I was introduced to the daily pooja (worship) procedure at my home which includes aspects such as offering flowers, chanting Ashtottaram (Names of the Lord), offering a fruit as naivedyam (for God to accept), turning around thrice and waving fire in the end.
For many years, I never understood many of these acts.
Of what value is it to pluck flowers from a beautiful plant and place it before an idol or image of God. The flower belongs to the plant. It’s beautiful when on the plant. It feeds the bees, spreads fragrance and beautifies the garden. I felt God would be happier to see His Flowers in the garden, vibrant and joyful, rather than in a pooja room, bereft of its home, its natural setting.
Of what value is it to chant so many names of the Lord. He knows it all. Why tell him what He already knows? What does it mean to say it so many times and repeat the same thing everyday?
Of what value is it to place a fruit in front of Him? Is one fruit enough to fill His stomach for the whole day? Does He need the fruit we give?
Of what value is it to stand up and just turnaround thrice? Other than my head spinning it did no good to me.
Of what value is it to wave fire (aarti) to Him. What does it mean to do this?
Well, I am certainly not aware of what they were originally meant to be. Neither do I want to know. Each of us have our minds and hearts to infuse meaning and enrich these very acts and make them purposeful and powerful tools to take us closer to God.
Offering of Flowers – Flower is the most beautiful part of any plant. It’s colour, fragrance, texture, shape attracts us. It gives joy to all the onlookers. It beautifies the entire plant. Offering of flowers is a reminder to ourselves to offer the best in ourselves in service to the society, humanity. It’s a reminder to myself – Bring our the best in you and offer it in service to society.
Chanting the many attributes – This is a reminder to me of the great power that resides in me. Each name chanted is recast in my mind as follows “Remember God who is ………… is residing in you”. “Remember God who is ………is residing in all”. God doesn’t need to know what He is. He is already aware. We need to remind ourselves of Him in Us, Him in all, equally present in all.
Offering of a fruit – Fruit is verily the end result of a tree/plant. Further on the fruit doesn’t change into anything else. One can consider it as the very end result of the entire labour of the tree/fruit. Offering of a fruit is symbolic to remind onself to offer the fruits of one action to the Lord. This is the quintessential teaching of the Gita. As I keep the fruit, I say, “Karma Phala Tyagam”
Standing and turning around thrice. Well, this i felt is the most powerful reminder of all. To stand and turn around is to remind oneself that God is everywhere. Everything around you is God. This is done towards the end. I tell myself, the God whom u thought of till now in the prayer room, you will find Him all around you, everywhere as you go about your work during the day. It is Him all around you. This is an act of self reminder.
Waving of fire – I tell myself. The true form of the Lord can’t be seen in either natural light or man made light however bright they are. God can only be seen through the light of sacrifice. The camphor burns itself and disappears as it gives away the wonderful light. This act is a reminder to myself that God can be seen only through the light of sacrifice. Acts of sacrifice alone will give me the vision of the Lord. None else.
Each act, can be infused with a meaning. Don’t borrow the meaning from some book, person or article or speech. Make your own meaning. Make your daily worship enriched with a meaning of your making.
Thus, what was just a sequence of acts has now become a time of reminding onself the fundamental truths, tenets of right living and true vision of God.
Before every match, the cricketer practices in the nets. So also, daily worship is a reminder to oneself about the eternal truths. It’s the nets time, before we go about our daily routine in the world. !!!
Make your meaning, Infuse spirit into your ritual and make it spiritual. Ritual is boring and dull and meaningless. Spiritual is beautiful, purposeful and powerful.