Worship of God based on the Vedic scriptures is called Eeshwarstuti-prärthanä-upäsanä. The worship of God or prayer to God is not a rote performance of rituals or recitation of mantras or hymns from the Vedas or other Vedic scriptures but implies incorporating components of the prayer in the fabric of one’s life. Worship is divided into three interconnected components: Stuti, Prärthana and Upäsana.
The word Eeshwar means Supreme Master of all of the spiritual and physical wealth of the universe; stuti implies appreciating and understanding the attributes of God; prärthanä is prayer to God to be our guide and adopting virtuous practices in life; and upäsanä literally means getting close to God through the practice of spiritual yoga (i.e. meditation).
Stuti is usually translated in English as praise or glorification of God or singing about God’s glory. Stuti, however, is not repeating God’s name over and over to praise Him, nor is it flattery of God. True stuti on the other hand is sincere and implies knowing and appreciating God’s various attributes, a thoughtful reflection upon them, understanding their significance and finally based on the correct understanding of the attribute, doing appropriate virtuous deeds in daily life. For example one can recite over and over ‘God! You are Omnipresent’ but derive no benefit from it. True stuti on the other hand would mean recognizing in life that God is everywhere in the universe from the closest to the farthest including inside our soul and watches all our karmas i.e. actions at all three levels: thought, word and action. God even knows what goes inside our mind, nothing is hidden from Him.
Moreover, God as Karmphaldata judges us based upon our actions and we will not escape His judgment as well as the good or bad reward of our actions. Most humans are far more afraid of being caught committing a sin than actually performing the sin. When people do something wrong purposely, they usually want to ensure that there is no witness to their bad deed, which may result in them being caught. But the person doing true stuti of God, realizes that even if one could hide from other persons or electronic monitors, he/she cannot hide from God, therefore, the only reasonable course is not to carry out any bad deed and remembering God’s omnipresence one must do virtuous deeds all the time.
Stuti at a deeper level also implies intense love of God for his benevolence towards us as well as full faith in His judgment. Stuti of God can be performed contemplating on any of the God’s attributes previously mentioned on pages # 8 to 21 e.g. God alone is Perfection (Poornam), God has no deficiencies and He does not need anything from human beings. We as human beings, however, are imperfect and need God’s grace as well as our personal effort to improve in our lives. God alone is Almighty and the Master of the universe, none else and only by knowing God and recognizing His shelter we can become fearless in life to pursue truth. As we progress in stuti we will recognize that while one can hurt or kill our physical body but no one can hurt our soul and the closer we are to God less and less will be our fears including the fear of death.
From the above discussion of God’s stuti, it should be clear that one must perform stuti of attributes which God possesses and not of those which God does not have e.g. an image of God in the form of a moorti (icon, idol). Similarly, replacing Stuti of God with worship of God’s alleged incarnations Rama, Krishna or Christ is equally erroneous because God does not incarnate. The Veda mantra below states the following about stuti:
Ya eka it tamu shtuhi krashtinäm visharshanih.Patirjajnay vrashkratu. (Rig Veda 6 : 45 : 16)
In summary, stuti implies that while praising God and reciting God’s various names and/or attributes we should reflect upon and understand the meaning of the God’s name or attribute recited, and then progressively incorporate a component of it (where ever possible or applicable) in our own personal lives e.g. stuti reminds us that God is kind, just and loving, qualities that we need to acquire if we are to come close to God.
Prärthana means prayer to God to be our guide. Prayer is asking for God’s inspiration and help so that we may gain spiritual knowledge, wisdom, strength and determination to acquire virtuous qualities in ourselves as well as live a virtuous life, learn humility and with our abilities help fellow human beings. After making one’s best effort, it is asking God, the Universal Benefactor, for His blessings so our requests are fulfilled. Praying teaches us humility and reminds us that we are not all powerful like God. It also helps us acknowledge our limitations and our vanity so that we learn where we need to improve. Praying also reminds us of our moral duties (dharma) both to ourselves and to others and further shows us that we should seek God’s counsel first and then that of our fellow humans, not the other way around. The following Veda mantra is an example of prayer to God :
Tayjo asi tayjo mayi dayhi, viryam asi veeryam mayi dayhi,
Balam asi balam mayi dayhi, ojo asi ojo mayi dayhi,
Manyur asi manyur mayi dayhi, saho asi saho mayi dayhi.
