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To understand the significance of a puja, let us take the analogy of an election process. When we vote, we know that the local person standing for office represents the program of the party, the party platform. We may not like the personal qualities of this representative but our vote for him demonstrates our faith in his party's philosophy. In the same way, when we worship a person, it is not the person that we adore, but the ideal he stands for. Since at this moment we cannot have a direct experience of that ideal we take a symbol that represents that state- Teacher.
Just as a Shiva Linga represents Shiva, a Saligrama represents Vishnu, in the same way, the feet of the teacher represent to the student not the feet, but the concept behind. What we are invoking is Brahman the Lord. But we cannot directly go to Him. We want a symbol. At this time, there is no symbol more sacred than the feet of the Teacher. Therefore, we borrow the feet of the Teacher for some time, and the Teacher allows us to play with them! We wash the feet and worship them, as though they are the Lord Himself. We clean them with love, put sacred ash, adorn with sandal paste and do all that we do in a puja at the temple; we worship the feet as though they are that Shiva Linga or a Saligrama, invoking Him, the Ideal.
To be continued