Basic Lessons on Hindu Dharma
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  Basic Lessons on Hindu Dharma ~ Level - 1  
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Chapter - 6:
An Introduction to Devotional Practice
 
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HR106 - 05
Essentials of Devotional Rituals of Prayers and Music
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Lesson: 6-05
Importance of Home Pooja Rituals and Prayers
Rules normally followed in Vedic Rituals and Pooja at Homes
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Devotional Prayers and Rituals in Daily practice of at Home
By (Late) - BeahmaSri Raja Rathna Bhattar,
(Past-Priest Emeritus, Sri Meenakshi Temple, Pearland, Texas, USA)
 
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All religions teach that prayers rituals are very important to get devotion to God. The religions or lands may vary but this belief of importance of prayers is stressed in all faiths. Our ancestors have given us the gift of the rules of community worship in a Temple for the welfare of the people of the community as a whole and the prosperity of the world. They have given us the rules of prayers at home as essential for the welfare of the individuals and their family. The basic and essential principle behind the prayer is the total surrender to God who fills the universe by His glory and is present everywhere and that without His command even an atom will not move.

The rules of prayer services in a Hindu Temple are given in the three Agamas and Upa-agamas. There are 28 Siva Agamas and several upa-agamas. Vaishnava Agamas are 5, including Pancharathram and Vaikanasam and have 108 Paththadhis. We do not need to study these Agamas to perform prayer [Pooja] at home. It is enough to accept the fact in a pure heart and mind, as given to us by our ancestors that God is present everywhere in every form and He will accept every kind of our prayers. Our Puranas explain in many stories that God accepts and blesses everyone who prays not only humans but also animals and birds.

As an example, there is a story in Mahabharatha. Arjuna was performing regularly pooja for Athma lingam, but his brother were not doing the same. He felt very proud of his devotional worship to God. As Sri Krishna wanted to control his ego, took him to Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva. The Arjuna saw large number of baskets of flowers being carried by the Boothaganas. When Arjuna asked Sri Krishna about it, He asked Arjuna to check himself with those carrying the flowers. He stopped one of them asked about it. He got the reply that one of the Pancha Pandavas named Bheema who has been offering these flowers in a pure heart to the lord which they are carrying.

Arjuna asked Sri Krishna that if the pure heart flowers of Bheema who does not ever sit down to worship is this much, how much will it be for his own Athmalinga pooja which is performed every day. Sri Krishna asked the Bhoothagana to show Arjuna his portion of the flowers offered. They showed a small mound of flowers lying in one corner. Arjuna asked Sri Krishna to explain this disparity. Sri Krishna explained that, Bheema is thinking of God at all times and whenever he sees a flower garden, he mentally offers all the flowers to Siva as his offering and so it reaches Siva the very next moment. Thus, Sri Krishna explains the Inner self pooja called antharyagam.

It is not necessary to learn all the rules and sasthras of an eloborate pooja before performing one. As an example, an illiterate hunter, Sri Kannappa Nayanar saw the Divine after three days of prayer. A young boy Nambiyandar Nambi, while his priest father had gone out of town performed pooja in his place at the Temple and had the Darsan of God on the same day. By understanding these puranas, we should always allot few minutes of time to perform pooja without any fear that God may punish us if we do the pooja improperly.

However, it is always good to learn proper methods to perform the pooja, even a simple and short one, just like any science or art. Puranas say that in Kali Yuga, Prabaththi path is the important way. In Samskrit, prabaththi is explained as Pooja. We have puranas which explain how an elephant prayer "Aathimoolam" -- with a flower was saved and the hunter who was saved from a tiger on Sivarathri day by reaching a Bilva tree. These tell us that pooja and prayer to God is essential.

Performing pooja everyday at least for a few minutes leads one to develop inner purity and peace. One can perform this pooja in a short way or in an elaborate way. This is called "Anmaartha Pooja" in the Vedas. One method is to get religious order [Samayadheeksha] from a learned Guru to perform pooja for Sivalinga or Salagrama elaborately according to Sasthras. Another simpler method is to perform pooja for a Moorthy as a picture or to a Deepa as lamp. Both the above method are of equal value.

 
 

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Prayer Slokas on Guru - as Thirumoorthi
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Guru Brahma Gurur Vishnuhu Guru Devoo Maheswaraha |
Guru Saakshaath Para Brahma Tasmai Sree Gurave' Namaha ||
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Lessons: - :~: 6-01 :~: 6-02 :~: 6-03 :~: 6-04 :~: 6-05 :~: 6-06 :~: 6-07 :~: 6-08 :~: : 6-09 :~:
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