The Importance of Puja to Vedic Meditation

“A thing is special or sacred to the extent that we make it so. A thing is given a special and prestigious quality if we decide that it is so.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

Few would argue that we often lack reverence in modern day-to-day living. 

Toasts are given and glasses are raised, often at the drop of a hat. Families might go for years without even sitting at the same table for a meal, let alone saying grace or giving thanks for a shared meal and loving company.

One notable exception to this trend is the use of Puja when a student of Vedic Meditation receives their mantra. It’s a beautiful and important tradition that any committed teacher of Vedic Meditation takes seriously.

In this episode, Thom explains the significance and purpose of Puja, and why we treat the process with the respect that it deserves, not just to honor the generations of masters that have kept the tradition alive, but also to honor the student, and to welcome them to what will likely be the most progressive step they will take in their evolution.

Subscribe to Vedic Worldview

Apple Podcast logo
Stitcher Podcast logo
Spotify Podcast logo
Google Podcast logo

Episode Highlights


Touching On the State of Being



Puja – A Ceremony of Gratitude



The Troth of a Vedic Meditation Teacher



 A Model of Ideal Teaching



“Initiation Day”



Face to Face, In Person



A Tradition of Knowledge



A Teacher in Good Standing



Learning Vedic Meditation The Hard Way



A Great Teacher Has Standards


Jai Guru Deva


[00:00:49] Touching On the State of Being

[00:00:49] I’m often asked from people who have gone to an introductory talk, perhaps they’ve been brought by friends to an introductory talk on Vedic Meditation, and those friends may have explained to them that, and indeed they would have heard this in the introductory talk, that just prior to learning one’s personalized Bija mantra, and I emphasize the adjective bija, B-I-J-A, because Bija mantras are very different to the kinds of mantras that we might learn in a yoga class or from a book.

[00:01:19] A bija mantra, for a start, is a specialized mantra. Bija means a seed, seed mantra, S-E-E-D, seed mantra, which is like a seed, something that can germinate, something that can grow.

[00:01:33] These seed mantras have one purpose only. And that is to take the mind from the conscious thinking layer, down through increasingly subtle layers or strata, layers of the conscious mind, into the quietest, subtlest level of thinking, transcending which, one’s mind touches on that Unified Field value, the state of Being. The Unified Field of consciousness, state of Being, that least-excited state whose nature intrinsically is supreme, inner contentedness or bliss.

[00:02:06] And this is what Vedic Meditation is, and it’s practiced for about 20 minutes twice, each day, once in the morning, and once in the late afternoon or early evening as a program.

[00:02:17] Puja – A Ceremony of Gratitude

[00:02:17] This technique comes from ancient India, and when a qualified instructor teaches Vedic Meditation, always, there are a few moments taken out to witness a brief ceremony of gratitude, about three minutes, maybe four if it’s done slowly, of expressions in the language of ancient Sanskrit.

[00:02:39] Sanskrit is the language of the ancient Vedic culture of India. It is akin to what Latin is to the modern languages of the west in these days. Sanskrit is not a conversational language anymore, but Sanskrit has the capability for transporting one into an experience via the mechanism of sound.

[00:03:02] The ceremony of gratitude is a ceremony that’s done on the human level. For a few moments prior to teaching, a teacher must spend those minutes reciting, as a long list of names, all of the masters who have come before her or him, by way of reminding oneself that “I am not the innovator of this knowledge.”

[00:03:24] This knowledge is very impressive, and it could be very tempting for someone who’s teaching it to allow others, who don’t know any better, to give the local teacher, the current teacher, credit for having come up with all of these beautiful concepts and this knowledge.

[00:03:41] And the ceremony, which is referred to as Puja, P-U-J-A, Puja. Puja means a celebration or ceremony in Sanskrit, is, on the human level, as I said, a recitation of the names of all of the masters from ancient times up to the modern day.

[00:03:58] The Troth of a Vedic Meditation Teacher

[00:03:58] What this does is it gives the teacher a moment to reflect upon where all of this came from. It gives the teacher three or four minutes to reflect upon the fact, “I’m not the innovator of this, and it is incumbent on me to pass this knowledge along in its simplicity and in its purity in the same pure way in which I received it, so that each generation doesn’t add to it or take away from it, something that happens to suit them temporally, or suit them culturally for the moment.”

[00:04:31] And so, then this is the troth of the teacher of Vedic Meditation to the tradition of masters, reminding oneself that “I am to give this knowledge in its purest way.”

