On Yoga Terms and Philosophy: What is Puja?

On Yoga Terms and Philosophy: What is Puja?
[Seventh article in a series]
by Alice Koh

Before I begin in defining Puja, I would like to remind my readers of the following Yoga terms:

Meditation means to Unite with God, to put all our focus and concentration on the image or attributes of God; and to let God be the rider, and our bodies be god’s chariots.

Samadhi is the vision of God by a human person while still living.

Now, what does the word Puja mean? Puja means worship.

"If a man prays to Thee with a yearning heart, he can reach Thee, through Thy grace, by any path.” –Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Traditionally, religious rituals are performed in worship to the god. These include the setting up of an altar as well as placing on it sacred items like an image of your god or enlightened masters. Offerings of love, devotion and gratitude in the form of fruits, candles, flowers, water and incense should also be made.

Japa is a continuous recitation of a mantra.
A mantra consists of a name, phrases or intonations like AUM that aims to raise your frequency to the consciousness of god.
Japa can be recited softly, loudly or silently within your heart. Japa provides the mind a single focus that leads to a meditative state.

In meditative contemplation or silent prayers to the divine, we visualise this divine being as filled with light, with power, with love and compassion. Its presence is illuminating and touches your own soul and lights you from within. This is how you are blessed and embody the love and virtues of whom you revere.

When you are touched by the divine, your tears will roll down the cheeks without reason or beckoning. You feel strongly that the trees around you are hugging you, the wind is caressing your cheeks, wiping away your tears. There is a strong sense that "they" know, that "they" understand everything without you ever voicing out anything that has been buried in your heart. That is your samadhi moment.

This is when you realized that you were never alone in your life. Spirits and the spirit of God have been protecting you all this while, since the time you were inside your mother´s womb.

God is that tree over there bathing in the cool rain and dancing to the wind. God is that puppy playing with the children. God is the bee contented with the flowered honey.
God is everywhere, even in that homeless man who has had nothing to eat for days, and outside of him, god is carrying and protecting him as though he was a child. God is everywhere!

If you look for God in the atom, you will find him there; if you look for God in our solar system, God will also be there. If you look for him inside yourself, God is there too. Look at the water in your cup, god is also there.

Why is water referred as life living?

Look at water under a microscope and you will notice that indeed it is filled with life, so is the air that we breathe in. Though invisible to our naked eyes, we now know that there are billions of microbes floating in our space. Life, like God, is everywhere!

Puja also offers devotional homage to the holy teacher who is your guide and your father (and mother) concerning your spiritual aspirations.

A guide can only show you the door. You have to cross that door by yourself. Once you cross the line that divides this material world and the spirit world, then you become your own Guru.

A teacher once said that meditation is simply to unlearn what you have learnt. Learning is conditioned. But spirituality is formless.

Your teacher is also your spiritual father (and spiritual mother). They should be revered on the same pedestal as your god because they are the representation of the god you worship here on earth.

God, as the object of meditation, is said to come to you in a vision. It could be Lord Buddha, Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna, Lord Jesus.

God, the Ishtam (or, God as the Beloved), can come as a Saint, as your spiritual teacher, as a rock, even as a cloud. God may be standing next to you at this moment asking you if you have some leftover food for him.

The whole point of Puja is to taste Ananda, the divine bliss that comes with a life full of spiritual devotion (Dharma); to realize who your true self is; to transcend this material world and to have an encounter with the true living universal consciousness which is God.

All sacred scriptures speak of this encounter with God. God coming down to meet the worshipper and then God showing himself in his or her many manifestations. This is called the Great Awakening in the life of the devotee.