Nitya puja is a loving gift from Bhagwan Swaminarayan, which, amid the hustle of daily life, helps everyone to connect with God. Performing nitya puja is an expression of our gratitude for everything that God has given us to sustain life…
Bhagwan Swaminarayan has given his devotees the Shikshapatri. In it, he instructs his male devotees to apply a tilak-chandlo and female devotees to apply a chandlo and perform nitya puja. Many devotees do puja and apply tilak-chandlo, but many are also reluctant to apply tilak-chandlo.
There are many devotees in India and abroad who hold senior posts and, without feeling embarrassed, boldly apply the tilak-chandlo. This is done due to their mahima towards Bhagwan Swaminarayan. By following this wish of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, God remains with us.
To become eligible for God’s seva, we have to firmly obey his commands. One of them is to perform nitya puja.
In the Vachanamrut, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has said that by following God’s commands, his murti is attained. So, by obeying his command to perform nitya puja, his murti remains with us.
Whether at home or elsewhere, one must daily perform nitya puja. Wherever you are in the world, performing daily puja is a must. Yes, sometimes your timing may vary, but without performing puja, do not eat or drink anything. There are such staunch devotees who fast for the whole day if they are unable to perform puja. Derive motivation from devotees who perform daily puja and apply tilak-chandlo even amid difficulties.
The military specifies a certain strict dress code. Some companies also insist on a uniform. Similarly, as devotees of God, the tilak-chandlo is our identity. Applying the tilak-chandlo is, in fact, a tribute to God; it is a gesture of support for his work. On seeing your tilak-chandlo someone may ask you and learn about Bhagwan Swaminarayan and hear his name.
So, do not be embarrassed or afraid to follow Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s command of applying a tilak-chandlo. There is no loss in applying it.
When I was studying at Nair Medical College [Mumbai], I used to apply the tilak-chandlo. Once, a Muslim professor of ours asked me, “What is this sign on your forehead?” I told him, “It is our religious symbol.” He was happy to hear this. Sometimes, our fears are unfounded. Throughout the world, it is evident that those who are staunch in their faith boldly observe the niyams of their faith.
Many high-ranking government officials and judges in South India boldly apply symbols of their faith on their forehead. So, we too, should not be reluctant to apply the tilak-chandlo.
Children should be taught and encouraged to apply the tilak-chandlo from an early age.
If someone offered you ` 20,000 every month to daily apply the tilak-chandlo, what would you do? So, by obeying this command of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, you will gain more peace, joy and satisfaction than that. Money is seen, but inner rewards are not seen; they are experienced. And by pleasing God, inner rewards are received.
When one first starts to apply tilak-chandlo in public there may be some apprehension. Let me tell you about myself. When I came into Yogiji Maharaj’s contact, I started doing tilak-chandlo as per his wish. For one year, while I was studying in Vidyanagar, I applied tilak-chandlo daily. Then, I went to Mumbai to study medicine, but due to the atmosphere there I stopped doing tilak-chandlo. However, Yogiji Maharaj encouraged me. Whenever he wrote to me, he always insisted on me doing the tilak-chandlo. So, apprehensively, I started applying the tilak-chandlo, wondering what others would say. For a while people enquired and I replied, “This is a symbol of my religious faith.” Once, a professor asked me during class and I politely replied, “I will explain it to you after the lecture.”
Once, during an oral exam, an examiner asked me, “The chandlo on your forehead makes your skin red. What is that called.” I replied, “Urticaria.” I don’t know whether he was making fun of me, but I did not face any difficulties.
So, the tilak-chandlo is our identity. It will automatically give you awareness of how to behave. It serves as a brake, preventing you from lapsing in the observance of other niyams and doing wrong.
Most of all, applying the tilak-chandlo earns the blessings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan and our gurus. I have personally seen that devotees of other faiths, boldly apply their religious symbols and observe the niyams of their faith.
I have seen educated and well-to-do people perform namaaz on railway platforms and in airports. Even Sikhs firmly observe their niyams. In Bahrain, I have met Dr Shafeen and Dr Faizal Zeerah, who both perform namaaz daily despite their busy schedules.
So, we too should resolutely and boldly apply tilak-chandlo and perform nitya puja. Nobody should feel shy or be reluctant about this. And we should encourage each other to ensure that everyone does this.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan has, out of great compassion, given the Shikshapatri to his devotees so that they may be happy in this world and the hereafter. In it, he has instructed all devotees to arise early, bathe, wear clean clothes and perform nitya puja. He has even described how this puja should be performed. He has said that we should sit facing east or north and first perform mansi puja. Then, we should apply a tilak of sandalwood paste on the forehead and a kumkum chandlo at the centre.
Then, we should apply tilak-chandlo of sandalwood paste on both upper arms and on the chest. Then, after laying out the murtis on a clean cloth, turn the mala while chanting the Swaminarayan mantra. Then, we should perform pradakshina and dandvats, and read the Shikshapatri. In this way, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has systematically described how to do puja. There are great noble sentiments behind this. God has granted us so many things, so puja is a symbol of our appreciation towards him. This human birth is a gift from God. No amount of money can buy life. It is God’s gift to us. He has also given us air, water, light and other requirements to sustain life. A patient in hospital has to pay for the oxygen he receives, but God has given it to us free of charge. He has given us water and light that enable food to be grown to eat. God has arranged all this for us.
So, it is our duty to thank him for all that he has given. Nitya puja is our way of showing our heartfelt gratitude. By doing this, he is pleased and blesses us.
Also, God is the all-doer and is all powerful. The more we have his support in life, the happier and more peaceful our lives will become. God will protect us in times of difficulties. When we perform puja, God inspires us with good thoughts and actions.
In puja, we should pray to God, “I am yours and you are mine.”
As a devotee, our main objective is to develop attachment to God. This ensures our moksha. By performing nitya puja, this attachment is developed.
Yogiji Maharaj used to say that God is personally present during puja, arti, thal and cheshta to accept our devotion. And that is why at the start of puja we pray to God to come and accept our devotion.
Even though we perform puja for a relatively short time, the important thing is to focus our mind and attach it to God. Nitya puja is an ideal opportunity to concentrate on God.
If you have a connection with the electric grid you can get power in your house. Similarly, God is the biggest source of power in infinite brahmands and performing nitya puja is the ideal way to connect with him.
Yogiji Maharaj used to say that performing puja is our personal meeting with God and gurus. It helps to nurture our connection with them and grants us wisdom, strength and inspiration.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan has also instructed us to apply the tilak-chandlo on our forehead. The tilak-chandlo symbolizes atma and Paramatma, and it generates pride in us that we are devotees of God.
The tilak-chandlo gives us awareness and inner strength to observe our niyams and to not do, see, listen to or speak wrong.
As devotees to God, the tilak-chandlo is an ornament for us and portrays a positive message to others of our identity. There are many occasions in which our youths have been selected for prestigious jobs because they apply the tilak-chandlo.
Thus, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has given us a complete guide on how to perform nitya puja. By obeying this command of his, we will earn his blessings and truly benefit. So, perform personal puja daily with mahima and devotion.