FROM A HINDU VIEW-POINT
The letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are named Aksharas; the word Akshara means undecaying. The letters are said to be undecaying because they are the symbols of the Devas, who are undecaying in their Essence. Thus we find in the Bhagavad-Gita the letter which stands first in the alphabet, viz. A, symbolizes Sree Krishna, or the Logos, or Vishnu. Now Vishnu is derived from the root Vis, to enter or energize; Vishnu therefore means the spiritual power which energizes, or the spiritual aspect of Life. Vishnu is the Active Manifested Will or Iccha Sakti — "Iccha Kriya and Gnanam are Gour (yellow), Brahini (red), and Vaishnavi (indigo)", says a Sanskrit Sloka. It seems the Logos first divided itself in manifestation into three, corresponding to the three planes of waking, dreaming, and sushupti states of consciousness. They are the evoluting or creating energy (colored red), the sustaining or preserving energy (colored indigo), and the involuting energy (colored yellow). The body of Vishnu is also said to be golden or shining like gold. He is always "clothed in yellow", and has four hands which symbolize the four Vargas, viz.: Dharma (the Law), Artha (physical necessity), Kama (desire), and Moksha (final emancipation). In their manifested aspect every Deva, or god, of whatever grade is considered as finite, but in their Atmic Essence they are eternal and one!
The worship of these deities is enjoined in our Shastras, but one must fit himself to be a true Upasaka or worshipper. The first step is Karma, the second Upasana, the third Gnanam. Karma here means self-purification and serving humanity; self-sacrifice must be the guiding principle of this step. The second step is Upasana or Bhakti, the guiding principle of which is Love. All Upasakas, worthy to be so called, must be of this stage of progress. The third is Gnanam, or true Knowledge; it is at this stage that the individual begins to lose his own identity and is finally merged in Atma. The connection established at the beginning of the second stage becomes stronger and broader till the barrier of Maya, or illusion, dividing the two, disappears and the two become one. Then knowing me according to (my) tattwa, (he) enters at last", says the Gita.
So long, then, as one cannot realize the essential unity of the subject and the object, one must proceed by the old old path of the Rishis, the path of Misery, (Durga), the path of difficulty, pain, and trouble, the path of Karma and Upasana. He must be sustained by Love or he is bound to fail; for no man can proceed in that most difficult of all things without love to cheer him up and sustain his drooping spirits.
This Upasana or worship, or rather the occult practical part which leads direct to soul development, has been kept a profound secret; some of our Shastras profess to reveal it, but they are mere blinds, or at best but fragmentary hints which appear absurd and indecent on their very face. The theoretical part is, however, systematically and most beautifully treated in many books, and is called Bhakti-Yoga, or the Yoga of Love.
Nothing can, however, as I have said, be done without self-purification, self-sacrifice, and serving humanity. Bhakti, tainted with selfishness and animal propensities, cannot develop itself, cannot lead one to spiritual advancement, as there can be no true brotherhood of selfish or immoral men. With such defects one cannot grasp the very idea of it.
The practical part of Upasana enjoins Dhyanam or concentration of mind on the Deva to be worshipped; the whole Puja (1) ceremony has a deep occult signification, dealing as it does with colors and rhythmic sounds and burning of incenses. Our forefathers were far more cognizant of the unseen psychic influences acting in man than their modern critics (2), and arranged matters so as to counteract them. Even the placing of a particular flower on the top of the worshipper's head is not without meaning, Brahmarandhra (3) (the hole-like path of Brahma the Spirit) being the locality beneath which the spiritual senses act.
The present Hindu worshippers, however, having lost their Guru-Parampara (4) no longer understand what they are about and do everything mechanically, which produces no effect. The whole ceremony of worship is so complicated and demands such concentration of mind, among other things, that it would be better for ordinary persons to leave it alone — but what would then become of the mercenary priests and Gurus?
1. Puja means worship, the act of worship. — [Ed.] (return to text)
2. Or their descendants also. — [Ed.] (return to text)
3. A subtile psychic current supposed to have its exit at the top of the head. — [Ed.] (return to text)
4. Guru-Paraampara, the true chain or succession of Gurus. The "succession" from St. Peter in the Christian church is the same idea. — [Ed.] (return to text)
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