Pick any religion going back through time, and you’ll find rituals always play a role. They vary greatly from faith to faith but there’s always a facet of certain ceremonies, sacraments, and other ritualistic aspects. Now in modern times, we often question whether these modes of practice are outdated.
Rituals certainly are not limited to religion – there are rituals we take for granted every day. A ritual is simply a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. Preparing to go for a drive requires a ritual, as do every day acts of hygiene. So we’re not anti-rituals per se, but somehow we think of ourselves as too progressive and modern to bother with religious rituals.
Before getting into whether rituals are outdated, let’s take a historical look at why rituals were started in the first place. Think about ancient times when the population was un-educated and illiterate. Life was difficult, lacking 20/21st Century conveniences we take for granted. People’s priority was survival, not comfort. In that environment, what would be the best way to pass on wisdom teachings? It would be through spoken word, and ritualized practices that could be learned and ingrained into daily living.
But what’s behind rituals – what is the underlying intent? The very core of spirituality is to energize one’s system to a peak Samadhi experience of one-ness of Being. Rituals are one set of practices that energize the space and those participating. Consider the last time you were part of a religious festival, or ceremony – did you not feel the group coalescence?
So with this context, let’s relook at the question – are rituals outdated? Based on the historical context, it’s tempting to think that they are but consider the intent. The answer, then, is with the individual. If you’re able to consciously handle your body, your thoughts, your emotions, your energy… able to simply sit in stillness beyond time and space… then indeed what is the need for tools when one has attained. For that one, no ritual is needed because they already are, and live, all that rituals entail. For that one, there is no need for prayer because they are a living prayer.
As with most of us, we are still working on discovering our True Nature. We still are mired in our karmic cycles and Samskaras. So for us, yes, still the need for not just rituals but meditation, yoga, knowledge, sadhanas, mantras, and any other spiritual method that speaks to us – that is all still necessary. We are all constituted differently, so certain things will work for some people and not others. The key is to find a system that works, and then stick to it. Therefore it’s not so much a matter of whether rituals are outdated or not, but which spiritual prescription works for you.
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