A puja is a ritualized form of Hindu devotion, conducted either privately at home by oneself or publicly in group festivals (e.g. Durga Puja). Puja may be directed toward God or to honorable people or occasions. It also occurs in Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
I remember when I had returned home after being a student for a couple of years in India. An Indian person with whom I had corresponded wrote, “I hope by now you recognize the value of puja!”
It seemed the premise was that, as a Westerner, I was spiritually underdeveloped upon arriving in India. And after leaving, I had learned the basics of what makes Indian spirituality tick. This wasn’t totally wrong. But it could have implied an unwarranted simplification. Many Western people are incredibly spiritual. Yet this takes a different form, I think, that the obvious, in-your-face spirituality found throughout India.¹
It took me a while to see this. But now I believe there are many ways to be devotional, contemplative and reverential—not just the traditional ways.
¹ Walking by one classroom in India, I heard students being indoctrinated by a professor saying:
In India we are…
SPIRITUAL (the class replied in unison)
And the West is…
MATERIALISTIC (the class replied in unison)
Thankfully, they weren’t all like that. And some professors were exceptionally good.