Our religion Hinduism is called Vaidika karma or Sanatana dharma as it is based on Vedic scriptures or Vedas. And all those people who follow Vaidika dharma or Hinduism are called Vaidikaah and now we popularly call ourselves Hindus. A real Hindu or Vaidikaah is one who wants to take the guidance of Hinduism (Vedic scriptures) to lead his life. Like other religions Hinduism is also based on the theme of God or Ishwarah Himself. Not only is the religion centred on God, it also instructs a person to lead a God centric life. This God centred life of a Hindu is broadly divided into two stages: The first stage is called Ishwara Aradhanam. Aradhanam means worship and so Ishwara Aradhanam is worship of God. The first stage of human life must be in the form of God worship. The second stage of God centred life is called Ishwara Jnanam (knowing Ishwara). So the first stage is worshipping god and the second stage is knowing god. Our religion considers that both these stages as very very important for everyone to make the life meaningful and successful. Both these stages are important and must be followed in this particular order also. They are neither simultaneous nor in the reverse order; the sequence has to be Ishwara Aradhanam and then Ishwara Jnanam. Without Ishwara Aradhanam Ishwara Jnanam is impossible and without Ishwara Jnanam Ishwara Aradhanam is incomplete. Therefore everyone must go through both.
When we go through this order we come to know an important thing. Ishwara Aradhanam is the first stage and in this phase the aspirant will not have Ishwara Jnanam. Now the question is if Ishwara jnanam is not there then what is the basis for Ishwara Aradhanam? How can I worship when I don’t know much about Ishwara? For that the answer is the first stage of Ishwara Aradhanam is not based on knowledge but it is based on FAITH in god. It is based on Ishwara Shraddha that “I have faith in the existence of God” and this is possible in Hinduism for the faculty of faith is there for every human being. In the Bhagavad Gita Krishna says “sraddha-mayo 'yam purusho yo yac-chraddhah sa eva sah”. Therefore everyone is an embodiment of faith. Everyone is faithful. Even the so called rationalist who is mocking at the faithfuls is himself faithful. The only difference is that he has placed his faith on reason (we should not take rationalist as one who has faith in ration card!). Therefore he is also a faithful person. We the Hindus are not intimidated by these rationalists because we know that reason has got several limitations. That is why we cannot lead a life purely based on reason alone. According to us it is irrational to place total faith in reason for it has many shortcomings that the scriptures clearly point out. In Brahma sutras there is a special topic “na tarka aprattishtanam” that talks about the limitations of reason. Therefore according to us all the rationalists are irrational and we are not intimidated by them. We have follow Hinduism by having faith in Ishwara Aradhanam. And to practice Ishwara Aradhanam we require only two things: faith is Ishwara and faith in aradhanam or worship. And we require basic information to implement this aradhanam. At this stage we don’t require jnanam as much as faith and basic information for conducting aradhanam. And our scriptures give general information regarding God which is shriti-shruthi-laya kartha – the creator, sustainer and resolver of the entire universe. This much information is more than enough for Ishwara Aradhanam.
