Spirituality is not a part-time affair; neither is life. Spirituality is the science of right living. Therefore one cannot afford to deny or ignore spiritual principles. You cannot hope to have peace and joy in your life if most of your day’s activities cause disquiet and unrest. If you want to have peace and joy all the time, you have to orientate your life towards this goal. This may appear to be an insurmountable feat, but one can reach the heights of spiritual bliss by taking one step at a time.
We have tried here to present a few simple practices for you to follow. They have been presented much as they have been practiced in India since time immemorial. When you begin these practices yourself, don’t worry about finding traditional materials such as oil lamps, camphor, etc.. Remember, the rituals point the way to the Supreme, which can only be found within. Therefore it is the inner attitude, not the strict observance of external rituals, which is important.
Also, we are aware that the pace of the modern world is not always compatible with traditional ways of life; if you are unable to adhere strictly to all of the practices presented, try to do a few on a regular basis. Regular practice is the very foundation of a spiritual life. All these years of our lives the world has been a tangible reality and God an abstract idea. Now we have to try to experience God as the reality, and as the substratum of the entire universe.
These practices will cultivate an awareness of God in our daily life.
Corresponding mantras have been included with each practice. If you find it difficult to memorise these mantras, it is enough to familiarise yourself with the message of each Mantra. Then, while performing the practice with awareness, chant the mantra of your favourite deity or the one your Master has given you.
Simple rituals of Hinduism for daily practice
Everyone should try to wake up before five in the morning. The ideal time for spiritual practices, such as meditation and chanting, is brahma muhurta (the period between three-thirty and six early morning).
During that time, sattvic qualities are predominant in nature; the mind is clear and the body energetic. It is never a good practice to continue to sleep after sunrise. Do not remain in bed after you wake, for it increases laziness and dullness. Those who cannot immediately reduce the amount of hours they sleep can do so gradually over time.
A person who does regular sadhana does not require much sleep. When you wake up in the morning, turn on to your right side before sitting up. After sitting up, hold both palms before your eyes, and chant the following mantra:
Karagre Vasate Lakshmi Karamadhye Sarasvati
Karamule Tu Govinda Prabhate Karadarshanam
(Lakshmi resides in the fingers, Sarasvati in the centre of the palm and Lord Vishnu around the wrist. It is therefore auspicious to look at your hand first thing in the morning.)
Then, imagine that your beloved deity or your Guru is standing in front of you, and bow down at His or Her feet. You can then sit on your bed and meditate for at least five minutes. Pray with a sincere heart: “God, let me remember you constantly throughout the day. Let my every thought, word and deed bring me closer to you. Let me not hurt anyone in thought, word or deed. Be with me every moment.”
Before stepping on the floor, bow down to Earth respectfully. Try to see the Divine in all. If you can, chant the following mantra:
Samudravasane Devi Parvatastanamandale
Vishnupatni Namastubhyam Padasparsham Kshamasva Me
(The ocean is your clothing, the mountain, your bosom, I am about to step on You, so please forgive me.)
Be grateful to God that He has given you another day of life.
One simple series of yogic postures you can practice is called thesuryanamaskar (salutations to the sun) . The practice takes ten to fifteen minutes. There are many good books and classes on suryanamaskar and other yogic postures; the instructions will not be reproduced here.
Try to chant the following mantras when you practice the surya namaskar.
Hold both palms before your eyes, and chant the following mantra for the sun deity:
Hiranmayena Patrena Satyasapihitam Mukham
Tattvam Pushannapavrinu Satyadharmaya Drishtaye
Then, with each consecutive step of the suryanamaskar, chant the corresponding mantra:
- Om HramMitrayaNamah
- Om HrimRavayeNamah
- Om HrumSuryayeNamah
- Om HraimBhanaveNamah
- Om HraumKhagayaNamah
- Om HrahPushaneNamah
- Om HramHiranyagarbhayaNamah
- Om HrimMarechayeNamah
- Om HrumAdityayaNamah
- Om HraimSavitreNamah
- Om HraumArkayaNamah
- Om HrahBhaskarayaNamah
Daily practice of yogic postures or suryanamaskar is very good for your health and spiritual practice. Lack of proper exercise is the cause of many of today’s illnesses.
