Sunday, February 7, 2016

The secret of spiritual practices (Upasana)

India has a very rich heritage in terms of spirituality, spiritual practices, yoga and tantra. Every practice had been experimented upon and validated by many yogic and spiritual masters and written down in the form of scriptures and texts. But the problem remained that billions of people had been practicing these rituals and spiritual practices without any tangible results with very few exceptions. Probably one or two people in billions can claim to have understood the way these practices work in life. Further, the results of these practices though practiced by an individual or group or family under the protection or blessings or patronage of Guru, without knowing the mechanism process or effect. This ignorance has brought much defame to the ancient living tradition of India with respect to these spiritual practices. In addition, the practitioner is generally afraid and feels insecure or at times passes his days in conspicuous silence while keeping his mind on the fulfillment of his desires.
All rituals or outer form of physical practices are collectively written in Vedic scriptures known as Purva Mimamsa or Karmamimamsa. Purva Mimamsa means “first reflection”. The first reflection conveys the meaning that before one takes up higher and deeper spiritual practices, one may take up outer physical practices to bring about changes one’s  present behavior and develop the  attitude and temperament conducive  for realizing the divine consciousness. That is why “Purva Mimamsa” is also known as “Karma Mimasa” or the study and practice of rituals or outer mode of physical practices for transforming the state of consciousness. Initially, the physical practices claimed to have the potential for bringing about transformation in life. It is this assertion that resulted in many interpretations of “Karma Mimamsa”. “Badari” who is the first known author and commentator of physical practices suggested that all the practices are to be undertaken without any intrinsic motivation. But selfish interests and craving for material possessions more often than not rules supreme in the minds of practitioners, who spend millions of rupees in rituals i.e. offering thousands of rupees to poorest in charity, building temples worth crores of rupees, daily prayer including the offering of flowers, fruits, money and incense sticks before idols in temples for fulfilment of their desires.  “Jaimini”, who composed sutras in about the 4th century BC, was critical of the earlier Mimamsa authors, particularly of Badari, and said that Vedic injunctions do not merely prescribe actions but also recommend these actions as means to the attainment of desirable goals. However, all commentators agree that performances of the Vedic sacrifices are aimed at securing an abode in heaven and attainment of material possessions and happiness in the outer sphere of life.
 Reasons were   put forth in the beginning that these practices cannot be challenged by reasoning and that Spirituality is something very different from these rituals.
Veda means knowledge. This is the knowledge of Real-Self or pure consciousness and since “Purva Mimamsa” is a part of Vedas, there must be some intrinsic meaning in these practices aimed at spiritual development and self-perfection of an individual.  “Shabara” another commentator, sought to establish the intrinsic validity of experiences and explained that every physical action in the form Upasana must be performed with a proper mental attitude developed prior to any practice.
Every physical action takes mental form and every mental action takes physical form. Mind and body are intimately linked and do interchange their expressions and realisations. If any idea , will or  plan  when organized can become manifest in physical reality, then  why can not any practice known as rituals and a part of Upasana   translate into physical reality.    
Badarayana, a great commentator lays stress on the philosophical portions--i.e., the Upanishads. Jamini, another commentator, recommends the path of Vedic injunctions, hence the ideal of karma. Though one moves around the central concept of  what ought to be done and other takes the central theme of Brahman--i.e., the absolute reality. But Ramanuja, a great South Indian philosopher of the 11th-12th centuries, presented that there is no conflict  between the two approaches and they jointly constitute a single work with Jaimini's coming first and Badarayana's coming after it in logical order, thus offering harmony, unity and proved that the origin of two approaches is the one and the same-Veda.
 Consciously Understanding Upasana
What is the rationale of Upasana or spiritual practices? What is its process and mechanism? What ought to be the ideal attitude of the practitioner? What are the different practices   which can bring expected results? Are these practices instrumental in the attainment of PPS –peace, prosperity and success in life or are they simply a waste of time? Can these practices result in excellence at Personal, Professional, Social and Spiritual levels in life? There are several pertinent questions related to these practices that must be answered in order to bring yoga and spirituality in the field of scientific understanding. It is very important to bring experienced based knowledge in the fold of evidence based knowledge so that quacks in the field can be eliminated and a rational understanding of the process can be laid down for humanity.
Upasana -defined
Upasana" is a Sanskrit word. The word Upasana includes three parts - up+aas  +yuch . “Up” is a prefix “aas” is root of verb and “Yuch” is an anafix. -  it means the devotee's mental unity with the deity for a long period. The synonyms of word Upasana are meditation, Sadhana, Aradhana etc. Accordingly three things exist - devotee, devotor and devotion.  Upasaka is a person whose mind is constantly busy in worshiping the mental form and qualities of the deity. There are different types of devotees and devotors. Therefore the methods of worship are also different- but one element of the Supreme Divine exists everywhere.
Upasana also means seating near. How?  By withdrawing one’s consciousness from the mundane objects and directing it towards God & communicating with him emotionally. When this process of communication starts, man begins to acquire Divine power.
Upasana means sitting near. This means sitting near divine. But how to sit near divine, when divine is nearer than the nearest. Can I sit with myself? This is the puzzle for practitioner to solve by different practices and enter into nearness to divine.
 Physical, mental and emotional proximity all have different meanings and experiences. When  physical proximity to any object or person  whether it be money, a  big house or any other material possession does not and cannot solve our mental and emotional problems  then how it can bring divine presence within?  Near to the mind are thoughts which spring either from the past, our subconscious or unconscious mind or from our needs, desires cravings etc. we remain emotionally charged both due to the desire sense and or ego sense –we remain dominated by our instincts and drives.
Whenever we think of nearness, we consider it in relative terms like: I am sitting near you, the table is near me etc. Then what is the meaning of sitting near the divine. Who sits near divine and how to sit near divine so that it becomes Upasana?  

