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Rituals and Traditions

Q) What is the significance of rituals and puja in the Indian tradition?

Now! Rit­u­al has become a bad word. It is also being used by the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion to mock the pre­vi­ous one. Not tak­ing to any rit­u­als is a cool thing now. When we trace it back, a sim­ple exam­ple, the embryo for­ma­tion in the womb is some­thing like rit­u­al­ized form of the whole evo­lu­tion of the species. You under­stand what I am say­ing? It goes through all the steps but in a quick suc­ces­sion before com­ing out as an indi­vid­ual. So that is a rit­u­al­ized way of…that is like a his­tor­i­cal record in that short peri­od. If you observe that close­ly, you will be able to under­stand, how as a species we evolved from the uni­cel­lu­lar organ­ism. We will be able to under­stand that. So it is like a his­tor­i­cal record. That is a rit­u­al. A rit­u­al is a cap­tur­ing of some­thing very ancient, the first time how it hap­pened and how it has pro­ceed­ed and that is rit­u­al­ized. You under­stand? So that cap­tures, if you close­ly observe that, you will have the entire his­to­ry from the begin­ning to now. That is the sig­nif­i­cance of a rit­u­al.

So fire, agni, is a very pri­mor­dial rit­u­al. Fire, cam­phor, etc, also acts to enhance cer­tain qual­i­ties, they add dimen­sion­al­i­ties, where oth­er­wise it would be uni­di­men­sion­al. For exam­ple, you can just sit in med­i­ta­tion. But are you able to hold it just like that? See.. for some peo­ple, just hold­ing on to a thought might be easy, while for some oth­ers. It might be just impos­si­ble. Take learn­ing for instance. Some might learn through study­ing, some might learn through hear­ing and some learn by just doing. Some might learn through teach­ing oth­ers, some might learn through dif­fer­ent media. They need mul­ti-modal con­tent to learn. Like that, there are dif­fer­ent ways of approach, not one. You can­not say that only one approach is right. Sim­i­lar­ly, relat­ing to the deep­er aspects…more fun­da­men­tal aspects, there are var­i­ous ways in which peo­ple relate. So one of the most pow­er­ful ways is through rit­u­al and puja. You can relate through oth­er ways as well. But this is a very pow­er­ful way to relate — relate to the fun­da­men­tal Divin­i­ty.

Yes­ter­day we were look­ing into the qual­i­ties of well-being. One qual­i­ty is trans­for­ma­tion. So what hap­pens is, the rit­u­als or puja that we do is to take our prayers to Divine beings. Agni has the qual­i­ty of trans­form­ing what­ev­er we put into it. Agni is a very impor­tant part of a rit­u­al. Agni is called the trans­porter, or con­vey­or. So Agni digests every­thing we put into it, like ghee, etc. So every­thing we put into it, it trans­forms it into the pha­la, and it trans­ports it to the intend­ed Deity. These are actu­al stuff, not the­o­ret­i­cal. But it depends on the pow­er of per­son who per­forms the rit­u­al. That is why you will have so many rules and restric­tions for the peo­ple who do it. Like for exam­ple, Pujari, Puro­hi­ta, and so on. They need to be excep­tion­al­ly qual­i­fied.

Q) What about mantras and yantras? During every puja, we use these. What is their significance?

See now, we talk to each oth­er, using this form of lan­guage. When we need to con­vey infor­ma­tion or get infor­ma­tion — let’s say knowl­edge — what do we use to con­vey infor­ma­tion or get infor­ma­tion? That is how mantras and yantras work. Those are used to con­vey infor­ma­tion, a lot of com­pressed, con­densed infor­ma­tion. When you need to com­mu­ni­cate with the deep­er aspects of con­scious­ness, mantras and yantras pro­vide pow­er­ful pat­terns of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. But pri­mar­i­ly it is not just about that process, but also the trans­for­ma­tion of your con­scious­ness. Once that is trans­formed, you will be able to res­onate with that lev­el of real­i­ty, and hence be able to com­mu­ni­cate effec­tive­ly. For exam­ple, we com­mu­ni­cate with words, let’s say, I am a com­put­er sci­en­tist, you are an elec­tron­ics engi­neer, and I am talk­ing about oper­at­ing sys­tems. Even though you under­stand the Eng­lish words, will you be able to under­stand the knowl­edge or the deep­er aspects? You might not be able to relate with it, you will not be able to res­onate with it. So in order to res­onate with it, you need to progress. And then you will be able to res­onate with that lev­el of real­i­ty. So towards that mantras and yantras are very very impor­tant steps — for res­onat­ing with deep­er orders of real­i­ty.

Q) Does it have to be performed in a particular way?

No, you keep doing it, you hang on with it, over a peri­od of time, you will get it. See right now you might not under­stand oper­at­ing sys­tems. Does that mean you will not under­stand it for­ev­er? You hang out with that order of real­i­ty, you will get a hang of it, get a feel for it. Mas­tery is anoth­er ques­tion, but at least get­ting a feel for it, get­ting a hang of it, is def­i­nite­ly pos­si­ble.

Mantras emanat­ed from a deep state of med­i­ta­tion, from who­ev­er com­posed them. So each syl­la­ble has a sound then these syl­la­bles were put togeth­er as words and then we chant them but there are these fun­da­men­tal shab­da — the root words in Sam­skri­ta — Bija mantra, and when they are put togeth­er they give a mean­ing­ful word. But it is not about the mean­ing. It is about you res­onat­ing with it. It is not just about the mantra, var­i­ous aspects of the deity’s cre­ation also mat­ter – for exam­ple, the type of stone in which the deity is sculpt­ed, the vibra­tion with which we chant – every­thing is inter­linked. All this is done to cre­ate a cer­tain atmos­phere.

Each deity is cre­at­ed for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose, for exam­ple, peo­ple say Lak­sh­miye vendin­da, (if you invoke Lak­sh­mi) you will get a lot of mon­ey, wealth or pros­per­i­ty. If you invoke Saraswati, you will get edu­ca­tion, or Guru. Each has its own per­son­al­i­ty, how you relate with it and so on, there are so many aspects. It is very sim­ple, it is not very com­plex. You just need a heart!

Q) I am just trying to understand. Everything has a science behind it. So is this science experiential rather than intellectual?

Sci­ence, it is an expand­ed sci­ence. It is not lim­it­ed by the cur­rent sci­ence that we have. It is the­o­ret­i­cal also. That is called – let’s say Brah­ma jnana — Brah­ma jnana is the­o­ret­i­cal sci­ence. Sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge about the All. Brah­ma nish­ta is expe­ri­en­tial knowl­edge. Both are required. But intel­lec­tu­al does not mean just this lim­it­ed intel­lect. It is an expand­ed intel­lect. You can get into expan­sive states of intel­lect, where knowl­edge is revealed to you. All those are acces­si­ble. See we don’t know how to con­scious­ly uti­lize our brain. So if you learn how to, then you will see you can acti­vate so many aspects — unex­plored ter­ri­to­ries with­in your­self. It’s not fluke or ran­dom. It is just unex­plored. Because till now there has been no plat­form for explo­ration. That is why you need to take the effort, because this envi­ron­ment does not push you to it. It comes through inner pres­sure. You feel “What am I doing? It is not suf­fi­cient.” You feel a cer­tain pos­si­bil­i­ty, but some­how the envi­ron­ment is not suf­fi­cient for that. And hence you push your­selves deep­er and deep­er. That is called sad­hana. Basi­cal­ly it is about explor­ing your­self.

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