Part V, Section 3 [V-03]
[Procedure per Agama Sastra Sampradaaya]
07 31 10[first edition] - 08 14 17 [most recent]
Based on “My Prayers” by HH Swami Pujya Chinmaya Ananda Ji
Velandy Manohar, MD
10 14 13
आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वत:”
Aa No Bhadraha, krtvo Yantu Vishwataha
Let Noble thoughts come to us from every side
Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
Nobelist Rabindranath Tagore
“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, to hold infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” Auguries of Innocence- William Blake
Pooja is performed every day, at all hours of day some where all over the world by those who seek to achieve their goals in the pursuit of Purusha Arthas, by the despondent who seek solace, by those who seek to be relieved of their distressing ailments like the great Narayana Bhattatri, by the seekers of a deeper understanding of that Self that alone is all this, by bhaktas like Meera Bhai and Kabir Das who are motivated by their deep love of God and commitment to self-less service to all of God’s creatures. There are three main forms of worship according to Swami Yatiswarananda, “physical, verbal and mental, that is external adoration, invocation by praises and prayers and meditations.” Japa and Chanting of Stotra which are considered to be the pre-eminent forms of worship for us who live in Kali Yuga according to Manu Smriti, Vishnu Purana, Mahabharata and Bhagvad Gita [The fifth Veda] can fully prepare us to successfully initiate and calmly focus on focus on performing all of the 16 steps of the formal Pooja.
It was useful for me to learn about Pooja and experience it more fully by immersing myself into the limitless depths of the Upanishads; including [for the purposes of explaining the Pooja Vidhanam] the Mundaka Upanishad Chapter One, Part One which instructs us about Brahman. The lineage outlined traces its origins to Lord Brahma [the giver of fire of sacrifice and the Veda] - The knowledge gained by intense meditation of the rishis by direct experience thus originated from the Supreme Self.
In Chapter One, Part 1, Verse 3 Sage Saunaka asks his Guru Rishi Angiras, the most important question of my faith tradition Sanatana Dharma, “What is by knowing which, everything comes to be known” The first seven verses Guru Angiras instructs him on Para and Apara Vidya [Veda and Veda] and by the use of illustrative similes of the relationship between the Creator and all of creation. In the eighth verse which is an apt introduction for the extra-ordinary insights in Chapter Two, Part 1, the process of emergence of the primeval elements of Creation is described.
Chapter One, Part One, Verse 8: The first step in the creative impulse is the appearance of food [more on this while I discuss the offerings of the worshippers during a 16 step Pooja ceremony] Food in this context signifies the primal matter. Everything that is derived from this becomes food, even Nature that emerges from this primal matter is assimilated into all created beings when it is taken in through the sense organs. The life force Prana comes into being from the sustaining energy of the primeval matter. The life force causes the mind to come into being. Thus, the individual mind the five Tattvas and five sheaths the 6 chakras and the energy channels which are all energized by Prana are directly derived from the Brahman. [I have written about these sheaths in a document I sent earlier.VM]
Chapter One Part Two, Verses 1-8 of the Mundaka Upanishad teaches us that Vedic rituals including the sacred fire ceremony, the offerings and the material benefits that accrue from these meritorious deeds are symbolic representations of all work products generated for personal gain by each and every one of us [and our families.]. However, we are enjoined to be mindful that sacrificial acts and gains accrued form this activity [good deeds] ensnares us in the bonds of Karma. This is the same Karma mentioned in Verse 8, Chapter One, Part One. The great Rishis teaches us Karma, good or bad both binds and blinds us because the processes of participating repeatedly in rituals for greater and grander personal gain pulls each of us away from the perception of the Origin of the participants, the sacrificial fire and the offerings as well as the rewards that we become attached to even more strongly by repeated reinforcement of the rituals by the lucrative, tangible rewards attributed to the rituals. The first 8 eloquent verses offer important cautionary precepts. This teaching from the fifth Veda, Bhagvad Gita, Jagad Guru Lord Sri Krishna, Chapter IV, V 24 offers us this very relevant, uplifting, consciousness expanding and life-saving/ transforming precept to all of us who perform ritual worship and participate in Fire Sacrifice. “The act of offering is God, the oblation is God, By God it is offered into the Fire of God, God is That which is to be attained by him, who performs action pertaining to God.”
Chapter One Part Two, Verse 9, “Engrossed in the ways of the ignorant, these people childishly think that they have gained the end in life. But by being subject to passions and attachment, they never attain knowledge, and therefore they sink down, wretched, when the fruits of their good works are exhausted.” Worldly works and their results are nothing to be frowned on or scoffed at or dealt with by disdain and scorn or viewed with contempt; but each of us have to take responsibility to remind ourselves and others who are participating in these rituals for personal material gain that the benefits accruing these rewards lead us only in one direction –the performance of more and more rituals and even more elaborate ceremonies to reap even more material riches, prestige and power. The great Rishis teaches us that instead of chasing after personal gain which leads us into widening spirals away from the center of the cosmos are an exercise in futility. Our efforts need to be directed and focused in such a way that we find ourselves heading towards the self-effulgent Bindu in the center of the Sri Chakra away from the four portals at the other boundaries fo the Sri Chakra- These Portals are where the Vedas hold suprema sway.
