[Advaita-l] ’upAsana' and 'bhakti'

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Thu Mar 1 22:52:48 CST 2012

On Wed, 29 Feb 2012, Satish Arigela wrote:

> These kind of things happen only in stories not in reality :)  The 
> results achieved by a technical upAsana are repeatable to a great 
> extent, like a Scientific Experiment unlike bhakti mArga.

This smacks of prejudice on your part.  Upasana of the type you are 
describing depends on faith just as much as bhakti does. Trying to invoke 
science in matters of faith just muddies the waters.

> The mantra being the deity is not some concept/theory written in an 
> ivory tower. mantravAdin-s and scores of upAsaka-s realize this and 
> experience this. Think about what is a~Nga nyAsa or kara-nyAsa? Think 
> about why mantrins perform this nyAsa?

Are you implying that only mantrins perform nyAsa?  The Bhagavata purana 
in the 6th skandha includes the anga and kara nyasa for the Narayana 
kavacha.  Yet this is in a context replete with bhakti bhava.  I guess I'm 
just not seeing this dividing line you claim there is between bhakti and 
upasana so let me turn your question around to you.  Why do you think 
bhaktas perform nyasa?

> So anyone who holds that deities really possess hands and limbs or real 
> forms should be considered as shruti bAhya or veda bAhya.

Hold on, what does the word "really" mean here?  Deities are described 
in shastras as having physical humanoid shape, aniconic forms such as 
lingam or shaligram, abstract geometric forms such as yantras, and words 
such as mantras.  Which is one is "real"?

The Vedantic response is that they can all be real.  What is to be avoided 
is fixation on one form that limits the understanding of the divine to 
ones own limited conception for that limit is unreality.  This is 
certainly a critique which can be aimed at bhaktas but it can also be 
applied to the Purva Mimamsakas and others who could not conceive of 
devatas outside of the mantras.

> That is because your interaction as I suspected and pointed out earlier 
> is limited to people belonging to only one tradition or traditions based 
> on bhakti. These people that you have seen are not true representatives 
> of mantra shAstra.  It is as simple as that.

> See this: The following post holds an answer as to why you speak like 
> this: Read the last 10 to 15 lines of the third para. Please do it.
> It will surely make you realize the reason and origin of your statements.

Duly noted.  Also see the following from the last paragraph of your link:

"There is also a small category, which is heartlessly ritualistic and 
treats tantra as an experiment that involves mixing of chemicals – devoid 
of soul, _bhakti_ and the certain ‘z’ factor that makes it all work...
I appeal to the _lotus_feet_of_parA-bhaTTArikA_borne_on_the_shiraH_of_ 

That most of the sadhakas are at a lower level of understanding and don't 
reach/are not capable of the higher levels of sadhana is not a novel 
insight.  But you are throwing out the baby with the bathwater if you are 
trying to claim that all devotion to a form occurs at the level of 
emotion only.

>  >For the adepts have realized that the mantra siddhi, in terms of 
> Vedantic sadhana,
>> can come about, can be quickened even, by the bhakti included into it; the
>> more the merrier.

> Wrong again. bhakti does not quicken mantra siddhi. In some sAdhaka-s 
> bhakti can play the role of stabilizing the mind, in some other 
> sAdhaka-s elements of bhakti can be an a bit de-stabilizing to the 
> sAdhaka and hence an impediment to mantra siddhi. Even in the former 
> case, where bhakti could stabilize the sAdhaka, it does only that, and 
> does it in anyway quicken mantra siddhi.
> An expert mantra shAstra teacher will be able to judge this in a 
> student. Additionally in cases where elements of bhakti or emotional 
> outpouring becomes an impediment to mantra siddhi, the teacher will 
> suggest a special sAdhana or a certain correct deployment of a process 
> involving mantra-s to stabilize the student. The teacher might even 
> suggest practice of specific Asana-s to counter the destabilizing 
> effects and vighna-s caused by elements of bhakti to attaining mantra 
> siddhi.

If bhakti is not stabilizing the mind then it is failing its mission on 
its own terms without even bringing mantrashastra into the picture.  We 
have previously discussed Shankaracharyas critique of the Pancharatra 
chaturvyuhavada in Brahsutrabhashya 2.2.42-45 which gives the clearest 
view of his approach to bhakti.  He says in part:

yadapi tasya bhagavato.abhigamanAdilakShaNArAdhanamajasramananyachittatayAbhipreyate
tadapi na pratiShidhyate shrutismR^ityorIshvarapraNidhAnasya prasiddhatvAt |

"neither is the Bhagavatas' practice of reverential approach [to the 
murti] etc. for the purpose of causing unceasing concentration on the 
Highest being objected to as that one should meditate on the Lord is known 
from Shruti and Smrti."

> mantra siddhi in terms of vedAntic sAdhana? This is absolutely funny. 
> Nothing like that exists.

The blog you quote from begs to differ.  And really what is so funny about 
it?  What makes a sadhana "Vedantic" (Strictly speaking "Advaita Vedantic"
we should say) is that it causes a falling away from duality.  Some forms 
of bhakti or yoga or tantra etc. can do this.  Others can't.  It's the 
former that we are interested in.

> In bhakti there is the essential element of rasa

And that right there is the sticking point no?  Squishy emotional bhakti 
versus rational abstract upasana.  But again I would like point out that 
the dividing line is arbitrary.  Bhakti can (and should) cause unceasing 
concentration on the Highest.  Upasana has its ecstatic aspect as I'm sure 
you're well aware.

On Wed, 29 Feb 2012, Satish Arigela wrote:

> That is --exactly-- why I said, people who are still living in the
> cocoon of "my tradition has everything and I need not look elsewhere"
> find this very hard to understand.

The everything we would like to claim for our tradition is the means to 
moksha.  All these other things bhakti, upasana or whatever are only 
relevant in so far as they can lead to that goal.  Advaita Vedanta is a 
complete mokshashastra and it gives a yardstick for evaluating the claims 
of other practices.  Should they fail the evaluation then no we need not 
look at them except perhaps out of academic interest.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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