screaming bloody murder at me, but I could not hear a thing a deep calm came over me, and I found myself looking at my body from above. But I could see what a horrible human I had become I saw the self and what suffering I was in and what suffering I was causing to others. I sort of hovered there for awhile and then bang I was back in my body, but something was different a huge weight had been lifted from me, and I felt joy. I took my cigarettes and threw them in the garbage, I had no use for them anymore, I looked my wife in the eyes and apologised for my behaviour and told her with such strong conviction that I was done with drinking, I had no more use for it, the horrible pain was gone and things were changed.
Finally, I think it's important to understand that, for ignorant sentient beings such as ourselves, there's no doubt that "external" factors are to be relied upon, at this stage of the path. One's teacher, and the teachings themselves, were external to us, at least initially.
A few days later I found a copy of Eckhart Tolle's A new earth, This book returned God back into my life, but not the god that my relatives spoke of. The god that was simply presence, the god that freed me from a life of misery, the god that lifted the enormous weight that was crushing me, the god that relieved a portion of my ignorance, the god that awakened me. I then found myself at the door of a buddhist temple, and I began meditation. I could not sit on the floor for 5 minutes when I first walked into that temple, but I kept going back, this is what I needed to do. I still go to the same temple and it is an important part of my life as is Eckhart, but something did not sit well with me in the temple. I found that all the bowing and chanting and candles and shrines had no importance to me and I knew that I was a little different than most of the other devotees and did not really fit in. Someone told me to sit a goenka retreat and I did and I knew the moment I arrived that I had found my practice. Goenka gave me back all the worlds religions, Goenka gave me my meditation practice, this practice has shown me that dharma is dharma in all it true forms. I am my own master, I decide what is dharma and what is not. So now I am a tea drinking quasi vegan who has developed the ability to love unconditionally, what happened to the old Lowlydog? well he is still there in memory but I find it impossible to act as I did before. There has been a change in my life and it seems to be permanent, I have found god, and I am happy.
So this is who I am( well not ultimately), this is how I have found dharma, these are the teachers that have guided me, they are all a part of my life and they come with Lowlydog, I will not supress my speech on these people, nor is it my intention to disrespect members here at dharma wheel and push my path a superior in any way. If you feel that my dharma is not what you wish to hear then discuss it amongst yourselves send me a PM with your decision because these are things that I will not compromise about myself nor do I feel it necessary.