© Tarchin Hearn published by Wangapeka Books, fifth edition, 2007
The contemplations in this booklet are to awaken question and to reconnect us with some of the more meaningful facets of life. They call us to examine our aspiration, the way we live, the nature of our body, our relationship with death, our potential for love and the quality of our ongoing daily awareness. They are not a collection of religious dogmas one must take on or believe, in order to awaken. Instead, think of them as a set of themes to be explored and contemplated again and again as one’s insight and experience deepens through the years. There are many ways to work with them. Perhaps more important though, is to allow these themes to work on us.
The Sanskrit Dictionary defines Puja as; “honour, worship, respect, reverence, veneration, homage to superiors or adoration of the gods.” Consider the Catholic Mass or Buddhist Chanting. They can both be very beautiful and inspiring but they can also turn into empty rituals which are done without touching anything meaningful in us. Doing puja in this way may be comforting and help bond us to a tradition. Unfortunately, it loses much of the original spirit, which was to awaken us to a vibrant appreciation and sense of question, into the preciousness, the grace, the beauty and the mystery of life. These qualities are not to be found only in God or Buddha or Guru or some lofty place outside ourselves. They are all here within us. In fact, they are the true heart of each and everyone of us.
A traditional time for puja is first thing in the day, before embarking on any activity. Sitting quietly with these themes, in the early morning stillness, will often inspire a whole range of meaningful investigations that stay with us through the rest of the day. These contemplations remind us of our aspiration to be compassionate and loving beings and to carry a gentle and pervasive awareness into everything we do. Even when we are in retreat or practising mindfulness in solitude it helps greatly to do a puja at least once a day. It draws our attention to the larger questions of life, reminding us both of the essence of practice and that we are doing it for the sake of others.
It is important to keep the process alive and not fall into a habitual routine. If you do puja every day, then skip the odd day. Feel free to experiment with it and not get into a rut. You may wish to change some wording or add some other reflections or prayers that are meaningful to you. Some days a particular section may leap out and you could dwell on that and spend less time on the others. This is very natural. After all, there is a rhythm and flow to our lives. Together, these contemplations form a balanced whole, so that over a period of time, each one is bound to feel quite relevant.
In preparing this puja, I have borrowed from the traditional contemplations of both Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhism. They are presented in a Universal manner in order to be meaningful to any searching being, regardless of his or her religious beliefs. In this light I have omitted many specifically Buddhist terms but kept, I hope, the spirit that is behind them.