[Advaita-l] ’upAsana' and 'bhakti'

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Tue Mar 6 12:39:02 CST 2012

On Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 1:05 PM, Satish Arigela <satisharigela at yahoo.com>wrote:

> namaste,
> >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
> >below.
> 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".
> To this, I will start with the example of brahmacharya:
> The word brahmacharya if one were to take the literal meaning, it means
> something like "living in brahman" or something similar.
> But the usual meaning that one understands when one says brahmacharya is
> actually celibacy.
> So upAsana may have a technical definition, under which many things can be
> fitted.
> But what is understood when one uses this in common parlance. a great
> mahApuruSha a brAhmaNa mantravAdin passed away recently and he is referred
> to as a great sharabha-upAsaka. So what does this term mean and what does
> it refer to?
> In common usage, it means a person who has proper upadesha of the sharabha
> mantra, does japa, homa, tarpana, mArjana, brAhmaNa bhojana to attain
> siddhi of the same.. and as part of the same one who possibly mastered the
> great art of constructing a sharabha yantra , perform pUja to it as also
> one who has the capacity to effect nigraha and anugraha of beings around
> them as it deems fit. Even if the later part of nigrahAnugraha dakShata is
> not acheived, they are still referred to as upAsaka-s.

So also in the Vedic domain there are saguNopAsakas who are engaged in the
upAsana of the devatA with all the attendant rituals.  There are Devi
upAsaka-s, Anajaneya upAsaka-s, subrahmanya upAsaka-s, Narasimha upAsakas
and so on.  सगुणब्रह्मोपासकानां मार्गनिर्देशः kind of expressions can be
seen in the prasthAnatraya bhashyas where the mArga, route, these upAsaka-s
take to reach whatever loka-s stated in the Veda is laid out.

>>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.

Very valid observation. And it is for this reason when asked to define
> bhakti, I briefly stated, the nArada bhakti sUtra may be referred to for
> definition in the following post. Where it gives these nine ways. also in
> the same post, I did identify that elements of bhakti are to be found in
> all upAsaka-s.
> However we can also quote the shiva purANa and elsewhere where it is
> specified that pUja/archana can be done either with or without mantra-s. So
> to perform archana one does not strictly require mantra-s. One may use
> mantra-s if learned to perform archana and this is highly recommended.

This is also found in the Veda-based systems.  For example, in the BG we
have the Lord saying 'पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयम्...’ with regard to
worshiping.  Also one can worship with mantra or no mantra.  In fact Swami
Vidyaranya says in the Jivanmukti viveka that even the act of taking
sannyasa can be consummated by uttering the mandatory 'praisha mantra' even
in one's own vernacular if the person is not conversant with Sanskrit.

> However, we should also consider this: Let us take the example of the
> devatA tvaritA or ApaduddharaNa. here tvaritA simply means one who gives
> results quick, and ApaduddharaNa means one who saves from dire straits.
> Remember in some texts it is  "ApaduddharaNo devatA" instead of "vaTuka
> bhairavo devata".
> Now having bhakti to these two devata-s would mean, being devoted to
> "quick result giving" or being devoted to "thing which saves from dire
> straits". I am sure you see this as being vastly different from the kind of
> attitude where one loves the supreme lord, thinks if the ananta kalyANa
> guNa-s etc etc.

I am reminded of a Vedic passage: वायुर्वै क्षेपिष्ठा देवता which means
'the devatA vAyu is very quick in giving the fruits (what one desires).'
Now this is called an arthavAda because in the vicinity of this mantra
there is a vidhi for performing the vAyavIya yAga.  A person who hears that
about the VAyu devatA will be inclined, enthused, to perform the yAga.
This general underlying principle can be seen in all the devotional
literature.  Shankara has said that the various guNa-s attributed to
Brahman are to aid upAsana and in the pAramArthika view these guNa-s are
not there in Brahman, It being NirguNa.  [The vAyu example cited above is
found in the Brahmasutrabhashya of the first four sutras' /  vyAkhyAna.]

Any DevatA is given a purpose-centric attribute.  For example man wants his
projects to go on without hindrances, obstacles.  So, Ganapathi is called
'vighna hara'.  When this is heard by man he seeks to propitiate this
devatA for the prevention and removal of obstacles.  From the examples we
saw from the Veda sampradaya, the attributes of //"quick result giving" or
being devoted to "thing which saves from dire straits"// is happily
applicable to Vedic devatAs too.  And the upAsaka goes to these devatA-s
ONLY because of these attributes.  When such attributes are multiplied
because of the infinite nature of human desires, several devatAs or even
one devatA are/is given so many attributes.  And this is the driving force
behind any upAsana.  Thus the 'ananta kalyANa guNa' is only need-based and
only an extension of the basic psychology of human wants. For there is the
maxim: प्रयोजनमनुद्दिश्य न मन्दोऽपि प्रवर्तते’ - even a fool will not
undertake a task unless he sees some benefit in it for himself.  So, the
upAsya-upAsaka-upAsana scheme works on this maxim.  Thus there is
absolutely no difference in this respect between the devatA-attribute of
the mantra shastra and the Veda-based ones.

