Disciples pursuing the spiritual path honor the all-pervasive Shakti in the form of the Guru. The formless takes on a form so that the disciple may better understand and experience the power of the Self. When we engage our senses and the mind on worshiping the Guru’s form, we invoke and welcome the guru-shakti into our lives. We express gratitude to the Guru who awakens us to the splendor of our own Self and guides us on the path by which we attain oneness with the Self. We honor the Guru, who gives us the means by which we uplift the world around us.
One beautiful and inspiring way we can honor the Guru is by participating in the practice of puja.
The Sanskrit word puja is derived from the root puj, which means “to worship.” Puj also means “to honor, revere, respect, consecrate.” In the Indian tradition, puja is akin to the reception of a distinguished and adored guest.
Puja is offered both outwardly and inwardly. We perform puja through outer rituals such as the waving of lights; the offering of fruits, flowers, and songs; and the recitation of mantras and invocations. Inwardly, we perform manasa-puja, or mental worship, in which we visualize our outward acts of worship as an expression of our devotion, respect, and reverence.
The essential element of all puja, outer and inner, is our bhava, the feeling and the awareness with which we perform worship. This is what transforms a ritual gesture into an act of worship. A great Shaivite scripture known as the Vijnana Bhairava defines the bhava for puja as the setting of one’s own heart on the Absolute and, with perfect ardor, dissolving one’s individual self in the Self of all.1 This is how puja is approached on the Siddha Yoga path, with the awareness of oneness—the understanding that our focus of worship is, most essentially, the power of Shakti, our own inner Self.
You can perform guru-puja right in your home. The elements of worship can be simple and elegant. Let them be of a quality that inspires devotion and love in you.
- You may prepare by bathing beforehand and wearing neat and clean clothes. Cleanliness represents purity, and it expresses our intent to offer the best of ourselves for worship.
- Be sure the space for puja is also clean and neat.
- Create an altar with an image of the Guru and, if you have a pair of the Guru’s padukas, or sandals, place them in front of the image.
- Offer fruits by placing them on the altar.
- The fruits represent the attainments we achieve, with the Guru’s grace, as we perform spiritual practices. We offer the fruits as a gesture of detachment and gratitude.
- Begin the puja by invoking the Guru’s grace. You can say: “Sadgurunath Maharaj ki Jay”.
- Behold the Guru’s image and the Guru’s padukas with the understanding that you are receiving darshan.
- Offer fragrance by waving an incense stick three times in front of the image of the Guru. Begin by holding the incense stick in front of you. Wave the incense stick to your left, then make a half circle to the right, followed by a full circle in a clockwise direction. Repeat this sequence two more times.
- Then, wave an arati tray that holds a small candle or ghee lamp in front of the Guru’s image and the padukas three times. Wave the tray in the same way you waved the incense stick.
- The flame represents the light of the Heart.
- On the tray, you can place small amounts of turmeric, kumkum, rice, and flowers. Position the flowers such that they face the Guru’s image.
- The yellow turmeric represents vigor, radiance, and knowledge.
- The red kumkum represents Shakti and auspiciousness.
- The white rice represents nourishment, purity, and prosperity.
- The flowers represent our innate goodness: we offer the excellent qualities that have blossomed in us.
- After waving the arati tray, place it on the puja table. If you are using a ghee lamp, the flame can stay lit until it goes out naturally. If you are using a candle, you can extinguish the flame after the puja is over. (Do this by covering the flame, rather than by blowing it out.)
- Now offer your prayers. There are many ways to do this. You can formulate your own prayer, practice mantra japa, or recite one of the invocations in the book The Nectar of Chanting, such as Shri Guru Paduka Panchakam or Jyota se Jyota Jagao.
- After praying, pranam to the Guru in front of the altar and sit quietly for a while. Just be there, open to receiving the benefits of your worship. You may experience inner peace, bliss, or an awareness of your own sacredness. You may also find insights arising from your own Self.
- Offering puja is a wonderful prelude to meditation. After worship, you may want to meditate.
Perform guru-puja with all of your heart. Let your bhava—your devotion, gratitude, and sense of oneness—guide you.
