Chapter XVII

Puja – Worship

The word puja (worship) comes from the Sanskrit root puj, which means to serve or praise some higher and more sublime being than one's self in order to gain spiritual benefit.

Nowadays wherever one looks one finds only outer worship prevalent. Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs and those belonging to other religions are all engaged in outer worship. Churches, gurdwaras (Sikh temples), mosques and mandirs (Hindu temples) are all religious places. In the same way, all religious books deserve to be venerated. But people regard bowing their heads and offering flowers before them as worship. The Sikh Saints have written extensively on this type of worship. 

Guru Ram Das Ji says that ignorant persons whose inner vision has not awakened are wallowing in ignorance. They worship lifeless idols and tombs by placing flowers on them. But all their efforts are of no real spiritual worth.

Misled by superstitions, the ignorant blind ones  make offerings of flowers to lifeless stones and graves, and waste their entire lives.

Malar M4, 1264

Kabir Sahib also does not approve of worshipping lifeless idols and does not believe that this leads to salvation. This likewise is the view of Guru Nanak Sahib.

The Hindus die while worshipping their idols; the Muslims die while bowing before Him; they burn, while they bury the dead, neither of them know the Reality.

Kabir, Sorath, 654

They who go and worship gods and goddesses do not know the transcendental One; oh Kabir, they see no truth and instead are taking poison.

Kabir, Gauri, 332

The deluded ignorant ones worship stones; that which will itself sink, how can it save you?

It is strange that he who lives in the natural mosque (the body), which was constructed by the Lord with His own hands, should undergo hardships in man-made mosques.

Tulsi Sahib says, It is regrettable that the owner of the real mosque should visit man-built mosques and temples. 

Maulana Rumi says:

Fools pray in the mosques; the illuminated ones try to purify themselves; oh fools, that is man-made, this is God-made. There is no mosque except the one inside the Saints. The heart of the Saint is the mosque, all should worship the Lord there.

The ignorant people respect the mosque built of stones and bricks, but try to harm the Saints in whom the Lord is manifest. The worship in the mosque is all external observances. The Reality is that mosque which is inside the Saints. It is a true place of worship because the Lord is manifest there. All the five elements are found in man, four in animals, three in birds, two in insects, and one in vegetables. Man should not worship the lower beings. (See chapter on Dharma)

Many people worship stones or idols. What is idol worship? When did it start? What is real idol worship, and what is its purpose? These questions are discussed in a separate chapter on Idol-worship. People do not gain peace or realise the Lord by observing external rituals such as pilgrimages, cleanliness, self-control, burning incense, repetitions, austerities, putting marks on the forehead, bathing or reading scriptures.

Guru Arjan Sahib says that one is not dyed in the colour of the true Lord simply by doing the six actions (Khat Karam), namely, practising, cleanliness and self-control, bathing and so forth. Such a person never gains salvation.

If he does the six actions and worships after bathing, if he is not dyed with love for the transcendental one, he goes to hell.

Sri Rag M1, 70

Visiting holy places, fasts, cleanliness, self-discipline, acts of piety, matter not. Oh Nanak, it is only by devotion that one obtains deliverance; all else leads to duality.

Sri Rag M1, 75

By doing the six actions, by worship, putting marks on the forehead, visiting holy places or bathing at sacred spots, by washing the intestines or performing the eighty-four postures, one does not get peace of mind.

Majh M5, 98

The real and beneficial worship is the inner worship, which is not performed by the hands and feet or by the mouth, but by the mind and heart. The inner worship is done by the mind. Such a worshipper sees the One and none else.

Basant M3, 1173

I went to the temple to worship the Lord, but the Master told me that He is inside the mind.

Ramanand Ji, 1195

If one cherishes the lotus feet even for a moment in his heart by remembering the Lord, all his desires are fulfilled.

Prabhati M5, 1349-2

That worship is fruitful which leads to love for the Lord. That repetition, those austerities, that fast and that worship is fruitful, which promotes love for the Lord. Except the love of the Lord, all other attachment is false and is forgotten in a moment.

Berari M4, 720-12

The real worship is performed with inner love and by offering service of the body and the mind.

Visiting holy places, fasts, cleanliness, self-discipline, acts of piety matter not. Oh Nanak, it is only by devotion that one obtains deliverance, all else leads to duality.

Sri Rag M1, 75

Oh Mother, what should I offer to the Lord? I do not find any beautiful flower or any other thing That is worthy of Him; neither incense, lights, sweets nor scents; how is Thy servant to worship Thee? By offering the body and mind we attain the Lord, through the Grace of the Master. There is no other way of worship. Oh Ravidas, what will be your fate?

Ravidas, Gujri, 525-16

When the worshipper progresses, he sees the Lord in His full glory. He sees that flowers and other beautiful things are already there, and there is no need to offer them. Even the body, the mind and our wealth are no longer ours. Then how can we offer anything?