Chapter One Part Two verses 11-13 provides the essential lessons of the Great Rishis: But those wise men of tranquil minds… practicing penances appropriate to their stations of life and contemplating such deities as Hiranya Garbha, depart, freed from impurities, by the Path of the Sun, to the place where that immortal Person dwells, whose nature is imperishable.”  … Having examined all these worlds that are gained by works, should become indifferent to these rewards and rituals, acquire freedom from desire for personal material gains: nothing that is Eternal [un-originated, unaffected by profit or loss, pleasure or pain attraction or aversion ] can be gained by what is not eternal[originated out of desire for wealth, power and prestige] One should instead in order to attain to the Un-originated, Supreme Self- approach with a sense of humility and service approach a teacher who is well established in the Brahman and steeped in the deep ocean of the Veda. “To that pupil who has duly approached such a teacher, whose mind is completely serene, whose senses are controlled , the wise teacher should indeed rightly impart the knowledge of Brahman, through which one becomes immutable and the true Purusha.” My Lord Adi Guru Sankaracharya teaches all of us trudging along on the Sadhana Path, “The duty of the Preceptor is to help the qualified pupil who has duly approached him to cross the ocean of ignorance.
In this role as an educator I undertake with humility and devotion think of me as a fellow devotee and co-seeker of our True Self. Someone who is attempting to guide your pursuit of a deeper understanding of our common humanity and our relationship to our true Self and support your capacity to offer worship with every ounce of your strength and all your heart, mind, and soul.
Aartho Jijnasur Artharti Jnani cha Bharatarsabha [Bhagvad Gita- Discourse VII, V 16] There are 4 types of devotes- those who are suffering from some cause, some who seek material security and success, those who want to overcome seemingly insuperable obstacles to achieve their cherished goals and those who want to experience the presence of God. All of the devotees worship the Form of God by chanting the specific names and praising that form of God they believe is best suited to achievement fulfillment of their desires. [This is the Key. VM]
It is customary to start prayers in our religious traditions- Sanatana Dharma with three repetitions of Aum.
Om! Om! Om!
Lord Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita (8.13) teaches the vital significance of meditating on Aum:
Having closed all the gates, having confined mind in the heart, having fixed his life-breath in the head, engaged in firm Yoga, uttering Brahman, the One syllabled “Om”, thinking of Me, who so ever departs, leaving the body, he reaches the Supreme goal. Bhagvad Gita – Adi Sankaracharya Bhaasya. The significance of Om and Gayatri Mantra are taught in the Upanishad. Discourse VIII, V13
Maha Narayana Upanishad [MNU]
Om Ity Eka Aksharam Brahma. Agnirdevata Brahma samitam. Gayatram chandah Param Atmam saroopam. Saayujiam Viniyogam. MNU Prashna 4, Anuvaka 33 Prana vasya Rishyadivivarnam
It is customary and necessary to chant this prayer when we are in teaching roles or we are beginning to chant the revealed scripture- Veda and Vedanta. At the beginning of a class, the teacher and students generally recite this peace invocation together. Both seek the Lord’s blessings for study that is free of obstacles, such as poor memory, or the inability to concentrate or poor health. They also seek blessings for a congenial relationship, without which communication of any subject matter is difficult. Therefore, this prayer is important for both the teacher and the student. Shri Vidya Niketan School and College http://www.svnsc.com
Om Saha Nau-Avatu | Saha Nau Bhunaktu | Saha Viiryam Karava-Avahai |
Tejasvi Nau-Adhii-Tam-Astu Maa Vidviss-Aavahai |
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
Om, May God Protect us Both (the Teacher and the Student), May God Nourish us Both,
May we Work Together with Energy and Vigor, May our Study be Enlightening, not giving rise to Hostility,
Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.
The fruits of actions: Prarabdha Karma, Sancitta, Agami karma. Adhrista (unseen-unexpected, unforeseen) and Dhrishta (predictable, knowable), Punyam (righteous acts accrue peace of mind to the doer) and Pāpaṃ. [unrighteous acts accrue Sin. Sri Rama Ramanuja Acharya in his lucid and eloquent commentary on the Narayana Upanishad [Krsna Yajur Veda] states Paropkaara Punyaya, Paapaya Para Peedanam. [Virtue-Punyam is acting in ways to benefit others] Sin [Papa] is acting in ways that harm others. The Remedy for Papam is renewed commitment to the promotion of Punyam. If one has inflicted harm or pain on another being, one can begin to rectify this unrighteous act by performing acts of kindness and charity to the other and seeking forgiveness form one who was harmed. Sin is considered to be an Obstacle to enlightenment not an offense against God per se. But the entity- person, harmed is an embodied Soul. [This applies to entities in Animal and Vegetable and Mineral Domains] Sinful acts are done either out of ignorance, stupidity or malice. For Maliciousness Karmic consequences are inevitable, for ignorance and stupidity the remedy is Knowledge. Jagad Guru Lord Sri Krishna states in Fifth Veda SBG, 4:36,37,38.” Even if you are the most culpable of all criminals, you will cross over all the wrong-doing by the raft of Knowledge alone. Just as the Blazing the fire burns fuel to ashes, O! Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge turn all Karma to Ashes. Verily, there is no purifier in this world equal to knowledge; one that is perfected in Karma Yoga discovers this knowledge spontaneously, in one self in due time.
It is advisable to get engaged in the process of thinking about God in whatever manner you are able to from Childhood according Jagad Guru Adi Sankaracharya. Later in life external responsibilities can become barriers to the process of engaging directly with God to increase ones understanding and cultivate devotion and develop a stroing sense of self less service to all forms of life and all of God’s creation.
