Meaning and Explanation by Swami Achalananda
Compiled by Swami Muktidananda
Published by Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama, Yadavagiri, Mysore-570020, Karnataka, 2007, Paperback, pp.213, Rs.50/-
Science without its practical application, confined to books and academic discussions, is of little use to a commoner. Religion without practice, too, confined to scholarly expositions and dry theories, is of little use to a commoner. A man of religion must be a man who practices religion, does spiritual practices earnestly and steadily.
Among all the well-known spiritual practices, ritualistic worship (puja) occupies the most honourable place. Puja is a combination of a number of visible and invisible activities which a worshipper takes up for his or her spiritual benefit. While ‘doing’ a puja is easy, doing it with awareness and total involvement is not. One requires understanding of what one is doing. This is what this book attempts to do – to explain the meaning of puja and mantras in order to make the whole process of puja spiritually fruitful and fulfilling.
The book is based on the compiler’s class notes taken during the classes conducted in 1985 by Swami Achalananda, a scholarly monk living in Mysore Ashrama then. The Swami was well versed in the theory and practice of ritualistic worship. His short introduction to the book ably highlights the purpose of the book. The compiler, Swami Muktidananda (then a novice) has carefully preserved the class notes, giving them the present shape.
Based on the earlier book on similar subject (Worship of Sri Ramakrishna published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai), the present book gives English meaning (including a word-by-word meaning) of the mantras along with their transliteration. A detailed flowchart describing successive steps of puja as well as lit of Upacharas (acts or things offered in order to honour a deity) add additional value to the book. “Become Divine in order to worship the Divine’ – the idea underlying all steps in puja – has been well brought out through the scholarly annotatio0ns and explanations. However, a note on the symbolic meaning of mudras (which the book skillfully describes but does not explain) could have been added and one looks forward to it in the second edition.
Four appendices by Swamis Nikhilananda, Prameyananda and Bhajanananda, all eminent monks of the Ramakrishna Order and well-known for their insights on this subject, also make the book valuable.
The book has an attractive get-up and is neatly printed. Besides being useful for the spiritual aspirants, lay as well as monastic, the book is an excellent addition to the existing literature on this subject.
Reviewed by Vedanta Kesari Office
Courtesy: Vedanta Kesari, March 2008