It’s natural in difficult times to turn to religion and places of worship as a source of comfort and community. Hindu-Americans are no different: mandirs are designed to calm and refocus worshippers. However, amidst the coronavirus pandemic communal services can also be vectors for spreading illness. As a result, puja at home has likely taken on added significance in your life. Without the guidance of a pundit, though, it may be hard to know the what and why of private worship.
There’s no one right way to begin. But you can begin with the below primer.
How does worship at home fit into Hinduism?
Along with jnana yoga (the “path of knowledge”) and karma yoga (“path of action”), bhakti yoga (“path of love”) forms a crucial focus of Hindu faith. Puja is central to this by encouraging reverence and devotion to the divine.
Importantly, Hinduism does not set any form or strong rules for its practice. From a simple prayer to a full ceremony, any devotional act is a reinforcement of faith.
Worship doesn’t have to be a traditional mantra either. Service to one’s community forms a part of bhakti yoga too, as it reinforces devotion to something valuable outside yourself.
Resources for getting started
It can be daunting to begin. However, you’ll find some links below that can help you get started with some guided poojas. There’s many options out there so feel free to look around until you find the right fit.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar/Art of Living Foundation
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a well-known guru who offers an accessible introduction to Hinduism through his website. The Art of Living Foundation focuses more on the meditative side of Hinduism, with multiple meditation course offerings. These unfortunately are usually paywalled, but you’ll also find free answers to common questions and livestreams.
For the visually inclined, the Australian guru Om Swami has a wealth of video resources on commonly asked questions. With both Hindi and English-language content, he offers a wonderfully accessible start to Hinduism with the short videos on his YouTube channel. His blog also contains many other resources and helpful posts.
American Institute of Vedic Studies/David Frawley
Finally, the American Institute of Vedic Studies is a great place to start for those looking for a more academic experience. While Hinduism doesn’t mandate a set canon of texts, the Vedas are as close as it gets. However, they can be lengthy and intimidating for the first-time reader. The Institute’s director, Dr. David Frawley, does a great job shedding light on the more arcane aspects of Hinduism. His website can be helpful for both self-directed learners and those interested in courses.
There’s many more resources out there. Let us know your favorites and others we should include in this list! The practice of pooja at home can be difficult to start. But with the wealth of digital resources available, you can find the right (virtual) home.