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All of us do not have the same level of intellectual or emotional maturity. This is why Hinduism has three approaches to the understanding of the Ultimate Reality. The paths of gnana (knowledge), karma (duty) and bhakti (devotion) will all lead to a union with the Ultimate Reality or God.

The path of Gnana requires that we detach ourselves from the material world and contemplate a nameless, formless and attributeless Reality. The path of karma requires that we do our duty in each stage of our life as per our dharma, without hankering for the fruits of our labour. As these paths may not be possible for all to follow, a simpler option, the path of bhakthi, is offered.

In the path of bhakthi, god is imagined with attributes. The image of god has evolved with the mind of man. The first gods were primal forces of nature. With the apprehension of planets and moons, they too were given forms and seen as influencing the lives of man. As Hinduism is a syncretic religion it has absorbed the deities of different creeds within its fold.

In a temple the image of a god reminds the bhaktha of the Supreme force and gives him a point of concentration. The archana performed by the priest, or the offering made with flowers or other symbols of auspiciousness and purity, is done with the fingers folded in the symbol of the heart/lotus. This is to suggest that the devotee places his heart at the feet of the lord for guidance. This is a submission, a plea for help. (Without faith and the proper understanding of the concept, this is reduced to meaningless ritual.)

Mythology suggests that Dhanwanthri, the originator of the Ayurvedic system of medicine, is an incarnation of Vishnu. Many mantras are cited in the puranas or mythological texts as enhancing the healing powers of medicines. But in practice most Hindus tend to request an archana at a temple in times of trouble, especially when unwell.

If you would like to perform an archana in your name or in the name of someone close to you click here.

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