I was visiting a friend's house yesterday and we started talking . The couple has a son who is quite intelligent . We started talking about the Hinduism ( in actuality Hinduism is not 'ISM' but it is a vedic religion , which is " a way of life ". So we don't go to temple once a week , but follow it in our life every minute or every second . )So the question came as to the reason or purpose or more than all these the justification for doing the daily worship ,called Puja . I fully understand the question , especially since in our 'ususal practice ' of the religion we do these rituals more than anything else . The temples support them , may be because it may be the only way to attract people to the temple . or may be this is the only way to get people to donate money .So how do you justify the Puja ?
My thinking is mixed . It may not be the perfect answer, but may be a start.We do Puja as we Hindus or for that matter we all human being , 'humanise' God . On one side we say that the God is merciful or kind or forgiving , and in the same breath we say that he is GOD. So then how can He have these human qualities ?. So doing Puja is humanising him .Our Puja is called 'shodasha ' , 16 steps worship. To me this is not essential . But for the people that are starting , in practice of the religion , this is first step . To achieve the highest level we have to start some where and take steps . If this is a ladder then these are first one or two rungs . We need to start at this level and then try to get higher and higher . Unfortunately , most of us get stuck at the level of rituals . But rituals are important . In the early part of the worship , it is impossible to imagine 'formless ' shapeless ' 'feelingless ' God . So when we do Puja we try to address him as a guest or a friend. So as when a friend is invited to our house , or if a guest comes to our house from a far out distance , then we ask him if he wants to take shower or wash hand and feet , offer him a drink , offer him food , and even after dinner drink or in India 'Paan ' or 'sopari- bittle nut '. There are other steps and we do it too . So we do these 16 step Puja when we invite God to our home .
It is possible to do what is called " Manas Puja " , the so called mental worship . In this we pretend to do exactly the same thing that we do in real Puja , but there is no real water to bathe or there is no real food to offer etc . Can we do without Puja ? Yes , but we need to be more advanced in or practice . By doing the rituals we get our mind to concentrate on the God and offer him our undivided attention . Once we are expert in this concentration , then we do not need it . ( I have not known anybody who is expert ).This daily worship is especially important in America . When one is living in India , he does not have to make special efforts to 'know ' that today is some special day , say Ganesha chaturthi or Shiwaratri etc . He is exposed to it anyway . Since doing Puja is the first step on the road to the higher practice of meditation , if we do not do it on daily basis , then our children will nit be exposed and the they will never know pr practice the meditation . By way of doing the Puja , all the members of the family will come together , which in turn will form a deeper bond .
The problem that is faced by Hindu parents , is more complex . We do not not have one scriptural book , we do not have one God to worship and we do not have one Pope or religious leader . So when the children ask questions , as to why do we have so many Gods or what is our standard, reference scripture , of why we do this or that , we find our self in trouble . and then we avoid the entire situation or the conversation . The best way is to find answers. I Will try some of these questions in the future , but for now answer only one or two. We do have many statues or Gods . (in fact some of us will not go to a place where there is absence of their God ----this is sad ). My answer to this question is that these are different aspect of the same God . To expand on this at a child's level , I will say that if my mother looks at me she will say I am her son , if my son looks at me he will say I am his father and if it is my wife then I am her husband , so on so for . I am still same person , but depending upon the relationship of different people , I am son or father or husband or boss etc. So if we want to appeal to the 'knowledge ' aspect of the God it will be different than if we want 'money ' or want 'strength ' etc . There will be regional differences in the exact 'look ' of these gods (I did not write God , I wrote god , as these are personal gods . The GOD is only one . ) One can look at them as kids having different hair or skin color dolls . One can relate to some one who looks life him or her than entirely different . The symbolism in some of these gods is out of reach of understanding of children and some adults , so it will not be discussed here . Some question next time .