A composite unity consisting of a number of subordinate ritualistic acts may be called a ceremony.
Such observances have become inseparable from all organized religions.
Though the study focuses on Buddhism as practiced in Sri Lanka, the same basic round of rituals and ceremonies, with minor variations, can be found in the other countries following Theravada Buddhism, such as Burma and Thailand.
The purpose of the present study is to highlight this often neglected face of popular Buddhism.
It has been an inevitable phenomenon in the history of religion that whenever a religion was newly introduced to a culture, its adherents assimilated it and adapted it in ways that harmonized with their own social and cultural needs.
Because these practices form an intimate part of the religious life for the vast majority of devout Buddhist followers, they cannot be lightly dismissed as mere secondary appendages of a "pristine" canonical Buddhism.
The core doctrines of Buddhism, such as the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, dependent arising, etc., often proved too abstruse and elevated for the ordinary populace to apply to their own religious lives.
In the case of Buddhism this has happened in every country to which it spread, and Sri Lanka is no exception.
Although the canonical texts do not indicate that this devotional sensibility had yet come to expression in fully formed rituals, it seems plausible that simple ritualistic observances giving vent to feelings of devotion had already begun to take shape even during the Buddha's lifetime.The Buddha did discourage the wrong kind of emotional attachment to himself, as evidenced by the case of Vakkali Thera, who was reprimanded for his obsession with the beauty of the Buddha's physical presence: his was a case of misplaced devotion (S.iii,119).Ritualistic observances also pose a danger that they might be misapprehended as ends in themselves instead of being employed as means for channelling the devotional emotions into the correct path.It is when they are wrongly practiced that they become impediments rather than aids to the spiritual life.It is to warn against this that the Buddha has categorized them, under the term silabbata-paramasa, as one of the ten fetters (samyojana) and one of the four types of clinging (upadana).The Buddha often stressed the importance of saddha, faith or confidence in him as the Perfect Teacher and in his Teaching as the vehicle to liberation from the cycle of rebirth.