Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Why Pooja?

It is definitely possible to connect to the Lord without Pooja. But lets understand what is the significance of a pooja for a vedantic student:

A. Senses are extrovert and fickle. To withdraw the mind from the senses and focus on japa etc is not easy. We need to master the senses for it. Pooja provides an opportunity to engage the senses and also divinise them. We see HIS form, chant HIS name, offer flowers, naivedya to HIM, Listen to HIS glories etc. Walking to the temple, cleaning it, preparing it etc also train the senses and the mind. 

B. most of us complain that our mind wanders in japa or meditation. A person who has done pooja learns concentration, visualisation because one constantly keeps one form in the mind and does the offerings. For children especially its very effective. 

C. Integration also happens because Body, Mind & Intellect(BMI) come together. 

D. Develops a relationship with the Lord and channelise emotions through it. Hanuman looked upon Ram as the Lord. Ramakrishna as a mother. Meera as a beloved. Surdas as a friend. Whats my relationship with HIM i should find out and invoke love. When there is love we want to give. Pooja is giving what HE likes. Hence we say offer bilva, abhisheka, bhasma to shiva. Offer alankaar and lotus to vishnu. Offer kumkum to devi etc. Ofcourse it has symbolism too. 

E. From physical pooja to maanas pooja to japa to meditation. This is the order of progress. Try it and you will see the difference. 

F. Pooja is not a mechanical ritual. Its an expression of love and gratitude. One may say i can do that without pooja also. Fine. But the asana-siddhi, manah-shuddhi, sukhshma-buddhi and antarmukhi drishti that Pooja brings is unique. 

G. Mantras have their own powers and when chanted with meaning it prepares us for contemplation. 

H. To do a Pooja one has to live life in discipline and self-control. One cannot be indulgent and immoral and benefit from Pooja. It applies to all the spiritual practices. But rules for Pooja are simpler than for japa and meditation etc. 

I. Pooja has 16 steps. Each of them invoke a bhaav. Eg. archana reminds me to offer my vasanas, aarti- to surrender totally, pradakshina - to let HIM be the centre of my life and let life revolve around Dharma etc. Will that happen if i just sit in front of the Lord? Mind needs activity and dynamism.

K. Even if i dont know the meaning but if i do the pooja it will make me think- who is the Lord? Why should i worship? How? Etc. That itself is progress. Devotion arises. 

L. Whole day i think about myself. Pooja is a time to ask what does HE like? What can i offer HIM? 

M. I become more open to God's Grace 

N. Sattvik actions help us to earn punya and punya brings satsang in our life. Pooja is one of the most sattvik actions whether done knowingly or unknowingly. 

O. When devotion grows then only one goes beyond steps and becomes spontaneous. Without following the steps of Pooja, how can i be spontaneous? This applies in arts, science, martial arts, sports etc. One follows the rules/technique and then goes beyond into the zone of innovation or spontaneity.  

P. Pooja of a form is only a beginning. Slowly the same bhaav extends to all actions and whole world becomes our altar of worship. 

Its not the Pooja thats the problem actually. Its our lack of faith in the form, in pooja's effectiveness, our incapacity to submit ourselves to discipline and our belief that as an intellectual im not the -'Pooja-type'.

Lets put aside the intellectual skepticism and attempt Pooja to purify the mind. Start small and grow big.


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Ancient Story. Modern Learnings

Reflections on the above story:

