[Advaita-l] ’upAsana' and 'bhakti'

Anand Hudli anandhudli at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 5 10:59:18 CST 2012

Thanks to Shri Satish and Shri Ramesh for clarifying certain aspects of

There seem to be two extreme views which have come under criticism. First
is the view that bhakti is expressing faith in God and love for God. There
is nothing wrong in this view provided the person is sincere about his/her
love for God. The second view is that a mantra of a deity can be practiced
even without a feeling of acknowledgement of the greatness, etc. of the
devatA, or simply in a mechanical fashion and the result will automatically
follow, if the correct procedure is followed. Please see points 4 and 5

I have the following questions and points to make.

1. What is a crisp definiton of upAsana, if there is one? The one given by
Shankara is "making similar ideas flow continuously".

2. Arguably the best source book of Bhakti, the bhAgavata mentions nine
kinds of bhakti, namely, "shravaNaM kIrtanaM viShNoH smaraNaM pAdasevanaM|
arcanaM vandanaM dAsyaM sakhyamAtmanivedanam||" shrIdhara svAmI's
commentary holds that "arcana", one of the kinds of bhakti, is pUjA. By
this definition, even the ritualistic worship of a devatA must be
considered bhakti aimed at that devatA. Taken with a broad meaning, any
ritual  related to any devatA is "arcana" or worship of that devatA.

3. Learning ritualistic worship necessarily entails formal training under a
suitable Guru. The ritualistic worship of shrIcakra is also an example of
this. However, it is also to be considered to be Bhakti.

4. Mantra Prayoga is also a ritual and whatever is said about Karma in
general applies here too. This means Mantras have to be practiced with a
sense of dedication of its results to Ishvara.

4. In the introduction to the great work on Mantra shAstra called
Mantramahodadhi (Kannada script, published by Srinidhi Publications,
Bangalore), shrI raghunAtha Kulkarni states that for a person who practices
kAmya prayoga of a mantra, the mantra itself becomes a "shatru", an enemy.
What is probably meant is that a person who practices a mantra for
satisfying a specific desire is likely to get caught in the trap of more
and more desires, hence gets deeper and deeper into the trap of mAyA. What
is recommended is that the mantra has to be practiced with a "niShkAma
bhAva" of doing upAsana of the devatA, rather than focusing on the results
of the mantra. And of course, for many people, having a feeling of faith or
love for the devatA while practicing the mantra is a joyful experience.
Some people may practice upAsana of a deity as a duty to be done. For
example, I know many people who do pUjA for their kula devatA as a matter
of duty.

5. Finally, in the viShNu sahasra nAma bhAShya, Shankara has quoted the Rg
Veda mantra "Asya jAnanto nAma cidvivaktana mahaste viShNo sumatiM
bhajAmahe" in support of chanting of the names of ViShNu. In fact, Shankara
remarks that for attainment of correct jnana,  nAma sankIrtana, chanting of
names of ViShNu is ordained. So it is not correct on our part to belittle
the practice of nAma sankIrtana in various forms, such as singing.


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