Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sandhya Worship - 02

Hari Om Friends,

The following incident has been borrowed from the book “Dialogues with the Guru” (published in Tamil as “Then Muzigal”) compiled by Sri Jnanananda Bharathi. Continuing from where I had stopped in the previous email. Please follow each sentence carefully. The Acharya explains in simple yet beautiful terms the essence of Advaita.

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O. I suppose just as we have the sense of I in our physical bodies, so does that cosmic personality has the sense of “I” in the entire cosmos.

H.H. He has.

O. If so, the difference between Him and me lies not in the presence or the absence of the sense of “I” but only in the degree, the range or the magnitude of that sense. Mine is restricted, His is extended.

H.H. It is so.

O. If it is the sense of “I” that is responsible for the concept of a Jiva, he must be as much a Jiva as myself.

H.H. Quite so. In fact he is called the first born.

O. Then, even if this higher power happens to belong to the category of Jivas, just like myself, the same objection which I mentioned against the worship of Surya Deva holds good in his case also.

H.H. What then would you like to worship?

O. A transcendent power which is not a Jiva.

H.H. Have it then that it is such a transcendent power that is worshipped in the Sandhya. We give him the name of Ishwara, the Lord or the Antaryami, the inner Ruler.

O. But I have heard it mentioned that the terms Lord and Ruler are only relative terms which are used in regard to Him when we want to describe him in relation to the universe which is “Lorded Over” or “Ruled by him”.

H.H. Yes, it is so.

O. It cannot be that we can have no conception of him apart from his relationship of some sort to the universe. His relationship to the universe can at best be only an extraneous circumstance. In his essence, he must have an independent existence quite unrelated to anything else.

H.H. You are right. We call that unrelated essential existence Brahman.

O. If it is so, that must be the real object of worship rather than the relative aspect called Ishwara.

H.H. It is even as you say. It is really the unqualified Brahman that is worshipped in the Sandhya.

O. I cannot really understand Your Holiness. You first said that it was the solar orb that was the object of worship, but when I pointed out that it was only inert matter, you said that it was Surya Deva that was the object of worship; when again I pointed out that he was only a limited Jiva like myself, you said it was Hiranyagarbha, the cosmic soul, that was the object of worship, when once again I pointed out that he was after all a jiva, however cosmic his sense of “I” may be, you said that Ishwara the Lord and Ruler of the universe was really the object of worship; and lastly when I said that even he is but a relative aspect of Brahman, you said that the object of worship was Brahman itself.

H.H. I did say so.

O. But I fail to see how all these statements can be reconciled.

H.H. Where is the difficulty?

O. The object in a particular worship can be only one. How can it be the solar orb or the Deva enlivening it or Hiranyagarbha or Ishwara or Brahman at the same time?

H.H. I never said it was the solar orb or the Deva and so on.

O. Does Your Holiness mean to say then that the object of worship is the solar orb and the Devaa and Hiranyagarbha and Ishwara and Brahman all put together?

H.H. Nor did I say anything of that sort.

O. How then am I to understand Your Holiness’ statements?

H.H. When did I tell you that the upasya was Surya?

O. When I mentioned that the physical mass of burning matter cannot be the object of worship.

H.H. Before you mentioned it, I said that it was even that mass that was the Upasya.

O. Yes

H.H. I never mentioned that it was the solar body or the Deva as an alternative. To one who cannot conceive of an enlivening soul, the upasya is the physical mass. To one however, who declines to accept inert matter as an object or worship, I said the upasya was Surya Deva. The upasya is ever one, but its exact nature varies with the competence of the worshipping aspirant. The upasya gets further refined when even the concept of a Deva does not satisfy the enquiring devotee. We say then that it is Hiranyagarbha. When even such a concept seems meager or unsatisfactory, we tell the devotee that he is really worshipping the Supreme Lord himself. When he begins to feel that even the Lord-ness is a limitation of His essential nature, we tell him that it is the infinite Brahman itself that is really worshipped. Where is the difficulty?

O. Does Your Holiness then mean that it is not possible to definitely say what the object of worship in sandhya is except with reference to the mental equipment or intellectual advancement of the worshipper?

H.H. How can there be an object of worship if we ignore the worshipper? The nature of worshipped necessarily depends upon the nature of the worshipper.

O. How

H.H. Take me for example. All of you show me respect. But the object of respect, though it is roughly speaking, myself, does differ with each one of you. Ordinary people respect me and like to see me surrounded by glittering paraphernalia, their attention and respect are claimed by those articles rather than by my personality. Some others respect me for the position that I hold or the Ashrama in which I am. Such people will equally respect others who are or many come to be in such a position or the Ashrama. And some others may not care what position I hold or what Ashrama I am, but give me homage wherever I go and however I may be; their object of respect is my physical body. A few others will not mind if my body is dark or ugly or even diseased, but will nevertheless give me homage if by purity of mind and character or by the power of my intellect and learning or by any spiritual merit that I may possess I command their respect. Very few indeed will respect me for the spark or divine intelligence which inheres in me, as it does in all of you.

O. Of course it is not possible to say that all the devotees that approach Your Holiness are of the same mental equipment.

H.H. Quite so. But, ordinarily all these people, whether they really tender homage to the paraphernalia or to my status and Ashrama or to my body or to my mind or to my intellect or to the divine spark in me, prostrate before me to show their respect. Can to you tell me, apart from any reference to the several devotees, to whom or to what they prostrate?

O. It is no doubt very difficult to answer.

H.H. Similarly, with every kind of worship. Externally viewed, there will be no appreciable difference between the one who respects me for the paraphernalia and another who respects me for the divine spark in me. Externally viewed, there will similarly be no appreciable difference between the devotee who in his blind faith is content to address his prayers to the luminous Sun and another who turns to it as a visible symbol of the infinite Brahman. The question as to what is the upasya in the sandhya worship can therefore be answered only in this way.

O. I now understand how in the simple worship of the Sun, all possible stages in spiritual perception have been provided for.

H.H. It is not only this, for you will find if you consider the matter still further, that all the three ways known as Karma, Bhakthi and Jnana have been given places in the daily worship, but that is different matter. Simple as the sandhya worship seems to be, it is sufficient to help us on the highest stages. It is as useful to the highest aspirant as it is to the beginner. It is a folly, therefore to belittle its value or to neglect it in practice.

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