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How Do We Use Our Home Shrine?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 53

We need to perfect Ishvarapujana, personal worship, before we can expect to do really well in meditation. "The idea of Ishvarapujana, worship, is to always be living with God, living in Siva in God's house..." Learn the spirit of the puja, learn the spirit of devotion, get deeply into worship in the home. During puja, we're giving prana and devotional energy to the Deity; we receive blessings in return. God isn't living in your house, it's God's house and you are living in it.

Master Course Trilogy, Living with Siva, Lesson 49,

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

We are reading this morning from Path to Siva, Lesson 53:

"How Do We Use Our Home Shrine?

"The home shrine is the family's personal temple. It is the heart of the home, a sacred place we go into to be close to God, Gods and the devas. Hindus who are wise and serious about practicing their religion have an entire room for the home shrine. They keep it just for this purpose and maintain it with a temple-like atmosphere. They know that a closet or a shelf is not enough to create a sacred space. In this special room, the family gathers to conduct puja, read scripture, meditate, sing bhajana, do japa and other sadhanas every morning. On holy days they devote extra time to these practices.

"As a youth you can help with the shrine room and make it your special place. You can collect flowers from the garden, help prepare prasadam and help organize the puja items before the daily worship. Learn the Sanskrit mantras and chant along with your parents

"The home shrine should be the most beautiful room in the house. It is adorned with pictures of your guru lineage. The altar has images of God Siva, Lord Ganesha and Lord Murugan. There are oil lamps, incense, bells, offering trays and flower baskets.

"Each time we return from the community temple, we visit the shrine and light a lamp. This connects it to the temple. If the shrine is kept pure, many devas come and live there, including your own guardian devas. Gurudeva said, 'A room is set aside for these permanent unseen guests. It is a room that the whole family can enter and sit in. They can commune inwardly with these refined beings.

"These devas are dedicated to protecting the family generation after generation.' These beings of light bless and protect you, keeping the home secure and peaceful. When we provide a home for God inside our own home, it is easy for the family to be happy. It is easy to get along and love one another. It is easy to feel Siva's protective presence."

And we have Gurudeva's quote:

"Every Saivite home centers around the home shrine, a special room set aside and maintained to create a temple-like atmosphere in which we conduct puja, read scripture perform sadhana, meditate, sing bhajana and do japa."

Gurudeva had some nice thought on this in Living with Siva. It's in the section for Ishvarapujana. Anyone doesn't recall that term means worship of God, and is referring to our personal worship in the home shrine of God. Ishvarapujana. One of the niyamas.

"The idea of Ishvarapujana, worship, is to always be living with God, living with Siva in God's house, which is also your house, and regularly going to God's temple. This lays the foundation for finding God within. How can someone find God within if he doesn't live in God's house as a companion to God in his daily life? The answer is obvious. It would only be theoretical pretense, based mainly on egoism."

Pretty strong, huh? Go for it Gurudeva! "...theoretical pretense, based mainly on egoism."

So that's our tradition. And I remember, we had a satsang once in Southern California. It was after attending the Kumbhabishekham for the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in Chino Hills, Southern California. So we'd just been there for a few days, involved in their worship. And then we had a satsang and some of those attending were from the Chinmaya Mission, San Diego. And so it's very different traditions. And if you put the two together you kind of get our tradition. So, it was interesting because that Swaminarayan is very devotional but they're not advaitins, they're not monists. So they don't believe that the essence of the soul is one with God. They're not trying to achieve that through meditation. And the Chinymaya Mission Group, that's what they're focused on. But they don't have a temple in the normal sense. They just have a shrine for simpler pujas.

So, Saiva Siddhanta brings both of those traditons together in a very specific way. As Gurudeva's pointing out here, Ishvarapujana, personal worship, we really need to perfect that before we can expect to do really well in meditation. And for Ishvarapujana to work well we need some training. You can't just tell someone, create a home shrine, do puja. They won't know how to do it in the right spirit, right? It takes training, it's not self evident. Well where does the training come from? Comes from attending as it says in our lesson. It uses the term 'community temple.' So comes from attending the temple. That's where we learn. We attend, we watch the priest. His puja's much more complex than ours but it's the same idea. We learn the spirit of how to do puja by watching priests do puja. And we learn the spirit of devotion by watching the devotees and how they respond to the various parts of the puja. So, this is a school, the temple is the school for learning to do Ishvarapujana and conduct worship in our home, that's the idea. And then the worship in the home, to get deeply into that is necessary for meditation to work right, the way we practice it.