Before bathing, touch the water and pray, imagining it to be water from all the holy rivers. The mantra to be chanted is:
Gangech Yamune Chaiva Godavari Sarasvati
Narmade Sindhu Kaveri Jalesmin Sannidhim Kuru
If you cannot memorise the mantra, it is enough to see the Divine in the water. Just as the water cleanses your body, the thought of the Divine cleanses your mind.
When bathing, imagine that you are bathing the Divine – your ishta (beloved). If you prefer the formless aspect of God, you can chant your mantra during the bath.
Your body is the temple of God – keeping it clean and healthy is worship.
After bathing you should touch your clothes respectfully and bow down to them, seeing the Divine in them. Be grateful to God that you have clothes to wear. Touch your clothes – pray – then wear.
There should be shraddha (care and attention) in every action of ours. We should imagine that we are removing the stains of our mind while washing clothes and bathing our Beloved Deity while giving a bath to our child. While walking, imagine that the Lord is walking beside you and sitting near you as you eat. Thus we should try to develop the habit of remembering God while doing our work.
Think of the kitchen as a place of worship. It should be kept clean and organized. In the morning, always take a bath before beginning to cook. While preparing the food, chant your mantra and think of the food as an offering to God. Imagine that He receives the essence of the food before it is served at the table. Before retiring at night, all the dishes should be washed and the kitchen floor swept.
Take care not to leave any food uncovered. It is good to hang a picture of your Guru or beloved deity in a visible place in every room. Dusting them daily will enhance your shraddha and devotion.
The scriptures say that every person has his or her dharma, or duty, to fulfil. If everyone follows their dharma, the world will beharmonius and peaceful. Therefore work not for the employer or the company, but for God. If you put in your best efforts at work and surrender the fruits of your labor to God, the work will become worship.
Amma says that we should try to give a portion of our wealth to help the poor and suffering. You may feel you don’t have anything to spare. But if you are working eight hours a day, and with those eight hours you are able to meet your family’s needs, try to work an extra half hour or hour each day; the earnings from that extra time can be dedicated to charity.
Always try to maintain remembrance of God while performing your work. If this is not possible for you, you can dedicate your day’s work to God before starting and after finishing your work.
How to take Food
Eat sattvic food. Do not waste food. Eat in moderation, only as much as your body needs.
Not even a morsel of the food we eat is made purely by our own effort. What comes to us in the form of food is the result of the toil of many people, nature’s bounty, and God’s compassion. Even if we have millions of dollars, we still need food to satisfy our hunger. After all, we cannot eat money. So we should never eat anything without first praying with humility and gratitude.
We should always sit down while we are eating. We shouldn’t stand or walk when we eat.
While eating, don’t just focus your attention on the taste of the food. Imagine that your beloved deity or Guru is present within you, and that you are feeding Him. If you are feeding a child, you can imagine that you are feeding your beloved deity. This will make eating or feeding an act of sadhana (worship). Do not talk while eating. As often as possible, the family should eat together. Take a little water in your right palm and chant the Bhojana mantra or your own mantra. Then circle your hand clockwise over the food three times and sip the water. Close your eyes and pray for a few moments:
“O God, let this food give me the strength to do Your work and to realize You.”
The Bhojana Mantra
Om Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir
Bhramagnau Brahmana Hutam
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
If you have any pet animals or birds, you should never eat before they have been fed. Perceive God in every living being and feed your pets with that attitude.
Always mentally repeat your mantra while you eat. This will purify the food and your mind at the same time.
Do not eat at twilight. It is not a good time to fill the stomach. The atmosphere is more impure then than at any other time; so, at that hour, one should repeat the Lord’s name and fill the mind with divine nourishment.
Don’t indulge in gossip, nor speak harshly to anyone. Those who always indulge in fault-finding will never progress spiritually. Do not harm anyone by thought, word or deed. Be compassionate towards all beings. Ahimsa (non-violence) is the highest dharma (duty).
When you meet someone, greet each other with words that awaken the remembrance of God, such as “Om NamahShivaya”, “Hari Om”, or “Jai Ma.” Teach children to do this also.
“Om NamahShivaya” means “Salutations to the Auspicious One.” When we raise our hand and say “Goodbye,” we are signaling that we are about to part from each other; when we join our palms together and do pranams, our hearts move closer together.
Your heart is a shrine; that is where God should be installed. Good thoughts are the flowers that you offer Him, good deeds are the worship, kind words are the hymns, and love is the sacred food offering.