[00:04:42] There’s also an implicit troth to the student who’s asked to witness this brief ceremony, which is that, “I am not passing myself off as the innovator of this. You can see for yourself that I’ve taken the trouble to learn how to perform this ceremony, and I’m about to give to you a mantra for your personal use, which, had you come even 2000 years ago to India to meet a master of this tradition, this would be the mantra you would have received even then.

[00:05:11] “And that this knowledge, already a proven effective formula for triggering pure transcendence, stepping beyond thought entirely, is not being tampered with by anybody in modern times.”

[00:05:23] A Model of Ideal Teaching

[00:05:23] A teacher’s troth to the student that, “Not only will I teach this to you as it comes from my tradition, but I’m also going to care for your experiences. I’m going to give you the knowledge that you need to keep this a sustained practice year after year, decade after decade, throughout your entire use of it.”

[00:05:43] And so establishing this as a model of ideal teaching is what my master, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, trained me to do. And indeed, he was trained by his own master to do exactly the same, and that training and that tradition goes back thousands of years.

[00:06:01] Now, would it be possible simply to eliminate the ceremony and just, pull somebody aside and say, “Hey, sit here anywhere you like, bus stop or whatever, or, on your iPhone or, with your iPad, or your little Macintosh computer, and I’ll whisper a word to you electronically or, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, here it is, this is your special mantra.”

[00:06:24] To what extent has it been impressed upon the student that this is, in fact, something that has a very, very special quality. A thing is special or sacred to the extent that we make it so. We make it so. A thing has given a special and prestigious quality if we decide that it is so.

[00:06:45] “Initiation Day”

[00:06:45] We live in a quantum mechanical world. In quantum mechanics, the most successful theory of science, it has been established beyond any reasonable doubt, non-controversially, that particles, subatomic particles, subnuclear particles, come into being as a consequence of coming into contact with consciousness.

[00:07:09] Consciousness conceives and constructs matter. Consciousness governs and becomes the way that that matter unfolds itself sequentially and its behavior.

[00:07:20] So when we’re learning Vedic Meditation, we don’t want, first of all, for the teacher not to transcend their ego, for the teacher to implicitly take credit for this knowledge, which in fact dates back millennia. Nor do we want the student to take lightly the instruction that they’re about to receive.

[00:07:39] And this is why we refer, even in this modern time, to the very first session of four sessions of instruction in Vedic Meditation. We teach it as one session on each of four consecutive days, of about 90 minutes or so per session, that the very first session of instruction is still in this modern time referred to as ” initiation day.”

[00:08:02] Initiation day means you’re being initiated into something. You’re being brought into a tradition of knowledge, which is going to care for you, look after you and eliminate your ignorance.

[00:08:15] Ignorance here isn’t being used pejoratively. It just means not yet fully informed, not yet fully informed, that kind of ignorance.

[00:08:23] Face to Face, In Person

[00:08:23] And to bring a close to that era of not being fully informed and not having access to one’s own deep, inner Self, we like this to be a celebration. This is why we call it initiation, because to initiate means to begin something, something is being started. Initiation, the day in which the initial experience is being had.

[00:08:45] And so, the giving of a mantra, a bija mantra from our tradition, under these circumstances, very specific prescribed circumstances, face to face, in person. By face to face and in person we don’t mean FaceTime or WhatsApp. What we mean is face to face, in person, molecule to molecule. That is, the person has physically to be in the room, physically with the teacher, not electronically only, is a very important aspect of our teaching.

[00:09:14] It’s very important because the full impact, not only of the teacher’s perception of the needs of the student, but the full impact of the feedback from the student that the teacher is getting, and also the full broad-spectrum experience of that Puja ceremony.

[00:09:32] Very important for both to be experiencing, both teacher and student, and seeing as it is eminently possible for this whole experience to be arranged with relative ease, in this modern era of travel and whatnot, it should be possible for someone to have this experience and not have to take what sometimes is referred to as a shortcut, but I refer to it as a dead end.

[00:09:56] The kind of shortcut that people might want to take by eliminating, by choice, this part of the teaching or that part of the teaching. These are not actually shortcuts. I’m all in favor of a shortcut, if it’s actually effective, and doesn’t completely destroy the vehicle that you’re riding in, but not actually a shortcut at all, but a dead end.

[00:10:16] A Tradition of Knowledge

[00:10:16] A dead end because the relationship between the student and the teacher is not just a relationship between those two. It’s relationship between the student and, intermediated through the teacher, an entire tradition of knowledge, dating back thousands of years, in which every conceivable question already has been asked and answered.

