People use to ridicule why we pray to statues of Buddhas since they are made of stones, wood and metals, all inanimate objects. Is’nt it is a form of idol-worship?
I say no. There are not many people who have the ability to communicate with the Buddhas, gods, and deities by tapping into their higher realms or dimensions. So these statues become sort of medium through which common people of lesser or nil psychic abilities can pray to and communicate with their Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the like, every day, and so long as they are sincere, devoted and earnest in their prayers the holy energies and vibrations of their Buddha and Bodhisattva will descend upon the statues to bless them and answer their prayers.
And, my interpretation is that the one-pointedness daily prayers and chanting done with devotion and sincerity are akin to some form of meditative practice, with statues serving as their focusing point. So, years later these commoners through these practices and rituals raise their vibration levels and succeed in reaching the higher realms to reach their Buddhas and Bodhisattva.
Why do we burn joss sticks? My reasoning is that by burning joss sticks, it symbolizes that the smokes generated would serve as vehicles to convey our thoughts to our favorite Buddhas and Bodhisattva.
Once, I asked a Hindu Avatar, Amma, why he took such a great effort and spent so much time doing the Puja (Hindu blessing ceremony) since his goddesses Naranyani were so powerful and omnipotent. With a smile, he answered in an amused manner that why must I cook the rice before I ate them. He did not give me the answer but later I realized what he meant.
Buddha was asked why he did not convert and convince people into believing him by invoking his immense magical powers instead of painstakingly trying to teach Dharma under the Bodhi tree. The answer is obvious; access to divine beings and attaining spirituality is never quick fixed processes or solutions. One needs to have the patience, discipline and resolve to reach these goals.
Supposedly, people were converted because they were overawed by the magical powers of Buddha; what would happen if a powerful Demon were to come along and exhibit even greater supernatural powers? People without the Dharma foundation would flock to worship the Demon instead.”