Before understanding the actual Puja, it would be better to have a look over the meaning drawn by men of today from the term 'Puja' & their ways of performing it. Ordinary people think that if they bow before an idol, burn an incense stick & at the most make a particular sound, they have done Puja of gods. They think that Puja of gods and Puja of God is one & the same thing. Well educated people of today sacrifice logic wherever the term God appears. They, in the name of Puja, go to a place in the house etc. where idols of Vishnu, Shiv, Durga, Hanuman etc. are placed, bow before these idols, burn an incense and move that before each of these idols, request for their own & their families' welfare & finally request for forgiveness of their sins. This is all they do towards Puja. Today, many people bow before road side temples etc. while travelling.

      Now, let us try to understand what is meant by Puja. According to our scriptures, to deal with the other persons in accordance with their behaviours with us and the society at large, is Puja. This meaning is very much prevalent in today’s society e.g. when a child,  crying out of hunger comes to his mother and his mother does his ‘Pet Puja’ i.e. feeds him, similarly, when a thief comes in a house, people of the family do his ‘Peed Puja’ i.e. they beat the thief. There is a mention in our scriptures that people of a society should do Puja of women, which means that women should be given due respect and should be provide with beautiful clothes and ornaments. This means that the word Puja refers to dealing with others in accordance with their social status and their behaviour towards the society.

Why should we do Puja?

Everyone does Puja for fulfillment of his desires. His desires may be worldly or non-worldly. In short, Puja is done to draw some benefit or pleasure (worldly or non-worldly). In the world, there are so many things, which give us pleasure or benefit. But by paying deep thinking over this issue, we will realize that maximum benefit is drawn by us from air, water and food. Do we not realize that- without air, not only man but all the creatures of the world can exist only for a while only, without water, only for a few days? Imagine that a king of many countries is lost in a desert and is crying out of thirst, then he will be ready to give whole of his kingdom for a glass of water. Similar is the importance of food.

Now, give a thought that does Puja done at different worship-places affect in any way the purity of water, air etc. Now, every country of the world is worrying about the deteriorating condition of purity of our environment namely water, air etc. It is high time to understand that prevalent way of doing Puja is not right. Then what is the right way of doing Puja (of gods & God)?

 Before understanding Puja of gods, we must understand as to who or what are gods? By the term ‘gods’, we mean souls like parents, knowledgeable persons etc. or inert objects like water, air etc. who or which give and do not take anything in return like mother, father, sun, air, water etc. There are thirty two types of gods. Here, we do not think appropriate to dwell on all of these. God refers to an intelligent entity, who creates these gods (Here, creation refers to bringing gods in their present condition). Mother, father, knowledgeable persons etc. are living gods and their Puja can be done by dealing or behaving with them in accordance with their behaviour towards the society. But how to do Puja of non-living gods such as air, water etc.?

Before obtaining answer to this question, it would be better for us to know as to how these non-living gods do welfare to us. We experience all our lives that without these non-living gods, we cannot survive. God has created these non-living gods in their purest forms but man, out of his selfishness to meet his worldly needs has created different sorts of factories, means of transportation etc. and thereby has polluted these non-living gods. It is certain that no Puja except ‘Havan’ can offer a solution to the problem of growing pollution in our environment.

How ‘Havan’ is Puja of gods?

Our Rishis and Maharishis, who can be called scientists in modern terminology discovered the system of ‘Havan’ to tackle the problem of pollution. The system adopted in havan purifies water & air. It has been seen earlier as to how much purity of water & air is essential for our survival. Why should we believe that method adopted in doing havan actually purifies water & air?

Before we answer this question, let us give a thought that when we say that we should do Puja of our mother & father through offering them food, then do we satisfy them by rubbing food on different parts of their bodies? In order to meet their bodily needs, food is not rubbed on different parts of their bodies but is put in their mouth from where it goes into stomach, where it gets digested and then is transferred to different organs of their bodies in very minute form according to the needs / requirements. As such, Puja of living gods is meeting their physical needs e.g. feeding them through their mouth. Towards Puja of non-living gods, what can be done by us is to keep them pure & healthy. Similar to living gods, what can be the system through which non-living gods can be purified or in other words, what can be the system through which they get energy? Fire is said to be the mouth of non-living gods i.e. fire acts as a mouth of non-living gods for providing them energy out of the materials fed to it. In havan, we put in fire the materials, required for keeping the non-living gods pure.

As per science of materials, matter never gets destroyed, it gets transformed only. Accordingly, what is put in fire never gets destroyed, rather, gets minute and because of minuteness, the materials put into fire get extended a lot in qualities & space. On getting minute, they become more powerful & spread through air in the atmosphere giving life-force to all. In this way, these materials are able to remove pollution from the atmosphere. The rain, which falls from such un-polluted atmosphere affects the vegetation & the vegetation gets richer in quality as well as in quantity. There is a chain effect, which starts from havan-havan removing pollution from the atmosphere causes better quality of rainfall to pour, richer rainfall is the cause of better vegetation, better vegetation helps all creatures to lead healthy lives. As such, havan is the only mean by which we can honour all our living gods and keep the non-living gods pure & healthy. It is a great mantra towards welfare of all. Without focusing on this mantra, we cannot achieve ‘welfare of all’. As such, havan is Puja in the real sense. Upto the time of 'Mahabharta', all the natives of 'Aryavratta' instead of worshipping any idol, had the routine of performing havan in the morning & evening.

Now, we dwell upon Puja of God. Puja of God comprises of three steps-Stuti (Praise), Prarthna (Prayer) and Upasana (Communion). Stuti refers to praising God by citing His qualities. By doing Stuti we accept the existence of a supreme living entity higher (greater) than us. It helps us in recognizing the fact that there is a greater entity in the universe than our ‘selves’. Prarthna (prayer) is done to a person, whom we consider having the potential to resolve our issues. Once, we know that there is an entity greater than us, then, we cannot abstain from making prayers to that entity for resolving our issues. Last step in Puja of God is ‘Upasana’. Upasana refers to imbibing the qualities of God according to our capacity. A person cannot be called a theist until and unless he does all the three steps enshrined in the worship of God.

Hence, we see that there is a great difference between Puja of God and Puja of gods. Puja of gods, in the names of various prevalent religions, cannot be done in different ways by mankind. The English word ‘Religion’ is wrongly considered to mean the same as Hindi / Sanskrit word ‘Dharm’. Dharm cannot be separated from self and it remains the same for all humans.