--> Skip to main content

Different Forms Of Worship In Hinduism – Same Purpose – God Realization

The different forms of worship and rituals in Hinduism, these different gods and goddesses all these are meant for the one and the same purpose – God realization. There is so much difference between one man and another in their taste as in their temperament that no on golden means can be assigned to them all for their sadhana or spiritual development.

Different temperaments require different ways of Sadhana or worship. To meet these varying demands the scriptures have, therefore, prescribed four principal modes, - Samadhi, dhyana, japa and prayer, and external worship.

The best kind of worship is Samadhi or the direct worship of the Brahman – the realization of the omnipresent reality face to face.

The second in importance is Dhyana or meditation. In it exist two things; ‘Himself’ and ‘myself’; - japa and prayer and the like have no room there.

When mediation deepens, one constantly experiences the holy form of one’s ishta devata or chosen deity, - form, pure and simple, japa and the rest being totally left out of account.

The next step is japa and prayer. At this stage one sings the glory of the god in prayer or chants or mutters the hallowed name of one’s chosen deity, simultaneously meditating upon the blessed form that is borne out by that holy name.

The last is the external worship. This consists in worshipping the Supreme Being in pratika or images. These different forms of worship, different gods and goddesses – all these are but the creation of the human mind. They mark the different degrees of progress of the mind, its evolutionary stages, in its onward march to God. A man desires to perform Sadhana. Now, what should he do? Should he begin from any place? No. He must start exactly from where his mind stands and gradually proceed stage after stage till the Goal is reached. Take the case of an ordinary man: if you ask him to meditate upon the supreme Brahma who is without name or form; or if you ask him to practice Samadhi, he will not be able to comprehend anything; nor will he be well-disposed towards it; and consequently the result will be that he will give up his Sadhana altogether. But on the other hand if he worships the Brahman in an image with offerings of flowers and sacred leaves, he will think he has done something. For sometime at least, his mind will be free from all distractions to which every moment it is liable to fall. He will be unperturbed, and verily he will rejoice in it; and by and by will he outgrow that state even.

The finer the mind grows, the lesser becomes the joy of a man in the enjoyment of things ‘gross’ and secular. If you are doing puja or external worship now, some time after, you will naturally feel the impulse that japa is a better substitute. Sometime still later, you will again find in meditation a far better substitute, and so on. This is therefore called the gradual process for the natural growth of the human mind. In  the course of this mental evolution, the little experiences the mind acquires do not get spoiled; it retains them and stores them up in the memory.

Take another illustration: you are standing down in the courtyard and you are to get on to the terrace. What will you do? Surely you are to find out the staircase and crossing over the steps one after another you reach the roof. Instead of this gradual process if you are thrown across the air right up to the house top that certainly means a great deal of trouble and hardship to you. You can avoid any hurt or injury only the following the gradual process. Similar is the case with the world within. To avoid all untoward circumstances in your march towards spiritual realizations, you are to follow the graduated path that is chalked out for us by the seers of the past. And these different forms of worship constitute that path. Ways and means, processes and procedures, rules and regulations – these exist in the physical world as well as in that of the mind. The same phenomenon rules both.

SourceSpiritual Talks of Swami Brahmananda – Published in Vedanta Kesari June 1928 issue – page 42 – 44.