Puja means ‘worship.’ Puja is a ritual used to call upon God.
It is performed for the well-being of the world. Often incense, flowers, water, fresh garments, food, camphor and lights are offered, while prayers are recited or sung. Offerings may be simple or elaborate. Even the simplest offerings can be profound. There are many ways to worship God. The forms of worship can be as simple as single words or rituals lasting days. How one chooses to worship God is very personal. Worship is the expression of one’s heart manifesting itself outwardly.
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Friday, February 21st to Saturday, February 22nd
The “Night of Shiva” is celebrated on the day before the new moon in late February or early March, when the moon is furthest from Earth, a time to worship God the Absolute. In 2020 an all-night puja begins at sunset on Friday, February 21st (dark of the moon) and continues with chanting in praise of Lord Shiva until the morning of Saturday, February 22nd. During the puja there are five periods of worship, each followed by prasad.
Friday, April 3rd to Saturday, April 4th
Hanuman’s birthday is celebrated on the first full moon in the spring. This year Hanuman Jayanti will be celebrated beginning at 4:00 a.m. on Friday, April 3rd in the current temple room with chanting of Chalisas and Kirtan until 1:08 p.m. on Saturday, April 4th. Aarti, Prasad Bhandara, and Hanuman-ji’s birthday cake celebration with balloons for the children will follow the 33 hours of chanting. The ashram’s regular program will continue on Sunday, April 5th with our traditional 11 Hanuman Chalisas followed by Aarti and Prasad.
Saturday, July 4th to Sunday, July 5th
The Guru is honored on the full moon in July, when the moon is closest to the Earth, the time to worship God in form. It is traditionally celebrated with the singing of Maha Mantra, which begins at 1:08 p.m. on Saturday, July 4th and goes continuously for 24 hours followed by Aarti and prasad on Sunday, July 5th.
Friday, August 28th to Saturday, August 29th
Neem Karoli Baba’s Mahasamadhi was on September 11, 1973, the day before the full moon in September. The 2020 Mahasamadhi celebration will begin on Friday, August 28th at 1:08 p.m. with 24 hour chanting of Hanuman Chalisa. Chanting continues until Saturday, August 29th at 1:08 p.m. followed by aarti and prasad. Weekend festivities also include a performance of the RAM Lila performed by satsang children.
Saturday, October 17th to Monday, October 26th
Festivities begin each evening at sunset. Navaratri lasts for nine nights with worship of Ma Durga, the Goddess of Courage; Ma Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity; and Ma Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge. The nine nights of Durga Puja are celebrated from the first till the tenth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Ashvin, which occurs in 2020 from Saturday, October 17th to Monday, October 26th. On the tenth day, Tuesday, October 27th, there is a Kumari Puja (puja to the young girls, baby thru pre teen) and a procession to the Rio Grande into which the Goddess is lovingly immersed.
“One day a few political leaders came after visiting some cities in the area. They were welcomed and offered prasad, but their reaction was hostile. Seeing so much ghee and other ingredients being used for havan (sacrificial fire ceremony) and the large number of people being fed puris, some of them flared up and said to me, “There is such a food shortage in this country and so many are faced with famine. It is a sacrilege to waste so much food. How this can happen in an ashram is beyond our understanding.”
“Babaji was not there at the time. Later he asked me about the episode. He said, “These are the persons who have become the guardians of the people. They do not know where the food comes from. They do not take the name of God, offer any puja or perform havans. How will the rains come and produce food? They forget God and think everything depends on them. The whole defect lies there.”
– from By His Grace by Dada Mukerjee