[Advaita-l] ’upAsana' and 'bhakti'

Satish Arigela satisharigela at yahoo.com
Fri Mar 2 01:39:46 CST 2012

So we will first start with the questions Ravi and Vidyasankar & Anand raised:

bhakti - The popular term as understood when one says bhakti mArga. Why 
is it called bhakti mArga? Because bhakti is an essential and the most 
important component. What is bhakti - One may refer to the popular 
explanation in the nArada bhakti sUtra-s or those of shANDilya. What 
does a bhakta do among other things - mantra japa, nAma sankIrtana etc..
 but mantra japa is not an essential component here. But by default most
 bhakta-s have some or other mantra and they may perform daily japa for 
example of kR^iShNa mantra. This every one knows. We also know that a 
bhakta of a deity does bhajana, recites stotra-s etc.

Take another example, another usage: The shaiva mantra mArga or mantra 
mArga shaiva-s. What do these mantra mArga shaiva-s do among other 
things? They of-course recite stutis of one or many deities just like 
the bhakta does. They might even say for example. shiva shiva.. i.e. 
sort of nAma smaraNa. They also do namaskAra, pradakShiNa etc to deity 
in a temple..just like the bhakta does. 

As one can see there are many common elements, but why is it that they 
are called mantra mArga shaiva-s? Why don't they call themselves 
bhakta-s... or why don't academicians or others just call them bhakta-s.
 Why this tag of mantra mArga or bhakti mArga? Any thoughts? 

Now a vedAntin might harbor bhakti towards a deity, like wise someone 
belonging to the line of chaitanya, as also a spiritual descendant of 
any great shaiva AchArya of the mantra mArga shaiva-s. An element of 
bhakti is there in all of them. Likewise all these people of the three 
paths also likely have some mantra or the other or sometimes a couple of
 mantra-s. A small difference though - a bhakta might usually have one 
mantra. There are bhakta-s who definitely have more than one mantra. 
Likewise a vedAntin needs only one mantra strictly speaking..or in 
another view he may not need a mantra at all. A vedAntin can 
theoretically achieve what he wants without having to do anything with 
any mantra-s. mantra japa might help most people who chose the vedAnta 
mArga but it is not strictly required. Though in practice, vedAntin-s 
usually know [normal know as opposed to "know" - difference will be made
 clear later] many mantra-s.

As you can see, I am not ignoring the common elements and I am well aware of these.

So everyone does mantra japa of some sort. Now we also know that mantra-s have a critical component called nyAsa.
Jaldhar: Yes of -course any one who receives a mantra typically receives
 it with the nyAsa unless the instruction is bad. nyAsa is also there 
usually for kavacha, hR^idaya, pa~njara, mAlA mantra, sahasranAma etc.

Now If one examines the endings of the a~Nga nyAsa and give it a thought
 as to what they mean, they usually have ending which are meant for the 
various ShaTkarma-s i.e. shAnti, vashIkaraNa, ucchATana, mAraNa etc. A 
bhakta or a vedAntin typically does not think much about these endings. A
 few bhakta-s and vedAntin-s might understand what those are and they 
leave it at that... depending on their interest, they might or might not
 do anything with this important component of mantra. But we noted that 
most mantra-s have such endings and that this nyAsa with these endings 
is very important. Also, bhakta or vedAntin does not need the elaborate 
nyAsa-s specified in the mantra manual texts. They might perform them if
 they are taught the same, or if it interests them and learn it...but 
all these elaborate nyAsa-s have nothing to do with vedAnta nor does it 
have to do anything with bhagavad-bhakti - [See nArada bhakti sUtra-s.]

So a proper upAsaka/mantrin's practice is quite different from both, in 
the process and in the attitude with which they approach 
mantra-s/deities. For a mantrin, the mantra is the deity and this mantra
 = deity equation is quite important for him/her. A bhakta and a 
vedAntin might not hold such a view and even if they do, it has nothing 
to do with their respective paths. So they have a choice of holding a 
wrong view here or not holding any particular view but that may or 
may-not have a consequence. But their[a vedAntin or a bhakta] view or a 
lack of view does not change what the deities are.

>From: Bhaskar YR <bhaskar.yr at in.abb.com>
>Do you mean to say here it is just a 'business-like' relationship between upAsaka & upAsya devata??  Without any 
>bhAva/love/bhakti does he simply ask his upAsya devata, I've done 
these things  for you, just give me these things in >return !!  IMHO,
 upAsana can not be carried out  without an element of love/bhakti 
towards his/her upAsya devata,
 >that >anyway, may be my limited understanding of 'upAsana' as you are insisting in your replies. 

Business: The answer is an yes and a no. When an upAsaka/mantrin starts 
the practice of a mantra. There is dedication to unfailingly and 
meticulously perform his rituals and this is what matters. Nothing else.
 This is not to deny that offerings are made to the deity. The deity is 
offered, gandha, puShpa etc and it is done with respect or with some 
liking to the attributes of the deity. The upAsaka might even say a 
stuti at the end of the practice. So there are definitely elements of 
bhakti but it is not the same as the one described by nArada or 
shANDilya. It is no where close to that.

But look at this example: The practice of a particular mantra might 
involve some rules, the non-adherence to which might have ill 
consequences. The subject might have enormous love to the deity but 
in-spite of the so much love/bhAva/bhakti, a big mistake or a lapse in 
the practice can be as fatal to this subject as much as it is, to a 
different subject.. who is filled with this love/bhAva whatever.

His overflowing love/bhAva whatever, or the lack thereof is no consequence here. The result could be bad either-way.

Now understand the implications of the above scenario. What does it tell you? Why did I bring this scenario?

