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.