Intro to Satsang - Mahaapoojaa

  • MAHAAPOOJAA

  • MAHAAPOOJAA

    Historical Significance

    The day Lord Swaminarayan passed away, Dada Khachar was full of grief. To console him, Gopalanand Swami performed a mahaapoojaa on the following day, Jeth sud 11, 1886 VS in front of Gopinathdev in Gadhada.

    In 1901 VS Gopalanand Swami visited Junagadh. At the time, there was continuous drought during which farmers faced much difficulty. Gunatitanand Swami asked Gopalanand Swami to do a mahaapoojaa to improve the livelihood of devotees and also their ability to feed those visiting the Hari-mandiras or small temples. Gopalanand Swami prepared a yantra paat, placed the image of Lord Swaminarayan and devotees on top of it, and showed the way to do the mahaapoojaa. Gopalanand Swami remembered devotees and saints, such as Muktanand Swami, Mulji Brahmachari, Dada Khachar, Parvatbhai, Acharya Raghuvirji Maharaj, Acharya Ayodhyaprasadji Maharaj, etc.

    On Jeth sud 11, 1901 VS in the presence of Gopalanand Swami, Gunatitanand Swami asked Vasudevanand Brahmachari to do the mahaapoojaa. Gunatitanand Swami talked about the great glory of mahaapoojaa and gave the blessings that God will fulfill all of the good wishes of those who conduct a mahaapoojaa in their name. Gopalanand Swami gave the blessings that by the mahaapoojaa, devotees would be rid of sadness, poverty, and pains of the body and mind. From then on, Achintyanand Brahmchari did mahaapoojaa everyday in the presence of Gunatitanand Swami.

    While poojaa is the worship of God, mahaapoojaa is the worship of God along with His devotees. The effects of kaal (time), karma (past deeds), and maya (illusion) are nullified by remembering Lord Swaminarayan and Gunatitanand Swami along with devotees.

    In Vachanamrut Vadtal 5, Lord Swaminarayan explains to Nityanand Swami, "Just as one performs maansi poojaa of God, if one also performs maansi poojaa of the ideal devotee along with God...by performing with extreme affection such similar service to God and the saint who possesses the highest qualities, even if he is a devotee of the lowest type...he will become a devotee of the highest caliber in this very life."
    In Shikshapatri verse 77, Lord Swaminarayan tells devotees to especially conduct mahaapoojaa during chaturmaas (four months of monsoon).

    In Gondal, Shastriji Maharaj asked Yogi Bapa to perform mahaapoojaa at the Akshar Deri for the spiritual upliftment of devotees. Kakaji did the same in Tardev. Kothari Swamiji (Sokhada), Gopalbhai (Anoopam Mission), Vashibhai (Tardev/Powai), Yagnapriya Swamiji (Delhi), and Mahendra Bapu (Chicago), amongst others have kept this tradition alive.

    Ritual Invocation

    Mahaapoojaa is a vidhi or ritual that results in great power. In the form of His devotees, God's glory is recognized. The results depend on the bhaavanaa (feelings) of those involved and also the capability of the person conducting the mahaapoojaa.

    The three parts of a mahapoojaa are: mantra (chant: SwamiNarayan), tantra (spiritual process: mahaapoojaa vidhi or ritual), and yantra (vehicle or physical tool: yantra paat or platform with Swaminarayan Bhagwan and Gunatitanand Swami in the center and the names of saints and devotees placed in all directions).

    The ritual invocation involves inviting and praying to God and His devotees. Up to 16 sopaaree or betel nuts (or a multiple of 16, up to 64) are placed on the mahaapoojaa table around Swaminarayan Bhagwan and Gunatitanand Swami, each representing a gunaateeta saint or mukta (liberated entity). They guard devotees from all 64 directions. While the goal of the process is to unite with God, ritualistically, it involves 16 major steps or offerings (if not physically, done in maansi or mentally through the imagination). Prior to this, the poojaaree (performer of the mahaapoojaa) purifies the self (nyaas-vidhi and praanaayam) and the atmosphere (digra-kshanam), making them divine. The poojaaree then brings sanctity to the performed place, by invoking holy pilgrimage places (kalash-sthaapanam), followed by doing poojan to the flame (dipa-poojanam), conch (shank-poojanam), and bell (ganth-poojanam).
    1. Dhyaanam and aahavaanam - welcoming God and saints
    2. Aasanam - offering of respective seats
    3. Paadyam - washing holy feet
    4. Ardhyam - offering of flowers
    5. Aachmanam - offering of water
    6. Snaanam - washing idols with warm water and offering of panchaamrutam (made of milk, yogurt, butter, honey, and sugar)
    7. Vastram - offering of clothes
    8. Yagno-pavitram - janoi, tying of holy thread
    9. Chandanam - poojan, putting sandalwood paste
    10. Akshata - offering of rice
    11. Pushpam - prayer with flowers
    12. Dhoopam - lighting an incense stick
    13. Dipam - lighting a divo (flame)
    14. Naivedhyam - offering of prasaadam (food)
    15. Aaratee - ritual of circling light around the image of God, accompanied with a specific bhajan (devotional song)
    16. Dakshinam - thanking God and the poojaaree
    Before ending, there is a prayer asking for forgiveness (kshamaapanam) if any mistake has been knowingly or unknowingly committed or any discrepancy remains in the mahaapoojaa. He urges God and His saints to come again in their divine manifestations and remain within devotees' hearts eternally. Kshamaapanam is followed ultimately by visarjanam (completion prayer) and a shaanti-paath (well-wishing prayer for all).