>"If what they are telling falls  outside the scope of veda/vedAntic 
 sAdhana/upAsana, then we dont have to scratch our >heads but we can 
learn from them only from the academic point of view."

Another example: There is a certain mantra, the proper japa and ritual process of which activates the kuhU nADi.
Any malfunctioning of this nADi which can happen due to screwing up the 
related ritual, or the mantra japa or the overall sAdhana procedure 
related to this mantra can have very bad consequences.. in the worst 
case the subject could end up as a mad man.

To add a little flavor..if any of our "shankara is a sarvaGYa knows 
everything" kind of good and kind-hearted freinds are going to say... My
 lineage is ....shankarAchArya madhyamAM..... Mwuhahaha and hold a 
mAdhavIya shankara vijaya or the chaintanya charitAmR^ita or the nArada 
bhakti sUtra, in the hands and say "The power of Adi shankarAchArya 
compels you!!" Activate the hukU nADi or iDA instead of the kuhU nADi.. 
it is not going to work.   :-))

The reason for saying this is only to illustrate that mantra/deities and
 mantra shAstra is what it is. Just because you are a vedAntin or a 
bhakta, the qualities and the good or bad effects of the mantra do not 
change depending on your tradition's view.

One cannot say, I am vedAntin and I we don't hold these rules as very 
important.. or one cannot say like for example, the chaintanya people.. 
love/bhAva to the supreme lord is all that matters and the rules etc are
 not of importance[like the nArada bhakti sUtra says]

The mantra will burn the bhakta, the vedAntin and the mantrin alike if proper procedures are not followed.


>From: Venkatesh Murthy <vmurthy36 at gmail.com>
>Your description is matching the women in the temple dancing in front
>of the Deity like Durga. The Deity has entered into the body of the
>woman and she becomes that for some time. She will think she is not
>the woman but Durga only. But after some time the Deity will leave the
>body of the woman. Then she will say I don't remember what happened.

>But Deity entering into the body is common in many places. This is not
>same as Bhakti but something like Black magic.

Thank you for recongnizing this is not bhakti. This is Avesha and can 
happen either because, the subject has an affinity for the deity or an 
expert mantrin can invoke or make the deity come into a purified and 
consecrated person by means of mantra-s.

This invoking the deity in a person and making the person as an oracle, 
for example, as I understand it can be done only a proper upAsaka and 
nit by somebody who is a bhakta or a vedAntin. One may note this as one 
of the thousand ways in which proper study and practice of mantra 
shAstra is different from the other two.

>Bhakti is better than Black Magic. Because Love of Paramatma is not
>temporary like the Black Magic. It is permanent. The feeling of Love
>is Permanent. It is not entering into the body and leaving after some
>time. Bhakti is Sattvika way of pleasing the Deity.

Brrr!  :-) 

>From: Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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.

Good. Was wondering who would say this first and was a bit surprised when no one said it yesterday. :-))
Did you think I have not considered and criticised this statement of mine myself? :-)

A mantrin does not rely on stories that supposedly happened some long long time ago which no one can verify.

The claims of the mantra shAstra are something that can be verified here and now.

>  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.

No. It does not depend on faith. But it must be admitted a certain 
degree of conviction would be required at one point. One could retaliate
 saying "those are just two words for the same thing" so you lost. There
 is a difference between these two. I have seen two accomplished 
mantravAdin-s use this word conviction  and what they mean when they 
used this word is "that thing" which comes after practicing consistently
 for some time period eventhough there is some skepticism on the part 
mantrin when he starts the practice. When he sees some results, 
conviction happens.
This is very different from blindly beleiving in some text because somebody said so.

And I do not invoke science... just like in the past, I was only 
referring to how the results of the tAntrIka sAdhana is repeatable with 
great accuracy like in science. 

Now an observing person can retaliate saying there are shAbara mantra-s 
which end like the following. "...mere bhakti guru ki shakti phuro mantr
 Ishvaro vAchA.." 

I must admit you would have clean bowled me if you pointed this out 
first. :-) I will get back to that... I think I have an answer to the 
above structure of the mantra but it will take me time for the answer to
 crystallize and present it in an understandable manner.

Also see this comment on reproducibility. This is the thick line between bhakti mArga and mantra shAstra.

"The tantra is like a science because it is reproducible in its real 
form. The sAdhaka on the true path first gets a glimpse of “kaulika 
existence” when he can grasp the the samvAda of manthAna bhairava and 
tripura bhairavI. If he can go beyond, the bIja mantra activates the 
apparatus of the chakras and the ever-sleeping kubjikA awakens and 
courses on the “path”. The sAdhaka then experiences the awe as he 
realizes the enfolded state of the vishva in the ‘hR^idaya‘. If the 
sAdhAka can go beyond, then he is stationed at the the “mid-point”. 
There he sees the oscillation of visarga moving in the two directions at
 once. When he reaches there he has reproduced in totality the words of 
manthAna bhairava. He reproduces the experience of the guru, he 
reproduces the experience of the true tantrics of yore. This act of 
reproducing the experience gives the sadhAka the experience of ecstasy. 
This is like the feeling of doing real science the reproducibility of 
the observation/ the experiment."

>Are you implying that only mantrins perform nyAsa? 


>Advaita Vedanta is a complete mokshashastra and it gives a yardstick for evaluating the claims of other practices. 

The later part seems unclear.. "it gives a yardstick for evaluating the claims of other practices"

How will evaluate for example, any claim of modern physics with advaita-vedAnta?  Or something close, how 
will evaluate for example, a claim of mantra shAstra let us say "that a 
certain laxmI mantra could bring you wealth" How will you evaluate this 
with the so called "yardstick" mentioned above.

You recognize that others can evaluate the claims of advaita vedAnta with their yardsticks and may or may not find it lacking?

More in the next mail.

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