Then the next instruction our scriptures give is that Ishwara can be invoked in several forms for the sake of aradhanam. We have male forms like Shiva, Krishna. Rama etc and we have female forms like Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswathi and we have got mixed form like ardha nareeshwara, we have got animal form like matsya, kurma, varaha, we have human-animals mixed form like Narasimha form. Like that we have so many forms and so many options are there in which we can invoke Ishwara for Ishwara aradhanam at home. In addition to all these forms we have symbols also in which we can invoke the Lord like Shiva linga or saligram or omkara. Therefore God can be invoked in any form and Ishwara aradhanam is the first stage of the Hindu way of life. And we can do this aradhanam in a formal way (we learn from somebody how to worship God in a formal way) and if we do not know that then even a simple informal aradhanam we can practice. We have kayika puja or physical worship in which we offer a few flowers and have a simple arathi and for naivedayam we have raisins or candy. Do this daily aradhanam and get the blessings of the Lord. If we are not ready for kayika puja then we have vachika puja where we can do some parayanam like shiva manasa puja and so many slokas are there in so many languages. We are supposed to spend some time exclusively on Ishwara Aradhanam and there are no excuses allowed if we want to remain a Hindu worth the name. So be it either kayika aradhanam or vachika aradhanam or manasa aradhanam (in shiva-manasa puja I mentally offer worship). Even five minutes worship daily makes us a follower of Vedic scriptures. And this daily Ishwara Aradhanam has got an extension which is considered extremely important. What is it? At the end of the puja I have to de-invoke the Lord. In ritualistic term it is called “yatha sthanam prattistapayame” where the Lord is asked to go back to HIS original abode. Then the question would arise: what is the original residence of Bhagavan? Some say Vaikasa lokam, some say Kailasha lokam and others Brahma lokam, Hare Krishna people will say Brindavanam; but the scriptures point out that the original residence of the Lord is our own heart. So at the end of the puja we have to install Bhagavan in our own hearts. And this will be extremely useful the rest of the day because we are doing everything by keeping Bhagavan inside our hearts. And the scriptures give a beautiful meaning for the word Bhagawan.
Bhagavan means ONE who has infinite resources and these are divided into six: aishwaryam (power), veeryam (courage), yashas (fame), sri (wealth), jnanam (knowledge), vairagyam (detachment). All these six fold resources in infinite measures is Bhagahah. And Bhagawan means the Lord of infinite power and resources. Therefore we can say Bhagavan is UPS like the UPS we use in our homes. It means “uninterrupted power supply”. They can fail in our homes but Bhagavan is the greatest and uninterrupted power supply and when I install that Bhagavan in my heart then I have got uninterrupted power supply. And when I have got faith in God and when that God is installed in me then I will also become a source of UPS. Bhagavan is maha UPS and when HE is installed in me, therefore I have infinite limitless power in me. Therefore faith in the Lord will be converted into faith into myself. And how much power I have will be proportional to how much faith I have in God. As tradition says: how much benefit you get from all these things is directly proportional to your faith in them? And what are they? Mantrey (how much benefit you get from mantras will depend upon how much faith you have in them), thirthey (a holy place), vijai (in a Brahmana pujari), devey (in Gods), deivagney (astrologer), bheshajai (in medicine or doctor). Never go to a doctor who you consider useless, sit in meditation and develop faith on the doctor and only then visit him/her. With faith even placebo will work and finally gurey (teacher). So when I install God in me and therefore I have faith in my power and my resources and therefore I work with self-confidence. And throughout the day I have Bhagawan in my heart and our scriptures say that “May you offer all your karmas as an offering to the Lord” as we chanted Yadyatkarma karomi tattadakhilam Shambho tavaaraadhanam and then even daily food becomes an aradhanam to the Lord. Now not only the daily puja becomes an aradhanam but our everyday activities become an aradhama. Therefore convert your life itself into an Ishwara Aradhanam. And once you offer your karmas to the Lord then whatever consequences come, I am ready to face them. At the time of performing the karma I tell the Lord, “I am offering this karma to YOU. I want and prefer success. But O Lord, I am ready for any type of result that YOU give me as per the laws of karma.” I prefer success but I am ready for any failure also as I don’t call failure as failure. And I have a new name for failure which is Ishwara Prasadah. So every action in the day is Ishwara Arpanam and every experience is Ishwara Prasadah. So the day starts with aradhanam and then extends also to aradhanam. And this aradhanam is compulsory for every Hindu. The scale of aradhanam can be small or big but we cannot avoid this first stage which is based on faith in god and faith in the efficacy of the aradhanam. The scriptures extend aradhanam for some people who are interested in Ishwara Dharshanam; having the darshanam of the Lord in the form they have invoked. A Rama Bhakta may be interested in Rama Darshanam, Krishna bhakti in Krishna darshanam. The scriptures say that if a bhakta practices aradhanam and mantra japa of that form of the Lord then he/she can have the darshanam of that form also. Shankaracharya says in his brahma sutram,” The Lord will give darshanam to the bhakta but he should do extra sadhanam”. Thyagaraja is supposed to have had Rama darshanam and he chanted Rama nama 96 crore times. And here we are who say Rama nama 10 times and we expect Rama darshanam! The point is Ishwara aradhanam will make our lives wonderful because of our extra power and extra self-confidence. Life can become beautiful, life can become joyful and life can become generally successful and life can become peaceful also even in the midst of some adversities and failures extra. So the first stage of Hinduism is Ishwara aradhanam is faith based and not based on knowledge. This faith based Ishwara aradhanam will prepare an aspirant gradually them for the second stage, which is Ishwara jnanam.