The invocatory sloka of Purusha Sukta [Hymn to the Creator] teaches us this important lesson. This Sanskrit sloka from the Veda was quoted by Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Atul Behari Vajpayee in the General Assembly of the UN on Sept 24, 1998 at the end of a very important speech:
“I close with an ancient sloka from the Rig Veda composed thousands of years ago in Sanskrit, the oldest language in the World “:
"Svastir manushebhyaha, Oordhvam Jigatu beshajam Sham no astu dvipade Sham chathuspade. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi". Rt. Hon Sri. Atul Behari Vajpayee. PM Bharat Varsa
Let all human beings be blessed with prosperity, Let all flora and fauna which are life line of all creatures, grow abundantly, Let there be harmony with all two-legged creations, Let there be harmony with all four-legged creations, Let there be peace; peace, peace. (OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.)
Thank you, Mr. President [of the UN General Assembly]
Five Main Aspects of Pooja
There are 5 main aspects of Pooja - Abhisekham, offering of Chandan, Kumkuma, Arcana, Harati and Naivedyam. The most important of the five is offering is the offering of oneself.
We inform the God we are worshipping that we are offering appropriate food, fruits to achieve Aahara shuddi, Sattva shuddhi or being blessed with sattvik thoughts and motives.
Aarogyamichhyet Bhaskaraath for being blessed with robust health devotees commit themselves to worship the Sun and
Shreeyamicchyetahutashanath, for being blessed with material security and success- worship Agni and
Ishwaraath jnanam icchyet, for attaining steadiness of mind, sharpness of intellect and depth of knowledge devotees worship Lord Shiva or Dakshinamoorthi and
Moksham icchyet Janardanaath. Those who have the sole purpose of achieving moksha they are tirelessly dedicated to Lord Maha Vishnu.
Sanyasis seek the type of Moksha called Krama mukti. A bhakta can achieve mukti in the here and now - it can be achieved through the knowledge of Brahman- It is called Videha mukti, Kaivalya mukti, Jivan mukti. There is another type of moksha which is obtained from entering one world- Vishnu loka or Vaikunta and then gradually progressing to another and ultimately reaching Brahmaloka.
Om Ganeshaaya Namaha
Om Saraswatiye Namaha Om Sharada Deviye Namaha Om Devi Gayatriye Namaha, Namo Paramam Rishibhyo, Namo Paramam Rishibhiyaha, Hrudaya Kalaye Vimalam Charanam, Bhava Sankara Desika me Sharanam!
Om Gannaanaam Tvaa Ganna-Patim Hava-Amahe Kavim Kaviinaam-Upama-Shravas-Tamam |
Jyessttha-Raajam Brahmannaam Brahmannas-Pata Aa Nah Shrnnvan-Nuutibhih-Siida-Saadanam ||
Om Mahaa-Ganna-Adhipataye Namah ||
Om, O Ganapati, To You Who are the Lord of the Ganas (Celestial Attendants or Followers), we Offer our Sacrificial Oblations, You are the Wisdom of the Wise and the Uppermost in Glory,
You are the Eldest Lord (i.e. ever Unborn) and is of the Nature of Brahman (Absolute Consciousness); You are the Embodiment of the Sacred Pranava (Om), Please come to us by Listening to our Prayers and be Present in the Seat of this Sacred Sacrificial Altar.
Om, our Prostrations to the Mahaganadhipati (the Great Lord of the Ganas
Om Bhuur-Bhuvah Svaha, Tat-Savitur-Varenyam| Bhargo Devasya Dhiimahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayaat || Rk Veda 3.62.10
Om, that (Divine Illumination) which Pervades the Bhu Loka (Physical Plane), Bhuvar Loka (Antariksha Loka or the Astral Plane) and Suvar Loka (Swarga Loka or the Celestial Plane),
That Savitr (Divine Illumination) which is the Most Adorable,
On That Divine Radiance we Meditate,
May That Enlighten Our Intellect and Awaken our Spiritual Wisdom.
Gange Cha Yamune chaiva Godavari, Saraswati, Narmade Sindhu, Kaveri Jalesmin, Sanidhim Kuru. This is one of the most important slokas chanted by millions of devotees at the Kumbha Mela and Ardha Kumbha mela during the bath in the Ganga and prior to performing the Pooja.
Karaagre Vasate Lakṣmī Karamadhye Sarasvati |Karamuule Tu Govindah Prabhaate Karadarshanam.
At the tip of the hand (i.e. Palm) dwell Devi Lakshmi and at the Middle of the Palm dwells Devi Saraswati, at the base of the hand dwells Sri Govinda; Therefore, one should look at one's hands in the early morning and contemplate on them.
Sometimes the words "Kara mule sthite Gowri‟ are seen instead of “Kara mule tu Govindaha" With this substitution, we are praying Goddess Lakṣmī, Saraswati and Durga for giving us wealth, the appropriate knowledge to use that wealth, and the strength to sustain us.
This is a morning prayer called “kara - darshana”. One begins the day with this prayer. “Kara” means the palm of the hand and it stands for the five karmendriyas, or the organs of action. While looking at the palm, one invokes the Lord in the form of various deities, thus sanctifying all the actions that will be done during the day.
By acknowledging the Lord as the giver of the capacity to perform actions and as the giver of the fruits of those actions, one sanctifies the actions. Thus, one prays in the morning to reinforce the attitude that all actions are performed as a service to the Lord. For this reason, it may be beneficial to chant this prayer before the start of the Pooja ritual as these rituals evoke the dawning of Spiritual enlightenment. “Prayers for happy living” Prof. Prasanna Kumar of the Hindu Society of Minnesota
Managing the Mind Set and stabilizing the Setting to
Enhance the experience of the Self during Pooja
Mind Set: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language defines Mind set a noun a fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations as well an inclination or a habit.
Timothy Leary wrote about these concepts [He coined these words] in “The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead”
'Set' is the mental state a person brings to the experience, like thoughts, mood and expectations.
'Setting' is the physical and social environment.
