So it occurred to me, what exactly is Buddhist practice, and what is its effect? For a non-Buddhist observer, the practice appears to be the outward form — a long row of Tibetan monks chanting, a solitary person sitting in meditation, someone doing many prostrations in front of a Buddha statue.
For the person doing the practice, the outward is a representation of the inward, and it is the inward that is more important. The chanting monks may be reminding themselves of the compassion of Chenrezig, the solitary meditator may be deepening his sense of emptiness, the person doing prostrations may be trying to reduce their stubbornness.
The outward can be a way into the inward, following the hints of one’s sincerity. But after a while, one can carry the inward along with onesself, and the outward becomes no more than an occasional reminder.