I see none alike. The one sun pervades everywhere, how then can I worship another?

Prabhati M1, 1345

Guru Arjan Sahib says that only the Lord should be worshipped. Those who worship others are killing their soul.

From king to insects, and from insects to the king of the gods, all fill their bellies by causing pain to others. They leave the Lord and worship others, and thus kill their souls.

Malar M5, 1267

The Lord is the basic substance or essence of all forms and of the formless. How can we worship Him? The Lord as the Shabd or Name pervades the whole of the universe. Name and Shabd are the Lord, and worship of them is worship of Him. (See chapter on Name and Shabd). The Saints teach that real worship consists in remembrance and repetition of the Name of the Lord. This is acceptable to the Lord. Most of the people do not do this and are following a wrong path.

In order to worship, contemplate on the Name; without the Name there is no worship.

Gujri M1, 479

The true men have attuned themselves with the pure Lord through the Shabd. There is no worship without the Name. Without the Name, people are misled by doubts.t

Ramkali M3, 900-9

The Name should be worshipped in all hearts. Man is tied with the rope of attachment and Maya. This can be cut only by a Master, and He alone can make man worship the Name.

He cut the rope and made me His slave, and made me serve the Saints. I became a worshipper of the one Name. The Master showed me beautiful visions.

Gauri M5, 209

But only a sincere devotee can worship the Name. One worships, but knows not the way. Secondly, his mind is stained. Only a Gurmukh knows the true worship, and the will (of the Master) dwells in his mind.

Ramkali M3, 910

The proud man cannot perform this worship. Everyone performs worship, but the proud man does not find the Reality.

Ramkali M1, 910-7

This real knowledge and contemplation or the wealth of the worship of the Name can be obtained only from a Master.

Oh Nanak, give up virtue, worship, knowledge and contemplation; he to whom the Master is kind meets the merciful Lord.

Gauri M5, 187-3

The Guru and the Lord are one; oh Pipa! Om is the quintessence of Reality; the Master can reveal it to you.

Pipa, Dhanasri, 695-15

I searched the ocean of the body, and discovered a wonderful thing. Oh Nanak, the Master is the Lord, and the Lord is the Master, and there is no difference between the two.

Asa M4, 442-28

Until a man rises to higher and finer regions where he can himself worship the Lord, it befits him to worship His incarnation, the Master. The essence of the Master is Naam or Shabd. A disciple should, therefore, while contemplating on the human form of the Master with his outer eyes, progress inwardly and see the illuminated form of the Master within. When the heart of the devotee meets the heart of the Master, then the melody of the Shabd will be heard. Devotion to the Master is a step leading to spiritual relationship. Worship of the Master is worship of the Lord. Gurus place great emphasis upon this. One should worship both the Lord and the Master to gain salvation.

Worship the Lord and the Master with love in your mind and heart; the Master is the giver of bliss and the mainstay of all.

Sri Rag M5, 52

The Name of the Lord can be repeated by all, whether Kshatriyas, Brahmins, Sudras or Vaishyas. The devotee worships the Master as the transcendent Lord, and remembers him always day and night.

Belawal M4, 800

Guru Ram Das goes to the extent of saying that he who worships the Guru is dear to the Lord.

He who worships and serves the Master is dear to my Lord; the Master is the servant of the Lord. He by His Grace takes one across (the ocean of the world).

In Slokas 5 to 8 of Chapter 12 of the Gita, Sri Krishna Bhagwan as the Master tells his disciple Arjun:

People have great difficulty in contemplating on the unmanifest, and this can be done only with great difficulty. Therefore, you (Oh Arjun) think of me (the form of the Guru). Still the mind and by this you will certainly dwell in me. (See chapter on Devotion.) The worship of the Lord consists of the worship of the Master. The Master teaches the method of worshipping the Name. One day the disciple will see the Lord in all the universe, and the Lord will manifest within him. The Master of Nanak is manifest everywhere.

Asa M5, 397

Such a rare form of worship can only be had when the Lord Himself wishes it. Man can then reach the Master, who shares the worship of the Name with him. It is only due to great good fortune that worship of the holy feet of the Master can be had. It is owing to great good fortune That one worships the feet of the Master; he gives up all and takes shelter with the Lord.

Asa M5, 395-19

Maulana Rumi says:

The worship of the devout consists of kneeling and prostrating themselves. The lovers of the Lord give up their bodily consciousness. Five times a day the thought to worship occurs to the devout. But the lovers always remain in communion with the Lord.

The devotees who perform outer worship say prayers, but the lovers of the Lord leave the body and then say prayers by going inside. The devotees say prayers five times a day at fixed hours, but the lovers listen to the inner voice every moment.