Meditation & Prayers
Puja is one of the most beautiful ways to bring out the devotee within oneself and establish a relationship with Ishwara, the Lord. Puja is called kayika karma, an action involving one's limbs. It also includes speech and mental action in the form of chanting and thinking of the Lord.
In a physical form of worship, such as a puja, there is a greater field of expression of one's devotion than it is possible in purely oral or mental forms of worship. The body, mind, and speech are all involved in a puja. The forms, colors, fragrances and sounds of the various items in worship arrest one's mind and aid in invoking devotion in oneself.
A puja is performed in order to express one's gratitude to for all one has been given in one's life. The very creation in which one is born is considered to be a gift of the Lord. The body-mind-sense complex is made of five basic elements: space, air, fire, water and earth which also constitute the creation. Through the sense perceptions backed by the mind one perceives the Lord's vast creation and appreciates his glories.
Traditionally, a form of worship with fivefold offering, is performed. This worship acknowledges the presence of the Lord and makes a simple offering of the five elements through a symbolic offering of pushpa, flowers; dhupa, incense; dipa, light; naivedya, food and gandha, sandalwood paste. These objects represent the elements space, air, fire, water and earth, respectively. Whether a puja is performed at home or in a temple, the essential steps are the same.
Prayer is the highest form of communication with the Lord, and can be offered in simple words or as an elaborate ritual. The modes of prayer may differ from person to person, but the attitude is fundamental to all. Prayer helps nurture one's special relationship to the Lord - the relationship of the created to the creator - by invoking the devotee in the person. Unlike the other relative roles one plays, the role of a devotee is non-demanding since the Lord seeks nothing from us. When one's relationship to the Lord becomes primary in life, other relationships become secondary and, thus, less problematic.
Prayer has its purpose in helping one achieve an object of desire, be it mental clarity or a given end. Ultimately, prayer helps one gain the maturity to be qualified recipient of spiritual knowledge. This knowledge teaches us our identity with the Lord and helps us discover freedom and happiness, the nature of oneself.