Puja : Purna Jagruti

Picking up where we left. As promised in my last blog, “A New Dawn,” I will be writing further on the topic…

From that cold fateful night of April 2002 to this day, I have always felt this, so I want to say it here. I wonder why I had so much aversion for something so beautiful and powerful? What made me question everything and reject all that is so ancient and scientific? Why did I abhor our Dharmik rituals so much?

As I can see, people detest something for many reasons. These were/are primarily the reason for alienation with our Dharmik practices in earlier days.  

  • One is if something is ‘pushed down their throat.’ with too many rigid rules and regulations without proper explanations. 
  • Or when one sees that the person who is dictating the rules himself is not following the law. 
  • Casteist bias and discrimination have also been a significant reason for taking people away from our culture.
  • Some might become delusional after not achieving the results after their earnest prayers.
  • But, there are lot many of us who ridicule our Dharmik practices. Because of the inferiority complex induced by our invaders, peer pressure, social nudging, mocking anything and everything without attempting to understand the truth and depth of the matter has led us to this state.
  • So bad that our Pujas, our Festivals which are the foundations of our spiritual journey, have been reduced to fancy dress competitions. So, Yo man got to wear something ethnic and dance to Bollywood numbers and call it a day.

One can discuss a lot about these topics. Each one of these points demands and deserves (Maybe) a separate post. But, for now, let me not get into these topics as they involve socio-political, even economic issues. I will continue to write posts where I try to answer the primary question; my obsession with Sanskirt. So lets me start with what I have understood. Please help me improve my little understanding by giving your invaluable inputs. I am eager to hear from you all.

Here I am primarily emphasizing the importance of rituals in Hinduism like Shodashaupachara Puja, Sovala, Madi, Sankalpa. Let me talk about Bhakti Marg a bit as rituals are an essential part of Bhakti Marg.

The ultimate life goal of a Hindu is Moksha. As it is understood, Moksha is the soul’s liberation from the shackles of birth and death. This human life has the choice of attaining Moksha by following any of the three paths of Moksha- Karma Marga, Jnana Marga, and Bhakti Marga. Quite obviously, a person cannot follow only one marga in seclusion to reach the lotus feet of the Paramatma. As only knowledge without action is useless and vice versa. It is impossible to sail through this worldly existence by only having great faith in Bhagawan without righteous action aided by knowledge and wisdom. It has to be a combination of all three, which is so difficult to practice. This is all the theory I have understood, but I am at the preparative level of Saguna Bhakti Marga. And quite obviously, I am lightyears away from the ultimate goal. Nonetheless, all these give me immense peace of mind and a sense of purpose and wellbeing.

Religions usually preach that God or Divine is out there or over there or up there. Bhakti Marga teaches that the Divine is actually in our hearts. Puja is a way of connecting with the supreme being within our hearts. 

Bhakti Yoga can be practiced as Saguna Bhakti or Nirguna Bhakti. In Nirguna Bhakti yoga, the Divine is formless beyond all forms, names, and qualities. As mere mortals like me cannot comprehend and connect with the formless Nirguna, which is the eternal all-pervading and omnipresent divine consciousness, we try to have a form to connect and pray. 

Saguna bhaktas see the manifestation of God in a definite form. In Saguna Bhakti Yoga, we personify the Divine, giving it a detailed form, an appropriate name, and attributes. This Divine form is called the Devata or the Deity. Like we have Ganapati, Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Durga, etc.           

We cultivate a humanized relationship of love, respect, admiration, and devotion with the Deity. We can treat the Divine like our father, mother, friend, master, sweetheart, or child. A Bhakti Yogi truly connects with the Deity through the sheer force of love and sees the Divine everywhere and in everyone and even in everything. Puja is one of the numerous forms of worship among Saguna Yoga Bhaktas.  

In temples, Pujas during festivals, Pujas performed to celebrate any good occasion like weddings, upanayanas, Grah Pravesh of newly built premises, Shodashaupachara Puajs are performed. It is the most widely accepted and followed structure of Puja.  Shodasa – Upachara Puja, simple means 16 – service worship or formalities. Again, we will find many variations in different parts of the country, differing from sect to sect and so on. The different 16 steps are as follows.

  1. Dhyana – Meditating on the Deity.
  2. Aavaahana – Formally inviting the Deity into the altar.
  3. Aasana – Offering the Deity comfortable seating.
  4. Paadya – Washing the Deity’s feet with clean water.
  5. Arghya – Offering the Deity water to cleans hands and mouth.
  6. Aachamana – Offering the Deity water for drinking.
  7. Sudhodhak Snaana – Bathing the Deity with water.
  8. Vasthra – Dressing the Deity in a clean set of clothes.
  9. Yagnopaveetha – Offering the Deity a triple-stranded sacred thread.
  10. Gandha – Smearing fresh sandalwood paste, turmeric, and vermillion on the Deity.
  11. Pushpa – Offering fresh flowers while chanting the Deity’s names.
  12. Dhoopa – Lighting of the fragrant incense sticks.
  13. Deepa – Waving a lamp to illuminate the freshly decorated Deity.
  14. Naivedya – Offering food to the Deity.
  15. Taambula ­– Offering the Deity a refreshing mix of betel nut and leaves as a post-digestive.
  16. Pradakshina & Namaskara – Circumambulating the Mandir and prostrating in front of the Diety to express gratitude.

However, all these 16 ritualistic formalities are usually not performed in most households daily. Out of these 16 services, five are considered essential to complete a basic Puja to your Parabramhan, Devata, Paramatma ( Whatever you choose to call). These five formalities are called Panch-Upacharas and include Gandha, Pushpa, Dhoop. Deepa, and Naivedya. So, when one cannot do all the elaborate rituals, all one can do, is offer the Panch-Upachara. 

Now, imagine you want to show your love, affection for someone special like your master, someone who you look up to. You would usually cordially invite that revered someone home and treat them with all the good you could afford. To put it very simply, Puja is the celebration of inviting your loved one and showing and showering your love and affection. 

The beauty of Hinduism is that there are no hard and fast rules about it. It is intensely personal. A Puja can be as short and straightforward as you want or as complex and lengthy. A Puja can also be a long ritual involving many elements of Yoga such as Mudras, Pranayamas, Meditation, and Recitation of complex shlokas. A Puja can be simply offering prayer with a perfectly tuned heart. Just ask yourself, wouldn’t you be doing all these formalities if a guest comes home. 

The primary purpose of Puja is to uplift the five senses of the worshiper, creating a cheerful ambiance around him and a sense of wellbeing. Puja helps the worshiper aspire and achieve a higher level of consciousness that will promote good thoughts and actions, leading him towards his goals. The goals could be materialistic, emotional, or spiritual. Of all the explanations I read about Puja, I loved this one- The Sanskrit word ‘Puja’ is an acronym for ‘Purna Jagruti,’ which means ‘Complete Awakening.’ This complete awakening is only a precursor to our ultimate goal of Moksha.

As for me, earlier, I used to question the rituals and needed a lot of explanations. Now I rejoice in the whole process, as it gives tranquility and peace of mind. It helps me harbour positive thoughts. No matter what!

Kalyani Sreedhar Kakade

Text Copyrights : This Adbhut Life!

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17, Jyeshtha Krishna Paksha, Dwitiya1943 Plava, Shaka SamvataSingapore, Singapore 26 June 2021


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