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THEOLOGY: Puja and Embodied Religion

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McGill University
Religious Studies
RELG 252
Davesh Soneji

To discuss: Puja and Embodied Religion Key concepts: Puja (Worship, performed in domestic and public setting Darsana ( Seeing and being seen by divine presence) Bhakti (Personal devotion) Mantra (oral and is considered capable of "creating transformation") Temple worship can be huge temples, or small shrines. Domestic worship is present also. Offerings at home, just in smaller scale than at temple: the gods donʼt need anything from their devotees but we do it anyways, as if the gods were royal guests. Puja involves taking a transcendent form of the divine and making it immanent. Although deity is everywhere, it becomes embodied. Embodied religious practices including puja, meditative and mantric practices, pilgrimage, festivals, and deity possessions all mark the fundamental connectedness between the all-pervasive divine force and its multiple local, accessible forms. Transcendent becomes immanent. Variety of ways. A theology of the image in Srivaisnavism. Gradually closer to a form that we can worship concretely. - Para (supreme unchanging form residing in a transcendent space, Vaikunta) - Vyuha (emanation forms) - Vibhava/Avatara (particular descent forms) - Antaryamin (“inner controller”) - Arca * “form to be worshipped) The relation of Puja to Bhakti Underpinning the idea of puja is that of the deityʼs grace. While the recitation of mantra and other rituals (such as bathing and adorning images of the deity) are understood as the mechanisms or technologies that enable one to experience the connection between the micro- and macrocosms, in most contexts, it is the emotional impulse of bhakti that propels participation in embodied religious activities. Gods enter the image and exit the image as well. We invite the deity to reside in the statue and in the temple. And then when the deity cannot be supported anymore or a festival is over, the deity leaves. The deity enters the statue when the priest paints the eyes on it. He also holds a mirror in
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