For dharma shastra guidance in different yugas, there are different authorities. Manu was the authority in Satya yuga. Gautama was the authority in Treta yuga. For current Kali yuga, Parasara is the main authority.
As per “Parasara Madhaveeyam”, a pooja or a homa or any ritual performed BY ONESELF is 1,000,000 times more powerful than one performed in one’s name by a priest!
This is what it says: Compared to a ritual performed in one’s name by a priest, a ritual performed in one’s name by one’s own disciple is 100 times more powerful. Compared to that, a ritual performed in one’s name by one’s own progeny is 100 times more powerful. Compared to that, a ritual performed by oneself is 100 times more powerful.
The bottomline is that one is on one’s own as Kali deepens and priests will be limited in their ability to give a material and spiritual uplift to others. Such priests are rare and one is better off doing some sadhana by oneself rather than depending on others.
The reason priest, sishya, progeny and oneself are mentioned in increasing order of effectiveness has to do with attachment and the ability to empathize with one. In general, a son may be able to empathize with his father and pray from his heart for father more than a priest can.
However, subjective factors cannot be ignored. For example, if an estranged son hates father, a more attached sishya or even an outside priest may be more effective. The formulas given in shastra are for general guideline and apply in a typical case. There will always be exceptions.
Unfortunately, people are scared to do poojas by themselves. They are scared that they will make a mistake and something bad will happen.
If one is doing a ritual for a selfish and dangerous goal such as killing someone, controlling someone, creating hatred among 2 people etc, one indeed needs to be scared.
If one is doing a ritual for the well-being of oneself and family, i.e. for one’s basic dharma, then there is no reason to be scared. Moreover, God is not an angry boss who is looking to find faults and punish you. He is a loving father, who wants your good. If only you show some signs of responsibility, he is eager to do you much good! Even when he punishes you, it is to teach you something valuable. He is like a loving, and yet strict, father waiting for son to grow up, become responsible and establish oneself.
In any case, even if a priest does a ritual for you, don’t assume that he will do a perfect job. Many priests also don’t know the real purpose of various steps and end up sticking to many inconsequential details while compromising what matters. It is very common to stick to the letter while breaking the spirit. Also, bhava (feeling) is missing in many rituals.
Compared to a long and elaborate ritual with many technicalities strictly followed, but without much feeling, one is better off performing a simple ritual with much feeling.
Of course, if we say “just pray from heart”, it becomes too open and possibly chaotic. Rules are there to enforce discipline and provide some structure. But, if there are too many rules, the same thing that is intended to provide structure to the ritual can become constricting and suffocating. The suffocation may eliminate all feeling from the ritual.
Based on one’s desa-kala-patra, one has to find the right balance between rules (Pingala, solar channel) and emotion (Ida, lunar channel). One should follow some rules that provide a structure without suffocating one and allow one to add emotion to the ritual. Then one can make a connection.
Some astrologers and priests are good at scaring customers into submission and exploiting their vulnerabiloity for their profits. They tell that terrible things will happen unless a specific ritual is done. I will later give an example, where they shamelessly tried to exploit a really wise and pious man who himself selflessly guides others!
Though it takes some courage and conviction, one is better off ignoring such money-minded astrologers and priests.
In their next life, such astrologers and priests will themselves be born with many troubles and run after astrologers and priests to solve their problems..
Now the story I referred to above:
A gentleman I know teaches poojas to people freely and organizes mass homas where hundreds and sometimes thousands of people do homa together, guided by him. He gave some discourses on TV and was appointed as the next head at a peetha.
Now he lives in India, but he was living in US several years back. During one of his India visits, he called me to discuss an urgent matter.
He showed his daughter’s chart to an astrologer in the eastern part of AP state, who told him that his daughter has “Maha Karkotaka Kala Sarpa Dosha” and Rahu homa has to be done immediately.
This gentleman asked, “is it with the ‘kayaanaschitra aabhuva’ mantra of Rahu? How many times? I can do it.”
The astrologer immediately shot back, “no no no. Only my sishya has to do it. Then only it will work” and demanded a lot of money. He threatened that her life will be in ruins soon if it is not done.
Though a very learned man, he was quite worried and immediately called me!
I saw the chart and clarified that the astrologer is just exploiting. First of all, Kala Sarpa Yoga is not mentioned by rishis. Secondly, it is not the deadly yoga it is made out to be. After all, “Maha Karkotaka” adjective was thrown in to just make it sound deadlier!
Third, there are 2 variations based on whether Rahu is ahead or Ketu - Kala Sarpa Yoga (KSY) and Kala Amrita Yoga (KAY).
His daughter actually had KAY! Starting in mid-40s, life will transform, she will become more spiritual and fulfill the purpose of life! And this astrologer was trying to scare them and make a lot of money.. frown emoticon
Of course, doing a homa to Rahu is a good thing nonetheless. But he can definitely do it himself. Moreover, it is more likely to work then. Due to his attachment to his daughter, there will be more feeling in his homa than that by that money-minded priest/astrologer.
He was seriously worried and considered paying them as demanded! After talking to me, he was relieved and dropped the idea.
If a wise and spiritual man who shows spiritual path to thousands can be scared by a businessman exploiting Jyotish and rituals, imagine how a layman would react!
Astrologers and ritualists who sell services and scare people are better ignored. It is better to not even consult such commercial people.
Pick some ritual or sadhana (pooja to an idol, pooja to a kalasha, homa, chanting of a mantra, singing bhajans, singing and dancing, silent meditation with a mantra, silent meditation without any mantra, etc) and do it, whether for yourself or someone you are attached to. Try to create a structure for the sadhana, which allows you to infuse some feeling.
Balance between the need for a structure and the flexibility needed for infusing feelings. Do not go to one extreme. That will be a trap.