Re: Advaita Vedanta - and some links with the Mahatmas re God
Aug 06, 2008 03:10 PM
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.
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
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?
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
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
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.
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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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