Social support networks have shown to be particularly important in the outcome of the psychedelic experience [which may be elicited by drugs, plants, herbs sanctioned by religious ritual] just as Satsangs influence religious and spiritual experiences. Social contacts are able to control or guide the course of the experience, both consciously and subconsciously. Stress, fear, or a disagreeable environment, may result in an unpleasant experience (bad trip). Conversely, a relaxed, curious person in a warm, comfortable and safe place is more likely to have a pleasant experience. Set and setting has also been investigated from a religious perspective.
Mind Set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time.
Setting is a physical circumstance — the weather, the atmosphere of locale; social — feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural — prevailing views as to what is real. It is for this reason that manuals or guide-books are necessary. Their purpose is to enable a person to understand the new realities of the expanded consciousness, to serve as road maps for new interior territories which modern science and religious practices including use of mind altering plants and herbs have made accessible.
Mindful of these realities we can make better sense of these Thaapa Traya which influence human experiences. These Afflictions are classified into three categories which have adverse disruptive effects on the quest for holistic wellbeing with Sukh: [Comfort], Shanti [Peace] and Kush [Happiness]. These afflictions over the long term seriously impedes the progress of the seeker along the long winding and tortuous Sadhana Path from Vishad [Despondency] to Moksha.
The Sadhana path is essentially a journey over a life time perhaps several life-times perhaps many more than the particles fo sands on the all the seashores of Planet Earth until one birth leads to Samadhi and Peace escaping the cycle of birth and death.
The 26th verse of the Bhaja Govindam of Srimad Adi Sankara provides this precept to guide us. Trust yourself wholly to the Lotus feet of the Guru; Freed from the shackles of Samsaara: With your senses and mind controlled in this manner consistently, you will be blessed by the sight of the God residing in your heart. The Sadhaka is driven by the yearning for freedom from suffering and sustained by a tireless striving for Perfection. The sadhaka expects this journey to lead him or her from Vishad (despondency) to Divinity [Moksha].
When we view the Srimad Bhagvad Gita from this perspective, it is the original, authentic Sadhana Path with Lord Sri Krishna as the charioteer in more than one respect who took his disciple’s hand, empowered and guided him from despondency (Discourse I) to the state of Jnana nishta and eventually Moksha [V 66, Discourse XVIII] just as He guided the Chariot to great effect in chaos of the Battlefield. This transformation did not require any change in location. In fact, it is best down in the midst of all the distractions and turbulence of life on a day to basis.
The first line of the first verse of the first Discourse of the Bhagvad Gita provides some indication that the Battlefield Kurukshetra is truly a battle ground to test the durability of the adherence of the combatants locked in a titanic struggle to the principles of Dharma. These words were uttered as a question by Emperor Dhritarashtra to Sanjaya, “Dharma Kshetre Kurukshetre… Sanjaya in the 18 chapters that followed describes eloquently the experiences of all the great heroes who were beset and battered by the afflictions which are associated with the Thaapa Traya: Adi-daivika, Adi-bhautika and Adi Atmika:
Adi-daivika afflictions are sometimes attributed to evil and malevolent energies that are believed to be capable of tipping the balance in favour of or against particular individuals, families, communities, nations and Planet Earth herself. These have been attributed in some cases to the various Grahas. There are various miseries caused by natural disturbances, too much heat, too much cold, high wind, earthquakes, Tsunamis, tidal waves, wild fires, so suffering is inevitable.
The Adi-bhautika group of afflictions can arise from enemies including animals of various types. Thus, Adi Bhautika means miseries caused by other living beings. Sometimes our friends betray us, sometimes people are arrayed unjustly against us, and sometimes people will insult us, blaspheme us, and try to destroy us, or just neglect us.
The Adi Atmika refers to personal private demons that generate sorrow, delusions, risky desires, hunger for total control and domination etc. These afflictions are the miseries experienced at any time day and night at any age, exacerbated and evoked by one’s own body and mind. At any moment, something could happen to this body. Even if everything we ever want we have been blessed with, the mind will still be in distress about how to keep it or what else to get. The mind is never satisfied for long. There is also another major fear, that of the cycle of birth and death, that of samsara.
Shanti Mantras [e.g. Sham no Mitra... Bhadram Karnebhih shrunuyaama devaah [Mundaka Up]; Saha naa Vavatu...], ringing of the bells, chanting of invocatory prayers and singing hymns in Satsangs with like-minded devotees [e.g. Poojan ko Bhagavan, Bana Man Mandir Alishan, Darshan do Ghanashyam…] as part of a well- balanced life can remediate the effects of the Thaapa Traya leading up to performance of ritual prayers and enhance the experience for all participants beginning middle and successful completion of the sixteen step Pooja.
One approach is to invoke Lord Ganesha, Goddess Saraswati, the Navagrahas and then invoke Lord Krishna. It is important to remember the first verse of the RK Veda at the initiation of the Sacrifice is:
Agni Melee Purohitam yajñasya Devam ṛtvījam hotāraṃ ratna dhata mām. II Rk Veda 1.001.01
At its most basic level this interpretation by Griffith in 1896 will suffice for me for this moment.
“I laud Agni, the chosen Priest, God, minister of sacrifice, the hotar, the possessor of great of wealth.”
It is worth paying attention to these teachings of Kabir Das before we focus on the specific steps that constitute the formal Pooja Vidhanam because we must prepare the cave in our heart to offer the same obeisances to the indwelling Soul.