  •       Inspite of many siddhis(Achievements) the ascetics still kept doing more and more rituals to fill their incompleteness and dissatisfaction .  Can the finite, incomplete worldly achievements remove our sense of incompleteness? No.  Yet we chase them more and more.  How much is enough for me and my family? We should ask this to ourselves.  Knowing this we can balance our external and internal pursuits and also avoid greed.  Incompleteness goes only by being aware of completeness within. In worldly life, action = achievement. In spiritual life, Knowledge = Achievement.  What is the priority we give to the pursuit of Knowledge?  How much time we devote for it? 
  •       Darukaa means a puppet in Sanskrit.  Not knowing that the Lord is the player and we are the puppets, the Rishis thought that their actions give them results.  Just like how many people today believe in ‘logic’ of cause and effect.  They believe in Nature/Science but not in existence of the Lord and that all happens by HIS Will(Inaction / laziness under this pretext is not encouraged).
  •          Ascetics engaged themselves in performance of rituals or sakaama-karma(actions for one’s desire-fulfillment).  Since ancient vedic times,  we have known that Mantra Vidya is sufficient to achieve one’s goals.  Single pointed mind focusing on a goal/desire performing the right actions would get what it wants.  Going a bit deeper, a single-pointed thought sustained without any contradictory thought could also ‘attract’ what we want to ourselves.  That’s the power of Mantra and a singlepointed mind.  Actions may not even be requird.  We thought that ‘The Secret’ was a recent discovery.
  •           Their achievements made them proud and arrogant.  They forgot the Lord.  Awareness of the existence of the Supreme Lord and His Remembrance at all times helps us to invoke devotion and be humble.
  •             True asceticism is not in depriving or torturing oneself by being away from sense pleasures(living in forest).  Its not in performance of rituals, mantras, chanting etc..  These practices do help but the purpose for which it is done is important.  If our actions, self-control, spiritual practices etc. are to reduce our ego, that is true asceticism.  Tapas is not to boost our ego but to burst it. Tap means to burn and also to shine.  One one hand it burns our negatives and ego and on the other helps us to shine as the Self which is our True Nature.
  •       Inspite of living in forests, away from temptations, the ascetics and their wives got carried away by Mohini and the Young mendicant.  What is true Sense-Control?   Senses and desires arising out of perception must be handled with discrimination.  Do I need it?  Is it dharmic to pursue this pleasure? What will I get even if I indulge?  Am I not happy without it?  Am I pursuing it with dharmic means or is there a compromise? Are some of the questions one can ask.
  •      Even when the Lord manifested to give knowledge to the Ascetics, they continued their rituals.  So many opportunities we get for satsang but do we grab them?  Many of us postpone it saying right now actions are important.
  •       Emotional anchoring is extremely important.  Without this, sense-control will not last long.   We try to anchor in people and get attached, angry etc. Devotion to the Lord is the best way of emotional anchoring.   Devotion brings emotional security because the Lord alone accepts us, loves us as we are and loves us unconditionally.  The story shows that absence of Self-Knowledge & Devotion both led the ascetics and their wives astray.
  •       What do we do to invoke Devotion?  How to connect with HIM daily and stay connected through the day?
  •       Ascetics got angry on the Mendicant because their wives were carried away by the Mendicant.  Why did they not trust their wives?  Why did they not try and find out who the mendicant was and what was his purpose before arriving at any conclusion?
  •       They set out to search their wives, but they also got tempted by Mohini.   The same purpose for which they got angry with their wives, they got carried away with.  .  How the mind tricks us!  Psychology says – What we resent or resist or hate, we strengthen that within ourselves.
  •       When temptations arise and we have no self-control, then we lose our discrimination and indulge and even do adharma sometimes.  The ascetics and their wives got tempted by Mohini and the Mendicant.  Their pursuit was wrong as they were married and committed.  Inspite of knowing it, they could not resist.  One may argue that in the story it was the Leela of the Lord. But in our life, we cannot justify lack of sense-control and indiscrimination.
  •       When Mohini disappears, they blame the mendicant and start fighting with him.  Not for a moment they take responsibility for their actions.  Extroverted mind engages in blame-game and becomes a victim of life.  One curses the Lord, fights with HIM and questions His Intelligence through the question- Why Me?  The Lord smiles.
  •       Satsang is achieved through Grace of the Lord.  Daruka-Vana ascetics were not even aware of what they were lacking and kept doing rituals but the Lord knew what they needed and the whole leela was done for that.  HE knows what we need, when, how, where etc.  Let us know that HE has placed us in the right place.  Lets keep doing our duty dedicating it to HIM.
  •       The ascetics forgot the Lord and even fought with him. But the Lord loved them inspite of everything.   No matter what we have done in life, let us know that The Lord loves us.  Drop all the guilt, negative feelings, low self-worth etc. and know that HE loves us and make HIS love our strength.
  • The Lord could have just started giving the discourse on importance of Knowledge but the Rishis would not have been able to understand the limitations of actions and importance of Knowledge if the leela was not performed whereby they saw the limitations of their powers and were humbled.  Just like Arjuna had to go through the despondency and surrender finally for the Lord to give him Knowledge.  
  •       Everyone deserves Self-Knowledge and Devotion. No one is undeserving.
  •      The right time to start seeking Knolwedge and to invoke Devotion is NOW and the right place is wherever we are. Lets start doing it.