What is a puja?

Despite its reputation as a rational religion, Buddhism has many devotional practices. The word for devotion is puja. Puja literally means ‘worship’ and worship in turn is connected with the word worth, so the most helpful way of seeing puja is that it helps us to remember what is of value to us in the midst of the many other values which compete for our attention. So the aim of devotional practice in Buddhism is to evoke that which is most important in Buddhism: the Buddha; his teachings – called the Dharma; and the community of Buddhists or the Sangha. These three most precious things in Buddhism are called appropriately the Three Jewels.

The word ‘devotion’ itself  is connected with the Latin word votum, which means ‘to vow or wish’ and the prefix de– means ‘completely,’ so the sense of devotion is that when we practice it we are trying to align ourselves as fully as we can with the Three Jewels. The word ‘devote’ implies ‘a compelling motive or attachment to an objective’ [Merriam Webster online dictionary] and in that way somebody might devote their evening to studying or looking after their elderly parents, but when we practice devotion in Buddhism the particular motive or objective we are trying to recollect and re-inforce is specific to Buddhist values.

Within the Triratna Buddhist Community the standard devotional text is called the Sevenfold Puja, but there are other devotional practices that members of the Triratna Buddhist Order perform towards chosen Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with whom they have a connection.

Author: Mahabodhi

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