1 Vijnana Bhairava, verse 147
Swami Shantananda began following the Siddha Yoga path in 1972. In 1977, he took monastic vows to become a Siddha Yoga Swami. Swami ji serves Gurumayi as a Siddha Yoga meditation teacher, teaching in Siddha Yoga workshops, courses, satsangs, Sadhana Retreats, and Shaktipat Intensives. He also serves as a member of the Siddha Yoga Teachings Council, which plans how the Siddha Yoga teachings will be presented on the Siddha Yoga path website and in global teaching learning events.
Swami Shantananda is the author of the book The Splendor of Recognition, an illuminating commentary on the Pratyabhijna-hrdayam, a key text of the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. Swami ji has also authored many of the letters and expositions featured on the Siddha Yoga path website. He has an extensive knowledge of the Indian scriptures, and his writing elucidates the teachings of these scriptures in a way that is accessible to contemporary seekers.
The understanding that the focus of my worship is the power of the Shakti, my own inner Self, has shifted my practice of puja.
This is something I was longing for.
a Siddha Yogi from Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico
We had a beautiful satsang
on this exposition. While discussing this theme, I experienced the pure feeling that arises when I am offering guru-puja
During chanting, I played the cymbals and felt that through my playing, I was offering puja
to Gurumayi ji
, and I felt deeply connected to her. In this chant, I experienced what it means to offer my actions as worship.
Thank you, Swami ji
, for your exposition on this theme.
a Siddha Yogi from Pune, India
Before reading Swami Shantananda's exposition on guru-puja
, I thought puja
was simply an altar. I did not understand it as an awareness and state of mind that I can bring to my daily meditation.
I used to approach my meditation altar, bow, seat myself, and begin to meditate. Now I take time to pause as I silently invoke Gurumayi's blessings and grace for the day. And then I sit for meditation.
Creating a space for my awareness to become centered allows me to go deeper in meditation and shapes how I experience my day.
a Siddha Yogi from Missouri, USA
From studying this exposition, I have experienced new understandings about bhava
. I was familiar with the importance of the inner state while I perform seva, and now I understand that my inner state, my bhava
, is also the essential element of performing puja
a Siddha Yogi from Rosario, Argentina
What a wonderful and clear explanation of the practice of guru-puja
! It is very inspiring and full of shakti
As I read these words, I was drawn inward and found myself very calm. I was preparing to do some housekeeping before I read the post, and somehow, as I read it, and afterwards, as I went about my cleaning, I felt that I was indeed preparing to perform puja
- which I will do right now.
a Siddha Yogi from Rueil Malmaison, France
Wow, it is so beautiful to be drawn into the essential experience of puja—
the state of the Self.
Being reminded so clearly of the elements and process will help tremendously as I perform puja
at home and while offering seva
. Big thanks.
a Siddha Yogi from Dulwich Hill, Australia
I am grateful for this illuminating statement on the importance of regular worship. I am reminded that my intention is what makes the worship. Wherever I am, I can perform puja
. I needed to hear this.
a Siddha Yogi from Oregon, USA
While looking at a set of photos of Bade Baba, Baba, and Gurumayi, I felt a deep sense of appreciation for the act of performing puja
in my home. I recognized how I am led to a calmer state from which I can view challenging situations in my life more openly. The act of worship allows me to express my gratitude for all that I have received while following the Siddha Yoga path for several years. This beautiful exposition gave me guidance and inspiration.
a Siddha Yogi from California, USA
Each morning for many years, I have performed guru-puja
before meditation, using many of the elements Swami ji describes. But reading this exposition has reminded me that the most important element in puja
is "the feeling and the awareness with which we perform worship.”
After I read Swami ji’s words, I formed the intention that in the future I would perform puja
much more consciously, remembering to offer my outer actions with “devotion, respect, and reverence,” and with an awareness of oneness with the Guru, with the divine. Then, holding this intention, I went to my meditation room and offered puja
before the Guru’s picture. As I did this, I experienced the sweetness and power of this practice. By welcoming the guru-shakti
I felt the boundary between worshiper and the one being worshiped dissolve.
I’m so grateful for this very inspiring exposition.
a Siddha Yogi from Massachusetts, USA