(Yajur Veda 19 : 9)
This manta describes six of God’s attributes and is a prayer to God to help us acquire at least elements of some of the same attributes in our lives. The mantra starts by stating that God is the Radiance that enlightens everybody because He is the source of all knowledge that is known by truth. God is the Supreme Light that leads us forward in our life, towards brightness and away from ignorance and darkness. After acknowledging that God is the Supreme Radiance, we pray for radiance in our own lives also. Similarly in this mantra, God is addressed as the Almighty and the storehouse of Infinite Strength, Vigor and Vitality, Mettle and Fortitude followed by prayer that we may also acquire an element of the same attributes in our lives.
When we pray to God, or ask God for something, it is not a passive request. When we ask for God’s grace and also make an active commitment to change our life, we become deserving of God’s gifts. Giving is God’s attribute and He gives all of us what we deserve based upon our karma. When we pray, our actions should not contradict our prayers. A person praying for good health is not expected to eat six doughnuts and/or drink six beers daily. Moreover, if we ask God to give us something (i.e. share with us), then we must be willing to share what we have with those who are less fortunate.
Lastly, as acknowledged in this mantra, God is the Foremost Power and we should only ask Him when we need something. We should, therefore, not seek protection or shelter from those who seem to be powerful but are actually quite vulnerable themselves. Such shelter or protection from other humans, in the long haul is doomed to failure. Therefore, one must first and foremost ask God, the Giver of all givers with humility and generosity. An advanced aspirant who has completely surrendered to God does not ask anything for himself or herself but only for the welfare of others. Such aspirants leave the responsibility of their welfare, shelter and protection to God and trust that God will meet their needs one way or another.
There are a few things one should remember about praying:
One must never pray for impossible things (such as asking that the sun rise in the West). It is wrong to test God.
One must never pray for the harm or the destruction of others just because we disagree with them but it is wise to ask God’s help and grace when one is fighting for truth and righteous causes.
As stated above one should never pray for help without first having made one’s best effort. Prayer is not a substitute for action (karma). God helps those who help themselves.
Prayer does not mean chanting God’s name over and over but requires one to make an improvement in his/her character and conduct of life. Prayer is also a time for self-reflection and to think about whether or not one has become more virtuous by discarding personal vices. Without an attempt to change one’s life, prayer is not only useless but also hypocritical.
One must pray for oneself and not ask a priest to pray on one’s behalf. The role of a priest is that of a teacher, guide and confidante to help a person understand the spiritual aspects of life and to teach someone how to pray and meditate.
While one should not ask others to pray on one’s behalf, it is perfectly appropriate to pray for the well-being of others, nation and the universe. It is a generous and unselfish gesture and may include praying for wisdom for your enemy so that the two of you may reconcile your differences.
In summary, one prays not only for one’s personal spiritual, mental and physical welfare but also for that of others, extending one’s requests to all mankind and nature as well. Most of the prayers in the Vedas are for “us” rather than for “me,” with great deal of emphasis on being generous and giving to others because this allows one to receive God’s blessings.
Upäsana implies meditation and through the practice of spiritual yoga, gradual realization of God i.e. ‘attainment of the Supreme Being’. The word upäsana literally means getting close to God up=close, äsana=sit down, exist. How does one get close to an entity such as God, who as stated above under the heading Stuti, exists everywhere in the universe including all around us as well as inside our soul and is already the closest entity? Why the need of upäsana?
Vedic scriptures consider three types of separation between two entities. The first is that of physical distance: one person is in the United States and the other in India, however, this separation does not apply to the soul and God. The next separation relates to time: Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati lived 150 years ago we are alive in 2010, however, this separation also does not apply to the soul and God. The third separation is that of awareness : the separation of the soul and God is that of awareness on the part of the soul. It is only during deep meditation when all of the mind’s external activities are suspended, and the mind is fully focused inwards, the soul consciously perceives and joins Godthis is true upäsana or yoga.
The phrase the soul joining God or ‘attaining the Supreme Being’ as stated above and on page # 25 means that superconscious state of samadhi-the final stage of upasana or spiritual yoga where the mind is completely tranquil and the individual soul is one to One with God the Supreme Soul and enjoys infinite bliss, deep enlightenment and God’s benevolence. The soul is consciously aware of God who is Änandswaroop (Supreme Bliss), and Jnänswaroop or Prakashswaroop (True Knowledge).
Upasana as previously stated in the context of stuti also implies intense love and awareness of the attributes of God as well as progressive incorporation of them (where-ever possible or applicable) in one’s own personal life if one is to come close to God. For example upasana requires that just as God is kind and loving, we are both making an effort to acquire kindness and love in our life as well as have progressively actually acquired kindness and love respectively. Our life actually reflects true kindness and love for other beings.