I meditate often on this mantra to consolidate and energize this connection to the Divine dwelling within: “Om! Mani Padme Hum.” I meditate on the Jewel in the Lotus of my heart. The 14th Dalai Lama: It is very good to recite the mantra Om Mani Padme hum, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast... In brief the six syllables, Om Mani Padme Hum, mean that one’s dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha"
This sacred space in our hearts is often neglected much like the world heritage site in Angkor, Cambodia was for centuries, is where the battleground is enshrouded in deep woods filled with the elements of the Thaapa Traya. [In Our Heart cave]
We can read about the indwelling Soul residing in the heart cave in Mundaka Up. [II (2)1] Katha Up. (6)-17 and in Svetasvataropanishad IV-20 [The Isa dwelling in the heart of man, can be perceived not by the eye but the heart; and he who perceives Him thus by the heart attains immortality.] The Indwelling Spirit has the potential for playing an important role in our live- Svetasvataro UP VI-19. Without parts, action- less, tranquil, uncontaminable, spotless, the bridge that transcend and leads to immortality, consuming and unquenchable like fire.
Our Heart Cave is the site of the very real, very immediate battleground so memorably defined in the first words of the Fifth Veda- Bhagvad Gita: "Dhritarashtra uvaach: Dhárma Kshetre Kurukshetre samveta yuyutsavaha… "Tell me Sanjaya what did sons of Pandu and mine do when they assembled together on the sacred field of Kurukshetra?" [V 1, Discourse I]
By blowing conches and ringing of the bells at the very start of the 16 step Pooja [just as it was when the battle started in the field of Dharma- the original Kurukshetra in Dwapara Yuga] we have to in Kali Yuga most definitely mobilize our own and the faculties of our satsang's members and through Japa prepare our psychological environment to successfully face down our personal Asuric propensities [which to me are metaphorically symbolize the sons of Dhritarashtra] in our life long struggle to walk on the edge of the razor as we find a way out of Vishad-despondency by performing the Pooja Vidhanam. Japa and Chanting of Stotra are considered to be the pre-eminent forms of worship for us who live in Kali Yuga according to Manu Smriti, Vishnu Purana, Mahabharata and Bhagvad Gita. [The fifth Veda]
We pray that with the help of the Pujari/ Purohit we can seat our Ishta devata not only in the Sanctum but in the Peetam within our hearts. When we welcome and offer worship we pledge to continue to seek our way forward and beg that we will be blessed with the strong hands on the reins of the Chariot we are in just as Lord Parthasarathy [Bhagavan Krishna as charioteer] imparted life sustaining knowledge to Arjuna[ representing mere mortals-Nara)while providing indispensable guidance and patient comforting assistance to get back on edge of the knife every time we fall off due to our own weaknesses just as Lord Parthasarathy empowered Arjuna to get out of his despondency [Vishad] and into the Chariot to do face down Asuric forces arrayed against him.
We pray that during and after the Pooja our heart will be unassailable just as Ayodhya was when Sri Rama Parivar and Lord Anjaneyar reigned supreme in Treta Yuga. This can come to pass again by God’s grace in Kaliyuga. Maharishi Valmiki wrote about the lifting of the Despondency in which Mother Sita was mired in imprisoned in the terrible forest in Lanka filled with many of the elements of the Thaapa Traya when Lord Anjaneyar narrated the Story of Lord Rama and the struggles of the Rama parivar on the Sadhana Path during their long exile.
We are like Mother Sita mired in our own deep dark forests we can also experience the lifting of despondency so much so even when we find ourselves by whatever means in these frightening places today be listening to the glories of God, seating God in our heart, offering worship, sing his praises and serve our Gods Mission just as Lord Anjaneyar did, the frightening, forbidding location can be referred to A-Soka Vana [Despondency free forest]
Let us get acquainted with the insights of the great teachers. These words of Sant Kabir Das clearly describe what I am trying to bring to your attention. “Moko kahan dhoonde re bande, mien to tere paas mien” - Where do you search for me my fellow seeker, I am within in close proximity to you… “Kehat Kabir suno bhai sadho, mien to hoon vishwas mien” Thus says Kabir, listen to me; I am only to be found through faith. 'Faith' that tells you that there is an ALMIGHTY and HE is the only might behind everything, when you have this faith you accept everything as having been done by him, without any happiness or sorrow; thus through freedom from happiness or sorrow, you become free from bondage of 'karma' Sant Mat- Religion of Saints- [www.viewunderstanding.blogspot.com]. The Isa Up offers this insight and teaching in V5 It moves. It does not move. It is far away yet most near. It is the internal Spirit of every living being and it is ground substance that pervades all the spaces in between.
Please bear this in mind about the critical importance of faith to make your pursuit of Purusharthas successful as your trudge one foot in front of the other along your Sadhana path as I have been with some degree of success for a number of years. I am grateful to God for his patience in picking me when I stumble all the time and pull me up short with invisible reins when I get distracted and stops me from seeking that which is pleasant rather than that which moves forward to the next stage of my Sadhana path.
Know the Supreme Master within
From a discourse by Param Sant Sadgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj
Nakli Mandir, Masjidon me jayen sada afsos hai. Kudarati masjid ka sakin dukh uthane ke liye."
It is said that we go to the temples and mosques regularly but we neglect the real temple within our hearts. Sant Kabir Das
Man Mathura, dil Dwarika, kaya Kashi Jan. Daswa Dwara dehra, tame Jyoti pahchan
Whereas the mind is like Mathura, the heart is Dwarika, the human body is Kashi. The tenth door in the human body within which the Divine Light is to be experienced must be opened. Sant Kabir Das
"Tere Poojan ko Bhagwan Bana Man Mandir Alishan."