For entering the second stage three factors are required. The first factor is a sincere desire to know what is God or who is God. … a sincere deep desire to know which Krishna calls as jignasa bhakti. The previous stage is artha, arthathee bhakti while jignasa bhakti is the sincere desire to know as “different people worship different forms of God and which is the real form of God?”. Is Rama god, Krishna god or Shiva or do we have many gods? And if there are many gods what is the hierarchy? If you ask a Vaishava he will say “ega perumal” and under HIM will come other gods including Shiva. And if you ask a Shaiva bhakta, today is Shivaratri also, and he will say “my Shiva is great”. So which one is god? Where is god located? Are there many gods? What is the nature of God? All these questions a person deeply wants to know. This is a deep desire and not a casual desire which is jignasa.
The second factor is I need a spiritual guide to help me. I need a guide to educate me as to the real nature of the Lord. And the third factor is a matured mind and a subtle intellect to understand the nature of God because when we want to know the real nature we enter an abstract and subtle subject. Therefore the mind must also be matured, the intellect must also be subtle. The Ishwara aradhanam will give us all the three factors: sincere desire, spiritual guide and also a matured mind.
Once we enter the second stage what is the teaching that we come to know. I will briefly deal with them. A spiritual guide makes use of our Vedic scriptures to teach us who or what God is. The Upanishads are primary sources of this knowledge and secondary scriptures like Bhagavad Gita also. How do the Upanishads present Ishwara?
In the first stage of Ishwara Aradhanam we defined Ishwara as shrithi-shruthi-laya kartha. We use the word jagat kartha but in the second stage, Ishwara jnanam, the language is slightly changed. Instead of the word “kartha” we use the word “karanam”. Now we define God as the cause of the universe, the source of the universe, and origin of the universe. Even modern scientists accept that the universe originated at a particular time which they study in cosmology where they talk about Big Bang etc. We need not go deeper but what I am saying is even the scientists talk about origination or evolution of the universe. Which means from non-origin state the origin state must come for from non-existent thing nothing can come. There is a fundamental cause that exists and this karanam is called Ishwara. And the entire universe is a product evolving or originating from that karanam. That is why Bhagavan is called karaneeshwara which is a famous temple.
Once you understand Ishwara as karanam (cause) and the world is the effect then we can analyse the nature of both Ishwara and the world. The scriptures help us understand that through many examples. Like gold as the karanam and ornaments as the karyam, as clay as the karanam and pots as the karyam, or iron as the karanam and various kinds of hardware as the karyam. Based on these examples given in the Upanishad we have to understand Ishwara. Studying the examples we can know the features of karanam and the important features of karyam. On this auspicious Shivaratri day I will recount four important features of both karanam and karyam that you are all aware as upanishadic students.
Gold the cause is ekam (one) and from that lump we have several ornaments. Therefore karanam ekam and karyam anakam. So how many Gods are there? God can only be ONE but HE can be invoked in several forms.
