Worshipping ought to be a personal experience. At the philosophical level, the object of worship is worship
itself. Nothing is sought as the end result. However, in order to reach that advanced level, we need to begin and practice praying systematically so that our faith in the Supreme Being is gradually strengthened. To start with,
the object of our prayer may be that the Almighty grant us the wisdom to enhance our faith in Him so that we may make a deeper commitment as bhaktas (devotees). Faith is the critical element without which any ritual or religious practice is meaningless. To those who engage in worship of an ishtadevata (Godhead of one's choice),
Krishna has an unambiguous warning that is essential for us to note. The message is found in verse 28 of Chapter 17 (Shraddhatraya Vibhaga Yoga) in the Gita.
Ashraddhayau hutarn dattam thapastaptham
asad ithyuchyathe Paurttha na cha thath pretya
Whatever is sacrificed, offered or performed and
whatever austerity is practiced without faith,
it is falsehood, 0 Arjuna. And, further, it is of no
value either here or hereafter.
We cannot sufficiently emphasize the powerful suggestion that is so easily and so often ignored.
Krishna's warning is that we should never engage in a puja ceremony or any other ritual if our heart and mind
are not singularly devoted to it. It should not be performed merely because it is the family tradition or it is the "right thing" to do or to satisfy someone else. The best reason is the most direct and simple reason and that is to surrender to God to seek His protection and pray
for inner peace from the eternal conflicts that afflict humanity. Let us simply resolve to pray to Him to grant us the wisdom to have faith in Him and with that faith seek His infinite grace so that we can live a dhaarmic life full of joy and freedom as we serve Him and the
society at large.
With faith as foundation, we can begin to develop the practice of worshipping a God/Goddess of our choice. However we need to understand and follow a systematic procedure. Further we need to create an environment in order to immerse ourselves in bhakti. This is precisely the logic in having puja rooms in Hindu households. In the United States and Canada, a new generation of Hindus is growing
up and they need some assistance in learning the methods appropriate to their own framework so that they can perform pujas in the privacy of their homes or apartments. A series of these Puja booklets, with Sanskrit transliterations and English translations, are being published to fill this need. These "How to Conduct ... " booklets cover all major
Hindu festivals with worships to the Sun God Soorya
(Makarasankranti), Shiva (Shivaratri), Rama (Sriramanavami), Krishna (janmashtami), Ganapati (Chaturthi), Durga (Vijayadashami),
Saraswati (Vasanth Panchami and Navaratri), and Mahalakshmi (Diwali). Each booklet begins with an introduction that provides the background in regard to the particular God/Goddess, and includes
a step-by-step procedure to prepare an altar, a list of materials needed, preliminary prayers, the worship and conclusion. Thus Hindu youngsters may be able to plan a whole year of festivities,
perform the pujas as and build their own tradition.