Written by Sri Swami Chandrashekarendra
Every family must perform puja to Isvara. Those who find it convenient
do so may conduct elaborate types of puja after receiving proper
initiation into them. Others need perform only a brief puja, not lasting
more than ten minutes or so. Office goers must offer at least this brief
worship. The sacred bell must ring in every home.
Images must be installed to worship Siva, Amba, Visnu, Vinayaka, and
Surya. This is called "pancayatana puja". According to one custom, no
graven images [images with limbs] are used but instead natural objects
represent the five deities. The "bana-linga" for Siva is obtained from
Omkara -kunda of the Narmada River. The svarnamukhi stone for Ambika
(it has a golden streak on it) is to be taken from the bed of the
Svarnamukhi river in Andhra Prades. The symbol of Vishnu, salagrama, is
obtained from the Gandaki River in Nepal. The crystal stone for surya is
got from Vallam, near Tanjavur. The sonabhadra stone for Vinayaka is
obtained from the Sone River, a tributary of the Ganga. These five
are symbolic of the unity of India.
None of these five stones has eyes, nose, ears, etc. Since they have no
corners that become untidy, they are easy to bathe and dry. Being small
they do not occupy much space. No big puja hall or room is necessary. A
small casket is enough.
Pancayatana puja was revived by Sankara Bhagavatpada. As the creator
of the Sanmata system (the worship of six deities)he added Subrahmanya
to the five. So with the five stones we may add a small spear to
Velayadah (Subrahmanya) who bears the spear.
Not much effort is needed for the puja. If you have the will, it could
performed wherever you happen to be.
At home when you do the puja you have to present to the deities cooked
rice called "maha-naivedya". The Lord has created the entire cosmos for
our sake. Our sense organs take delight in the various objects in
All that gives us joy, all that is beneficial in creation, must be
the Lord [symbolically] before being partaken of by us. When we offer
any food as naivedya to Him, do we really give it away to Him? We just
place it before Him and then partake of it ourselves.
Some ask, scornfully, whether the Lord himself eats what is offered to
Him. "Nivedana"does not mean making the Lord really "eat" what is
offered. He does not have to eat. Puja is meant to make us inwardly pure
and the Lord does not have anything to gain from it. "Nivedayami" means
"I am making it know to you (informing you)" and does not mean "I am
feeding you". You must speak thus to Isvara:"O Lord, in your compassion
you have given us this food." Then you must eat the food thus offered,
thinking of Him. Without His grace how does the rice grow? Experts may
conduct research and write big tomes on rice. But are they capable of
making one grain of rice? What is called synthetic rice is made out of
materials already created by Isvara. So all that seems to be made of man
must be finally traced to God's creation. To enjoy what he has given us
without first presenting it to Him would be tantamount to thieving.
He who is present everywhere must be present where we want Him to be
present so that He may be grasped by us. Whatever the material out of
which His image of symbol is made-stone, earth, copper- he will come to
us in that material and in that image or symbol. He will do so out of
compassion and He has the power to do so. We would have no need for
The Lord must be worshipped in every home. He must be invoked and it
must be made known to Him that we are using nothing but what he has
made over as a gift to us. If we keep doing so, we will in due course
the wisdom not to use in puja things not fit to be offered to Him. We
ourselves will come to possess good qualities.