Ideals and Values/Performance of Worship
How do we worship Bhagavān?
There are four major ways in which we can do worship of Bhagavān.
What is Japa?
Bhagavān has thousands of beautiful names. Every name of Bhagavān has a beautiful meaning. Some Hindus like to repeat names of Bhagavān with a lot of bhakti (love) because it makes them feel closer to Bhagavān. Many other Hindus like to repeat the Gayatri Mantra or some other prayer many times. Repeating the names of Bhagavān or repeating a mantra many times is called Japa. Some birds like the parrot can also repeat words that it hears from humans. But if a parrot says, "Rāma, Rāma, Rāma, Rāma, Rāma, will you say that the parrot is doing a 'japa'? No, because the parrot does not understand the meaning of the name Rama. Does the parrot have any bhakti towards Bhagavān? We do not know, because the parrot cannot speak to us and we cannot speak to a parrot. This means, that whenever we do a Japa, we should understand the meaning of what we are saying. Also, we should do the japa with a lot of bhakti. It can become very difficult to know how many times you have chanted the name. To help you count the number of times that we have chanted the name or the Mantra, we can use a Japa-Maalaa.
The Japa-Maala is a string of 108 beads. The 108th bead of the Japa-Maalaa is different from the other beads. We hold the Japa-Maalaa with the help of our thumb, and our first finger, we can use other fingers too. Then, we start the Japa. Every time we chant once, we rotate the Japa-Maalaa by one bead. When you have chanted 108 times and reach the 108th bead, your finger will come to know that it is touching the bead which is different from others. Then, you turn around the string and start chanting again 108 times till you reach the 108th bead. Below are some pictures of a Japa-Maalaa.
What is Pūjā?
In Pūjā, we sit in front of a murti of Bhagavān in our home or in a mandir. Then, we respectfully offer flowers, water and fruit and cooked food to the murti. Then we do a Namaste to the murti and do Japa of some mantras. We end the puja with an Ārati. We wave a plate with a lamp around the Murti, ring bells and sing mantras. The picture on the left shows a woman doing an Ārati to a murti of Bhagavān Ganesha in her pūjā.
If we need help from Bhagavān, we speak to the murti. Sometimes, some people are very sad. They can even cry in front of the murti during the pūjā because Bhagavān will listen to us. But if we are not sad, we should do the pūjā with a smile on our face.
Before we do the pūjā, we should take a shower and wear clean clothes. We should not go with a dirty body and clothes in front of the murti. We should make sure that the place is quiet. If there is loud music in that room, we should switch off the music player. When we are doing the pūjā, we should just think of Bhagavān. Do not think about your friends, toys or food. We should try to do pūjā with our family - with our parents, sisters, brothers, children, grandparents. But if they are not present or if we want to talk to Bhagavān in secret, we can do it alone also. The picture on the right shows a family doing pūjā.
What is Yogā?
In Yogā, we close our eyes and think only about Bhagavān in our mind and in our heart. When we do Yoga, we should sit in a quiet place which is not too cold, and not too hot. We should not think of toys, friends, school, pets or anything else. We should think only about Bhagavān. Also, we should breathe slowly and steadily.
When we do Yoga regularly, we become healthier and do not fall sick easily. We do not get sad or angry easily. If we do Yoga every day, we will find it easier to focus on our studies. Yoga makes us more intelligent and wise. It brings happiness in our heart, and we come closer to Bhagavān.
What is Yajna?
The fourth way of worshiping Bhagavān is doing a Yajna. A Yajna is a Hindu worship ceremony in which the worshipers and several priests gather around a pit (kunda) in which a fire is lit. Mantras are chanted by the priests. Ghee, grains, herbs and other items are offered into the fire at the same time. Hindus believe that Agni Devatā, who commands fire, takes these offerings from the yajna to the Devatās in heaven.
One way to understand this is that when we deposit money in our account in the USA, the bank, wires or transfers it to India and a family member can withdraw it from there. Agni plays the role of the bank that wires the offerings of the yajna from earth to heaven. A very important Devatā who is worshiped in the yajna is "Prajāpati". Most Hindus believe that Prajapati is the same person as Brahmā. The materials that we put into the kunda while doing the yajna make the air pure. When we breathe this pure air, it makes us healthier. People with problems like Asthma feel better when the do the Yajna. Some Hindus also believe that doing a yajna brings more rainfall.
Spiritual Benefits of Worshiping Bhagavān
Worshiping Bhagavān is a great aid in becoming a good human being. Hindu scriptures declare that we can overpower our bad behaviors with the help of prayers Just as strong winds scatters dust from the earth and clouds in the sky, in the same manner, my evils are pushed away far from me by prayers and by God.
Non-religious Benefits of Worshiping Bhagavān
Many Scientific studies show that worshiping and praying have many non-religious benefits on us as well. Some of these are listed below:
- It can prevent and reverse physical diseases like dementia.
- It strengthens our mind, and improves our mental abilities like memory.
- Helps fight negative emotions.
- People who worship have a longer life-span and are generally happier.
- Improves immunity to diseases.
- Helps reduce stress.
- Enhances our ability to show and experience love and compassion.
Notes & References
- Atharvaveda 10.1.13