Religion - what is the point?
Religion is the relationship between the three fundamental principles - God, the world and the individual. Religion gives solace to the weary pilgrim on this Earth plane. The same type of jacket cannot suit all people. Individual temperaments and traditional backgrounds differ. Hence the need for different religions arise. All religions are equal in importance and worthy of respect. Cows have different colours but the colour of milk is one. Diversity is the order of creation.
What are avatars & incarnations?
Hindus believe that each human being has a soul. Therefore every person and every living thing contains God within them. If a person was perfect then he/she would become God. This is how avatars or incarnations came about. It is said that when there is a lot of evil in the world then God takes birth on Earth to banish all evil and save us all. There are reputed to be 10 avatars of Vishnu. These are :
Parasurama(Rama with the Axe)
Rama(hero of the Ramayana)
Balarama(Rama with the Plough)
Krishna(hero of the Mahabharata)
Kalki(a promised future avatara of Vishnu riding a horse).
What is puja?
Puja is the Sanskrit word for worship. Puja is the act of showing reverence to a god through invocations, prayers, songs and rituals. An essential part of puja for a Hindu devotee is making a spiritual connection with a deity. The Lord being not accessible to our eyes, ears, nose, touch and beyond the realm of the intellect, the ancients devised a method of bringing the Lord within the realm of the senses. By puja you will be in a position to inject the noblest thoughts in the subconcious.
Where does Hinduism come from?
Hinduism is the most ancient and extensive religion. There is no founder for Hinduism. All other religions have founders. Hinduism came about at least ten thousands years ago, and the peak of the ancient Hindu civilisation came about around 3800BC. This was in the Indus Valley. The people of this time were essentially worshippers of Shiva and of many mother goddesses. Religion underwent changes after the arrival of the Aryan people.
Can anyone be a priest?
The Agamic rules require the temple priest to serve and act as an intermediary between the worshipper and God. The temple priests come from families where priesthood is their traditional occupation. They are trained in the skills of priesthood from a young age(usually about 13 years of age). They also have to live a very spiritual and disciplined life. All daily and weekly rituals are performed by these priests. Special occasions demand the presence of more priests, who are brought from other temples or from India.
Why have temples?
The Temple provides a spectrum of approaches to God. Since the human body itself is veritably a temple, Deities within can be invoked and worshipped. One has only to delve deep within to reach God who dwells in each one of us. The path of Bhakti or Devotion is an easier method. Worship of a Deity or Deities of one's choice "Ishta Devata," helps the devotees to focus their attention and relate to God. The consecrated Vighrahas or idols, when worshipped continuously, acquire a capacity to respond. They also glorify specific attributes of the Absolute.