> Additionally one important point to note is that, there is no need for the
> belief of an Ishvara when it comes to practice of mantra-s. A belief or the
> lack of the same in an Ishvara does not have any effect on the results that
> mantra-a give.
> This is the reason why a bauddha or a jaina or a shaiva or a vaiShNava
> mantrin achieves same or similar results with the same mantra.

In the bhashya for the sutra फलमत उपपत्तेः  3.2.38 Shankara dealing with
the question of 'who gives the phala of a karma?' says in conclusion: it
has to be from Ishwara alone who has the knowledge of all the jiva-s and
their karma-s.  In another place Shankara categorically says: It is only
Ishwara that is propitiated by all karma.  (someone can give the exact
reference pl.).  So, whether one believes in an Ishwara or not it is
immaterial as far as the phala of the karma comes from Ishwara alone.  Also
what drives/motivates a person in the sadhana of a mantra is the knowledge
that 'this mantra or procedure will help me achieve my goal of procuring
something or avoiding some mishap.'  This is a fundamental desire or
attachment one has to one's own desire that lies beneath any karma of any
school without exception.  It is this desire, love, teevra icchA that gets
the names bhakti, shraddhaa, anurAga, anurakti and the like.  It is only
his love for his own desire/goal that gets transferred to the Deity that he
believes will make it possible.  It is then that it takes the name of
bhakti for the deity. There is no escape from this.  Even in the case of a
mumukShu it is mokShecchA or AtmecchA as the Kathopanishat in that famous
mantra says: parAnchi khAni.....amRtatvam icchan...

> The practice of mantra-s and the ability to get mantra-s to work does not
> require any belief in an Ishvara. But if one subscribes to a particular
> darshana then there comes an interpretation or one goes though thought
> process as to who gives the phala of mantra-s. Is it Ishvara or is it
> something else etc etc. This mImAmsa and the conlcusion coming from such an
> enquiry does not effect how or when a mantra gives results.

But as stated earlier, this belief in the efficacy of the mantra/procedure
is at the root of the mantra sadhana.  So, ultimately whether one believes
in it or not or knows or not, the phalam of the karma/sadhana comes only
from Ishwara.  Surely a phalam cannot come by itself. This is the crux of
the sutra bhashya I have cited above.

> It is keeping in mind this fact that I said mantra-s/deities are what they
> are and they do not become something else based on one's tradition.

True. It is ultimately 'someone' or 'something' that is worshiped.
Shankara uses the word 'ArAdhanam'.  It is Ishwara ArAdhanam that takes
place whenever one does anything: to acquire something or to avoid
something.  Whether one knows that it is Ishwara that is propitiated or not
or whether one knows or believes that it is Ishwara that gives the phalam
or not, that it happens that way alone; an intervention of a chetana entity
is mandatory according to Shankara, in that sutra bhashyam.

> This is why people subscribing to different darshana-s get the same or
> atleast similar results from the mantra.

Yes. The mechanism of karma-phala is logically and scripturally

> Or somebody raises a stupid question constantly which goes like "If this
> is not in scriptures, it is all useless". It is good to ask for a
> scriptural reference on these matters. It is unfortunate to be able to not
> recognize when and for what things to ask for a quote from scriptures and
> when to infer something indirectly from scriptures.

Without pramaaNa no sensible enquiry takes place.  Shankara points to this
often in the bhashyas.  He does admit the possibility and need to do
inference/arthApatti from scriptures.  But ultimately the basis has to be
there in the scriptures.  If we are able to point it out in black and white
the opponent's curiosity gets addressed.

> >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.
> This is what an advaitin would recommend and should be seen as valid only
> for those who subscribe to shankara vedAnta. No particular harm in doing as
> above.

Not necessarily.  The whole of the Vedanta and the Bhagavadgita teaching is
on this niShkAma karma alone.  All schools of Vedanta accept this.

> For a smArta mantravAdin, or for that matter for many shaiva-s and
> vaiShNava-s [not rAmAnujavAdin-s like normal shrI-vaiShNava-s - but proper
> vaiShNava-s, like pA~ncharAtrika-s i mean] it is not necessarily so.
> For all of them, the mantra is the devata. What is nature of the devata?
> For this we may refer to the exalted work called mahArtha manjari of
> shrIman maheshvarAnanda - which says devatA lakShaNa is
> "Ipsita-prasAdaktvaM & anIpsita-niShedhakatvaM" "giving those things which
> the mantrin desires and avoiding those which the mantrin does noot like is
> the nature of the devata".
> So why devata-s/mantra-s are resorted to is clear from above in these
> traditions.

