I’d like to take a moment to discuss this perspective of sponsorship versus our western perspective of payment for service. An authentic Hindu ritual is an offering, many items and intimate services are offered during the ritual. Flowers, clothes, jewlery, food, scents, lights, etc… It is not that the divine needs these things from us, but through making these offerings what we are truly offering is our love.
How do you quantify love? How do you quantify service? Joseph Campbell tells a story of a tribe in the South Pacific where the currency was huge boulders. How does this represent currency? If you were respected enough in the community to be able to get enough people to help you exchange these boulders, which was the true wealth behind the boulder currency, not the boulders themselves.
So in puja we make these offering that represent our love, and in these acts we are establishing intimacy with the divine. Washing the feet, anointing with oils, feeding be hand etc… The best is offering into the fire were the offerings are completely consumed and truly offered. By these simple acts we are consciously sowing seeds that we will reap many fold. For the divine we are offering too is only the highest essence of ourselves.
In a puja, the priest may know the protocols and be making them on your behalf, if you are lucky, you may get the rare opportunity to make offerings with your own hand. So how does your energy go into the offerings? Through sponsorship, your love is represented in your hard earned dollars that you use to sponsor the puja. Your financial contribution go to cover the expense of the ghee, the milk, the honey, the fabrics, the herbs, the myriad of things offered. In that contribution is your energy, the priest invest that energy of your behalf and you receive back the energy of the ritual, the particular channel of energetic benefit called the vibhuti, or the spiritual merit called the punya. You make an investment, your investment is transformed through ritual and you receive back a shift in your energetic field. The more you can be part of the set-up, the more your energy goes into the ritual. All contributions go into it, performing the ritual is not more important than cleaning the bathroom, doing the shopping or preparing the meal. It is all part of what it takes to pull off a grand ritual and everyone benefits. Of course the most simple for for those who do not have time to invest is to invest your time in the form of your hard earned dollars to make these offering possible.
One need not even be present to receive the benefit. There is a portion of the ritual called the Sankalpa, or the statement of intent. In this portion the pujari (priest) states the location, hemisphere, continent, country, town, closest river etc… The cosmic location of the puja, this becomes the center of the world once demarcated this way for the remainder of the worship. The names of the sponsors and there birth star information are chanted (if know), this process concretely binds the benefits of the puja to the sponsors, as well as clear stating the intention of the ritual.
One of the most important and beneficial ways to transform your karmas at a ritual is through giving annadhanam otherwise known as feeding people. Of course working in the kitchen and serving people is very transformation, but sponsoring feeding people with your financial contribution is just as important. When feeding others, you once again are only feeding yourself.
Often you receive prasadam back from a puja. Sometimes it may be blessed powder or rice from the ritual. A coin or even a spiritual statue depending on the level of your contribution. Once again it is not that you are purchasing the items, but that the energy of the ritual is infused into them. So you can tap into that energy by interacting with the prasadams that you receive. A part of your sponsorship goes to covering the cost of the prasadam, but the rest goes into covering the cost of offerings, feeding people, etc... All of the things needed to pull off such a grand event.
This is all meant to give you perspective on offering, versus paying for a service. In a puja you are making an offering to the divine, so see your contribution in that light. Come early and help, contribute ahead of time so that your offerings are used to purchase supplies. Understand that you are making an energetic investment. In order for your karmas to be transformed they must be offered in a concrete way, the simplest way to do this is through sponsoring with your hard earned money and service.
Group offering a sari into the sacred fire, everyone touching the offering to get their energy into it!Group offering a sari into the sacred fire, everyone touching the offering to get their energy into it!