It will serve us well to worship God deep within our hearts that has been first drained of I-ness and Mine ness-Ahamta and Mamata and filled with piety and unselfish commitment to service to all of God’s creation. Sant Kabir Das
I will follow one of the traditions and offer my prayer for protection and guidance to Lord Sri Krishna in accordance with this precept in Verse 66 Discourse XVIII:
Sarva-dhárman parityajya mam Ekam Sharanam vraja, aham tvam sarva-pāpebhyo mokshayishyami ma śucaḥ (18.66): “
The power of God is greater than the power of all the people in the world, in all creation. Renounce all the rules and regulations of the temporal world, which are temporary [just as Sukh, Shanti and Kush are impermanent. VM] because the rituals and customs require transformation, change, remediation from moment to moment; but stick to the supreme dharma which is devotion to Me. Leave other dharmas which are characteristic of performance of work, etc., in the world of diversity, because all that variety of dharma is subsumed under this greatest of dharmas, that is love of God. There is no dharma equal to that.” Commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita by Swami Krishnananda, Discourse 51: The Eighteenth Chapter.
“Thaapa thraya vinaasaaya Krishnaaya vayam Namaha” Srimad Bhagvatam chapter 1 [May Lord Krishna protect us from the three afflictions!] In the Bhagavata Skanda I Chapter 2, there are three subsections form verses 5-34 which documents Maharishi Suta’s answer to the questions posed by the Rishi’s on 1. The Supreme duty of humans, 2. The progress of devotion and 3. Why Vasudeva should be the Object of Worship. In Skanda I, Chapter 3 there is subsection which addresses the Mystery of the One and many. [V30-39].
In Skanda I Chapter 8, verses 18-43 Kunti Devi offers a very poignant and sincere prayer of gratitude and praise to Lord Sri Krishna. She addresses the Supreme Lord “I salute the One Uncreated Original Being, the Supreme Person, the Lord of all and One transcending Prakriti… She offers this poignant prayer full of love and devotion in V 42: O Dear Lord! Just as the river Ganga is a continuous stream flowing towards the Ocean, so may my mind, eschewing all the other objects, become a continuous stream of love and attachment with Thee as its sole Object!
The powers of Lord Maha Vishnu as manifest by the Lord Narasimha protected Bhakta Prahlada when he was constantly threatened and tormented by the malevolent powers used by his father Hiranyakasipu and finally threatened with death. Draupadi Devi was protected by Lord Krishna’s maya when she was being disrobed by the evil minded Dushasana. The beautiful story of Gajendra Moksha also provides us an additional example of how the power of God can ameliorate or block the impact of the Thaapa Traya afflictions. The Srimad Bhagvatam describes how Lord Krishna protected the unborn baby of Uttara from the Brahma Astra released by Ashwattama to preserve the link of the Pandavas from their realm to the modern days.
Similarly, Lord Siva protected Sage Markandeya and the future Jagad Guru Sankara Acharya when as a child of 8 he was grabbed by a crocodile. He was saved from crocodile after his mother gave him permission to follow his Sadhana path to his final Samadhi.
Krishnaaya, Vasudevaaya, Devaki Nandanaaya, Nanda Gopa Kumaraaya Govindaaya Namo Namaha
Priyataam Pundarikaksha, Sarva Yagneswaro Hari
Tasmin Tushte, Jagat Tushte, Prinite Prinataam Jagat.
Om Shanti, Shanti Shantihi
My beloved Lotus Eyed Lord, the Lord of all sacrifice, when you are contented the world is content, when you are pleased the whole world is pleased. May with your grace the Thaapa Traya afflictions are ameliorated for all.
The religious traditions and spiritual experiences of the Seers inspire, support and guide the seeker of Truth and freedom from suffering to lift themselves from state of Despondency (Vishad- personified by the mental state experienced by Arjuna described in the first discourse of the Bhagvad Gita which is entitle Vishad Yoga) to Samarpayami (total submission to God’s will and immersion in spiritual experience. Arjun’s heartfelt words in V73- Discourse XVII-) and find the way and help to attain Moksha or Liberation. (Lord Krishna’s words-V66 Discourse XVIII)
Performance of Pooja Rituals has been for ages a potent and profound expression of one’s faith in the faith tradition Sanatana Dharma inaccurately referred to as Hinduism.
Pooja can be performed by any person regardless of caste, creed, gender, age and station in life. It can be performed quietly by an individual at any time by symbolic representation of the devotee and the focus of the devotion, or in a home or temple or public places or any venue at all. The Bhagvad Gita offers us some deep insights in to the practice of Pooja in Chapter IX for instance.
Srimad Adi Sankaracharya in his Bhaasya says, not only do my devotees attain an endless result, i.e., they attain a state from which there is not return to this world. It is worth the readers while to understand the significance of Verse 25 where Lord Krishna emphasizes the importance of the will, the intention and motivation to worship the Deity of your choice in determining the physical, emotional, material and spiritual fruits that will accrue to the devotees fo the Deities of their choice. My worshippers attain to me, who has no beginning or end. They do not return too Samsara It is also easy for them to worship Me -It is also relatively easy to worship Lord Sri Krishna according to the Bhagvad Gita. This is what Lord Sri Krishna teaches us about fruitful beneficial selfless worship:
Patram Pushpam Phalam toyam, yo me bhaktya prayacchati
Tad aham bhakty-upahrtam, Asnami prayatatmanah
Bhagvad Gita Verse 26, Discourse IX
Whoever offers Me with true devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or some water, I accept this offering made with devotion by a person who is pure of heart.
Bhagvad Gita Verse 27, Discourse IX
Whatsoever thou doest, whatsoever thou eatest, whatsoever thou sacrificest, whatsoever thou givest, in whatever austerity thou engages do it as an offering to Me.
