Author Topic: UPASANA - Jonathan Bader - Mountain Path, Deepam, 2006:  (Read 2402 times)

Subramanian.R

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UPASANA - Jonathan Bader - Mountain Path, Deepam, 2006:
« on: February 04, 2013, 04:21:59 PM »

In the early Upanishads, upasana is the term most frequently employed to designate the process of meditation. Dhyana
also occurs occasionally, but does not have the distinctive sense which it acquires in the later Upanishads, and more especially
in the Yoga Sutra.  Derived from the verbal root, 'as', 'to sit', upasana is literally 'sitting near.'   Its particular significance is that
of 'serving, honoring, worshipping'. ( A Sanskrit English Dictionary - Monier Willams.)

Upasana means reaching by the mind the form of a deity or something else as delineated in scriptural passages relating to
meditation, and concentrating the mind on it ---- uninterrupted by secular thoughts, until identity with that deity is now imagined
(by us) with our body.  (The Training of the Vedantin, in Popular Essays in Indian Philosophy, M. Hiriyanna).

Sankara's reference to the deity (devata) as an object of meditation shows that upasana involves an element of worship. This is further
emphasized in Brahmasutra Bhashya 4.1.1.: 'Thus we say in ordinary life that a person 'is devoted' to a teacher or king, if he follows
him with a mind set steadily on him. (The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana with commentary by Sankara, tr. George Thibaut, 2 volumes,
New York, 1962.)

Despite this analogy to ordinary experience, meditation is clearly not a secular practice. As Sankara indicates, the object of concentration, is to be drawn exclusively from scripture.

contd.,,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Re: UPASANA - Jonathan Bader - Mountain Path, Deepam, 2006:
« Reply #1 on: February 05, 2013, 09:18:31 AM »
continues......

The real aim of Upasana is to effect a correspondence of subject (meditator) and object (of the meditation), 'identity with that deity'.
The notion of attaining identity and so reuniting the sacred and the mundane can be traced back to Vedic ritual sacrifice. The
Purusha Sukta for example, describes how  creation results from the gods' sacrificial offering of the primordial man This divine
sacrifice becomes the model for human behavior, man's creative undertakings are similarly to be initiated by means of sacrifice.
In this way, sacrifice is understood to be the very link between the gods and man. This correspondence between the divine and
human realms is sought in order to satisfy man's material needs as well as his deeper spiritual aspirations, for sacrifice is believed
to provide prosperity and fecundity.

The Vedic rituals were transformed in such a way that sacrifice became the upasana of the Upanishads. In Brhadaranyaka Upanishad
Bhashyam, 3.1.6., Sankara refers to an upasana which substitutes meditation for ritual action. He explains that meditation is a more
effective means of obtaining the desired results. To begin with, any defect in performance of the ritual, however, minor, could
invalidate the entire procedure.  He points to another problem in the substantial expenditure some of the sacrifices require. Few
could afford the expense of the more elaborate rituals and are thus deprived of the boons they confer. There are perhaps other factors
which contributed to the transformation of ritual. J.F. Stall suggests that ritual practice may have degenerated so that it could no
longer effect the sacred identity. (Advaita and Neo Platonism, Madras, 1961). He argues that in the earliest Vedic sacrifice there was
no distinction between 'inner' and 'outer' experience. The ritual process reflected the essential unity of what was later to be
distinguished as body and mind. It was the development of self consciousness which destroyed this unity and led to a gradual
decline in the efficacy of the sacrifice. But meditation may have simply been an easier way.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       
 
     

Subramanian.R

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Re: UPASANA - Jonathan Bader - Mountain Path, Deepam, 2006:
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2013, 03:18:52 PM »

continues....

The opening passage of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad link ritual with upasana in the setting of a grand cosmic drama. The secret
of creation is symbolically revealed as a great horse sacrifice (asvamedha). Prajapati, the Creator, first appears on the scene as
death, having devoured all that he had made manifest. Yet, the creative urged arose in him anew . He made of himself as the
sacrificial offering. His body became gradually swollen (asvat) until there emerged a horse (asva). He then reflected upon the horse
in the following manner:

"The head of the sacrificial horse is the dawn, its eye the sun, its vital force the air.....Its back is heaven, its belly the sky, its hoof
the earth, its sides the four quarters". (Bh.Up. with commentary of Sankara, tr. Swami Madhavananda, Mayavati, 1975.).

In the Upanishad, however, it is meditation alone which effects the sacred identity. Prajapati discovers the identity of the creator and
his creation and so shows the way to immortality through meditation: "He who knows thus conquers further death.  Death cannot
overtake him, it becomes self and he becomes one with these deities. (Bh.Up. 1.2.7. tr. Madhavananda).

Throughout the Indian tradition, there is clear expression of the belief that the realms of thought and matter are interrelated. It is
said that mental activity, especially meditation, has the power to effect change on the physical plane. Sankara reinforces this notion
with a maxim he cites on several occasions. "Howsoever one meditated him,  that indeed he becomes." (Tam yatha yathopasate tad eva bhavati, Sankara quotes the phrase in Brahamsutra Bhashya, 1.1.11; 3.4.52; Chandogya upanishad Bhashya 1.1.7; and Brh.Up. 1.3.16.) He refers it to Sruti but its source is unidentified.