This is exactly the same with Vedic tradition too.  It is only because of
the above lakshana, I even pointed out to this in different terms in the
foregoing, that anyone gets attracted to a devatA.  'इष्टं / सुखं मे
भूयात्,  अनिष्टं / दुःखं मे मा भूत्’ [Let desirable / happiness be to me
and never the opposite of these' ] is every being's fundamental desire.
So, if a devatA is going to cater to this, one takes to it.

> Some also hold moxa can come from some mantra-s. But of-course an advaitin
> will object to this. This will be another huge discussion which we will not
> get into at this time.

Advaitins would agree to the above to the extent of saying: mantra will go
a long way to purify one's intellect/mind, chitta shuddhi.  This removes
obstacles for proper vichara and the arising of clear jnana.  That way
Advaitins believe any or many mantras taken up by a mumukshu will benefit

> Having said all the above, in mantravAda, experienced teachers will
> confirm that, dwelling on the phala that a mantra gives will not achieve
> the result, because the mind is focused on the phala, when actually it
> should merge with the mantra. So this should act as a caution against the
> extreme position of performing a mantra only for some desired object.

This is true in Vedanta too.  योगिनः कर्म कुर्वन्ति संगं त्यक्त्वा *
आत्मशुद्धये* says the Gita.

> >And of course, for many people, having a feeling of faith or
> >love for the devatA while practicing the mantra is a joyful experience.
> No disagreement. Many people find it so.
> This "love for the devata" again is specific for people influenced by
> bhakti traditions.

As pointed out earlier,  the undeniable love for one's own goal only gets
transferred to the devatA that promises one the fulfillment of the desire .
Influence or no influence of bhakti traditions, this fundamental
desire/love for some thing, whether a devatA or the goal/purpose, is to be
admitted: prayojanam anuddishya na mando'pi pravartate.

> Because, this is not the spirit with which rituals were performed by the
> shrauti-s of yore. The concept of bhakti is unknown at that time. The word
> bhakti itself does not appear.

This is not true.  We just saw that Shankara says: Ishvara praNidhAna is
'quite popular' in the shruti/smrtis. The word 'bhakti' does appear for
example in the Shvetashvataropanishad famous mantra:
*यस्य देवे*  परा भक्ति: यथा देवे तथा गुरौ।
तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्था: प्रकाशन्ते महात्मन:।। (श्वेत० उप०, ६.२३).

This Upanishad is quoted by Shankara several times.

In the most popular 'mAtR devo bhava....'देवपितृकार्याभ्यां न
प्रमदितव्यम्..’ of the Taittiriya upanishad it is only bhakti that is being
spoken of.  Shankara says at the end: देवतावत् उपास्या एते इत्यर्थः ।  In
fact even in the famous shAnti mantra 'shanno mitraH sham varuNaH....' it
is only a devout prayer to the devatAs for removal of all obstacles in
brahmavidyA sAdhana.  Let the shrauti-s not openly state they have bhakti.
Yet, as Shankara has pointed out all karma is aimed at propitiating
Ishwara, even if through this or that devatA.  It is only Ishwara that
gives the karma phalam, even if one thinks that it is the particular
mantra/devatA that gives the phalam.

Even in shrauta-s they admit of 'devatA stuti' which is nothing but hymnal
praises of the devatA. So, it is incorrect to say that the concept of
bhakti is absent in the shruti.

> Like I indicated before in the old shrauta traditions, bhakti means
> "manave aNavaH bhaktiH" The indivisible sound/word fragments of mantra-s
> are called bhakti-s... espceially so in the context of sAmaveda I think..I
> was told. This definition is also related to the usage in sanskrit grammar
> vi-bhakti.

The word 'bhakti' has other meanings too: Shankara has used the term
'bhaktyA' in the instrumental case somewhere meaning: gauNyayaa. as opposed
to 'mukhyayA'.  That is when one talks of primary and secondary, the latter
gets the usage of the word 'bhakti', not to be confused with the popular
meaning of this term: devotion.

> Would also like to stress the fact that, i am not proposing or advising
> that a ritual is to be done heartlessly. I only stress the point that, that
> depending on the person, depending on the mantra/devata, such a feeling of
> love for the devata may or may not help in attaining mantra siddhi and
> hence not an essential component.

As I stated earlier, it is only the deep commitment/attachment/desire for
one's goal that gets translated into the devotion/love for the
mantra/devatA which is accepted to have the capability to fulfill the
desire of either acquiring or avoiding something.

> Since you brought the viShNu 1000 into the picture: for the
> pA~ncharAtrika-s, the 1000 names in the VS are the 1000 viShNu-s. Just like
> there are many rudra-s, there are 1000 viShNu-s and the
> vaiShNava/pA~ncharatrika mantrin deploys or calls upon each viShNu or few
> viShNu-s for specific kAmya purposes.

Names like 'siddhidaH', 'sarvakAmadaH', 'bhayakRt', 'bhayanAshanaH' are
indicative of the capability of the devatA.  Man wanting these naturally
gets attracted to the devatA/s  or mantras; the prayojanam-aspect remaining

> Regards

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