[Advaita-l] ’upAsana' and 'bhakti'

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Mar 1 12:53:01 CST 2012

While browsing the net I found this site containing some useful inputs for
the topic of this thread. (I would not say that the entire article is
relevant to Vedanta sadhana):


Here are some excerpts:

// Hindu scriptures prescribe three different but * intertwining paths* to
attain liberation and these are: karma, Bhakti and Jnana. Of these, karma
directs the individual to perform faithfully all the duties, actions and
procedures prescribed by the Vedas and Shastras as befitting a man's Varna
and Ashrama. The Bhakti path is where the individual is given the choice of
a form of the Divine Entity to contemplate, worship, meditate, and perform
Pooja etc. The Absolute that is formless, is allowed to be conceived of as
having a form to enable the human mind to hold on to something and make
progress in the Bhakti route. This Bhakti also consists of three distinct
groups of activities:

a. Activities by the mind like Japa and Dhyana;

b. Activities of the organs like Pooja

c. Activities of the word of mouth like chanting prayers.

Depending on one's preference or inclination, one can stick to only one of
the three or more of one and less of the others.
*The practice of Bhakti in all its three forms constitutes Upasana. *There
the form to be adopted as the object of devotion is also a matter of
choice. Indeed, Bhagavan Krishna assures us that he confers on the sincere
devotee, unwavering devotion to the chosen form. There are six Upasana
paths known as the Shanmatas, properly codified and defined by the great
Acharya, Sri Adi Shankara Bhagavatpada. They are: Ganapatya, Saura,
Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakta and Kaumara. As the name of each indicates, each
one has a different form of deity as the object of worship; the other paths
of Japa, Dhyana and the ritual of puja are all the same. //

// As mentioned earlier, there are three paths to liberation. However,
these are not mutually exclusive but have among themselves some amount of
overlapping. Interestingly, in the path of Jnana itself, Adi Shankara
stresses the Bhakti aspect. Acharya has cleverly reconciled these two in
his Vedantic definition of Bhakti as the individual meditating upon or
worshipping himself. *Bhakti or Upasana is of two kinds: *Gowni and Para.
This first is also known as Sagunopasana. The human mind which finds it
impossible to visualize the Absolute, is provided with a form of deity with
face, hands, legs etc., so that the mind has something to hold on to,
rather than a formless Brahman. All worships generally are with respect to
a form of the Absolute. This form would be of individual's choice or as
indicated to him by his Guru. The fundamental principle here is one of
visualizing or conceptualizing, which is called Bhavana.//

//Performing these very rituals as part of the Pooja or Upasana in the
Srividya sampradaaya is a little more elaborate with a number of special
sets of tasks peculiar to this cult.//

End of excerpts.

Thinking of the SrividyA upAsana one finds that the lifeline of the upAsaka
is the Mother LalithAmbA.  We have some very sweet names of the Mother such

bhavAnI bhAvanAgamyA bhavAraNya-kuThArikA [the Axe that destroys the
bhadrapriyA bhadramUrtiH bhaktasowbhAgyadAyinI
bhaktipriyA bhaktigamyA bhaktivashyA bhayApahA
shAmbhavI shAradArAdhyA sharvANI sharmadAyinI

Another name is 'bhaktimatkalpalatikA' - the one who is a wish-fulfilling
tree/creeper of Her devotees.


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