[Advaita-l] ’upAsana' and 'bhakti'

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Mon Feb 27 04:28:14 CST 2012

I have changed the header of this thread so that the matter discussed
remains focused.

On Mon, Feb 27, 2012 at 12:10 PM, Satish Arigela <satisharigela at yahoo.com>wrote:

> >you cannot perform
> Upasana without Bhakti.
> Yes you can! I am not theorizing something here. I am only telling what I
> have studied and also seen.
> Broaden your study , remove earlier assumptions about upAsana and closely
> observe people who practice this stuff and you will eventually see that
> upAsana and bhakti are two different things.


This verse of the srImadbhAgavatam is very popular and a favourite of the
Advaita Acharyas:

योगास्त्रयो मया प्रोक्ता न्èणां श्रेयोविधित्सया ।

ज्ञानं कर्म च भक्तिश्च नोपायोऽन्योऽस्ति कुत्रचित॥ (११.२०.६)

Lord Krishna said: My dear Uddhava <http://vedabase.net/u/uddhava>, because
I desire that human beings may achieve perfection, I have presented three
paths of advancement — the path of knowledge, the path of work and the path
of devotion. Besides these three there is absolutely no other means of

Madhusudana Saraswati has quoted this in his BhaktirasAayanam.

Someone who has read the book 'Yoga Enlightenment and Perfection' will know
how bhakti was intertwined with upAsana in the case of the Acharya
described there.  He was an adept at nirvikalpa samadhi, nirguNa, saguNa
dhyAnam and a variety of these too.  He was a great adept in mantrashAstra
too and the upAsanas connected with it.  There is a whole chapter in it
which demonstrates how bhakti is inalienable to the practice of those
upAsanas too.

Some Acharyas, including MS, have seen the 18 chapters of the Gita as
consisting of three hexads of the above three: karma, bhakti and Jnanam.
And this triad, the Lord has stated above, has its basis in the Veda.
Shankara has specified it in several places and one we saw recently in the
Gaudapada karika bhashya 3.16.  In the Vedic system it is called karma,
upasana and jnanam.  Thus bhakti and upasana are synonyms.

At the beginning of the Chandogya bhashya Shankara gives a definition of

उपासनं तु यथाशास्त्रसमर्पितं किञ्चिदालम्बनमुपादाय तस्मिन्
समानचित्तवृत्त्सन्तानकरणं तद्विलक्षणप्रत्ययान्तरितमिति ।
तान्येतान्युपासनानि सत्त्वशुद्धिकरत्वेन
वस्तुतत्त्वावभासकत्वादद्वैतज्ञानोपकारकाणि ....।

[ A rough translation is: upAsanam is taking up an object that is well
within the scriptural lore and maintaining a flow of similar
thought-current on that chosen object by avoiding any thought-current that
is opposed to it.  These upAsanas result in chitta shuddhi and bring about
the realization of the Supreme Brahman and therefore are useful in bringing
about the knowledge of the Advaitic Brahman.]

To the above commentary of Shankara, Anandagiri writes in his gloss:

उपासनानाम् ईश्वरार्पणबुद्ध्या अनुष्ठितनित्यादिकर्मवत् चित्तशुद्धिद्वारा
ज्ञानकारणत्वात्...साकारवस्तुविषयत्वेन सुसाध्यत्वाच्च मन्दानां सहसा तेषु

[The upAsanas, just like the nitya, etc. karmas that are performed with the
idea of offering them to Ishwara, enable the realization of the
Self/Brahman by bringing about chitta shuddhi.  Also, since they (upasanas)
are about the objects with forms it becomes easy of accomplishment by the
less equipped....]

During all our nitya and naimittika karmas we have this formal offering at
the end: 'kAyena vAchA......srImannAraayaNAyeti samarpayAmi.' .  We have
also this verse recited in this connection: मन्त्रहीनं क्रियाहीनं भक्तिहीनं
हुताशन/जनार्दन ....a prayer asking for pardoning the fault of performing
the karma without proper mantra accompaniment, lapses in the performance
itself and lack of bhakti while performing it.

Of Bhakti, we have the popular definition from the Vivekachudamani:
svasrUpaanusandhAnam / svAtmatattvAnusandhAnam.  Both involve an
anusandhAnam, like the upAsanam defined above in their performance.

For the word 'bhaktyA' in the BG 11.54, Shankara writes:

//Tu, but, O Arjuna; bhaktya, by devotion-. Of what kind? To this the Lord
says: Ananyaya, by (that devotion which is ) single-minded. That is called
single-minded devotion which does not turn to anything else other than the
Lord, and owing to which nothing else but Vasudeva is perceived by all the
organs. With that devotion, aham sakyah, am I able; evamvidhah, in this
form- in the aspect of the Cosmic form; jnatum, to be known- from the
scriptures; *not merely to be known from the scriptures, but also drashtum,
to be seen , to be realized directly; tattvena, in reality; and also
praveshtum, to be entered into-for attaining Liberation;*//

It is the single-mindedness that can be seen to be the common factor in
upaasana and bhakti.  And we see that bhakti, devotion, to the upAsya
object is also essential.  For, unless there is a liking, love, for the
upAsya, goal, the mind will have no impetus to stay in the upAsya. Its love
for things other than the upAsya is what takes it away from the upAsya,
which is called chitta vikShepa, distraction.

Likewise in 18.55 there is the word 'bhaktyA' for which Shankara writes:

//When knowledge-  which concerns the identity of the 'Knower of the field'
and the supreme Self, and which remains associated with the renunciation of
all actions that arise from the perception of the distinction among their
accessories such as agent etc., and which unfolds from the instruction of
the scriptures and teachers, depending on purity of the intellect etc. and
humility etc. which are the auxiliary causes of the origin and maturity of
Knowledge-continues in the form of the conviction that one's own Self has
been realized, then that continuance is called the supreme steadfastness
(nistha) in Knowledge.This steadfastness in Knowledge that is such has been
spoken of as the highest, *the fourth kind of devotion *in relation to the
three other devotions viz of the afflicted, etc. (cf. 7.16). *Through that
highest devotion one realizes the Lord in truth. Immediately after that the
idea of difference between the Lord and the Knower of the field vanishes

Thus we can see that whether it is the 'upAsana-s' of the Upanishads or the
bhakti of the Bhagavadgita/bhagavatam, a difference cannot be thought of.
Shankara and Anandagiri make the case for the upAsana = bhakti very tight.
The threefold division of the Scriptural method into karma, bhakti/upasana
and jnAnam is universal.


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