Puja, Archana& Meditation
Usher God into every aspect of your life. Those who do not have a separate room for worship can set aside a section of a room for japa, meditation and spiritual study. This place should be used only for spiritual practices. God should not be relegated to a space beneath the stairway. We should live as God’s servants, and never put Him in the place of a servant.
Set aside at least an hour a day for spiritual practices. When everyone has had their bath, the whole family should sit down together and worship God. You can begin the archana by meditating on your spiritual Master and chanting the names glorifying Him or Her. Then, chant the one hundred and eight or thousand names of the Divine Mother, or of your beloved deity.
If it isn’t possible for everyone to be together, individual archana will suffice. If circumstances do not permit that you take a bath, at least wash your hands and face, but don’t ever break your daily practice of archana.
You can also chant your mantra, meditate and sing hymns at this time.
No matter what you do after the archana, always try to keep alive the thought of God. Whenever you sit down or stand up, do so after bowing down to the ground. It is good to cultivate the habit of thinking that your pen, books, clothes, vessels and work tools are imbued with the Divine Presence, and to consequently use everything with care and respect. Touch them with reverence before picking them up. This will help you to maintain a constant remembrance of God. As others observe your actions, they too will be inspired to follow this practice.
To observe two hours of silence daily is very beneficial. If you are also able to observe silence one full day each week, it will greatly help your spiritual progress. You may ask, “But isn’t the mind busy with countless thoughts even if one is observing external silence?” Think of water stored in a dam. Even if there are waves in the water, no water will be lost. Similarly, when you are in silence, the loss of energy will be minimal, even though there may be thoughts in the mind. It is through talking that we lose much of our vital force. The life span of a dove, which always coos, is short, while the silent tortoise lives for a long time. Chanting the names of God is not an obstacle to the vow of silence. To be in silence is to avoid all worldly thoughts and conversation.
Meditation increases your vitality and strengthens your intelligence; your beauty is enhanced and your mental clarity and health improve.
You acquire the patience and fortitude to face the problems in life.
Practice meditation each day. You can begin with ten or even five minutes a day, and work your way up incrementally. What is most essential is that you practice every day.
Evening Lamp – Puja, Bhajans, Meditation
At sunset, a lamp filled with clarified butter or any vegetable oil should be lit. Everyone in the household should gather before the lamp to sing hymns and meditate.
Shivam Bhavatu Kalyanam Aayurarogyavardhanam
Mama dukhavinashaya Sandhyadipam Namo Namah
There is no need to try to force anyone to participate in the worship. Do not be troubled if someone refuses to join you. In the olden days in India, it was common practice in every household to pray at sunset. Today such worship is going out of fashion, and we are suffering the consequences of this neglect. At dusk, at the juncture of day and night, the atmosphere is impure. By meditating and singing devotional songs, our minds become one-pointed, which purifies our minds and the atmosphere as well. If instead we engage in games, fun or superficial talk, the worldly vibrations will pollute our minds even further.
We should always strive to cultivate a vision of unity in and above diversity. There is no need to place anything other than the pictures of our Guru and the beloved deities of the family in the meditation room. The room should be cleaned daily and the pictures should be dusted. Some people have special pictures of gods and goddesses which they hang on the walls on festival days, such as Krishna’s birthday and Shivaratri. This is a good practice also.
Milk is known by different names in different languages. Yet whatever the name, its taste and colour do not differ, for it is the same substance. Likewise, even though God is known by many names, there is only One.
* Trisandhya refers to the time when day and night meet.
You should imagine that you are offering flowers at His Feet. When the form fades away, you should imagine that you are mentally embracing the Feet saying, “Father, why are You going away, leaving me alone?” Mentally write “OM” on His Feet.
Otherwise, repeat your mantra and imagine binding the Beloved Deity from toe to head with the rope of japa. Then, imagine that you are undoing this rope. This should be repeated whenever the form fades away. Imagining that the Beloved Deity is standing in front of you, try to see each and every part of the Lord’s body. Imagine that you are bathing Him with different things like rose water, coconut water, milk, yogurt, flowers and sacred ash. Adorn His head with a golden crown and place garlands around His neck. Mentally decorate him with bangles and anklets. Just as the image is decorated in temples, we should adorn our own Beloved Deity. If your Beloved Deity is Devi (the Divine Mother), you should adorn Her with a crown, nose ring, necklaces and other ornaments. She should be dressed in silk clothes. If you do this, the Beloved Deity’s form will not escape from your mind. The mind will not get a chance to think about other things. All other thoughts will be restrained. Thus it will become possible to consistently meditate on the Lord’s form. Children, do not forget to always repeat your mantra. In the beginning japa should be done in a low voice. Later it can be done moving the lips slightly. Finally it should be done mentally. Thus japa should be practiced constantly with each breath. Then japa will continue of its own accord even if we don’t attend to it, even in sleep.
