Buddhism regards inner devotion as more important than outer ritual. Devotion is developed through several practices and expressed through physical movement, speech, and mind.
Good qualities of mind can be developed by association with someone or something linked to high spiritual attainment.
Devotional acts are sometimes not considered part of the path to enlightenment itself, still they are considered a way to prepare oneself for the development of this path.
Devotion is expressed through the three gates of action; body, speech and mind. Devotion is regarded as a form of giving, done for both one’s own benefit and that of the other.
Devotional practices are engaged in because of this-life benefits (healing, exorcism of malevolent spirits), because of karmic pursuits (accumulating good karma for the next lives to come) and because the devotee would like to attain Nirvana.
Pilgrimage has been described as the summit of all devotional practices in Buddhism and has been advocated by the Buddha himself.
He suggests to pay respect to four places, that is, the place where he was born, the place where he has first attained enlightenment, the place where he has given his first formal teaching, and finally, the place of his physical death.
Buddhists might go on pilgrimage for several reasons: to gain merit, to remind themselves of Buddha’s life, to suffuse themselves with the spiritual power of the pilgrimage places and its artifacts, as a promise made to a bodhisatta in exchange for favors, to gain protection from devas that protect the pilgrimage places, or to bring harmony to their family.
Pilgrims might want to dedicate the good karma of the trip to their ill or deceased relatives. Often the pilgrimage is simply done to enjoy the nature or cultural settings, to escape city life, or out of nostalgia for the past.
Pilgrimage gives devotees the chance to remove themselves from their everyday social-economic position in Society, and to become part of another kind of community, characterized by a new ambiguous status.