5. Niyama - Worship | Īśvarapūjana
Summary of the Fifth Observance
Cultivate devotion through daily worship and meditation.
Set aside one room of your home as God’s shrine.
Offer fruit, flowers or food daily.
Learn a simple pūjā and the chants. Meditate after each pūjā.
Visit your shrine before and after leaving the house.
Worship in heartfelt devotion, clearing the inner channels to God, Devas and guru so their grace flows toward you and loved ones.
The Fifth Observance
Īśvarapūjana / ईश्वरपूजन
Worship, Īśvarapūjana, is the fifth niyama.
Let us declare, in the last analysis, that human life is either worship or warship, higher nature or lower nature. We need say no more. But we will.
The brief explanation for Īśvarapūjana is to cultivate devotion through daily worship and meditation. The soul’s evolution from its conception is based solely on Īśvarapūjana, the return to the source:
In the irul pāda, the stage of darkness, its return to the source is more imminent than actual. The burning desire is there, driven by the instinctive feelings and emotions of living within the seven chakras below the Mūlādhāra.
There is a natural seeking on the way up. People here will worship almost anything to get out of this predicament:
Bound in blind faith, with the absence of a coherent intellect guided by reason, and the absence of a matured intellect developed by superconscious experience, they struggle out of their shell of ignorance, through worship, to a better life:
The small thread of intuition keeps assuring them it is there, within their reach if they but strive. They call God, they fear God, seek to be close to Him and see Him as oh-so-far away.
When they are matured and stepping into adolescence in the marul pāda, where confusion prevails, worship and the trappings and traditions that go with it seem to be primitive, unreasonable and can all well be dispensed with:
It is here that a young lady looks into the mirror and says, “What a fine person! I am more beautiful than all the other girls I know.” A young man may likewise be conceited about his looks or physique:
Worship still exists, but is tied closely to narcissism.
It is only in the stage of grace, arul, and on its doorstep that true worship arises, which is invoking and opening up to the great beings, God and devas, in order to commune with them.
Faith, āstikya, creates the attitudes for the action of worship:
We can see that from the soul’s conception to its fullness of maturity into the final merger with God Śiva Himself, worship, communication, looking up, blending with, is truly monistic Śaiva Siddhāṅta, the final conclusions for all mankind.
Worship could be defined as communication on a very high level:
a truly sophisticated form of “channelling,” as New-Age people might say; clairvoyant or clairaudient experience, as mystics would describe it; or heart-felt love interchanged between Deity and devotee, as the ordinary person would describe it.
Worship for the Hindu is on many levels and of many kinds:
At home, children worship their father and mother as God and Goddess because they love them. The husband worships his wife as a Goddess. The wife worships her husband as a god.
In the shrine room, the entire family together worships icons of Gods, Goddesses and saints, beseeching them as their dear friends. The family goes to the temple daily, or at least once a week, attends seasonal festivals and takes a far-of pilgrimage once a year.
Worship is the binding force that keeps the Hindu family together.
On a deeper level, external worship is internalized, worshiping God within through meditation and contemplation. This form of worship leads into yoga and profound mystical experiences.
Rites of Worship
Many people are afraid to do pūjā, specific, traditional rites of worship, because they feel they don’t have enough training or don’t understand the mystical principles behind it well enough.
Most Hindus depend on the priests to perform the pūjās and sacraments for them, or to train them to perform home pūjā and give them permission to do so through initiation, called dīkṣā.
However, simple pūjās may be performed by anyone wishing to invoke grace from God, Mahādevas and devas.
Love and dedication and the outpouring from the highest chakras of spiritual energies of the lay devotee are often greater than any professional priest could summon within himself.
Devotees of this calibre have come up in Hindu society throughout the ages with natural powers to invoke the Gods and manifest in the lives of temple devotees many wondrous miracles.
There is also an informal order of priests called paṇḍara, which is essentially the self-appointed priest who is accepted by the community to perform pūjās at a sacred tree, a simple shrine or an abandoned temple:
He may start with the mantra Aum and learn a few more mantras as he goes along. His efficaciousness can equal that of the most advanced Sanskrit śāstrī, performing in the grandest temple.
Mothers, daughters, aunts, fathers, sons, uncles, all may perform pūjā within their own home, and do, as the Hindu home is considered to be nothing less than an extension of the nearby temple. In the Hindu religion there is no one who stands between man and God.
Years ago, in the late 1950s, I taught beginning seekers how to offer the minimal, simplest form of pūjā at a simple altar with fresh water, flowers, a small candle, incense, a bell and a stone.
This brings together the four elements, earth, air, fire and water—and your own mind is ākāśa, the fifth element. The liturgy is simply chanting “Aum.”
This is the generic pūjā which anyone can do before proper initiation comes from the right sources. People of any religion can perform Hindu pūjā in this way.
All Hindus have guardian devas who live on the astral plane and guide, guard and protect their lives. The great Mahādevas in the temple that the devotees frequent send their deva ambassadors into the homes to live with the devotees.
A room is set aside for these permanent unseen guests, a room that the whole family can enter and sit in and commune inwardly with these refined beings who are dedicated to protecting the family generation after generation. Some of them are their own ancestors.
A token shrine in a bedroom or a closet or a niche in a kitchen is not enough to attract these Divinities:
One would not host an honoured guest in one’s closet or have him or her to sleep in the kitchen and expect the guest to feel welcome, appreciated, loved.
