(I) What is Nitya-Puja ?
Nitya means daily. Puja in Sanskrit means to adore, to worship. Puja is to worship God. Therefore Puja performed every day is known as Nitya-Puja. For example, if someone saved us from drowning, then we would still remember him on special occasions, such as his birthday, or Diwali. That is a subtle act of Puja.
Nitya-Puja evokes feelings of live and adoration. On occasions it may feel mechanical or robotic.
(II) Why is Nitya-Puja performed in the morning?
The scriptures declare that the early hours of the morning are considered especially auspicious. Therefore any sacred activity performed in the morning will bear greater fruit. The remembrance of bad or evil people, such as Ravana, in the morning will influence an evil or bad desires or behaviour. But on the other hand, meditating on God and the Saints will awaken our spiritual attributes Dharma, Gnan, Vairagya, and Bhakti.
So there is no better auspicious time for puja than early morning. After a night’s rest, the mind is more peaceful than at any other time of the day. With a peaceful mind, thoughts of the Divine make it more pure. This will let you transform the day’s chores into bhakti, into a festival, to keep it free of misfortunes, the morning puja is a must and boon.
A unique fringe benefit of morning puja is that the mind is calmed by the divine inspiration of God and His Sadhu and is better able to ford through the day’s problems at work and home.
(III) Why personal Puja is necessary?
Some people reveal naively that one of their family members performs a puja and lights a divo in the Ghar mandir, so the rest have no need to do puja themselves!
This is not true.
When we feel hungry, if someone else eats on our behalf, will that satisfy us? When we are thirsty, if someone else drinks the water, will it quench our thirst? If we feel sleepy, and if somebody else sleeps for us, will we be rested? No, only we can do those things for ourselves. No one can do them for us.
(IV) Murtis is the Puja. What should the Murtis be like?
There is only one creator, sustainer and protector of the infinite universes and He is Paramatma - Lord Swaminarayan. Therefore in the Nitya-Puja, the murtis to be worshipped are of only Lord Swaminarayan and no one else (not even his Sadhu, or even his bhakta).
(V) What is the sequence of the Nitya-Puja routine?
Devotees of Shree Swaminarayan Sampraday are advised to follow the Nitya-Puja vidhi described below. First understand the key items related to Nitya-Puja vidhi activities
- Getting ready for Puja : The Puja must be the very first thing one does in the morning after bath. Satsangis should not drink or eat anything before their Nitya-Puja.. One wakes up in the morning before sunrise and takes bath or shower.
For puja get dressed with washed clothes. Preferably these clothes are kept separate from those worn during the day. For males, a dhotiyu and a shal are suitable. For females, Sari or traditional dresses are suitable. After puja, the clothes should be neatly folded and stored away. This inspires noble thoughts during puja. It is best not to wear a shirt and a pair of trousers, shorts or jeans during such an auspicious activity.
Have a cup of water, spoon and some sweet, dry fruit, or fruit to offer to God during puja. Satsangis often keep separate set of pots to be used only for Puja or other such activities.
- 2.Place and Asan for the Puja :
The idea is to do puja where you have minimum distraction. Pick such a spot, if you wish play a Kirtan, Dhun cassette in the background. Sit on a piece of cloth or mat (asan) facing North or East direction.
Now, pour a spoon of water in your right palm and drink it as follow: first time chant "Aum Narayanay Namah" before drinking, second time chant "Aum Haraye Namah", and third time chant "Aum Harikrushnay Namah".
Now take a spoon or two of water and wash your right palm before the next step.
You are ready to do Tilak Chandlo. This step is slightly different for males and females. For male, the tilak should be imprinted on the forehead using Gopi chandan paste and then in the middle of the tilak a round kum-kum (red) chandlo should be imprinted. For female, only the Kumkum chandlo in the forehead is prescribed in Sikshapatri.
- 3.Mansi Puja:
Here are some ideas about how to do the morning mansi puja, you can modify and add to it as per the scriptures.
During Mansi Puja, close your eyes, recognize that you are soul. Imagine that you are in the service to God. You wake him up, help him clean his teeth, take a nice bath, bring him appropriate clothes, ornaments to wear and so forth. Serve him breakfast, accept prasad from him. Do arti.
After mansi puja, open your eyes. In front of your asan another asan should be laid, for the Murtis. The Shikshapatri and the tilak-chandlo should be placed neatly on one side. Lay the murties in front of you and invite Lord Swaminarayan to accept your Puja through the Murties.
Then do following:
- Offer flowers, and food/water you had prepared.
- At least 5 malas ( going through each bead of the rosary while chanting Swaminarayan) while sitting,
- At least two malas standing up (on your left leg and hand extended above),
- At least 5 pradakshina.
- At least 6 Dandwat (for Male Satsangis) or Panchang Pranam (for Female Satsangis)
- Now offer your prayers. O Maharaj! Please protect me from the maya. Please protect me from our indriyas and antahkaran. Please protect me from all types of evil, bad company. Please accompany me at all times. Finally one touches the charan (lotus-feet) of the murtis and brings one's hands to one's eyes. This is known as charan sparsh.
- Now politely request Maharaj to take his place in your heart.
- Fold up the murtis laid in front of you.
- Now, read at least 5 shlokas from Sikshapatri.
This is the end of morning Puja. Now it is time to wrap up. Put everything back as it was before. At this time you should say Jay Swaminarayan to your family members and especially to elders.
(VI)What are the benefits of Nitya-Puja?
Doing the puja everyday brings you closer to Lord Swaminarayan. Not just that but He will stay with you at all times and help you in doing good things. He will also become very happy on you.
One achieves love of God by hearing and chanting about the Supreme Lord's special qualities even while engaged in the ordinary activities of life in this world.
Why do you say that the dreamland is unreal? Because, when you are awake it is not there. Then so does not this very definition of unreality apply to the wakeful state? When in the dreamland or deep sleep the wakeful world exists no longer.