The idea is that as one attains identity, with a particular object, one inherits or assumes those properties which characterize the object.
The same concept underlies the notion of the sacred word.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

Subramanian.R

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Re: UPASANA - Jonathan Bader - Mountain Path, Deepam, 2006:
« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2013, 01:23:48 PM »

continues.....

The spoken word had a mysterious, supernatural power. It contained within itself the essence of the thing denoted. To 'know
the name of anything was to control the thing. The word means wisdom, knowledge; and knowledge ...... was magic power.'
(Franklin Edgerton, The Beginnings of Indian philosophy, London.)

Indeed the sacred word  is often the basis of Upasana in the Upanishads. Numerous illustrations are found in the Chandogya
Upanishad, a veritable treasury of meditations, the second chapter of which is almost entirely devoted to a description of various
upasanas developed from chants of the Sama Veda. The upasanas comprise layer upon layer of identifications. Through this series
of identifications, the meditator acquires the power inherent in the object of the meditation.

Sankara acknowledges the acquisition of power as one of the three traditionally developed goals of upasana. (Brahmya Sutra Bhashya 
3.2.21).  A second goal is the averting of danger. The third, the highest, attainment is promised as the culmination of a meditation
on the sun: 'He obtains the victory of the sun, indeed a victory higher than the victory of the sun .... which leads beyond death.
(Chandogya Up. 2.10.6.)

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                 

Subramanian.R

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Re: UPASANA - Jonathan Bader - Mountain Path, Deepam, 2006:
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2013, 12:38:18 PM »
UPASANA:

continues.....

In the Vedic tradition the correct manner of pronunciation (siksha) is in itself an important basis for the comprehension of the sacred
word. In Taittiriya Upanishad 1.3., two factets of pronunciation are discussed. The first involves simply a process of recitation, and only
receives brief mention. The second is an extensive elaboration of an esoteric interpretation of pronunciation, developed through
meditation on the conjunction of syllables. The proper relationship of the syllables is the subject of a variety of upasanas, the first
of which is a meditation on the world (loka). The earth is taken to represent the initial syllable while the second syllable corresponds
to the heaven. The space between is represented by ether (akasa), and the link that joints the syllables is air (vayu).  The student is
guided to recognize the distinctive qualities of each syllable, and also the intervening space. Indeed, he himself participates in the
process of conjunction. For it is the power of the air, or wind, generated by his own pronunciation of the syllables, that actually
serves to link them. (Eight Upanishads, with the commentary of Sankaracharya, tr. Swami Gambhirananda, Mayavati, 1977, Vol 1).

In this way, the syllables are understood  to be far more than mere building blocks for words. Their inter relationship becomes a
microcosm which mirrors a cosmic pattern. This awareness leads the student to the comprehension of such esoteric utterances
(vyahrti) as bhur bhuvah suvah, which he chants thrice daily at the commencement of his diurnal rites (sandhya): 'Bhuh' is this world,
bhuvah, the atmosphere, suvah is the yonder world....he who knows this knows Brahman. (Taitt. Up. 1.5.1).

Since Brahman is so closely associated with the power of the word, it is not surprising to find that the preeminent symbol used in
meditation on Brahman is the sacred syllable AUM. "The word which all the Vedas rehearse, and which all austerities proclaim---- That
syllable, truly, indeed, is Brahman, that syllable indeed is the supreme. Knowing that syllable, truly, indeed, whatever one desires is his.
That is the best support. That is the supreme support. (Katha Up. 2.15-17; Chand. Up. 1.1.; Taitt. Up. 1.8. and Mandukya Up. 1.).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     
               

Subramanian.R

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Re: UPASANA - Jonathan Bader - Mountain Path, Deepam, 2006:
« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2013, 01:20:19 PM »

continues.....

Om is the ultimate support of meditation; (Prasna Up. 5.2). it is the bow which directs the arrow of the Self to Brahman, the mark;
(Mundaka Up. 2.2.4.).

It is the fire stick which, when rubbed by the practice of meditation, reveals the hidden divinity. (Svetasvatara Up. 1.14.)

But despite the prominence of the sacred syllable Om in Upasana, there is a little procedural details supplied in the accounts of
these well  known meditations.

Fortunately, another important upasana, is elaborated somewhat more fully. The meditation on Brahman as symbolized by the term
Satya, real or true, involves the establishment of an identity by means of an esoteric understanding of the word. The upasana is
introduced with the assertion that the Self is immortal (amrita), that is Brahman.

The next identification is that of Brahman and Satyam. (Chadogya Up. 8.3.5.; Brhadaranyaka Up. 5.5.1.).

Sankara stresses that upasana is characterized by a uniform flow of thoughts, tulya pratyaya santatir. (Taitt. Up. 1.2.3). Clearly
a good deal of discipline is required if the current of thought is to be maintained. But the accounts of upasana in ten Upanishads
on which Sankara has commented have little advice to offer the meditator on just how the practice is to proceed. They focus instead
upon the object of the meditation elaborating in great detail the ritual and symbolic themes representing the 'deity' with whom
identity is sought.

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.