Bhagvad Gita Verse 28, Discourse IX
Thus, equipped in mind with the Yoga of renunciation, you will free yourself from the bonds of Karma, productive of auspicious and inauspicious fruits. Thus, liberated you will come to me.
The meanings of these three verses are from the Bhasyas of the Bhagvad Gita written by Srimad Adi Sankaracharya and Srimad Ramanujacharya
Sixteen specific steps
Hindu worship stresses respect and love for God. The puja ceremony imitates the way we might treat a respected and honored guest in our home. We must treat all who attend the prayers with respect. So, must we treat members fo the community in general.
The Shodasa Upacharas are the sixteen steps one takes to make God, our most honored guest, comfortable and offer obeisance to merit his grace and accrue the blessings of comfort, happiness and peace
Shodasa Upachara [Sixteen -step Pooja]
It is important to remember this precept from the Bhagvad Gita we prepare for and participate in the process of a religious sacrifice and the performance of the Pooja Vidhanam:
Brahmarpanam, Brahma Havir, Brahmagnou, BrahmanaaHutam, Brahmaiva tena Ghantavyam, Brahma Karma Samadhina. Verse 24, Discourse IV.
Brahman is the offering; Brahman is the Oblation; by Brahman is the oblation poured into the fire of Brahman; Brahman verily shall be reached by him who always sees Brahman in action.
Dhyanam – prayer [as in attending to being concerned for the wellbeing of our expected guest]
Avahanam and Aasanam - welcome and provide a comfortable seat
Padyam – water to wash feet
Arghyam – water to wash hands
Achamanam – water to drink [traditionally in India, people walking into the house from the street, first wash off their hands, feet and face and take a glass of water]. It is very hygienic and keeps harmful germs away.
Snanam [Abhishekam] – sacred bath [with milk, yogurt, honey, ghee and fruit juice]
Vastram – offer clothing
Yagnopavitam – sacred thread
Gandham – sandalwood paste for decoration
Pushpam - flowers and garlands
Dhoopam – incense for a pleasant fragrance
Dipam – light Naivedyam – offer food, fruits.
Neerajanam – camphor light
Mantrapushpam – offer flowers and rice with Vedic chanting
Pradakshana – going around the deities
Object of Pooja:
It is best to seek to create conditions that engender deeper than our usual very day mind stuff and evoke higher spiritual aspirations within each of us and emanate the wellbeing, peace and joy that one experiences during and at the end of the Pooja to our immediate surroundings including the Satsangs we are part of and thus to the communities we live in and interact with in person and with electronic methods and digital strategies.
Methods to achieve the best results
The best methods to achieve these goals is to sing and chant Mantras, perform specific tasks, including making specific offerings accompanied by particular chants at various stages fo the entire Pooja Vidhanam.
The sixteen steps can be grouped into three stages.
Outline of three stages:
1st stage consists of purifying the mind set and setting by driving out the Asuric influences and propensities and invoking Divine beings in order to strengthen the Sattwic propensities that are part of our common heritage that leads back to the Object of our worship on day to day basis. Thus, we connect to one another and to our Creator when we sing and dance, chant, take Vratas and make offerings during the Pooja Vidhanam. It thus serves a greater purpose of fostering a deeper commitment to Sarvodaya and living our lives to an increasing degree in consonance with the noble precepts of the ancient concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakkam.
During the 2nd stage we attempt to tune into the Cosmic Consciousness through the Hrudaya Rekha as we would with a radio to move closer to the Supreme Self by seeking to strengthen the signal as we move from the farthest point of our orbit representing our mundane every-day tasks around our True Self to the closest point we can during the Pooja.
The 3rd stage is very sacred component of our faith tradition - Sanatana Dharma. The Mandala Brahmana Upanishad explains the Spiritual significance of the 16 specific rituals and offerings during which Almighty God is invoked, welcomed, installed and worshipped with humility, love and utmost reverence to glorify God for greater good of our community and seeking our common wellbeing, safety and enhanced capacity to progress further along in our Sadhana Path from Vishad to Moksha.
This purification phase begins with ringing of the bells and chanting of Gurubhyo Namaha, Harih OM! The assembled devotees join in to chant: Agamaartham tu Devanaam, gamanaartam tu rakshasaam. Kurve Ghantaaravam Devataa hvana Lakshanam.
Next: The Pujari chants Om Bur, Bhuvah Suvah. Iti Digbandhaha. These words are termed Vyaahrities. It is believed we make a protective shell around us. All the portals of the heart are thus sealed against evil propensities and malevolent entities.
At the close of the Puja we chant these Vyaahrities again and Om at the end to unlock the shell and to engage with others and respond successfully through more focused awareness of the challenges and opportunities offered by the environment as we move into the world of relationships and pursuit of Purusharthas.
We tune into Hrudaya Rekha and establish the direct with God with name and form by contemplating upon The Unchanging eternal Purusha and chanting the first three verses of the Purusha Suktam in praise of Lord Maha Vishnu from RK Veda. [10-90-1to16] This prayer, hymns to Lord GaNESha including verses from the Ganapati Atharva Sirsa Upanishad, hymns to Lord Shiva, Mother Durga, Mother Saraswati, Maha Lakshmi, and the sloka to Maha Vishnu- Shankaram Bhujaga Sayanam Padmanabham Suresham…. Vande Vishnum bhava bhaya haram sarva lokaikanatham are termed Dhynaam mantras. This brings us to the last – the third stage.
- The first three steps of this stage are called the Dhyaana seat. Tasya Nishta Dhyaanah. When we are immersed into it and are liberated from other thoughts or emotions except for love and devotion it is called Dhyaana.
