By Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya
The ultimate goal of Sanatana Dharma (the Eternal Natural Way) is to re-establish our innate relationship with God. We do this by cultivating devotion (bhakti) in meditational awareness. One of the most effective means of devotional meditation is known as puja. Puja involves the direct meditative worship of God by making various symbolic offerings to God with devotion at your home altar.
In order to perform the puja ceremony, you first have to have a home altar. An altar can be as simple as a small table or shelf in your home, or as elaborate as putting aside an entire room or a section of a room just for the purpose of doing spiritual practice (sadhana). How elaborate you want your altar to be is up to you. The most important thing to keep in mind is that, more important than how large your altar might be, is how much awareness and sincerity you bring to your puja practice.
The altar must be raised off the ground; should be in a quiet, clean, well-lit, and accessible area of your home; and must be large enough to hold all the necessary puja items comfortably.
Once you’ve picked your altar, you then need to pick out your image of God for worship. It is strongly recommended that your main deity (murti) be either of Krishna, or Radha-Krishna, or Narayana, or Lakshmi-Narayana. If you have a choice, it’s always better to have both the masculine and feminine Divine together. The image can be either a statue or a printed image. If a printed image, please place it in a frame. This main image of God should always have the center and most prominent place on your altar.
In addition to the main image of God, if you also feel inspired to have one or more images of devas or devis (gods or goddesses, respectively) on your altar, you may do so. These can include, for example, Ganapati, Sarasvati, Parvati, Durga, or Shiva.
There are several items that you’ll need to perform puja. At a minimum, you’ll need: a) incense and incense holder; b) lighter or matches; c) a bell to ring; d) a ghee lamp, ghee wicks and ghee.
You must be bathed and clean before performing puja.
Sitting before your altar, you want to first center yourself by closing your eyes and taking a few normal breaths with awareness, allowing yourself to be at peace and open to God’s grace.
Opening your eyes, place your hands together in ‘namaste’ gesture and offer one’s obeisances to the murti, reciting “Jaya Sriman Narayana”.
Light a stick of incense and, ringing the bell with your left hand, gently wave the incense stick in your right hand in a clockwise motion – three times to the face of the image, three times to the belly, three times to the feet, and four times around the entire image. Then place the incense stick in a safe holder.
Next, light the ghee wick lamp. Offer the ghee wick lamp with your right hand, ringing the bell in your left hand in the same manner and with the same numbers as the incense was previously offered (three times to the face, belly and feet, four times around the entire image). When you are done, quickly pass your hands over the flame of the ghee wick lamp and place your hands to your head for a blessing.
You may also offer items in a similar manner to offering the incense and ghee wick lamp. Other items that you can offer include: a flower, water, or some simple food such as almonds or raisins (which are afterwards eaten as a sacrament, or “prasada”).
After the puja is over, you may again place your hands in the ‘namaste’ gesture and offer your obeisances to the altar. Please then recite the following mantras.
aum ajnana timirandhasya
chakshur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri guruve namaha
“I offer my respectful obeisances to my spiritual teacher, who has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance, with the torchlight of knowledge.”
he krishna karuna sindho
dina bandho jagat pate
gopesha gopika kanta
radha kanta namo’stu te
“Oh Krishna, ocean of mercy, You are the friend of the distressed and the source of creation. You are the master of the cowheardmen and the lover of the gopis, especially Radha. I offer my respectful obeisances unto You.”
tapta kanchana gaurangi
vrishabhanu sute devi
pranamami hari priye
“I offer my respects to Radha, whose bodily complexion is fair and who is the Queen of Vrindavana. You are the daughter of King Vrishabhanu, and are very dear to Lord Krishna.”
Sriman Narayana Charanau Sharanam Prapadye
Srimate Narayanaaya Namah
"I seek refuge at the feet of Sriman Narayana. My salutations to Sriman Narayana."
Having completed the puja, this would now be an ideal time to perform your daily meditation practice in front of your altar.
Where Do I Get Puja Supplies??
The best resource for puja supplies, including sacred images, is the online store called Krishna Culture: www.krishnaculture.com. Incense is available in a wide variety of places. Ghee can be bought at any Indian grocery store or at Whole Foods.
About the Author
Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales, Ph.D.) is universally acclaimed as one of the world's most respected and qualified Dharma teachers and Hindu spiritual leaders alive today. He personifies what it means to be a true and authentic guru.
Dr. Deepak Chopra has exclaimed in 2002: "You've done truly phenomenal work teaching the pure essence of Yoga". In a similar manner, Dr. David Frawley has said about Sri Acharyaji, "Dr. Frank Morales represents the Sankalpa [the will] of the Hindu people and the cause of Sanatana Dharma. I urge all Hindus everywhere to give him your full support, assistance, and encouragement in his crucial work. He needs and deserves our help."
Sri Acharyaji began his personal spiritual journey over 35 years ago at the tender age of ten when he read the Bhagavad Gita for the very first time. He coupled his decades of intense spiritual practice and study with advanced academic achievements, earning a B.A. in philosophy/theology from Loyola University Chicago, as well as an M.A. and Ph.D. in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He has lectured on Dharma at dozens of top universities, such as Harvard, Columbia, Rutgers, Cornell, and Northwestern. He has also served as a consultant for such Fortune 500 companies as Ford Motor Corporation and Lucent Technology.
Explaining to his doctoral advisor that "I don't want to just study the history of religion…I want to make religious history", Sri Acharyaji eventually left academia to devote himself exclusively to spiritual teaching and to the preservation of the great tradition of Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism).
Today, Sri Acharyaji occupies his full time teaching Dharma spirituality to diverse audiences. In addition to leading classes, satsanghas, seminars and lecturing on Sanatana Dharma widely, Sri Acharyaji is a renowned author, as well as a personal spiritual guide (guru) to a rapidly increasing following of enthusiastic students from both the Indian and the non-Indian communities.
Sri Acharyaji was the Resident Acharya (Spiritual Preceptor) of the Hindu Temple of Nebraska (2007 - 2009), which represents the first time in American history that a Hindu temple has ever made such an esteemed appointment. He is the Founder-President of the International Sanatana Dharma Society, a global movement dedicated to teaching Dharma in its most authentic form.
Sri Acharyaji is the real thing: an enlightened guru with the ability to deliver the highest wisdom and spiritual liberation to his sincere students.
Sri Acharyaji's teachings stress the achievement of enlightenment through the practice of meditation, Yoga, and directly experiencing the presence of the Divine. Another overarching aspect of Sri Acharyaji's teachings focuses on the importance of love, compassion and service toward all living beings.
Whether speaking to an audience of thousands, or having a heart-felt discussion with only one person, Sri Acharyaji vividly conveys a deeply moving sense of compassion, peace, humility, and spiritual insight that has endeared him to thousands of students and admirers throughout the world.
Some of his books include:
"Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way"
"Living Dharma: The Teachings of Sri Dharma Pravartaka Acharya"
"Radical Universalism: Does Hinduism Teach that All Religions are the Same?"
"Taking Refuge in Dharma: The Initiation Guidebook"
"The Vedic Way of Knowing God"
"The Shakti Principle: Encountering the Feminine Power of God"
"The Art of Wisdom: Affirmations for Boundless Living"
His latest book Sanatana Dharma: The Eternal Natural Way, is scheduled for publication in 2011.
For more information on following the life-transforming path of Sanatana Dharma, please visit his website:
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