The best method to practice upasana is to follow Maharshi Patanjali’s Yog Darshanam (yoga aphorisms) which has organized the practice of yoga in a systematic manner and is also called Ashtanga (the eight-step) Yoga, Raj Yoga, and Dhyana Yoga (the yoga of meditation or concentration) (see page # 74 for details). When upasana/yoga is regularly practiced with sincerity, one gradually acquires concentration in meditation. While progress may be initially slow, success is certain in the long run. Perfection occurs gradually as dhyana in yoga-meditation practices become so intense that a person totally surrenders to God and devotes his or her life to seeking God and helping others and not doing any deeds for personal gratification. The following Veda mantra is an example of upasana:
Yunjatay manah ut yunjatay dhiyo viprä viprasya brahato vipashyachitah,
Vi hoträ dadhay vayunavid eka it mahi devasya savituh parishtutih.
(Rig Veda 5: 81: 1)
The message of this mantra is for all human beings desirous of attaining God and bliss. Who am I? Am I my soul, my mind, or my intellect? According to Vedic scriptures as previously stated, I am my imperishable soul that interacts with the environment through the mind via sense and action organs guided by the intellect. The mind and intellect, however, through the practice of yoga can also be directed inwards towards the soul and God.
This mantra states that sages, wise persons and those desirous of bliss join their soul including the mind, and intellect with the Supreme Sage God so that the mind becomes tranquil and the person becomes blissful and enlightened with spiritual knowledge directly from God, the Source of all true knowledge. This conscious joining of the soul with Supreme Consciousness i.e. God is true upasana or yoga, everything else promoted as yoga both in India and the West is misdirected (also see page # 74). Sages and wise persons have been doing such upasana since time immemorial. Therefore, are we ready to initiate and make a similar effort?
This mantra emphasizes that joining both the mind and the intellect to God is important. Why? This is so, because the mind is prone to all kinds of flights of imaginations and ideas as well as prone to blind faith and belief in all kinds of miracles promoted in the name of religion. Such blind faith in religion, however, often takes people astray and away from the truth, unless one also exercises intellect (dhiya) and common sense to differentiate right from wrong as well as what is plausible and what is unbelievable. The politically correct thing regarding religion, in many circles these days, is not to critically look at anyone’s beliefs regarding God, especially one’s own religion. However, until one starts to combine wisdom and common sense with faith and devotion, one is very likely to be misdirected in one’s journey towards God i.e. Eeshwar-stuti-prärthanä-upäsanä.
In the second line, this mantra emphasizes there is only One God who may be called by different names but nevertheless remains only One. In this mantra, God is called Savita-the Creator of the universe and who as the inner voice of the soul, inspires us to follow the right path (also see pages # 50-53 below). He alone is the Supreme Divine Being who alone knows the karma (deeds) of every person and appropriately judges and rewards them. His greatness and praiseworthiness is endless, words are inadequate to describe it all. Sages (yogis) completely surrender themselves to God and do all their deeds in His service in a selfless manner. They do not get attached to money or material wealth but share it with others in a generous manner. This is the path to attain God and bliss, the aim of upäsanameditation or true yoga.
Traditionally, Eeshwar-stuti-prarthana-upasana are performed two times a day, at dawn as well as at dusk. If dusk is not a suitable time, then the bedtime hour is acceptable. It is recommended that one should try to spend at least half an hour at each session in a quiet area of the house and avoid all distractions. If a person thinks that he/she cannot even spare half an hour from daily affairs, this individual needs to review his/her priorities to determine why it is not possible. If he/ she determines that certain personal or financial responsibilities are too great so that he/she cannot genuinely spare the half-hour of time, then any amount of time is worthwhile.
The personal spiritual rewards gained from the limited time spent in earnest Eeshwar-stuti-prärthana-upäsana will usually far outweigh those obtained from time devoted to secular affairs. As a person advances in upasana he/she is able to spend many hours at a stretch meditating about God. Also, He/she remains aware of God’s presence even while performing the daily activities of life.
In summary, sincere Eeshwar-stuti-prärthana-upäsana, when performed in quiet solitude with faith and devotion, will help one obtain God’s grace and he/she will find peace, joy and bliss in life. One’s self-confidence and courage are also tremendously strengthened but not in an egotistical way. Stuti-prärthana-upäsana helps one distinguish right from wrong and to follow the right path as well as seek truth without fear.
Praying will often open a clear path when one is lost in a jungle of choices and distractions. A true devotee makes constant effort to improve his/her spiritual knowledge, contemplate on it and then live accordingly in a virtuous manner. A spiritually advanced person only prays for God’s grace and the well-being of mankind. He/she does not pray for specific personal gains or for material wealth because God will give all of us what we need. Therefore, such a person prays only to follow God’s will and to do God’s work with a prayer such as, “Dear God, Thy will be done.”
Content and Attachment Courtesy:- Darshan Yog.