- We chant Dhyaayami. We are entreating the Spirit of the Deity to reside temporarily in the Idol, photo or image, so that the Spiritual energies may find its way through the medium of the idol etc. into the hearts of all the people who are participating in the Puja.
- Aavaahayam and Aasanam Samarpayami refer to the process of respectfully welcoming the Spiritual energies of God to enter our heart and be seated in peace and comfort.
- This followed by 4 rituals involving water: Paadyam, Arghyam and Snaanam. Water is offered for washing the feet, the arms and for oblations respectively and for refreshing the mouth [Aachamanam]. This applies to idols. In the case of photos or some other images used for Satsangs then it is recommended the water is sprinkled by the middle finger at the feet, [Padyam], arms [Arghyam] and at the chest and then form the head to the feet of the image [Snaanam]
- Padyam Samarpayami, b. Arghyam Samarpayami, c. Aachamanam Samarpayami d. Snanam Samarpayami.
- We have to next make three offerings: of Gandham –Sandalwood paste, raw rice grains mixed with turmeric and flowers
- Gandham dharayamy b. Alsatian Samarpayami and c. Pushpani Samarpayami.
- This is followed by a. waving the Deepa [Lamp] in a specific manner and the offerings of Naivedyam namely food, fruits etc. b. Offering of Dhoopam consists of burning of incense and waving it before the idol or picture or image of the deity. [God with name and form]. All movements of Deepa and burning Camphor are done in a circular manner commencing from the right and moving clockwise. In the Taittiriya Up. Varuna instructs his son Bhrigu about immanence of the Brahman in matter as well as in spirit. The food we eat, the air we breathe and water we drink are sacred forms of the Brahman that nourish us, enable us to grow, speak, think, act and exercise, our will and understand. He knew that food is Brahman, for from food, indeed, are born all things in his world, by food do they live, and, after death they become food again for other beings. III-2
- Dhoopam Aagrhraapayaami
- Deepam sandarshayami. Next the Naivedyam is offered by sprinkling a few drops of water in pour tight palm and by chanting the words Prana and brahma. After the Naivedyam is offered Tambula or Betel leaf is offered. [This corresponds to the usual custom in South India of finishing off a meal by chewing on betel leaf preparations.
- Naivedyam Nivedayaami: as Naivedyam is offered the following mantras are chanted with gestures indicating the purpose by moving the hand gently towards the idol as each of these mantras are chanted. Om Praanaaya Svaahaa, Om Aapnaaya svaahaa, Om Vyaanaaya svaahaa, Udaanaaya svaahaa, Samaanaaya svaahaa and Braahmane svaahaa.
- Tambulam Samarpayami.
- Mangalam Neerajanam Samarpayami
A light is waved for the third time in the appropriate manner. All the persons participating in the Puja have to stand up. During this ritual the following verse form the Katha Upanishad 2-2-15 is chanted:
Na tatra Suuryobhaati Na Chandra taarakam, Nemaa vidyuto bhaanti kutoyamagnihi; Tvameva bhaantam anu bhaati sarvam; Tasya bhaasa sarvam idam vibhaati.
The lamp or the burning camphor is moved three times in circular motion starting from the right at the level fo the feet first, then three times at the level fo the head and then three times starting at the feet up to the head and back to the feet. The lighted lamp or burning camphor is taken to all the assembled people as a reminder light of in dwelling Spirit shedding its self-effulgent glory on one and all individually and collectively.
- The fourth step of the Third stage has two steps.
- Performing Pradakshina Namaskaram. By circumambulating three times in place or around the fire or the sanctum three times going clockwise starting from the right side. This sloka is chanted, “Yani kani cha papani, Janmanthra krithani cha. Tãni tãni Vinashyanti, pradakshinam pade pade. The fifth step consists of performing the Visarjanam by requesting the Deity invoked at the start of the pooja to leave the idol etc. and by dismantling the shell by chanting:
- Yathaasthaanam Pratishthapayami
- Bhuur Bhuvah Suvaha SvarOm.
At the close of the Pooja Vidhanam, Shanti mantras are chanted and the entire ritual is dedicated to the Supreme Lord, the Eternal Purusha by chanting Kayena VAchA…
There are several shanti mantras including a. Poornam Adaha… [Brihad Aranyaka Up. and Isa Up.] b. Sham no Mitra, sham Varuna ha…2 methods. c. Bhadram Karnebhih Shrunuyaama Devaah… [Mundaka Up.]
These benedictions [one or more] are chanted before everyone disperses: a. Sarvesham Svastir bhavatu… b. Asato Ma Sadgamaya, Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya, Mrityor mā amritam gamyaha. [Brihad Aranyaka Up.] d. Om tat sat Sree Brahmarpanam astu. Om Shanti, shanti Shantihi e. Avahanam Na Janami… f. Aparaadham Sahasrani Kriyanthe Haranisham maya… g. Paapoham Paapa Karmaaham… h. Guhyathi Guhya Gopthree Tvaam… i. Mangalam Bhagavan Vishnu, Mangalam Garuda Dwaja…
Om Tat Sat Sree Krishna Arpanam Astu.
Finally, we chant this benediction Sarve Jana Sukhino bhavantu, Om shanti, shanti, Shantihi. May all humanity be blessed with comfort and joy.
The chanting of the 108 names is separate religious ritual for which a separate invocation is done and the sponsors for Ashtotra Shata Namavalli are separately included in the prayer ritual.
“Truth alone triumphs [Satyam Eva Jayate], not ever the Untruth. With Truth is paved the road to the Divine. On that road walk the Rishis with desires all quenched to reach the Supreme Abode of the truth” Mundaka Upanishad- III (1)6
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