A ritual (påjàvidhi or vatta) is a series of actions always carried out in the same way and which are believed to have some religious effect when done properly.
While the Buddha generally had slight regard for rituals, he had no objections to ones that were harmless and which gave people some comfort. On the other hand, he also said the notion that performing, participating in or having rituals done on one's behalf can have a spiritual value (sãlabbataparàmàsa) is a false belief which ultimately hinders one’s progress on the Path (Dhp.271). For the Buddha, only ethical behaviour, acts of kindness, calming and clarifying the mind and developing understanding can bring one closer to enlightenment. Despite this, devout but misinformed people throughout the Buddhist world perform various rituals in the belief that they have a spiritual value. Some of these rituals include doing large numbers of prostrations, making elaborate offerings before statues of the Buddha, constructing stupas or temples and participating in blessing ceremonies. Often such things become a substitute for the practices that really do change us - comforting the distressed, honesty, integrity, helping the poor.