"Sravanam, keertanam vishno smaranam, padasevam, archanam, vandanam, dasyam, sakhyam ,atmanivedanam -[offering self]".[methods of worship.]
There are very specifically two branches of worship. One the ancient Vedic method of worship through offering to fire as Havana or homa. All the yagas, gana homas, mruthyunjaya homas, etc are all part of the Vedic rituals. Veda mantras are used for this branch of worship. The second may be named as pournaic branch of worship where idol worship is the main path way.
Why Vedic method is not common now ?
Minor form of Vedic methods are also adopted now . But major yaagas etc needs money, time, Vedic knowledge etc. Where as in puranic method an idol is enough and the method is simple.
What are the basic principles of puranic methods ?
Idol is consecrated and it is considered as the prathima or prathibimbam or vigraha. Temple is built in the shape of yaaga saala, sanctum sanctorum is like uttara vedi in yaaga sala and idol stands in the center place of fire in the uttaravedi of yaga sala.
There are eight types of worship according to sanaathana dharma saastra.. Every Indian should know what is meant by the Indian method of worship. Different books and acharyas may give different explanations but they are never contradictory. They may give complimentary explanations, even though prima face you may feel they are contradictory. The eight methods are given below.
1. Sravanam : The worship method adopted using the ears/sruthi. Listening to good keerthans, mantras, prayer, naama japa, stories of puraanaas .
Listening to mantras give neurolinguistic effects and many types of hormones are produced in the brain. This will directly influence the brain chemistry. It balances the brain waves, heart performance, blood pressure, adrenalin level and also the cholesterol level.
2.Darsanam is the second method of worship. Getting the vision/darsanam and seeing the pleasant image/picture of divine power. It can be the picture of nature, living and non living beings with the realization that the divine power exist in each and every living and non living beings.
Watching a good picture and happy pleasant faces give happiness to all of us. This is the simple meaning and aim of darsanam. Seeing a good idol, picture, beautiful color, colorful image with correct size and shape to give pleasant feeling of darsanam.
Pilgrimage to temples, visiting great scholars and great avathaaras who have devoted their life for human welfare and also seeing all the divine people who came to the earth for serving all the god’s creations. Every pleasant site gives happiness and every unpleasant site gives worry and unpleasant feelings also.
3.Keerthanam is the third method and it is the melodious way of chanting the manthra or sloka . Under keerthanam comes chanting mantras, keerthanas, naama, telling stories, giving upadesas, guiding people, appreciating good actions and satkarmaas. These are all known as keerthanas .
Chanting manthra gives the same effect as listening manthra. For chanting Veda manthra you need the training in the sruthi. If sruthi is not maintained properly, it may result in the negatives. Hence it is advised not to chant Veda manthra without proper training.
In three sandhyas the Veda manthras or keerthans can be chanted. It is more appropriate in early morning and late evening.
Can anyone chant veda mantras ? :- Anyone can chant puraana and itihasa mantras. Veda manthra can also be chanted by anyone provided he/ she has the training for chanting with swara known as veda jnaanam.
4.Smaranam: This is perhaps the crucial part and every aspect of worship known as smaranam. Smarana which is the most important and all other type of worship is aimed to this. Smaranam is remembering the divine power and the guiding force existing in all the 1.6 million type of animals, 4 lakhs type of plants 80, 000 types of trees and one million types of micro organisms. Remembering that we are only tools in the hands of the divine power is smarana.
When the baby walks holding the hands of his father, his confidence is obvious. When we have the smarana, the confidence is built which is the need of life, especially during crisis.
5.Archanam is the fifth method of worship. Offering the flowers, buds, leaves, fruits, coins, rice, bit by bit etc ( a part of whatever you posses ) to god/ image /idol is archana. Even thinking that you are doing archana is also archana.
It can be adopted individually or as groups in samooha archana /laksharchana etc. Using flowers, coins, rice, leaves or even without anything you can do the archana. The last one is known as manopushpam.
6.Vandanam is the sixth method of worship which is the simplest form of worship. It can be adopted by anyone at any place and by any method. Bowing the head, saluting and doing the namaskara, saluting the scholars/ gurus/ parents/ athithies, etc include under vandana. It can be pradakshina, touching the feet, offering flower. It can be crossing the leg and touching the floor and so many methods can be adopted for this.
7.Sevanam is the seventh method of worship. The basis of sevanam is that every living being is the manifestation of divinity. Serving the god means, serving the creations of the god and treating all living beings as family members and implementing the applied spirituality principles of Lokaa: samasthaa: sukhino Bhavanthu is the true method of sevanam. Serving the aged, orphans, sick, both human beings and animals is sevanam. Nara seva is narayana seva says our Rishies.
8. Samarpanam is the eighth method of worship. We offer anything or symbolically everything to god or god’s creations. Or whatever we have as our own, offer a part of that to the deserving people or god and that is samarpanam. Samarpanam has to be done with a good intention and selfless vision. The annadaanam, vastra daanam, netra daanam, bhoo daanam, koopa daanam, raktha daanam, and so on are samarpanam .
Offering flowers, oil, ghee, and many things for the maintenance, building and making of the temple is all part of samarpanam.