Hinduism honors creativity, art, and ritual-making.  The Chandogya Upanishad says: 

Where there is creating, there is progress.  Where there is no creating, there is no progress: Know the nature of creating.  Where there is joy, there is creating.  Know the nature of joy.  Where there is the Infinite, there is joy.  

Short video showcasing a traditional Hindu morning ritual. Originally posted to YouTube by Mark Jeress.

A few years ago I visited the island of Bali, having been urged to go there for years by friends of mine who were keen on ritual’s role in celebrating community.  I was not disappointed.  There was ceremony on a daily basis and in the most mundane circumstances.  One day our tour guide consisted of two young men driving an old car.  They had set up on the dashboard of their car an altar made of fresh flowers and when I asked them, they said they did that every day.  

The Hindu tradition of ritual-making was everywhere.  Even on rainy days mothers with fruit balanced on their heads would be walking in clean white garb with their cleanly clothed children to the rituals. How they managed to be so clean with water and mud everywhere was a miracle!  But the ritual-making was the motivation behind it all.

“Hindu festival of Diwali, Uluwatu Temple, Indonesia” by Johan Mouchet, Unsplash

The Bhagavad Gita says: 

When you offer with love a leaf, a flower, or water to me, I accept that offer of love from the giver who gives herself.  Whatever you do, or eat, or offer, whatever you do, do as an offering to me.  

A ritual is meant to be a centering device.

Make every act an offering to me;

Regard me as your only protector.

Make every thought an offering to me;

Meditate on me always.

Nikhilananda explains how the rituals work in the prayer life of ordinary Hindu worshipers:

A Durga Devi temple in Mumbai, India during the festival of Navratri in 2018. Photo by Sonika Agarwal on Unsplash

Meditative worship… is described as a mental activity; the mind of the worshiper should flow without interruption toward the object of worship.  It may also lead to introspection and finally to liberation…. The highest tangible result of ritual with meditation is… where one enjoys the most exalted form of phenomenal bliss.

A Vedic hymn depicts an attitude of creativity put to use of service of others.

Lord of light?

Fill me with sweet honey,

So that I may speak the glorious word

to the masses of mankind.

Ganesh statue in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Photo by Atrodish Creation on Unsplash

A Commentator remarks: “The truths revealed through the words of the Veda are not secrets to be carefully kept from the public.  The sage who knows them feels called upon to declare them to his fellowmen, irrespective of their social or cultural status.”

In the Hindu tradition of karma yoga the goal is to realize that whatever one does, one’s work is a form of worship.  Daily actions are a spiritual discipline.  As one author puts it;

the practitioner of yoga does not renounce the world, for that would mean renouncing the Creator.  She does not renounce action.  She cuts the bonds that imprison her by dedicating the fruits of her actions to God.  

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 245f.

Banner Image: Hindu statue found at the Batu Cave in Malaysia. Photo by Callous Gee on Unsplash

Have you considered imitating the two young taxi cab drivers who brought an altar of fresh flowers to their beat-up car every day by bringing an altar to your work place to consecrate the day and the work you do that day?   

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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5 thoughts on “Rituals among Hindus”

  1. Avatar

    Ah yes, thank you for this beautiful reminder. The joy of the shared everyday, through ritual, is the greatest joy of all. So much abundance. It’s the little things that become big things.

  2. Avatar

    I luv, luv, luv this meditation. Thank you Matt!
    If I may, I’d like to share that… I’ve been very blessed in my life by Hindus. My favorite professor in seminary was a devout Hindu. Just to be in his presence was transformative. One of the greatest influencer in my life is Mahatma Gandhi. He saw all his work to liberate India, free the untouchables and serve the poor as forms of worship. Then, of course, there’s Ganesh, depicted as an elephant, the Hindu deity of new beginnings and overcomer of obstacles. And how does he overcome obstacles? By dancing with them! Ha! For me, that’s a very fun and effective ritual!
    Kristal Parks

  3. Avatar

    It’s yesterday’s DM that still has me spinning around the house. Made me think how dancing is more fun when you do it with other people. Made me wonder why our culture has hyper- sexualized it. In West Africa, dance is part of most major gatherings, including funerals; it’s a way of celebrating, a way of showing gratitude – also a way of showing off! People of all ages break into dance spontaneously when music or drums are playing.

    I also want to thank you for these Daily Meditations. They have become an essential part of starting my day. Thank you!

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