I recently saw a documentary on Buddha on Pbs, called quite obviously and plainly, The Buddha and I was blown away by it. The film wasn't all special effects a la Avatar or had any fancy animation, but it definitely captured my interest till the very end, so much so that I hoped that even after the end titles had started to run, that there would be some more story.
I have read Herman Hess's Siddhartha as well and the book talks eloquently about the life of Siddhartha and how he came about to Buddha as we all know it. But, it was a totally different experience seeing the documentary because there was insightful commentary from learned people from different walks of life - little titbits that I wouldn't have access to otherwise. One of the things that stood out and that had me thinking was when Buddha is out in search of knowledge/religion that will allow him to find himself, find the truth and then he comes across the Hindu religion. He realizes that the religion was good but people gave far too much importance to the rituals than to understanding what the religion really meant...so much that they lost the meaning/purpose of their devotion to the Gods and Goddesses.
Now, I think this is a very important point that the documentary brought up because I have noticed it as well but didn't have a chance to discuss it. See, the thing is that if we do not perform a ritual the correct way then we feel that our prayers wouldn't be answered right away or in the right context. Thus, our connection with God takes a back seat and we are left worrying about the consequences. Instead, if we spent time trying to establish our soul's connection with the Supreme power then we have really made progress in our efforts. But, I guess we all fail to make this judgement. Hinduism is filled with rituals upon rituals and if a common man (who is not a priest) tries to purify himself with performing endless rituals, then I think somewhere the whole purpose of connecting with God is lost and one is left with nothing but despair.
So, the way I have tried to implement this newly learned knowledge is to remember to observe myself when at a temple. If, say, I find myself offering fruits on the left side of a murti (idol) as opposed to right side and thinking that I made a mistake - well, hello hello, I will correct myself and remind myself that it doesn't matter what side its offered at as long as its offered with a good heart and pure intentions. After all, its all about connecting with God and not the rituals!