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.
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.
This was how the "great tradition" of canonical Buddhism came to be complemented by the "small tradition" of popular Buddhism consisting of the rituals and ceremonies discussed in this booklet.
To satisfy their devotional and emotional needs, they required a system of outward acts, communally shared, by which they could express their devotion to the ideals represented by the Dhamma and absorb these ideals into the texture of their daily experience.
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.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.These supplementary forms of religious activity have arisen out of a natural need to augment the more austere way followed by the world-renouncing disciples.(ii) Acts directed towards securing worldly prosperity and averting calamities through disease and unseen forces of evil, e.g., pirit chanting, bodhi-puja, etc. Devotion being the intimate inner side of religious worship, it must have had a place in early Buddhism.