From the delicate and intricate blossoming of a flower to the movement of the planets around the Sun, the universe is full of miracles and wonders. And behind it all is the unseen hand, a higher power that is taking care of us and providing us with all we need in life. When we contemplate this then our heart is full of gratitude. Expressing this gratitude to the divine in the form of a sacred ritual is Puja. The meaning is in the name, Puja, which translates as ‘that which is born out of fullness.’ In the act of offering to the divine, we honour and reciprocate the love we have received from nature.
Pujas have been performed since the time of the Rishis, often in temples or on specific occasions such as festivals, weddings, the birth of a new baby or at the beginning of new ventures. They have the power to nullify, pacify, enhance or support planetary placements and can help in overcoming difficult periods. But Puja’s need not be confined to temples and festivals – a simple Puja ritual can also be done at home. Doing this innocently, playfully and attentively allows us to connect with our inner world and to honor the divine, offering our gratitude to the whole creation!
Honor the Higher Power with a Simple Puja
A simple way to conduct a Puja is by offering each of the five elements. Our bodies, the world, the entire universe is made up of five elements. In our Puja we offer back to the divine what has been given to us, recognising the sacredness of each element and our connection with the whole creation. You can follow these simple steps to conduct your own Puja at home.
1. Create your sacred space – define a quiet space in your home where you can set up your Puja. You can use a small table and decorate it in a way that resonates with you. If you wish you can have an image or murti (consecrated statue) of Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles, in front of you. Place a small offering plate on the table. If you have a small metal plate at home you can use that, otherwise any small plate is fine – keep this plate, and a small spoon, only for use in your Pujas. Have your Puja items and samagri (ingredients) ready, including a small pot of water, washed fruits, flowers, sandalwood paste, an incense stick, matches and a lamp or candle.
2. Choose the right time – the best time to perform Puja is in the morning during the sattvic (pure) hours, just after sunrise. At this time of day the mind is clear, calm and more receptive. You can also perform Puja later in the day, but always before eating food. Before performing Puja, purify your body by taking a bath or shower and wear fresh clothes.
3. Silence the mind – sit silently and meditate for a few minutes to calm the mind and bring it to the present moment. Puja is an expression of an expanded consciousness. Be grateful for all you have. If you wish, you can set a sankalpa (intention).
4. Offer the five elements – with full awareness, offer the five elements, one by one. Start by lighting a lamp or candle, with a sense that you are offering the fire element to the divine. The fire element can be used for purification, and Lord Agni, the God of Fire, acts as the transporter of our wishes, desires and prayers to the divine. As you light the lamp, you can connect with or pray to your chosen deity, and ask for light and wisdom to be brought into your life.
Next, offer water and fruits for the water element. Use the spoon to pour a little water onto your right hand and then offer it from your hand into the offering plate. Place some fruits, also representing water, on the offering plate. Almost 70% of our bodies, and planet earth, are made up of water. Water cleanses the environment. As you offer it, do so with a sense of sacredness.
The earth element keeps us grounded, stable and balanced in life. To offer the earth element, if you have an image or murti of a deity, you can apply chandan (sandalwood paste) on their forehead using your finger. You can also put a dot on your agni chakra (third eye) in the centre of your forehead – this has a cooling effect on the mind.
Then, light an incense stick for the air element. This purifies the environment. The air element represents growth and is associated with happiness.
Finally, offer the space element by placing a few flowers into the offering plate. Flowers can be used in Puja to represent the ether, or space, element, which is the mother of all elements – the others can’t exist without it. The space element influences the mind and the heart.
Conduct your Puja with a sense of honor and sacredness – stay centred and grateful to the divine. After making your offerings sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes.
“All the five elements remind you that there is consciousness that creates orderliness. Anything that points towards something big, something that is inexpressible, something that is intangible, truth that is beyond all expressions, is expressed in the five elements.”
– Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar