[Advaita-l] doubt

Sanjay Verma sanjay1297 at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 28 06:07:24 CST 2004

Pranam... Namaste,
Adi Shankaracharya states that upasana (worship of Saguna Brahman or using other symbols) is to be employed by the Advaitin for the purpose of increasing concentration -- but not to accept the presupposition of duality that is implied therein. If it is employed as a means to an end, then it verily leads one on toward jivanmukti. However, if upasana is an end in itself (as in the bhakti traditions) then we have the situation as previously discussed with reference to BG 8:24 where the sadhaka goes first to Brahmaloka (via the path of the gods) and is completely liberated only at the dissolution of the material universe. 
In the BS IV.i.4 (and the sutras immediately before and after it), Adi Shankaracharya clearly encourages meditations on symbols so long as one does not identify oneself with that symbol (which is the goal of the bhakti traditions -- identification with Saguna Brahman).
However, with that said, paying homage to the various deities has an important role in one's spiritual growth. In the Acharya's commentary of the first verse of the Taittiriya Upanishad ("Om Shanno Mitrah sham Varunah...") he states:
"These are the deities in the context of the body. The expression, may he be blissful to us, is to be connected with all. Since the comprehension, retention, and communication of the knowledge of Brahman can proceed without hindrance when the gods are benevolent, their benignity is being prayed for by saying, Sam nah bhatu, etc.".
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

latha vidya <lathavidya at yahoo.co.in> wrote:
Hari Om,

When a small child is beginning to learn the number concepts which are abstract, we start with the symbols. And to teach that we use concrete objects - one chocolate, two pencils, three books and so on. And to add and subtract the numbers we use abacus. Then the child slowly learns to compute using tally marks on the slate or paper. Then proceeds to use fingers, then graduates to mental calculations, then answers arithmetical problems in a jiffy! This is an example of how we evolve in our academic learnings. So do we all evolve in our spiritual learning. The most abstract Brahman has to be slowly understood step by step and Acharya out of mercy for us 'marthyaas' has composed innumerable shlokas - some for worshipping the personal gods like Ganesha, Devi, Hanuman etc and some shlokas containing the profound advaitic philosophy, like the shloka "Manobudhyahankaara chittyaadi naaham" to tell us that we are "amarthyaas". According to our state of spiritual evolution we have the 
to select these shlokas for worshipping or for reflecting upon the formless Brahman. I as a saadhaki have been immensely benefitted by these shlokas. And I can see myself at various stages of spiritual evolution. These shlokas themselves are sufficient to lead one towards the Truth if studied sincerely under a Guruji.

And the question "why do we worship various Gods like Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma"? Here once again we have the choice to worship whichever diety that appeals to our tendencies (vaasanaas). Suppose I am a lover of lot of pomp and luxury, Lord Vishnu with His Shankha, Chakra, Gadha and fully bedecked with jewellery would appeal to me very much and I could similarly worship Him with all the decorations that I would like to make. If simplicity appeals to me, I would rather worship Ishwara Linga with just water as the dravya for abhishekha. If books and knowledge stir me most, I would be happy to worship Sharada. Since our mood and our latent tendencies change from time to time, I indulge in worshipping various dieties to suit my desire. If my worship ends with just decorations and celebrations and relishing of 'prasaadams', I tend to remain at that stage only. Instead, if I were to wonder about the deeper meaning of these symbolisms and have the intense desire to know the underlying T
then it leads you further and further up in the ladder. A Guru can easily identify our state and accordingly he teaches us. As he recognises the progress we are making, he takes us higher and higher and higher............ and we realise "na mrityurnashankha na me jaati bedah pitah naiva me naiva maatah cha janmah nabandhurnamitram Gurornaiva shishyam Chidaananda roopah shivoham shivoham" 

"Oh! do I ever reach there"?! we all bemoan. No need to despair. Once we are in the right path, we are sure to reach the destination. Spiritual destiny is never lost. It is always there. It is just a matter of time. Patience and perseverance pay.

Thank you for allowing me to express my thoughts.
Latha Vidyaranya

venkat ramanan krishnan wrote:

The crux of Advaita as I understand it, is that God is impersonal. That he 
is formless,attributeless, nameless etc. (Please correct me if I am wrong. )
If so, who are Vishnu, Brahma, Siva and why do we celebrate their forms? 
In reality if its maya which makes us think that they are Gods and we are 
mortals, then once we have the knowledge that we are them(tat tvam asi), 
should we still pray? For isn't it also true that Shankaracharya believed 
that Knowledge alone is sufficent for salvation? Again, please do correct me 
if I am wrong.
In short, would it be corrrect to deduce that the Great Acharyas like 
Shankaracharya found happiness within themsleves and composed hymns & 
glorified the deities only for the benefit of the common people ?

sarve janAh sukhino bhavantu

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