Some people believe that rituals are efficacious in themselves ―that is, the words and actions that constitute the ritual are considered effective, independently of other causes and conditions, even in situations in which causes and conditions are unfavorable.
The careful pronunciation of mantras and the elaborate observance of certain procedures are believed to produce results. Rituals are operative if the forms are respected (ritual exactitude), independently of the qualities of the performer. Spells and incantations are considered efficacious (à la Harry Potter) if the correct substances are employed and the directions are followed without deviation. And for many, if you can visualize it, declare it, put it on a “vision board,” and affirm it, it must happen…
In Jonang Buddhism (maha madhyamaka), rituals have very little in common with these wrong views. Mantras have no intrinsic power, nor are there inherently sacred objects or procedures. Ritual is merely a vehicle for intention. It is the mind of the practitioner that is transformed by ritual, and not the external world.
One thing is to use ritual properly as a skillful means to deepen and sustain intention, and quite another to believe in its independent efficacy, which is mere superstition and magical thinking.