 Upasana is nearness with reference to unity and oneness; with reference to the unfolding of oneself. Upasana is awareness of the Real-Self which is one and the   same in all beings. Upasana is a discovery of that element within oneself that is eternal, permanent and beyond the world of name and form. Upasana is a process by which the practitioner discovers the ultimate reality that lies within. Sitting near as in Upasana is more a symbolic and points to the reality behind all appearances that can be achieved by hundreds of practices explained in yoga, spirituality and tantra. It is not impossible to search for the one and only one divine through the many practices that lie in the field of space and time. Upasana is generally associated with all forms of practices aimed at self realization e.g.
Bhanopasana: Ascribing to the Lord the Highest splendor, the deepest compassion, the most potent Power, etc. and worshiping Him with the deepest and highest emotion.
Gitaupasana: Adoring Him as the Master and Preceptor who teaches the Gita and reveals the Way.
Adwaithopasana: (Non-Dualism) the   God is omnipresent and has to be discovered and experienced in order to realize Bliss and Awareness. Like oil in mustard, butter in yogurt, like water inside the earth, like fire in timber, God is also present in all beings. God is in the human body and in the human mind. To become aware of Divine presence, spiritual effort is necessary.
Dwaitopasana: (Dualism) The Dualistic outlook on the relationship between God and the individual is that of husband and wife. Vishnu, the Lord, the ever-free, ever-full, has to be adored as the wife adores the husband. The practices of   chanting the name of god, living a life of penance, directing one’s heart to the one   and only one god till one is able to manifest Divine within.
Saivopasana: This emphasises the worship of Siva as formulated in the Lingam . The Infinite Lingam is the symbol of the Primal Energy which represents the basic cause of origin, condition and progress of the 'elements' that compose the Cosmos. The Lingam is the Form of Siva Himself and realising it as such is asserted as the ultimate goal of liberation.
Virasaivopasana: the worship of Siva, the Lord or Isvara, as the omnipresent is the basis of this Upasana. The merging of the individual in the splendor of the Linga or Isvara is symbolic of Liberation .In fact this Upasana begins with manifest or God of form and name and transforms the mind to realize, experience the formless divine known as Linga.

Pasupatiupaasana: The individual entity (Jiva) is tied by the bond (paasa) of the qualities or moralities arising from nature. Pasupathi (Siva) is worshiped in order to attain freedom from Bondage. The bondage of unconsciousness, ignorance and falsehood can only be freed by the one who dwells within all, is the protector of all and creates all sufferings to extend its essential nature of bliss, knowledge, truth and love to one and all.

Saktiupaasana: Godess is an epitome of Shakti or power that is all and divine. The Primeval Universal Energy, Aadi Para Shakti, is conceived as the matrix of all forms of Divinity. The Cosmic Urge, the Prakrti, is the cause of the variety and multiplicity of expression, the manifold forms. The Maheswara (Supreme Divinity) has this capacity to manifest and is therefore so named. Maheswara and Para Shakti are two aspects of the same force. This dual-faceted force motivates the Universe, from the vast expanse of the sky to the entire earth. The unmanifest Supreme Person manifests as the feminine Universal, the Maya, and the Para Shakti. In each individual, it is experienced as knowledge, strength and activity.
The practices performed by Christians, Muslims, Jains, and Buddhists can also be placed under Upasana. By understanding the mechanism of Upasana, one can easily understand process and mechanism of practices explained in scriptures of all religions.

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