Path to Siva: A Catechism for Youth

41 What Are Our Five Core Practices?§


A simple way to describe our basic religious practices is shown on these colored notes. By following them we become good citizens, strong, secure, responsible, tolerant and traditional.§


Worship, holy days, pilgrimage, dharma and rites of passage are the five areas of practice that Gurudeva recommended for all Hindus. In Sanskrit they are called the pancha nitya karmas. First and foremost is daily worship, upasana. This is the core of religious life, the soul’s natural outpouring of love for God and the Gods. Next is utsava, honoring holy days, when the blessings of the Deities are strongest. We join with family and community in ceremony and feasting during the major Siva, Ganesha and Murugan festivals each year. Monday is the Hindu holy day in the North of India, and Friday in the South. On this day we attend the temple, clean and decorate the home shrine and spend extra time in prayer, japa and scriptural study. These are not days of rest; we carry on our usual work. Pilgrimage, tirthayatra, is our third area of practice. At least once a year, we make a special journey to a holy place. It is a complete break from our usual concerns, during which God, Gods and gurus become the singular focus. These three forms of worship—daily puja, holy days and pilgrimage—help us manifest our inner perfection in our outer nature. Our fourth area is dharma, living an unselfish life of duty and good conduct. Here, the yamas and niyamas are our guide. Dharma includes being respectful of parents, elders, teachers and swamis. Our fifth area of practice is rites of passage, called samskaras. These are personal ceremonies that sanctify and celebrate crucial junctures in life, from birth to death. The first major samskara is the name-giving rite. Others follow, including first feeding, ear piercing and beginning of formal study. As an adult, the most important ceremony is marriage. At death, the soul is released from the body during sacred funeral rites. Rites of passage draw to us special blessings from the devas and Deities, society and village, family and friends.§


GURUDEVA: Performing daily sadhana, keeping good company, pilgrimaging to holy places, seeing to others’ needs—these evoke the higher energies, direct the mind to useful thoughts and avoid the creation of troublesome new karmas.§