Followers of Hịa Hảo Buddhism believe that no new pagodas or statues should be built besides the existing shrines. Moreover, worshipping at temples was not mandated, instead, adepts were encouraged to worship Buddha at home. Huỳnh Ph Sổ urged his followers to spare money, which could be better spent to assist the poor and the needy. He discouraged the adepts from reliance on sorcerers, magicians, astrologers, and fortune-tellers, as well as from using food as ritual offerings because “Buddha would never accept bribes.”
Huỳnh Ph Sổ stated that all superstitions were to be abandoned; all redundant and superficial ceremonies to be eliminated; and rituals to be simplified. In compliance with these recommendations, Hịa Hảo Buddhist worship practices correspondingly became simplistic. Ideally, there should be three altars at a house of a Hịa Hảo follower. One was to be dedicated to the ancestors; another one served to worship Buddha; and the third was to be raised in the forecourt of the house and to be dedicated to communication with Heaven. If space or money were lacking, the Heaven altar would suffice for all three purposes. No decoration or display of icons or other images was permitted. According to Huỳnh Ph Sổ, no Buddha statues, bells or gongs may be displayed on the altar.
Only a piece of brown cloth symbolizing human harmony and the color of Buddhism should be used on the Hịa Hảo Buddhist Altar. Hence, brown became the color of Hịa Hảo Buddhism, symbolizing the universal harmony of mankind without any differentiation between races or individuals.
Under the Buddha's Altar is the Ancestral altar, which is reserved for worshipping the Ancestors. In front of the house, an altar to Heaven is set up to enable communication with the Universe (sky and earth), the four heavenly Directions and the ten Buddhist Directions: North, South, East, West, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast, Above and Below.
No food of any kind, including fruits, may be used by Hòa Hảo followers to worship Buddha. Only fresh water, flowers and incense sticks are needed. Fresh water represents cleanliness; flowers and incense sticks symbolize purity.
Hòa Hảo followers must worship Buddha at least twice a day, morning and evening. On the 1st and 15th each lunar month and on Buddha's Holy days, they are supposed to visit either village temples or Hòa Hảo Buddhist Meeting Halls, also known as Preaching Halls, to pray.
On how to worship when staying outside ones house, the Hòa Hảo Buddhist leader carefully advised his followers as follows:
“When working in the field, worshipping may be carried out two or three times daily, every morning, noon, and evening, by facing the West for praying then bow to all the four cardinal points. When traveling far from home, praying within ones heart is adequate.” Cf. Huỳnh Giáo Chủ. Sấm giảng thi thơ toàn bộ. Gíao Hội Phật Giáo Hòa Hảo, 1965. Santa Fe Spring, CA: Văn Phòng Phật Giáo Hòa Hảo Hải Ngoại, 1982, p.177.
It was not necessary for Hòa Hảo followers to perform the devotions in front of the altar. If adepts were busy outdoor, a short prayer on the spot would have done. Away from home, devotions could be performed in front of non-Hòa Hảo altars of local faith.
Therefore, no one could use lack of means as a justification for not carrying out his/her religious duties and for relying instead on monks, but these duties were kept to a minimum. It has been argued that this advocacy of ritual frugality attracted many poor peasants by allowing them to turn thrift from practical necessity into religious virtue.
In its essence and inner core, orthodox Buddhism was and is a movement of monastic ascetics. In Hòa Hảo Buddhism, the lay-followers became a main driving force of the new movement.
There is no ecclesiastic hierarchy, nor ritual robes in Hòa Hảo Buddhism. On special occasions, a follower of the Hòa Hảo teaching may dress in the traditional Vietnamese clothing or a brown dress would be adequate for worshipping. Later in the mid-sixties, Hòa Hảo Buddhism did set up teaching halls for purpose of propagating the faith.
Huỳnh Phú Sổ insisted that one had to adopt an attitude of being part of society, living with and rendering service to fellowmen. Therefore, Hòa Hảo Buddhism believed strongly that any religious congregation was to be rendering adequate services and perform duties with regard to contemporary society.
Correspondingly, the works of Huỳnh Phú Sổ contain numerous pieces of practical advice relative to matters of everyday life. For instance, he urged his followers not to burn votive paper, and not to conduct expensive funerals. Instead let us pray quietly for the deliverance of the deceased person's soul, the founder of Hòa Hảo Buddhism argued.
Huỳnh Phú Sổ also moved to regulate family life. For instance, he told his followers not to compel their children to marry someone they do not like. The founder of Hòa Hảo Buddhism also suggested not to demand large financial contributions from the bridegroom or organize big wedding parties. The idea was to lift the burden of unnecessary financial cost to already impoverished peasant households.