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Re: Advaita Vedanta - and some links with the Mahatmas re God

Aug 06, 2008 03:10 PM
by anandaam_11

Below is a conversation about Sandhya Worship between a devotee and 
His Holiness Sri Chandrashekara Bharati Mahaswami (1892-1954) head of 
the Sringeri Math (a monastery originally founded by Sankaracharya) 
for 42years.  Theosophists may recall that T.Subba Row, the chela of 
Mahatma Morya, was a member of the Sringeri Math.


A touring Educational Officer (EO) once met His Holiness (HH) and 

"I have occasions of being in constant touch with young boys, mostly 
Brahmanas, studying in schools which I have to inspect. I have found 
that even the boys who perform their sandhya do so more as a form 
than as real worship. I shall be very grateful if Your Holiness would 
give me some valuable hints which I could convey to them"

HH:  I am very glad to see that you are not content with mere 
official routine of inspection but desire to utilise the occasion for 
the betterment of the boys. It will be well if all educationists, 
inspecting officers or teachers, realise that they have been 
entrusted with the very grave responsibility of training up young men 
in the most impressionable period of their lives. In my opinion they 
are really to blame if they confine their attention only to the 
prescribed text books and neglect the spiritual side of the young 

EO: I always keep that end before me and I don't miss any opportunity 
of talking to the boys and giving them some useful advice. It is 
mainly with a view to do that work better that i request Your 
Holiness to give some practical suggestions.

HH:  Even if the boys to whom you propose to convey such suggestions 
may not benefit by them, you will certainly be benefited.

EO:  Certainly.

HH:  You may therefore, for the present, ignore the boys and ask such 
questions the answers to which are likely to be useful to you.

EO:  The first question which suggests itself to me is with reference 
to the sandhya worship. What is the deity or upasya devata in the 
sandhya Worship?

HH:  Before we consider that, please tell me what you understand 
ordinarily by the sandhya worship?

EO:  By sandhya worship we mean the worship of the rising Sun, the 
setting Sun or Sun in the mid heavens.

HH:  Quite so. Comprehensively speaking, you mean worship of the Sun?

EO:  Yes.

HH:  You tell me that sandhya is the worship of the Sun and yet you 
ask me what is worshipped in the sandhya. Don't you think it is an 
unnecessary question?

EO:  Put so, it may seem an unnecessary question, but my real 
question is, what is the Sun that is worshipped?

HH:  What do you understand ordinarily by the Sun?

EO:  We mean the bright celestial orb in the sky.

HH:  Then it is that bright celestial orb that is worshipped.

EO:  But that orb is, according to science, mere inert matter in a 
state of high combustion and is certainly not worthy of being 
worshipped by intelligent beings like ourselves. It can neither hear 
our prayers nor respond to them. I cannot believe that our ancestors 
were so ignorant as to address their prayers to a mere burning mass 
of matter

HH:  I quite agree with you. They could never have been so foolish.

EO:  What then did they see in the Sun to justify their prayers being 
addressed to it?

HH:  You said just now that addressing of prayers to inert matter 
cannot be justified by reason.

EO:  Yes.

HH:  What then must be the nature of the entity to which a prayer is 

EO:  The primary condition is that it must not be mere inert matter, 
but must be endowed with intelligence.

HH:  And the second condition?

EO:  That it must be able to hear our prayers and be powerful enough 
to answer them.

HH:  Quite so. If our ancients were not fools and yet addressed their 
prayers to the Sun, their conception of the Sun must have been quite 
different from that of mere inert matter, in a state of high 

EO:  Yes, they must have also postulated of it intelligence, the 
capacity to hear us and the ability to help us.

HH:  The 'us' including not only all those who are now living to 
raise their hands in prayer to the Sun, but also the generations, 
past and future, infinite in number though they may be?

EO:  Of course.

HH:  The entity that is worshipped as the Sun is therefore one whose 
intelligence or ability knows no limitation of space or time.

EO:  It must be so.

HH:  You have now got your answer to the question as to who is 
worshipped in the sandhya? It is an intelligent Being, omniscient and 
omnipotent in the matter of hearing and responding to its votaries.

EO:  Your Holiness then means that it is a deva who has his 
habitation in the solar orb?

HH:  Quite so. He has not only his habitation there, but the solar 
orb itself is his physical body.

EO:  Your Holiness means that the deva enlivens the solar orb, just 
as we do our physical bodies?

HH:  Just so.

EO:  If then he is embodied just like us, how does he happen to have 
such high intelligence or power as to merit our obeisance?

HH:  He attained that status by virtue of the appropriate karma and 
upasana done by him in a previous life.

EO:  Does Your Holiness mean that he was at one time just like 
ourselves and that he attained that status by his endeavour?

HH:  Yes.

EO:  Then he is no more than a jiva, which I aIso am. Why should a 
Jiva make prostration before another Jiva, howsoever superior?

HH:  Why should your son or pupil respect you and why should you show 
respect to your superior officers? Are not both of you jivas?

EO:  No doubt we are. But we respect our superiors as it is in their 
power to help us or injure us, if they so desire.

HH:  That is a very low kind of respect. Anyhow, taking even that 
kind of respect, we must respect Surya devata if it is in his power 
to help us or injure us, if he so desires.

EO:  Of course.