    Mahaapoojaa Vidhi

    Below are the specific steps involved in the mahaapoojaa ritual. The devotional songs and verses of praise that are generally sung during each step are also included.
    1. Nyaasa Vidhi - Purification of the self prior to performing Mahaapoojaa
      - Place your right hand on your heart while saying the following verses.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Nyaasa Vidhi: Nijaatmaanam Brahmaroopam
      • Mahaapoojaa - Nyaasa Vidhi: Brahmbhootaha Prasannaatmaa
    2. Bhajanas (devotional song) to respectfully invite God and divine saints to the mahaapoojaa.
      • Padhaaro Ne Sahajaanandajee Ho
      • Padhaaro Bhagavanta Mandira Amaare
    3. Manglaacharana - Shlokas (devotional verses of praise) about God and divine saints.
      • Svaaminaaraayana Bhagavaana - Shreemadsadagunashaalinam
      • Gunaateetaananda Svaamee - Mahaadhyaanaabhyaasam
      • Gopaalaananda Svaamee - Saadhyo Ashtaangayoga
      • Bhagatajee Mahaaraaja - Shobhe Nirguna
      • Jaagaa Svaamee - Iti Gunanidhivantaa
      • Krushnajee Adaa - Shree Raajadurga
      • Shaastreejee Mahaaraaja - Jenu Naama Ratyaa
      • Yogee Baapaa - Vanee Amrutathee
      • Kaakaajee - Jenee Amrutavaanee
      • Pappaajee - Jenee Vaanee Vishe
      • Hariprasaada Svaamee - Dikshaa Arpee Aho
      • Mahanta Svaamee - Dhaaryaa Brahmatanu
      • Pramukha Svaamee - Shobho Saadhugune
      • Aksharavihaaree Svaamee - Nishthaa To
      • Saaheba - Je Saakshaat Mahimaatanu
      • Haribhaai Saaheba - Santo Baheno
      • Sonaabaa - Jenaa Divya
      • Shaantaabena - Aishvaryo Bhagavaananaa
    4. Recite the shlokas of principal Hindu deities.
      • Ganapati - Vighneshvaraaya Varadaaya
      • Hanuman - Manojavam Maarutatulyavegam
      • Krishna - Vasudevasutam
      • Krishna - Mookam Karoti
      • Shankara - Naagendraharaaya
      • Navkaara Mantra
    5. Aahavaahanam Sthaapanam - Celebrating the arrival of the Lord.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Aahavaahanam Sthaapanam
    6. Paadyam - Wash the Lord's feet
      • Mahaapoojaa - Paadyam
    7. Snaanam - Prepare a bath for the Lord
      • Mahaapoojaa - Snaanam
      • Jamunaa Jalamaa Kesara Gholee
    8. Poojanam - Anoint God and His Saints with sandalwood paste
      • Poojan - Shree Vaasudeva Vimalam
      • Aaja Maare Orade Re
    9. Introductory verse describing the time, place, purpose for the mahaapoojaa.
      - Take water in the right hand, recite the following verses.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Description and Purpose
    10. Meditate upon and sing a bhajana describing God's form and actions.
      • Dhyaana Dhara
      • Aaja Sakhee Aanandanee Helee
    11. Recite the names of God and pay respects to God, divine saints, and devotees.
      - Taking a handful of rice in the left hand, offer a grain of rice one by one with each name mentioned with the right hand.
      • Jan Mangala Paaatha
      • Mahaapoojaa - Namah
    12. Invite the vibrations of all the holy places.
      - Continue to offer grains of rice with each place that is remembered.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Kalasha Poojanam
      • Mahaapoojaa - Aavhayaami Sthaapayaami
    13. Blessings - spiritual discourse from the poojaaree or present saint.
    14. Prayer to liberate our souls. Include specific prayers here as well.
      - Take water in the right hand during this prayer. Then drink the water.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Sankalpa
    15. Offer flowers to God and divine saints.
      - During these verses, hold flowers in your right hand. Offer them to the Lord at the end of this prayer.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Nathee Amaaree Paasa
      • Mahaapoojaa - Mantra Pushapaanjali
    16. Offer food to God and divine saints.
      • Thaala Shloka
      • Thaala - Aaviyaa Chhogalaadhaaree
    17. Aaratee (ritual of lighting a lamp and circling it in front of the moorti).
      • Aaratee Shloka
      • Aaratee - Jaya Sadguru Svaamee (Gujarati)
      • Krupaa Karo Muja Upare
      • Svaaminaaraayana Bhagavaana - Janmyaa Kaushala
    18. Pradikshanaa (circumambulate) the moorti.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Pradikshanaa
    19. Prayer asking for forgiveness.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Kshamaapanam
    20. Prayer of surrendering to God.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Samarpanam
    21. Ending prayers.
      • Mahaapoojaa - Visarjanam
      • Mahaapoojaa - Visarjanam: Nijaashritaanaam Sakalaartihantaa
      • Shreepatim Shreedharam

    Items Used During Mahaapoojaa
    • Baajota - platform/table on which to arrange the mahaapoojaa
    • Decorative and clean cloth to spread on top of the baajota
    • Yantra Paata - image with Swaminarayan Bhagwan and Gunatitanand Swami in the center and the names of saints placed in all directions
    • Sopaaree (multiple of 16) - betel nuts signifying devotees arranged on the yantra paata
    • Moorti - images of God, demigods, and divine saints
    • Kalasha - small pot
    • Naadaachhadee - thread
    • Coconut
    • Chokhaa - uncooked rice
    • Divo - wicks soaked in ghee (refined butter) that are lit for aaratee
    • Agarabattee - incense sticks
    • Bell
    • Water
    • Chandana - sandalwood paste
    • Flowers
    • Food offering

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