North Texas Hindu Mandir
The act of Poojaa or worship is a very deliberate and systematic one in which God is adored through the sixteen steps of reverential homage or the sixteen traditional stages of hospitality of a guest, known as Shodash Upachaara. These are as follows:
1. DHYAANA - preliminary contemplation upon the Lord
2. AAVAAHANAM - invocation or invitation to the Lord to come into the home. Swaagatam or welcome is included here.
3. AASANAM - offering of a seat
4. PAADYAM - washing of the feet
5. ARGHYAM - offering hospitality in the form of water to wash the face and hands of the Lord to refresh and relax Him
6. SNAANAM - bath. There are several different types of baths that may be used in Poojaa. These are:
7. VASTRAM - offering clothing and ornaments
8. YAJNOPAVEETAM - placing the sacred-thread (Janeu)
9. CHANDANAM - placing Tilak with sandal-paste or vibhooti
10. PUSHPAM - offering flowers
11. DHOOPAM - Offering incense
12. DEEPAM - offering light (aaratee)
13. NAIVEDYAM - offering prasaadam, supaaree, paan leaf and clove (food and dessert)
14. AACHMANAM - offering of water for drinking
15. DAKSHINAAM - offering of gift (represented by coin or money)
16. MANTRA PUSHPAM - offering of a garland of praise through the recitation of Stotras, Ashtakam, Chaaleesaa or Bhajans.
Poojaa is a Hindu declaration, dedicating the body, mind and intellect towards the act of performing ritualistic worship. Poojaa creates in the mind a feeling or awareness of a 'divine connection' between the individuality and totality, the microcosm and the macrocosm. It is performed at a particular time or day, in dedication to a particular deity, who is served and worshipped, in order to obtain his/her blessings and protection. Poojaa may be likened to the hospitality extended to a guest in your home, and as you follow the sequence of the Poojaa Bidhi, you will observe the similarity.
Performance of Poojaa requires preparation, effort, time and commitment. Moreover, it requires the cleansing of the body, control of the senses, and keeping the mind stable and rifled with pure thoughts. All these actions inculcate the attention of the mind towards God. God is always with us, but Poojaa fosters the awareness of a direct personal contact between ourselves and that higher source.
The devotee draws upon familiar relationships or concepts and transfers this experience to the Divine. Through the known and visible, he worships the unknown and invisible. This is a necessary sequence for the spiritual neophyte as he travels from ritualistic or vaidhi bhakti and the purified mind ascends to mukhya or paraa bhakti.
Poojaa carries a methodical and deep scientific significance, which is relevant to the universal and individual link. Every offering applies to the science and purity of the mind, body and intellect, meaning that these three must always be in harmony. It is a very systematic procedure which demonstrates that we should continue to be orderly in our daily lives, and our ordinary worldly duties should be an act of worship or offering (samarpan) to God.
The four paths or Yogas are all encompassed in the act of Poojaa, as follows:
1. Karma - by utilising the hands to serve and perform worship.
2. Bhakti - by utilising the mind and the senses to experience devotion through the acts of worship being performed.
3. Gyaana - by utilising the intellect to contemplate upon and understand the wisdom of God.
4. Dhyaana - by connecting all the other three, and transcending mind, body and intellect and merging in the Self, in the state of Nirvaana or higher consciousness.
According to the Vedas, when Poojaa is being done, it removes all the past accumulated Vaasanas (negative Karma), and helps one to cope with life in a more positive manner. Poojaa has three dimensions or levels.
1. The physical rituals, which foster Bhakti, through the tangible component that we can see and experience.
2. The philosophical aspect, gained from the esoteric significance of the objects and symbols that are used
3. The scientific and astrological level. Ingredients used have medicinal properties. Also, relevant astrological influences determine the time when the Pooja is performed.
Poojaa teaches us wordlessly how we must interact in this world so that our Karma becomes consecrated as an offering to the Lord, and our personalities contribute to the improvement of ourselves and society. In Poojaa there is a nexus between Bhakta (devotee), Bedi (altar) Bhagavaan (God), and the link between all three is Bhakti or loving devotion. This can be likened to the telephone system. If there are telephones but no wires or microwave towers, there will be no communication. Similarly, Bhakti is the transmitting frequency or wire linking the devotee to the Lord through the medium of Poojaa.
This excerpt was taken from the book Jyotir Vigyaan - The Light of True Knowledge, written by Pdt. Munelal Maharaj and Smt. Naveeta Maharaj. This excerpt is reproduced with the written permission of Pundit Munelal Maharaj. Copyright @ 1999 Pdt. Munelal Maharaj.