[00:10:37] A tradition of knowledge that has the capability to meet the need of individual meditators, as those needs come up, at whatever stage of growth they find themselves.

[00:10:47] And so we cling to the purity of the teaching, and the purity of the method of delivery of the teaching, for these reasons. And it’s been discovered that meditators who are given the knowledge in this way are the ones who have the greatest effect size from their invested 20 minutes, twice a day.

[00:11:07] After all, if we’re going to be putting 20 minutes twice each day into a thing, and that is in fact what it requires, it’s a program that involves that, we want to be able to get maximum effect size, the biggest possible effect from that invested time.

[00:11:23] And this is the way to do it, to follow the ancient tradition of knowledge, and to know how, very effectively, to trigger the desirable experience of stepping beyond thought and experiencing the true nature of your own inner, quiet state of Being.

[00:11:40] A Teacher in Good Standing

[00:11:40] So this is why I insist upon that being the criterion by which I would assess someone who’s been taught by a teacher in good standing.

[00:11:50] A teacher in good standing with me is always someone who has performed the ceremony of gratitude properly, in a prescribed way, and has imparted the mantra to the student in those very specific conditions, and who has followed up with three consecutive days of 90 minutes of instruction each day, after the initiation day.

[00:12:10] So in total, four sessions of instruction in learning, very essential for imparting that knowledge in its totality.

[00:12:18] And those four days, very important, so that the student can practice it at home, see what the ease of it is at home, and any difficulties or issues that may arise when doing home practice, returning to the teacher with those experiences each day, and the teacher being able to deal with those in a very effective way, so that the student can then go home and do the homework again with renewed access to the knowledge.

[00:12:45] I’ve heard on the grapevine, here and there, that there are teachers, sad to say, who have ignored the advice, and their own training, about teaching this in a four-day format, and have tried to squeeze this into a day or two days or whatever will fit, failing completely to deliver the full impact of the intention of the day of initiation.

[00:13:09] Learning Vedic Meditation The Hard Way

[00:13:09] Or indeed teachers, who’ve tried to take this teaching format into an electronic setting online, through iPhones, through computers, through iPads and whatnot, because “the market,” the people out there, feel as though they don’t have enough time to come every day for four consecutive days for 90 minutes a session.

[00:13:30] My reaction to that is that more than 80 years ago, had you wanted to learn this, it would have been remarkably inconvenient for your daily schedule. You’d have had to arrange a passage to India, whether by boat or by aircraft, and then, having arrived in New Delhi, you’d have faced a day or two long, train journey to Haridwar, a small town in the far north of India.

[00:13:56] And then from there, there would have been four to five weeks of trekking up to the place near Badrinath, at some 10,000 feet elevation, where you could find either Guru Dev, my teacher’s teacher, or his teacher, a master who, if they were not on walkabout, fortunately for you, they weren’t on walkabout, they might be available to have a look at you and decide whether or not you had shown the appropriate levels of respect for the tradition and the teaching in order for it to warrant you being instructed by them.

[00:14:32] A Great Teacher Has Standards

[00:14:32] And not everybody who even made that long hike was accepted as a student. And so then, knowing all of the prescribed format for awakening in a teacher, the desire to make you a student.

[00:14:46] A great teacher has standards, so when somebody is willing to participate in what it is that the teacher lays out, and in this case, witness a brief ceremony for a few minutes, if you love ceremonies, you’ll love this one, it’s musical, and it’s fragrant, and the teacher who performs the ceremony will show you a way of giving appreciation that has been lost in the west, completely lost.

[00:15:11] If you don’t like ceremonies, you’ll love this one because it’s short. There’s nothing for you to do. All you have to do is stand there or sit there, and wait for it to finish, and it doesn’t matter whether or not you show great enthusiasm for it, provided that you show up with the requisite items, a handful of flowers and two or three sweet fruits, that’s all that’s required of you, and make yourself available to be instructed according to the format laid out by the teacher.

[00:15:40] It’s this kind of exchange of energy and information between a teacher and a would-be student that really sets the ground for a fertile relationship that can last, and last decades if necessary, until you have acquired the proper results from regular twice-a-day practice of this beautiful technique in which we have the greatest opportunity given to us to bring our mind from the darkness of ignorance into that inner enlightenment, which has been the search of humankind since time immemorial.

[00:16:16] Jai Guru Deva.