Bhakti - Love of God
Love of God
They labor hard and gather flowers and carry water pure. They adore the Lord in unfailing piety and at His shining Feet lay flowers and stand and pray, and, unto the rain-laden clouds, forever prosperous shall they be.
Tirumantiram 1839. Tm
Is Temple Worship Only for Beginners?
Temple worship is for all men and women at every level of spiritual development. Its meaning and experience deepen as we unfold spiritually through the stages of service, devotion, yoga and enlightened wisdom. Aum.
We never outgrow temple worship. It simply becomes more profound and meaningful as we progress through four spiritual levels.
In the charyā pāda, the stage of selfless service, we attend the temple because we have to, because it is expected of us.
In the kriyā pāda, the stage of worshipful sādhanas, we attend because we want to; our love of God is the motivation.
In the yoga pāda, we worship God internally, in the sanctum of the heart; yet even the yogi immersed in the superconscious depths of mind has not outgrown the temple. It is there—God’s home on the Earth plane—when the yogi returns to normal consciousness.
So perfect is the temple worship of those who have traversed the jñāna pāda that they themselves become worship’s object—living, moving temples. Yea, temple worship is never outgrown.
The Vedas give praise:
“Homage to Him who presides over all things, that which was and that which shall be; to whom alone belongs the heaven, to that all-powerful Brāhman be homage!
From Fullness He pours forth the full; the full spreads, merging with the full. We eagerly would know from whence He thus replenishes Himself.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
How Do Devotees Prepare for Worship?
We visit a Śiva temple after bathing, dressing in clean clothes and preparing an offering, which can be as simple as a few flowers or fruits. We bring the mind to the holy feet of the Deity even as preparations begin. Aum.
Visiting the home of God Śiva or of a God, the temple, is not without its trepidation, protocol and proper conduct, preceded by preparation that we administrate ourselves. Our worship is only as meaningful and effective as we make it.
Before we attend or conduct a pūjā, we should carefully bathe the body, rinse the mouth and dress in fresh clothing—sārīs for women and dhotīs or veshtis and shawls for men where this is the custom.
Throughout these preparations we may sing hymns or chant mantras or God’s holy names silently or aloud, taking care to keep the mind free from worldly matters. We then gather offerings for the Deity. If mealtime is near, we eat only after pūjā has been concluded.
Although the outer details of our worship are important, it is our inner feelings and thoughts, our love and devotion, which are the truest offering we can make.
The Vedas testify:
“The Gods, led by the spirit, honor faith in their worship. Faith is composed of the heart’s intention. Light comes through faith. Through faith men come to prayer, faith in the morning, faith at noon and at the setting of the sun. O faith, give us faith!” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
How Do Our Prayers Reach the Gods?
Through temple worship, the three worlds become open to one another, and the beings within them are able to communicate. By means of the mystical arts of pūjā, the worlds act in concert, and prayers are received. Aum.
The three worlds are connected when pūjā is performed and worship is begun. There are certain rites that can be performed to enable individuals to communicate directly with beings in the inner worlds.
Prayers are given and received in many ways.
Among the most intimate, personal forms of communication is the written prayer to the devas or to God. Burned in Agni’s sacred fire, it disintegrates in the physical world and quickly reforms in the astral world.
When a prayer is burned in a temple wherein this practice is consecrated, its astral image is received and read by the devas, and properly dispatched and answered, within the confines of our karmic pattern.
Prayers may also be conveyed by slowly, mentally enunciating the words, visualizing them rising up the spine, through the top of the head, reaching beyond to the feet of God.
The devas will not intervene unless asked. This is the inner law.
The Vedas avow:
“He shines forth at dawn like the sunlight, deploying the sacrifice in the manner of priests unfolding their prayerful thoughts. Agni, the God who knows well all the generations, visits the Gods as a messenger, most efficacious.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Do Śaivites Worship Only in Temples?
One can worship God anywhere and be in contact with the inner worlds—in the temple, in the home shrine and in the yogī’s contemplation. However, in the holy Śiva temple the three worlds most perfectly commune. Aum.
In the shrine room gather messengers of the Mahādeva being worshiped to hear the prayers of the devotee and carry them to their Master. The Gods can be worshiped anywhere when the proper sankalpa, preparation, has been performed.
God’s presence is everywhere, through everything, in everything, for Śiva is the creator of all things, the manifestor of time, form and the space between forms. Śiva is worshiped in the mind, in the heart, through the throat, in the head of the yogi locked in yoga.
So great is the power of worship, communion and communication with the centillion devas, that when a little bell is rung, a flame appears in the lamp, the vermilion spot is placed, the flower appears and is offered, God Śiva and the Gods are invoked.
Contemplating the aftermath of pūjā or abhiṣeka, we feel the sānnidhya or divine presence of Parāśaktī, tender motherly love, permeating to the outer walls around the temple.
The Vedas proclaim:
“Assemble all, with prayer to the Lord of Heaven, He is the One, the all-pervading, the guest of men. He, the ancient of days, abides in the present. Him, the One, the many follow on their path.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
What Is the Home Shrine’s Significance?
