Puja is a feast for the senses – beautiful flowers, intoxicating incense, delicious food, beautiful murtis. Performing puja makes us feel good, like we’re doing something, like we’re serving God/dess.
All of these things are good and positive, and it is important to cultivate a sincere attitude that is rooted in a deep heart connection and devotion. These things carry you through difficult times, help you gain insight into your life problems, and push you toward being a good human being who is fair and kind to your fellow humans, animals, and nature.
But what is the real reason for puja? Why do we worship God/dess in the form of an idol, with so many individual components? Why is it so elaborate? Why do we gather together on a regular basis to do this?
Premature learning can cause stagnation, because when knowledge is hard-won, it is valued and integrated more fully.
Ultimately each person has to find that reason within herself or himself. There IS a reason, and it has more to do with our individual journey toward MAA/Lord Shiva/God/dess than it does with tradition or external practices, or external material or psychological benefits (though these are great side benefits). Ultimately this core reason is the same for all of us, even though it may be expressed in different words and inspire different feelings in each of us.
Telling you the reason will do you no favors, because this is part of the first baby steps toward realization, seeing the reason for all of this ritual and realizing it inside yourself with confidence. Premature learning can cause stagnation, because when knowledge is hard-won, it is valued and integrated more fully. When it is given easily, then it can be cast aside just as easily, regardless of intention. Information in paths such as these needs time and practice to integrate into the body, and become part of our total experiential knowledge. This is one good reason why Tantric traditions keep secrets, and why it is often a struggle to delve more deeply even after initiation – and also a vital part of the process of being a sadhika or sadhak.
So I ask you this question to ask yourself: If MAA lives in your heart, then why perform puja, either at home or in a temple? Why gather with others to practice? Why practice external rituals at all? Why is this so important?
Once you begin to unlock this mystery inside yourself, then allow it to unfold in your life and practice. When you think you have found the answer, dive deeper. Keep going until you hit the bedrock of inner truth. When you can dive deep and grasp this inner truth with confidence, then you will be ready to begin stepping fully into your life and your practice.
Photo credit: Rajib Sarma