I know that we can make great Karma by offering Flowers,candles,incense,food,robes and other things for the Buddha statue thinking as if the Buddha is alive. But whenever I do offer these things my mind says "The Buddha is not there to receive this.And this is not the proper way to pay respect for the Buddha. The proper way is to try to be mindful and try to be free from the defilement in the mind." Am I cultivating bad thoughts by thinking this way? What is the proper way to think when we offer these things to the Buddha statue?
Both are ways to show respect for the Buddha. Offerings are a lesser way compared with the practice of Sila, Samadhi, and Panna, but you do not have to choose between the two. You can develop the path and also make offerings.
The best way to make offerings is to make your offering be endowed with the three factors you have control over. The Buddha once taught that there are six factors that affect the merit of an offering, three of which are determined by the giver's mind:
"Monks, the lay woman Velukandaki, Nanda's mother, has established a donation endowed with six factors for the community of monks headed by Sariputta & Moggallana.
"And how is a donation endowed with six factors? There is the case where there are the three factors of the donor, the three factors of the recipients.
"And which are the three factors of the donor? There is the case where the donor, before giving, is glad; while giving, his/her mind is bright & clear; and after giving is gratified. These are the three factors of the donor.
"And which are the three factors of the recipients? There is the case where the recipients are free of passion or are practicing for the subduing of passion; free of aversion or practicing for the subduing of aversion; and free of delusion or practicing for the subduing of delusion. These are the three factors of the recipients.
"Such are the three factors of the donor, the three factors of the recipients. And this is how a donation is endowed with six factors."
In brief, before giving have a joyous mind, have a mind that is bright and clear during the offering, and be pleased with the offering once you have made it. This is the best way to make offerings.
The proper way is to try to be mindful and try to be free from the defilement in the mind.
The best way is to do do Puja to the triple get is through the practice of Dhamma.
The Buddha spent many life times doing paramis to teach us the Dhamma. So the best Puja is for us to practice it.
1st we should learn the dhamma. When you listen to a Sutta if you get any stage of sainthood, congratulation, as these only a few of such people with little dust in their eyes. Many of us do not. This is because have have not fully understood that the Buddha ment through these words. With out understanding the intended meaning we have imposed our own meaning or our imperfect view on what this is. (What ever we see at the experiential level is what the Buddha intended to teach us.) All is not lost as that is how many of us start. It is through practice that you can understand the true meaning of the words.
As I said before the Buddha had gone through much suffering over many lives to deliver us his message. We should strive hard to understand this at the experiential level. This is the best Puja we can do.
I am not condemning Amisha Puja. This serves a purpose. This is like the bark of a tree. Without it the Sasana will not survive. For a person this is what initially draws one to the temple to learn and the practice. But practice should always follow, i.e., start with Amisha Puja and progress to Prathipati Puja.