SIXTEEN STEPS IN WORSHIP (SHODASHOPACHARA PUJA)
Author: Shivashankar Rao (Bangalore, India)
Our aims in life are four fold Dharma, Artha, Kaama and Moksha. Dharma or good conduct consists of 10 attributes.
Firmness, Forgiveness, Control on senses, Rejection of others wealth, Cleanliness, Education, Truthfulness, Hatred to none, Courage and Development of personality.
Desire under limits is good.
Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths is related to sanyasins. Householders need samskaras and worship.
Concentrating on a shape representing God helps in controlling the unstable mind. We do not worship idols as god. The idol is akin to the photograph which brings to our mind the person thereof.
We invoke God into the idol and invite Him with zeal and enthusiasm as we do to our friend or relative. After welcoming him, we offer a seat, water to wash his hands and feet, bathe him, apply perfume, garland with flowers, light an incense stick, offer something to eat etc., These provide our mind happiness, satisfaction and tranquility.
The first step is lighting the lamps.
To the right is a lamp with the wick dipped in ghee and to the left with its wick dipped in oil. Medical opinion suggests that the odour emitted by these lamps has beneficial effects on the lungs.
The second step is ringing the bell.
The sound waves that emanate are auspicious and arrest the external noises disturbing the mind and draw its attention to concentrate with devotion. Blowing of conch also serves the same purpose. These sounds are considered symbolic to OM.
. the use of flowers, Tulsi, Bilva leaves etc.,
The fragrance of these has been found to be beneficial to our health. The use of Tulsi in particular has been explained in detail in Indian Express dated 18th May 1978.
So also about the fragrance of flowers (Indian Express dt.29th Aug 1977)
This involves bathing the idol with milk, curds, ghee, honey, sugar, banana, tender coconut water etc., in addition to pure water. We use the run off of these as theertha and consume it. Each one of these has useful elements for improving health. The potassium in banana and coconut water help fight cancer and also good for heart.
Abhisheka is performed on saligrama, shivalinga and other idols made out of metallic alloys called panchaloha which generally contains gold, copper, iron and brass. The medical properties of these metals add up into the theertha.
The saligrama and shivalinga found in Gandaki and Narmada rivers contain silica and calcium which when brought into contact with water etc., reportedly emanate electro magnetic radiations considered to be helpful for the optic nerves.
That is the reason to bring the saligrama and shivalinga to touch the eyes after the abhisheka.
Examples of medicinal effects of these metals can also be seen in our practice of eating from silver plates, wearing golden ring in our right hand, drinking water stored in copper vessels etc.,
Each flower has a special property:
Examples: Jasmine- keeps body warm and reduces flem.
Sampige (Michaela Champak) Anti gas formant, improves fecundity.
Jaaji- cures eye diseases.
Kanagale- removes impurities in blood.
Nandbattalu – good for eyes.
Also, while worshipping with Tulsi, we inhale the aroma that helps in improving general health.
Naivedya (offer of food to God)
We offer a little food to God and then partake it ourselves.
This normally consists of coconut and bananas along with others. Coconut and banana are the only items which grow without any one’s saliva mixed.
The kernel and the water of coconut are used in the preparation of several ayurvedic medicines.
Towards the end of the worship, we go round ourselves imagining God in the centre. This implies that all our actions should be centered on god. Another significant factor to note is that while going round ourselves, we are saluting the God within us.
Language of worship:-
Why Sanskrit? is a usual question.
The procedure for worship and the mantras were handed over to us by the Rishis. When it is adopted in the same manner and language, a serene atmosphere develops.
Translations cannot have the same effect. However, one should know the meaning.
At the beginning of the worship, we invoke God into several organs of our body. Ultimately, we should feel that we have attained it. It is relevant to recall that Shree Ramakrishna Paramahamsa while worshipping the deity would worship himself ultimately. To reach that stage is the aim of worship. i.e., to feel oneness with the universe