All Hindus are taught from childhood that the guest is God, and they treat any guest royally who comes to visit. Hindus also treat God as God and devas as Gods when they come to live permanently in the home.
But liberal sects of Hinduism teach that god and devas are only figments of one’s imagination. These sects are responsible for producing a more materialistic and superficial group of followers.
Not so the deep, mystical Hindu, who dedicates his home to God and sets a room aside for God. To him and the family, they are moving into God’s house and living with God.
Materialistic, superficial Hindus feel that God might be living, sometimes, maybe, in their house. Their homes are fraught with confusion, deceptive dealings, back-biting, anger, even rage, and their marriages nowadays often end in divorce.
They and all those who live in the lower nature are restricted from performing pūjā, because when and if they do pūjā, the invocation calls up the demons rather than calling down the devas.
The āsuric beings invoked into the home by angry people, and into the temple by angry priests, or by contentious, argumentative, sometimes rageful boards of directors, take great satisfaction in creating more confusion and escalating simple misunderstandings into arguments leading to angry words, hurt feelings and more.
With this in mind, once anger is experienced, thirty-one days should pass to close the door on the chakras below the Mūlādhāra before pūjā may again be performed by that individual.
Simple waving of incense before the icons is permissible, but not the passing of fames, ringing of bells or the chanting of any mantra, other than the simple recitation of Aum.
Living in God’s Home
The ideal of Īśvarapūjana, worship, is to always be living with God, living with Śiva, in God’s house, which is also your house, and regularly going to God’s temple. This lays the foundation for finding God within.
How can someone find God within if he doesn’t live in God’s house as a companion to god in his daily life? The answer is obvious. It would only be a theoretical pretence, based mainly on egoism.
If one really believes that God is in his house, what kinds of attitudes does this create?
First of all, since family life is based around food, the family would feed God in His own room at least three times a day, place the food lovingly before His picture, leave, close the door and let God and His devas eat in peace.
God and the devas do enjoy the food, but they do so by absorbing the prāṇas, the energies, of the food. When the meal is over, and after the family has eaten, God’s plates are picked up, too. What is left on God’s plate is eaten as prasāda, as a blessing.
God should be served as much as the hungriest member of the family, not just a token amount.
Of course, God, Gods and the devas do not always remain in the shrine room. They wander freely throughout the house, listening to and observing the entire family, guests and friends.
Since the family is living in God’s house, and God is not living in their house, the voice of God is easily heard as their conscience.
When we are living in God’s house, it is easy to see God as pure energy and life within every living form, the trees, the flowers, the plants, the fire, the Earth, humans, animals and all creatures. When we see this life, which is manifest most in living beings, we are seeing God Śiva.
Many families are too selfish to set aside a room for God:
Tough they have their personal libraries, rumpus rooms, two living rooms, multiple bedrooms, their superficial religion borders on a new Indian religion:
Their shrine is a closet, or pictures of God and Goddesses on the vanity mirror of their dressing table. The results of such worship are nil, and their life reflects the chaos that we see in the world today.
The psychology and the decision and the religion is, “Do we live with God, or does God occasionally visit us?” Who is the authority in the home, an unreligious, ignorant, domineering elder?
Or is it God Śiva Himself, or Lord Murugan or Lord Gaṇeśa, whom the entire family, including elders, bow down to because they have resigned themselves to the fact that they are living in the āśrama of Mahādevas? This is religion. This is Īśvarapūjana.
It is often said that worship is not only a performance at a certain time of day in a certain place, but a state of being in which every act, morning to night, is done in Śiva consciousness, in which life becomes an offering to God. Then we can begin to see Śiva in everyone we meet.
When we try, just try—and we don’t have to be successful all the time—to separate the life of the individual from his personality,
immediately we are in higher consciousness and can reflect contentment and faith, compassion, steadfastness and all the higher qualities, which is sometimes not possible to do if we are only looking at the external person.
This practice, of Īśvarapūjana sādhana, can be performed all through the day and even in one’s dreams at night.
Meditation, too, in the Hindu way is based on worship.
It is true that Hindus do teach meditation techniques to those who have Western backgrounds as a mind-manipulative experience.
However, a Hindu adept, Ṛishi or jñāni, even an experienced elder, knows that meditation is a natural out- growth of the charyā, kriyā and yoga paths. It is based on a religious foundation, as trigonometry is based on geometry, algebra and arithmetic.
If you are worshiping properly, if you take worship to its pinnacle, you are in perfect meditation.
We have seen many devotees going through the form of worship with no communication with the God they are worshiping or even the stone that the God uses as a temporary body. They don’t even have a smile on their face.
They are going through the motions because they have been taught that meditation is the ultimate, and worship can be dispensed with after a certain time.
Small wonder that when they are in meditation, their minds are confused and subconscious overloads harass them. Breathing is irregular, and if made regular has to be forced.
Their materialistic outlook on life—of seeing God everywhere, yet not in those places they rationalize God can never possibly be — contradicts their professed dedication to the Hindu way of life.
Yes, truly, worship unreservedly! Perfect this! Then, after initiation, internalize that worship through yoga practices given by a satguru. Trough that same internal worship, unreservedly, you will eventually attain the highest goal.