The second feature is Gold is the karanam and ornaments karyam. The ornaments cannot exist without gold as gold alone is the content of all the ornaments. Therefore we can conclude karanam is the CONTENT (saaram) for the entire universe which is the karyam. Now tell me where is God? In kailasam or Vaikuntam or etc. Since god is the very saaram, god has to be behind everything. God cannot have a particular location as God is behind all the products which are like different ornaments in different names and forms. So god is saaram and world is asaaram (which is pit less and hollow).
The third important feature is “gold existed before the arrival of ornaments, during the existence of ornaments and after the melting of ornaments. Gold exists in the past, in the present, and the future but the ornaments have got a beginning. And anything with a beginning will also have an ending.” Therefore karanam in nityam and karyam is anityam. God is nityah and the world is fleeting.
The fourth feature is “gold, the karanam, by itself exists INDEPENDENTLY. It does not depend on the ornaments for its existence. Therefore swantantra tattvam whereas the ornaments, the products, does not exist independently and they all have borrowed existence. They do not have real existence. Whatever has independent existence is called Satyam and whatever is seemingly existent with borrowed existence, they are called asatyam. Ishwara ekah satyah while jagat is asatyah.
When we get Ishwara jnanam we understand these four features: ekah, saarah, nityam and satyam. God is one, hold or fit, eternal, and the only real one. And the world is nekah, asaarah, anityam and asatyam. By analysing further we discover another important practical message. The ornaments are very useful for beautifying our body. Ornaments are used for hands, legs, neck, tongue and even eye-brows (new and new fashions). Ornaments have got beauty, ornaments have got variety, ornaments have got novelty. But when you want financial security, security does it depend on ornaments or gold? When ornament is brought or sold people only look at the gold. The karyam gives beauty but what gives security? The karanam alone can give security. The world is beautiful, wonderful, it has variety. But whenever you want security, you have to hold on to only God. So if you want security, if you want peace you never depend upon anything in the world (whether they are things, beings, or positions, or possessions for nothing is reliable). You have to hold on to Ishwara and Ishwara only. Initially Ishwara aradhanam and later Ishwara alambanam. If a sanyasi can renounce everything, from where does he get that courage? He does not want to depend on anything he is renouncing. Even after renouncing he has got self-confidence because he feels that his security is not the share market that is crashing every other day, not the bank money whose interest is coming down, not the people around me. I only depend on Ishwara as my alambanam. For me God is the truth beyond all forms and HE is the truth behind everything. The rationalist say God is no where while we Hindus say that the God is NOW HERE. God is there is the speck and also in the pillar. And if Ishwara is everywhere is ekah, saarah, nityam and satyam then that Ishwara must be in me also. This is the first stage of self-enquiry and then we come to the next higher state. It is very subtle and very abstract. And who is the ekah, saara, nitya, satyam Bhagavan residing in me? There are two things that are constantly there in every living being – chaitanyam (consciousness) and achatanam (matter). The body is continuously changing, the thoughts are continuously changing and what is the constant changeless factor? I am aware of all these changes and this chaitanyam is the nature of Bhagavan. The second factor is when I introduce myself as a body, male or young or old. I am old, I am young, I am handsome, I am a man etc. In all of them what is the constant factor? I AM. This is existence or satyam principle. Sat chit ananda is the Karanam Ishwara principle who is everywhere and who is in me also. And when I learn to identify with that core then I can say: aham brahma asmi. This makes my life purnam.
We start from Ishwara aradhanam and go to Ishwara jnanam and understand that Ishwara is in everything and understand that Ishwara is in me and then come to the conclusion that Ishwara is me. This is the journey of a Hindu and it is possible to achieve this purnatvam in one life itself. This teaching has been given in the Vedas and Vedas have been given by the Lord Parameshwara and hence we are always indebted to Bhagavan. Sadasiva samarambham, shankaracharya madhyamam, asmad acharya paryantam vande Guru paramparam. On this auspicious Shivaratri day we do the aradhanam of Ishwara and we receive the knowledge of Ishwara and we have to discover this purnatvam which is the journey for all of us.