- 1. Ritualistic worship of God (puja)
- 2. Going to temples or places of worship
- 3. Following family traditions of spiritual practice (kulachar)
- 4. Obeisance to the village deity (gramadevata)
If one does not have a temple at home or if there are no photographs or idols of the family deity and Lord Ganesh then they should be duly brought and installed in a temple at home. The deities should be arranged in the temple in the following manner: Lord Ganapati in the centre with the photographs or the idols of the male family deity and other male deities, e.g. Hanuman, Balkrushna, to His right and the female family deity and other female deities, e.g. Annapurna, to His left. In some pictures the female deity is depicted along with the male deity, e.g. Sitaram, Lakshminarayan, etc. Whenever She is depicted to the left of the male deity She bestows blessings onto devotees along with Her master. The left side symbolises the moon channel (chandranadi) and endows Serenity and Bliss. This is the saviour form of the female deity. In such photographs the male deity is considered as the main one and the picture is placed to the right of Lord Ganapati. In some pictures the female deity is depicted to the right of the male deity. The right side signifies the sun channel (suryanadi). Thus the deity is believed to be very powerful. This is the destroyer form of the female deity. The holy text Kalivilastantra narrates that deity Kali performs a dance on the chest of Lord Shiva. Here the female deity is more prominent than Her male counterpart. To conclude, when the female deity is to the right of the male deity She possesses more energy and should be considered as the principal deity. Hence such a picture is placed to the left of Lord Ganapati. One should keep the picture of the saviour or the destroyer form of the deity for the ritualistic worship as per one’s wish to undertake spiritual practice of that form. If a person having a Guru resides alone then he should keep only his Guru’s picture / photograph in the temple. If there are other family members then the Guru’s picture / photograph should be placed to the right of Lord Ganapati and should be followed by the male family deity’s photograph. Photographs or idols of the female family deity or other female deities should be placed to the left of Ganapati.
If one is not performing any ritualistic worship (puja) presently, then the method of doing so stepwise in the appropriate way is as follows.
- A. Everyday the deities and the temple should be wiped with a cloth and two incense sticks should be lit in the morning as wells as in the evening.
- B. Removing the previous day’s withered flowers and leaves (nirmalya) the deities should be wiped with a cloth. After offering flowers, incense sticks should be lit and waved in a clockwise motion. Then two wicks should be rolled into one and placed in a lamp containing clarified butter (ghee). The lit lamp should then be moved in a circular motion (arti) in the clockwise direction.
- C. The idols should be bathed and the photographs wiped first with a wet and then with a dry cloth. Then sandalwood paste (gandha) should be applied to the deities and unbroken consecrated rice grains (akshata), flowers, turmeric and vermillion (kumkum) should be offered. This should be followed by lighting one incense stick and moving a lit lamp in a clockwise motion (arti). Finally, an offering of food (naivedya) should be made and one should pray for success in one’s spiritual practice.
‘द्रष्टा दृश्यवशात् बद्ध: । दृश्याभावात् विमुच्ञते ।’ meaning the embodied soul (jiva, drashta) is bound by the view of external objects. In absence of the view it is free; for instance the embodied soul feels like eating a favourite dish so long as the food item is in its view. It is not so at other times. It is exposed to different scenes all the time. Then, when will the scenes cease? If we say that this will happen only during dissolution (pralay) of the universe, then the cessation of scenes will be meaningless as the embodied soul too will be dissolved at that time. According to the Vedanta the origin of external objects lies in the viewer. Then is there no way of liberating the embodied soul? There certainly is. The embodied soul has only one path available to acquire Liberation. It is to place before the viewer such a composite structure of scenes, that his very bondage to them will assist his Liberation. This means that his attitude (vrutti) will transgress from tama to raja and from raja to sattva. Such scenes which will liberate the viewer from the bondage are those of temples or places of worship. Discourses (pravachans and kirtans), singing the glory of the birth and mission of incarnations of The Lord and His divine play as also those of His devotees take place here. Upon hearing (shravan) these, contemplation (manan) occurs leading to intense yearning (nididhyas), culminating in Self-realisation (Atmasakshatkar).’ - H.H. Kane Maharaj, Narayangaon, Pune district, Maharashtra
One should go to the temple or place of worship to pay obeisance and should offer prayers atleast once a week in the beginning and everyday later on, so that one’s spiritual practice continues smoothly with the grace of The Lord.
Initially, one should circumambulate once and later on, several times depending on the deity of worship, for instance male deities in even numbers and female deities in odd numbers. Additional information on why cirmcumambulation for male deities such as Ganapati and Hanuman is done in odd numbers like twenty-one and five respectively is provided in ‘Science of Spirituality : Vol. 5 - Path of Devotion (Bhaktiyoga)’.
Since repeating (chanting) The Lord’s Name occurs at its best in a temple due to the sattvik (sattva predominant) environment one should chant atleast one round of the rosary (mala) there.
If the temple of one’s deity of worship (aradhyadevata) is not in the vicinity, then one should visit the temple of any other male deity instead of one’s male deity of worship or any other female deity instead of one’s female deity of worship and offer obeisance to it with the spiritual emotion that it is the very form of one’s deity of worship.
One should follow the family traditions of spiritual practice meticulously, for instance if Ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratra or any other festival is celebrated in the family then it should be continued. If it is customary to offer ‘oti’ (offering of coconuts and a piece of cloth) at the annual festival of a female deity, the practice should be continued. If the temple of the family deity is far, then one should go and pay obeisance to it at least once a year. If it is in the vicinity then one should pay obeisance to it more often.
Some people remember the village deity only once a year during its annual festival and the rest of the year, leave it to the priest or the non-Brahman priest of the temple. This is incorrect. The village deity is responsible for protecting all the villagers. Hence it is important to go to its temple and pay obeisance regularly.
Reference: ‘Introduction to Spirituality’, published by Sanatan Sanstha.