Though Hindus know deeply that the ultimate aim of their faith is to achieve unity with God, daily life and worship generally focus on more immediate results. Karma may take ages to play out, but the laws of cause and effect that are its foundation may also operate more quickly. Divine intervention works hand in hand with karma that is created by human behavior. Thus, worship is a path to enlightenment and simply setting forth on this path has its own validity. Progressing on the path to God is not only about reaching a destination. Making the journey earns merit in itself.
Hindu scriptures and customs consider a wide range of activities as worship: fulfillment of duty, prayer, pursuit of knowledge, honoring elders and teachers, tending to shrines in the home, visiting temples, going on pilgrimages, bathing in holy waters, practicing moderation, fasting, performing rituals, chanting, engaging in meditation and yoga, attending and participating in ceremonies, listening to preachers, performing classical dance, and so on. These activities are incorporated into secular life. Though none of them are singly defining, it is virtually certain that routine customs and occurrences will engage just about every Hindu in some overt forms of worship. Mindsets may differ regarding the value or effect of these variegated activities, but participating in some of them unavoidable.
The vast array of practices that make up worship in Hinduism may befuddle strangers to such rituals. Although most ritualistic acts and sacrifices have specific and generally known purposes, collectively their aim is to enhance the mind’s focus and thereby to extend consciousness. These ceremonies as well as actions undertaken in the name of God or goodness acknowledge and revere a power higher and greater than the power of the human mind or the human heart. Whatever form worship takes, be it worship of God or of another deity, worship in any form acknowledges the existence of something greater than humankind. Chapter four of the Gita, “The Sword of Knowledge,” explains:
A puja is a ceremony for God.
It is a sacrifice.
The puja is Brahma [God].
The fire which is part of the puja is Brahma.
The person who performs the puja is Brahma.
Brahma is God’s everlasting power.
We cannot see or hear or feel Brahma.
This excerpt is from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar. Learn more about the book at www.irinaspage.com