So, it's, that's what we call chariya, kriya and yoga. Chariya is focusing on attending the temple. Kriya we still attend the temple but we also do puja in our home shrine. And then yoga, we still attend the temple, we do puja in our home shrine and we also meditate. So we get all three.

"If one really believes that God is in his house, what kinds of attitudes does this create? First of all, since family life is based around food, the family would feed God in His own room at least three times a day, place the food lovingly before His picture, leave, close the door and let God and His devas eat in peace."

So, how do the Gods and the devas eat in peace? Gurudeva explains:

"God and the devas do enjoy the food, but they do so by absorbing the pranas, the energies, of the food."

So, that's the important part. Food's still there, it may look like, you know, nothing is happening. But the prana of the food is what goes to the Deity and the devas which is the same as in this puja. We offer food and the chant is. it's about the pranas. Aum pranaya swaha, Aum pranaya swaha, it's all about prana. We're taking the prana from the food and the flowers and giving it to the Deity. In fact, that's, in one of my presentations that's focused on and has some nice descriptions. The idea being that during the puja we're giving to the Deity. We're giving the prana, the food, the prana the flowers, we're giving our devotional energy, that counts too. And then at certain parts of the puja, in a simple puja, it's just at the end. The Deity uses, and the devas, use that energy to help bless us at the end. So that, at the end part, energy is coming out and we try and absorb it. But the rest of the time, energy's going in; we try and give it. So it's two directions. Most of the time we're giving but then it, in a simple puja, it's just at the end, we're receiving. In a more complex puja, it's also when the curtain opens we get alankara.

Is a nice statement from Gurudeva, says: At first we just attune ourselves to the Deity and we start to feel blessings coming. Well, that's good, right? Getting blessings. And then he says: After a while we also get messages from the Deity. Get some information. Get more subtle in our receptors of what is coming out and we can actually receive inspiration, specific knowledge regarding our life, regarding projects we're doing. And sometimes it won't quite make sense initially and you may not realize when you have the idea later in the day that it actually came from the Deity. It's been bouncing around and you're trying to grab hold of it to see what it is. And finally you realize what it is and you don't relate it to the temple but it could have come from the Deity.

The most direct one was this gentleman, happens to him every time he comes. The curtain opens and God speaks to him. And he says: "God doesn't speak to me in any other temple, just this one." And he said: "God told me to come back next year on my birthday so I'll be back next year. Don't know why but he wants me back on my birthday." So interesting story that when the curtain opens, what messages, people get.

Well we're talking about prana, and energy going in, energy coming out, messages coming out.

"...When the meal is over and after the family has eaten, God's plates are picked up, too. What is left on God's plate is eaten as prasada, as a blessing. God should be served as much as the hungriest member of the family, not just a token amount. Of course, God, Gods and the devas do not always remain in the shrine room. They wander freely throughout the house, listening to and observing the entire family, guests and friends. Since the family is living in God's house, and God is not living in their hours, the voice of God is easily heard as their conscience."

Interesting story on that. I met a gentleman at a satsang in Chicago. He's the type of person that remembers everything in fact precision. So he was repeating back what Gurudeva said about that word for word, you know. And just, and the idea was, that if you were to look at the name on the deed, it wouldn't be your name, it would be God Siva. You know, God Siva owns the house. That's exactly how Gurudeva said it. But it impressed him so much. This is God's house. God's name is on the deed. God isn't living in your house, it's God's house and you are living in it.

So, thank you very much. Have a wonderful day. Nice to have some morning sunshine.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Sages declare that mantra is life, that mantra is action, that mantra is love and that the repetition of mantra, japa, bursts forth wisdom from within.