Monday, December 20, 2010

Worship vs Puja

"M. Ranjit Mathews" wrote: " Well, if "pujya" means "worthy of worship", wouldn't "puja" mean worship ?"

‘Pujya’ means “deserving of ‘puja’”. If ‘puja’ translated as ‘worship’, quite obviously one translates ‘pujya’ as you do.

You see Ranjit, what is at stake is not a mere ‘translation’ problem. It has to do with how the Indian culture (and not merely this one culture, I might add) has been, and continues to be, represented not just by Western intellectuals but also by the Indian intellectuals themselves. Let me give you an example, which should give you a sense of the nature of the problem.

Nietzsche, the philosopher not exactly known for his Christian sympathies, referring to Sir John Lubbock – an English historian from the 19th century – writes (Human, All too Human, #3, §111) about the ‘Origin of the Religious Cult’ thus:

“In India (according to Lubbock) a carpenter is accustomed to make sacrifices to his hammer, his axe and other tools; a Brahman treats the crayon with which he writes, a soldier the weapon he employs in the field, a mason his trowel, a labourer his plough in the same way.”

One presumes that Lubbock is talking about ‘Aayudha Puja’ here. I have claimed that the word ‘worship’ is theological. Why?

1. Because, amongst other things, what ‘worship’ is, how and what one ‘worships’, and in what forms one ‘worships’ etc. etc. *cannot* be the “invention of busy human minds” – as one of the early Church Fathers put it in his battle against the Pagans in Rome – but one requiring *revelation*.

2. One can only worship ‘God’. If you belong to one of the Abrahamic religions, you know who that ‘God’ is: He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Any other ‘worship’ is worshipping the ‘false God’. And the true ‘God’, you know this as well, is ‘The Lord, The Master of the Universe, The Creator’, and so on.

3. The meaning of ‘worship’, in English because we are talking about the use and meaning of the word from this language, is wholly indebted to the above theological explications given to it.

4. If ‘puja’ is worship, and the Indians do ‘Aayudha Puja’ (which they do), you have only two possible (and please, do not bring in ‘symbolic’ worship into the discussion!) explanations: (a) they are worshipping the Devil and his minions; Or (b) they are absolute and total cretins.

5. Why the latter option as well? If an Indian does ‘puja’ to his bicycle on the ‘Aayudha Puja’ day, are we to attribute to him the belief that he thinks that his bicycle is ‘The Lord, The Master of the Universe, The Creator’? If he does, then he an absolute idiot. If he does not, what exactly does he do when he does ‘puja’?

I have problems with descriptions that transform entire continents and peoples (over thousands of years) into idiots and cretins. Well, the translation of ‘puja’ as ‘worship’ (and not just that one word alone, obviously) does precisely that. There is no way, on ‘heaven’ or on earth, that cultures could survive for thousands of years comprising only of those suffering from Down’s Syndrome.

From this it follows that the translation of ‘puja’ as ‘worship’ is totally wrong, unless, of course, one does accept that the Indian (in fact, all non-Christian, non-Judaic, non-Muslim
peoples) indeed worship the devil.

I do not know about you Ranjit, but I find it preposterous even to entertain either of the alternatives.

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