HH:  Being a jiva as much as your superior officers, he will help you 
if you appeal to him for help or injure you if you ignore or despise 
him. In your own interest then, you are bound to worship him and 
secure his goodwill.

EO:  But I need not court the favour nor fear the displeasure of my 
superior officer, if I carry out the duties of my office faithfully.

HH:  Quite so.

EO:  If I preserve that attitude, there is no reason why I should 
propitiate my superior officer

HH:  Certainly not.

EO:  Similarly, if l carry out strictly the duties enjoined on me by 
the sastras, I need not propitiate any other jiva, be he the highest 

HH:  Quite so.

EO:  Then, should I not give up the worship of Surya devata?

HH:  Certainly you may, unless of course such a worship is part of 
the duties enjoined on you by the Sastras.

EO:  How can that be?

HH:  It is true that an honest and strict officer in performing the 
duties of his office need not mind the pleasure or the displeasure of 
his immediate superior. But the mere fact that he thinks it necessary 
or obligatory to perform those duties properly, shows that he has as 
the ultimate end the pleasure, or avoidance of the displeasure of a 
still higher officer who is superior to him as well as to his 
immediate superior. Even if he has no personal acquaintance with that 
higher officer, he always has in the background of his mind an 
undefined power, call it the King or the Government, when he performs 
the duties of his office. And that power has the ability to benefit 
him by a recognition of his services or to punish him by taking note 
of his delinquencies. Further, that power rules both him and his 
immediate superior officer. If therefore that power requires him to 
behave in a particular manner towards his superior officer, he cannot 
afford to disobey that injunction, for if he disobeys, not only does 
he incur the displeasure of that officer but also of the higher power.

EO:  That is so.

HH:  Similarly, if a power which rules both you as well as Surya 
devata requires you to conduct yourself in a particular manner 
towards that deva, you cannot afford to neglect that injunction, but 
must conform to it or take the risk of incurring the displeasure of 
that deva as also of the higher power.

EO:  It is no doubt so. But in that case, in prostrating myself 
before Surya devata, I shall be really worshipping the higher power 
even when my worship may seem addressed to the Surya.

HH:  What of that?

EO:  If I am able to conceive of such a higher power who rules even 
the Surya, that power is really the worshipped entity although to all 
appearances the worship is addressed to the Surya only.

HH:  Quite so.

EO:  But Your Holiness said that it was Surya devata who was 

HH:  Yes. It is correct so far as persons who are not able to 
conceive of a higher power are concerned. To those however who can 
conceive of that power, He is the real upasya. That power is called 
Hiranyagarbha. He enlivens and ensouls not only the Surya, but all 
devas. He enlivens and inhabits not only the solar orb but all 
things. He is the cosmic personality who is the soul of all things.

EO:  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.

HH:  He has.

EO:  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 

HH:  It is so.

EO:  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

HH:  Quite so. In fact He is called the First Born.

EO:  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 devata holds good in his case 

HH:  What then would you like to worship?

EO:  A transcendent power which is not a jiva.

HH:  Have it then that it is such a transcendent power that is 
worshipped in the sandhya. We give Him the name of lswara, the Lord, 
or the antaryami, the inner ruler.

EO:  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.

HH:  Yes, it is so.

EO:  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.

HH:  You are right. We call that unrelated essential existence 

EO:  If it is so, that must be the real object of worship rather than 
the relative aspect called lshwara.

HH:  It is even as you say. It is really the unqualified Brahman that 
is worshipped in the sandhya.

EO:  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 devata 
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 lswara 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

HH:  I did say so.

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

HH:  Where is the difficulty?

EO:  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 Iswara 
or Brahman at the same time?

HH:  I never said that it was the solar orb or the deva  and so on.

EO:  Does Your Holiness mean to say then that the object of worship 
is the solar orb and the deva  and Hiranyagarbha and Iswara and 
Brahman all put together?

HH:  Nor did I say anything of that sort.

EO:  How then am I to understand Your Holiness' statements?

HH:  When did I tell you that the upasya was Surya?

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

HH:  Before you mentioned it, I said that it was even that mass that 
was the upasya.

EO:  Yes.

HH:  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 of worship, I said the upasya was Surya 
devata. 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 meagre 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?

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

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

EO:  How?

HH:  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. Such 
people will show the same respect to others who have similar 
paraphernalia. Their homage is not therefore really paid to me but 
only to the paraphernalia. Some others respect me for the position 
that I hold or for the Asrama in which I am. Such people will equally 
respect others who are or may come to be in such a position or in 
such an Asrama, their homage is therefore not paid to me but to my 
position or to the Asrama. And some others may not care what position 
I hold or in what Asrama 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 of divine intelligence which inheres in 
me, as it does in all of you.

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

HH:  Quite so. But, ordinarily all these people, whether they really 
tender homage to the paraphernalia or to my status and Asrama 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 you tell me, apart 
from any reference to the several devotees, to whom or to what they 

EO:  It is no doubt very difficult to answer

HH:  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.

EO:  I now understand how in the simple worship of the Sun all 
possible stages in spiritual perception have been provided for

HH:  It is not only this, for you will find if you consider the 
matter still further, that all the three ways known as karma, bhakti 
and Gyana have been given places in the daily worship, but that is a 
different matter. Simple as the sandhya worship seems to be, it is 
sufficient to help us on to 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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