Rituals are very powerful tools. They are powerful techniques. Many people ask me, ‘You are enlightened. Why should you then perform rituals?’ I tell them, ‘Because I am enlightened, I am teaching people exactly why and how to perform rituals!’ Enlightened beings do not need any rituals for themselves.
A small story:
A man went to a hotel and started eating idlis.
He ate eight idlis*, and after the ninth idli* his hunger was satisfied. The waiter came and gave him the bill for nine idlis. The man said, ‘What is this? I will pay only for one idli, the ninth idli, which satisfied my hunger! The first eight idlis did not do the job. Only the ninth one did the job of satisfying my hunger. So, I will pay only for that idli!
If the man had not eaten the eight idlis, would the ninth idli have satisfied his hunger? This is exactly what we do in life also. People who reject rituals are actually rejecting the first eight idlis! People who think that rituals are a waste and that they can go straightaway to meditation and spiritual experiences are doing nothing but rejecting the first eight idlis.
Understand, the ninth idli worked because of the first eight idlis. If the man had not eaten the first eight idlis, the ninth idli would not have appeased his hunger. In the same way, your meditation will work because of your having gone through ritual worship sincerely! If you reject all these preliminary things and think that you can directly eat the ninth idli, will your hunger ever get satisfied?
As long as you think you have a body, you will be able to relate to the cosmic energy only through another body. Only when you lose your body consciousness can you see the Divine also as formless. Until that happens, you need some form, some reminding rituals, some deities to worship. It is good to have a ritual along with meditation so that the discipline of sitting and doing some sadhana, penance, is cultivated.
Otherwise, you will not do any penance or meditation regularly. The first day, you will think, ‘Today my mother-in-law is here,’ or ‘I have too much work’ and you will skip it. After two days, when your mother-in-law has gone or the work is done, you will think, ‘Let me enjoy my vacation after saying goodbye to my mother-in-law! I don’t want to do meditation today.’ Or, if you are happy, you will think, ‘Today I am happy, then why meditate!’ Or if you are depressed, you will think, ‘Today I am depressed. How can I focus on meditation!’ Your mind tries to find some logic to skip meditation. But, if it is made into a ritual, you will not find any logic to skip it. You will simply do it.
source: Living Enlightenment