In Hinduism, we have over three crore deities that have a history and following of their own. They are worshipped in temples all over India on a daily basis. Every family has a separate deity that is worshipped by their ancestral community. Every concept, every theory, every energy has a deity. For example, each of the nine planets have deities, as well as each of the constellations. Hinduism is a religion where we are eager to make deities out of everything living on planet Earth. Even milestones placed by the British in 1800’s are worshipped as Shiva Lingas. If you travel the rural highways, you all find the even the cylindrical shaped stones placed to mark every mile decorated with traditional garment.
Hinduism is an inclusive religion, open to all who walk in; there is no exclusivity of beliefs in the Hindu philosophy. It is a journey of inclusive acceptance, not a destination of exclusive belief. We have a plethora of deities but if you don’t find one you connect with, you are welcome to create your own. Whatever you feel as God, you can build a temple for it.
The concepts of Jeeva, Jagat and Ishvara play a role in the deity worshipping as well. While Jeeva remains you, “the self”, Ishvara is the what you want to become. Jagat is how you will make what you want into reality. These concepts recognize the natural inner ambition that we feel to expand, grow and become our higher reality. When we worship Sadashiva, we accept that he is our higher reality. He is what we want to become. Since the beginning, in order to fulfill this ambition, we created temples and temple-communities. As Bhagavan describes, for the Arunachaleshwara temple, to maintain the temple and environment, the civilians formed 16 communities. In the same way, people gravitated toward temples all over India and created a beautiful civilization that was engineered right from the beginning for enlightenment.
Deities, therefore, are integrated into Hindu lifestyle. Our enlightened gurus and the Avatars that continue to happen in India energize deities in a process called “prana prathishta”. While pujacharyas are authorized to conduct the “mantra prathishta” only enlightened beings can conduct prana prathishta, which literally means the life breath. In the biggest temples all over India, it was an enlightened being that installed the energy in that temple. They are monuments of spiritual liberation and the ultimate achievements Hindus attained as a result of eons of journeying within.
One the prana prathishta is done, the deity is considered living. Not stone, 5-metal, or marble ; living like human being if not more so. Therefore, when we do puja, abhisheskam or conduct marriages for deities, we are not worshipping stone, we are worshipping through the stone to the cosmic energy that exists beyond that. The deity is a beautiful way to connect to that energy and create a sweet divine space inside of us called “bhaava samadhi”. Devotion erupts from the space created between you and the deity.
There are thousands of miracles that show this process is not simply a sacred sentiment. It is real. Dieties are living entities who can talk, eat, sleep just like we do. Ganesha drinks milk in temples all over the world. Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain accepts your offering of alcohol by drinking it when you keep it near his mouth. Vishnu turns his entire body in order to give darshan for a sincere devotee. Devi reduces her height so that she will fit through wooden doors when the pujacharyas take her out of the garba mandir. You can hear the anklets of Devi Meenakshi in Madhurai and the salangai of Nataraja in Chidambharam.
As Bhagavan Paramahamsa Nithyananda says, puja is ultimate shaktipada process. Shaktipada is an energy filled space of oneness you have with the cosmos through a physical form, either your guru or a deity. Ultimately, our prayers and worship are not a bargaining method with the divine. Even when we pray, we recognize and celebrate the fact that we are divine.
We are all divine. We are all part of the universal energy.
Whether or not you accept Hinduism as your faith, the fact is that divinity is in us. We manifest our reality out of the cognitions that we have about ourselves, the world around us and life in general. No matter if you manifest a lower reality or the ultimate reality of being Sadashiva, you are the ultimate because you manifest not because of what you manifested.
In Agama, as revealed by Sadashiva himself, the practice is key. As we saw before, Bhagavan compares the veda-agamas to an electric circuit. You cannot understand the electric circuit just by the on-off switch, or the Mahavakya. It is convenient when the on-off switch is working. But when it is not?
You must know the entire electric circuit. In the same way, we must practice everything prescribed by Sadashiva in the agama so that we can experience oneness and shaktipada with Him. Puja and worship is that entire circuit. Following yogic practice, puja, listening to great truths in Hindu scripture and practice- all of these are daily practices that Sadashiva necessitates for enlightenment.
This, in the end, is why we do deity worship.
The devotion that is a result of this is the perfect bonus. Devotion emerges like a blooming flower from within, and from the flower a nectar oozes. It is sweetness multifold. By chanting the words that make up Sadashiva and becoming Sadashiva ourselves, puja is offered to Divine. It is the ultimate process that starts our whole day off in bliss.
It is with this foundation, in His very blood and ancestry, that Paramahamsa Nithyananda began his life on Earth. Puja, deity worship and devotion to Sadashiva, made the pillars on which Bhagavan built his whole life, setting an example for an entire civilization of Nithyananda Yogis that comes after Him.