While walking, imagine that the Beloved Deity is walking by our side and that we are conversing with Him. While riding in a bus, gaze at the sky and imagine that our Beloved Deity is travelling along with us through the sky. If travelling by boat, visualize the Beloved Deity sitting in a fully blossomed lotus on the water. If sitting alone, imagine that the enchanting form of our Beloved Deity is standing at a distance. Through bhavana (imagination) we should have the feeling that the Lord is always standing near us whatever work we may be doing.
While blowing into the oven to kindle the fire, visualize the effulgent form of the Beloved Deity standing in the fire and blow at His Feet. In this way the mind will merge in the Supreme State through constant practice and our efforts will bear fruit.
Thus when we practice the constant remembrance of our Beloved Deity, we can keep the enchanting form of the Lord shining in the lotus of our heart. Retention of breath (kumbhaka) happens spontaneously when perfect concentration is achieved through ceaseless devotion just as it is achieved through the practice of pranayama. The path of devotion is enough. You children should not practice pranayama. If you do so without proper guidance, it will be like one who comes to get rid of madness and instead becomes even crazier! If you want to practice pranayama, a Satguru’s presence and instructions are absolutely necessary. It is dangerous if one practices pranayama merely from books. One may get constant headaches and pus may even come out of the nostrils; whatever is eaten will not be digested and will be expelled with the faeces.
There are people who follow the path of knowledge. They say, “I am a Jnani,” (a follower of the path of knowledge) and other similar expressions, but their way of living will be just the opposite of a real Jnani. Bhakti is not different from jnana. Real devotion is itself wisdom. One should put medicine on a cut only after cleansing the wound with disinfectant. Otherwise, it will get infected and become a serious wound. Likewise, having destroyed the ego through devotion, wisdom should be established. Apply the medicine of jnana after cleaning the mind with the disinfectant of bhakti. Only then will there be true wisdom.
Set aside some time each day for reading spiritual books, for that is also a form of satsang (holy company). Have a book on your Master’s teachings or a book like the Bhagavad Gita, Ramayana, or other Sastras available for daily reading. Memorize at least one verse a day.
You should also read other spiritual books when you have time.
Reading the biographies and teachings of the great Masters will help strengthen your spirit of renunciation and help you to understand the spiritual principles easily.
It is a good practice to write notes while reading a book and while listening to spiritual discourses. Your notes will benefit you later on.
One should eat only a small amount of food at night. It is a good habit to keep a diary every day, preferably before going to bed. In your diary you can note down how much time you have devoted to your sadhana each day. Write the diary in such a way that it helps you to see your mistakes. Then, make the effort not to repeat them. Your diary should not merely be a document of other people’s faults or your daily transactions.
Just before going to sleep at night, sit on your bed and meditate for at least five minutes, and then bow down to your beloved deity or Master. When doing this, you can imagine that you are holding on tightly to the feet of your beloved deity, and pray with all your heart: “O God, please forgive me for all the mistakes I have knowingly or unknowingly committed today, and give me the strength to refrain from repeating them.”
Then, imagine that you are lying with your head in the lap of, or at the feet of, your beloved deity or Master, or you can imagine that your deity is sitting next to you. Let yourself glide into the state of sleep while mentally chanting your mantra. By doing this, the awareness of the mantra will remain unbroken during sleep. Teach your children to acquire this habit. They should also be taught to wake up at regular times.
The following prayer can be recited before retiring to bed:
Karacharanamkritamva Kayajam Karmajamva
Shravananayanajamva Manasamva Aparadham
Vihitam Avihitamva Sarvametat Kshamasva
Shiva Shiva Karunabdhe Sri Mahadeva Shambho
O Great Lord, today I might have committed many mistakes through my hands, legs, ears, eyes, or thoughts. For whatever mistakes I have committed, by my action or inaction, O Auspicious One, Ocean of Compassion, please forgive me.