It is easy to say that there is no use rituals and temples and all such paraphernalia; every baby says that in modern times. But it must be easy for all to see that those who worship inside a temple are in many respects different from those who will not. Therefore the association of particular temples, rituals and other concrete forms with particular religions has a tendency to bring into the minds of the follower of those religions the thoughts for which those concrete things stand as symbols; and it is not wise to ignore rituals and symbology altogether.
This handbook on puja as practised in Ramakrishna Mutt centres in general, and Ramakrishna Ashram, Mysore, in particular, is the outcome of the earnest desire to have clear ideas regarding the meaning and significance of the mantras, mudras and procedures. And the content of this book is the result of knowledge imparted by Revered Swami Achalanandaji, who had taken a series of classes in on this subject held for about four months in the year 1985. An attempt was made to organise his explanations and insights given his explanations and insights given informally into systematic notes enriched with pictures and summary charts of chronology reference which serve as useful guide to the novices to understand puja better. The mantras of the puja and the procedures are based on the book Worship of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Hitanandaji Swami Muktidanandaji has given so much time and energy in taking down the notes from Swami Achalanandaji and giving this book a final shape with meticulous care and deep understanding.
Swami Achalanandaji was a scholar in Sanskrit and had traditional knowledge of ritualistic worship. He had mastery over Ramakrishna-Vivekananda-Vedanta literature. Sri Ramakrishna Mangalshasam and Sri Sarada Suprabhatam are some of his famous Sanskrit compositions which are recited initiation from Swami Yatiswarananandji. He took sannyasa after his retirement from government service, and stayed I, our Asrama at Ulsoor [Bangalore] and later at Ramakrishna Institute of Moral and Spiritual Education [RIMSE], Mysore, for the rest of his life. He passed away at RIMSE itself in the year 1991.
The Science of Worship by Revered Swami Prameyayanandaji Maharaj and the two editorial articles of Prabuddha Bharata of May and June 1980-Worship as a Spiritual Discipline-by Revered Swami Bhajanandaji are very illuminating and should be read in this connection. So is the section of Ramakrishna as a priest taken from Revered Swami Nikhilanandaji’s introduction to his translation of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. We have therefore appended these articles to this book.
We earnestly hope that this effort will serve a useful purpose in conveying to the interested devotees, brahmacharins and monks of Ramakrishna Order the significance and meaning of puja, so that worship becomes more meaningful and spiritually beneficial.
We are grateful to Revered Swami Prameyanandaji Maharaj and Swami Bhajanandaji Maharaj for allowing us to include their valuable articles which have enriched this book. We are thankful to all the monastic brothers and devotees, who helped in data feeding, proofreading. And in giving valuable suggestions. We also thank reverentially Swami Gautamanandaji, President, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai for allowing us to publish this book from our centre, and promising to take it over for publishing the subsequent editions.
Puja, ritualistic worship, forms a part of the process of upasana. The literal meaning of the word ‘upasana’ is to sit near. It is the process of practising the proximity of God and of progressively feeling His presence till one merges in Him. Dhyana-contemplation and intense meditation are also part of the same process. While dhyana is a purely internal and mental act, puja or worship, includes some performance of external acts as also chanting of certain mantras and the like. As we all know, japa and dhyana, which are purely mental, form an important part of the puja.
These acts of worship and the contemplation and meditation accompanying them are performed in accordance with certain methods prescribed by the scriptures. To serve the purpose for which they are performed, these scriptures prescribe methods based on the experience of the wise elders and that is their validity and sanction. Till the proximity and its progressive closeness culminating in the union of the individual with the universal spirit becomes a realised fact, the contemplation of such proximity is just based on imagination. But contemplation in accordance with scriptural injunctions has this advantage over imagination ‘running riot’: they are based on the actual experiences of the wise elders who have trodden the path before us, while the latter could be just a fictitious projection of our own ignorant mind.
These ritualistic acts and contemplation have to be done with faith to serve the purposes for which they are performed. Faith is the belief in the words of the scriptures and of the preceptor, the Guru. This faith does not yield the result by itself, but following the precepts with faith does. Faith gives steadfastness to the method and persistence of actions.
If one has to receive the full benefit of the formal ritualistic worship with rituals , one must have, in addition to faith, some understanding of the meaning of the mantras he is chanting and the significance of the mantras he is chanting and that of rituals he is performing so that these may be done with the proper attitude of mind. Puja done with faith and understanding produces a state of mind in which the proximity of the Divine is felt at least as long as the puja lasts. Repetition of this, fsy after day, results in the memory of the state lingering long after the puja is over, and finally it becomes an abiding memory. This requires everyday renewal; but once the proximity of the Divine has been experienced as a fact, its memory can never be lost, and this very memory accelerates the progress towards the union with the Atman.
The methods taught by the scriptures are many and all of them are valid and valuable for their follower. To us, the devotees of Sri Ramakrishna, he is the embodiment of the ultimate truth, the form in which we like to contemplate God, the ista-devata. He is also the way to reach that God, the ultimate Guru, and our immediate Guru is the one who has shown us the way to Him. That is why in meditation we merge our own form in the Guru and him in the ista.
We worship him therefore as the embodiment of the Divine. The method of worship is given in the book Worship of Sri Ramakrishna by Swami Hitananda. In this work, an attempt has been made to explain the meaning of the mantras given in aforementioned book as well as the significance of the ritualistic actions, and also to indicate with what attitude of mind all this should be done. What is said here is based on the memory of some passages retained while studying the subject sometime in the past. It has not been possible to quote from memory all the passages from the scriptures in support of all the statements made here.
The explanations given here are illustrative and do not claim to be exhaustive or exclusive. The readers are therefore welcome to supplement or replace them by other explanations gathered from their own reading or from instructions of competent persons, so long as such explanations help us to feel and practise the presence of God and thus lead us towards our goal of atmano moksa and jagad hita.
That the explanations given here can serve this end can be verified by practice.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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