Meaning Of Ashta Prakari Puja
Generally Jains use the following eight items to perform puja of a Tirthankara in the temple. Symbolically each item represents a specific religious virtue and one should reflect on it while performing puja.
1. Jala Puja: Water
2. Chandana Puja: Sandalwood
3. Pushpa Puja: Flower
4. Dhupa Puja: Incense
5. Dipaka Puja: Candle
6. Akshata Puja: Rice
7. Naivedya Puja: Sweet food
8. Phala Puja: Fruit
1. Jala Puja: (Water) Water symbolizes the ocean. Every living being continuously travels through life's ocean of birth, death, and misery. This puja reminds that one should live his life with honesty, truthfulness, love, and compassion towards all living beings. This way one will be able to cross life's ocean and attain liberation (Moksha). This is known as samyakdarshana, samyakjnana, and samyakcharitrya in the Jain religion.
2. Chandana Puja: (Sandalwood) Chandan symbolizes knowledge (jnana). By doing this puja, one should thrive for right knowledge. Jainism believes that the path of knowledge is the main path to attain Moksha or liberation. Bhakti or devotion helps in the early stages of one's effort for liberation.
3. Pushpa Puja: (Flower) The flower symbolizes conduct. Our conduct should be like a flower, which provides fragrance and beauty to all living beings without discrimination. We should live our life like flowers full of love and compassion towards all living beings.
4. Dhup Puja: (Incense) Dhup symbolizes monkhood life. While burning itself, incense provides fragrance to others. Similarly, true monks and nuns spend their entire life selflessly for the benefit of all living beings. This puja reminds that one should thrive for a ascetic life.
5. Dipaka Puja: (Candle) The flame of dipak represents a pure consciousness, i.e. a soul without any bondage of a karma or a liberated soul. In Jainism, such a soul is called a Siddha or God. The ultimate goal of every living being is to become liberated. By doing this puja one should thrive to follow five great vows; nonviolence, truthfulness, nonstealing, chastity, and nonpossession. Ultimately these vows will lead to liberation.
6. Akshata Puja: (Rice) Rice is a kind of grain which is nonfertile. One cannot grow rice plants by seeding rice. Symbolically, it means that rice is the last birth. By doing this puja one should thrive to put all the efforts in life in such a way that this life becomes one's last life, and after the end of this life one will not be reborn again.
7. Naivedya Puja: (Sweet food) Naivedya symbolizes tasty food. By doing this puja, one should thrive to reduce or eliminate attachment to tasty food. Healthy food is essential for survival, however one should not live for tasty food. Ultimate aim in one's life is to attain a life where no food is essential for survival. That is the life of a liberated soul who lives in Moksha for ever in ultimate blissful state.
8. Phala Puja: Fruit (phala) is a symbol of Moksha or liberation. If we live our life without any attachment to worldly affairs, continue to perform our duty without any expectation and reward, be a witness to all the incidents that occur surrounding us, truly follow monkhood life, and have a love and compassion to all living beings, we will attain the fruit of liberation. This is the last puja symbolizing the ultimate achievement of our life.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Twelve Reflections or Bhavanas Of Jain Meditation
- The 12 vows For the Jain Laity and The Monks
- Fourteen Auspicious Dreams of Mother Trishala
- Five Bodies and Eight Vargnas Of Jiva, The Embodied Soul
- Five Great Vows Or Maha Vratas of Jainism
- Six Universal Substances (Dravyas)
- Meaning Of Ashta Prakari Puja
- Nine Tattvas Or Principles of Jainism
- The Akaranga Sutra
- A Treatise On Jainism
- Sacred Literature of Jainism
- The Kalpa Sutra Of Bhadrabahu
- The Ten Virtues of Jain Monks
Source: Meaning Of Ashta Prakari Puja (N10) 01/19/93 8PUJA.A01 Complied by Pravin K. Shah, Jain Study Center of North Carolina