Every Śaivite maintains a home shrine. It is the most beautiful room in the house, an extension of the temple, the abode for Deities and devas, and a holy refuge for daily worship and meditation. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Every Śaivite home centers around the home shrine, a special room set aside and maintained to create a temple-like atmosphere in which we conduct pūjā, read scripture, perform sādhana, meditate, sing bhajana and do japa.
Here the presence of the Gods is always felt, and we remember them especially morning and evening and before meals, which we offer to them before we partake.
Worship traditionally begins before dawn, with the simple act of dedication for the coming day.
After a bath, morning pūjā is performed which includes the repetition of the Gāyatrī or other mantras and is followed by sādhanas given by one’s guru.
The form of home worship, ātmārtha pūjā, is simple:
the Deities are invoked and offerings are made. After the final āratī, or offering of the light, we supplicate them to bestow their grace on us, our family and all devotees.
Evening devotionals include a simple āratī, bhajana, meditation and reading of scripture, which carries one to lofty celestial realms during sleep.
The Āgamas affirm:
“Worship of one’s chosen Linga by anyone in their own home for divine protection is called ātmārtha puja" Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.
Yes, may the man who within his home pleases you all his days with songs and with offerings receive a rich reward, be loaded with your gifts! To him be happiness! This is our prayer.
Rig Veda 4.4.7. ve, 845
Aum. O terrestrial sphere! O sphere of space! O celestial sphere! Let us contemplate the splendor of the Solar Spirit, the Divine Creator. May He guide our minds.
Rig Veda (Gāyatri Mantra) 3.62.10. hp, 345
For you is my offering, to you I will pray, to you who are worthy of homage and worship. You, O God, are a spring in the desert for the man who is thirsty for you, O Ever-living.
Rig Veda 10.4.1. ve, 302
All that God does shall win our praise. We magnify His name with hymns, seeking boons from the Mighty.
Rig Veda 1.42.10. ve, 805
The rites of oblation, O lovers of truth, which the sages divined from the sacred verses, were variously expounded in the threefold Veda. Perform them with constant care. This is your path to the world of holy action.
Atharva Veda, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.2.1. ve, 414
Whatever the merit in any sacrifice, austerity, offering, pilgrimage or place, the merit of worship of the Śivaliṅga equals that merit multiplied by hundreds of thousands.
Kāraṇa Āgama 9. mt, 66
In the forenoon with a white garment, in midday with a red garment, with a yellow garment in the evening, and with any of them in the night, the worshiper, drawing the God near with the Sadyojāta Mantra, should cause Him to be firmly established by means of the Vāma Mantra and the Aghora Mantra.
Kāraṇa Āgama 269-270. mt, 186
First there should be purification of one’s self; secondly, purification of the site; thirdly, there should be the cleansing of the worship materials, fourthly, purification of the Linga; fifthly, purification of the mantras should be done. Thus there is the five-fold purification.
Kāraṇa Āgama 46. mt, 100
Even the incompetent, indeed, should worship, ending with the offering of sacrificial food, ending with light. He who daily does this shall obtain progress toward the Auspicious.
Kāraṇa Āgama 450. mt, 227
There is no difference between devotion and perfect knowledge. A person who is engrossed in devotion enjoys perpetual happiness. And perfect knowledge never descends in a vicious person averse to devotion.
Śiva Purāṇa, Rudra S. 23.16. ai, vol. i 380
He folded his hands in adoration and praised the Lord’s feet. His deep love melted in a stream, the flood from his eyes gushed out and spread over his body.
Periyapuranam 5.21.253. ps, 49
What has learning profited a man, if it has not led him to worship the good feet of Him who is pure knowledge itself? They alone dispel the mind’s distress who take refuge at the feet of the Incomparable One.
Thirukural 2, 7. ww
They who walk the twin paths of charyā and kriyā ever praise the twin feet of the Lord. They wear holy emblems—the twin rings in earlobes, the twin Rudrākṣa garland around the neck—and adopt the twin mudras, all in amiable constancy.
Tirumantiram 1423. tm
It is devotion to God, Śiva bhakti, alone that makes a man blessed. Everything else is useless. Therefore, without break, practice Śiva dhyāna. Do not be afraid of anything. Victory is yours! Body, soul, possessions—surrender all three to God. Thereafter give up everything that concerns yourself and see that all is He and He alone.
Natchintanai, “Śivabhakti.” NT, 7
Have faith in God. Believe in Him with all your heart. Think that in the world He is for you the sweetest of all sweet things.
Think that there is nothing other than God. Sitting or standing, walking or lying down, think of Him. Let the thought of Him permeate your nerves, flesh and blood.
Think that you are non-existent and that He alone exists. Let the aim of your life be to worship Him. What one thinks, that one becomes.
Have God in your heart and bring Him up there. Let all actions be His action. Finally all will be seen as He.
Natchintanai, “Let God Be...” NT, 7