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Ishvara Upāsanā - An Exposition by Yogācarya Georgios Demetriades

Any human being will attest to the experience of duality, a necessary process that enables conscious awareness to unfold in the subject or, in other words, the subject becomes aware as a result of these experiences. In the initial stages, most people are not conscious of these things but accept them in time (kāla) and space (deśa) lawfully. At one time or another, pleasure (sukha) is experienced and is usually followed by pain (duhkha), its polar opposite; joy by sorrow, cold by heat and so forth. This sequence of events is both inherent in Nature (Prakŗti) and lawful.

Due to its proximity to matter the mind (manas), via the senses of perception (indriyāņi), experiences the ensuing effects of attachment (rāga) and aversion (dveşa) to the objects of the senses. The interaction of the senses with their objects produces a juxtaposition of conflicting vibrations which invariably agitate the mind. From this agitation, the obscuration of the soul (ātmā) follows and, by extension, the sense of seperative existence develops in the subject. The subject suffers as a result. This cycle of suffering perpetuates itself in the consciousness of the subject because the mind becomes habituated in thinking that it needs something tangible to complete it.

The Iśvara Upāsanā or Communion Prayer begins with the chanting of the holy syllable OM. The Yoga Darshana 1:27 states: "The sound denoting that Self is the eternal vibration OM which manifests the grace of the Divine Presence." Whenever OM is uttered vocally, it produces a calming effect on the mind. It temporarily neutralises the thought waves that agitate the mind. It also produces a sense of sacredness in the same and the surrounding environs, and leads one into the present moment. This enables one to accept the status quo and be content (saņţoşa); an awareness of the moment in which everything arises and subsides in its right time and place, lawfully. It is the supreme invocation which denotes the Source of all life and the veneration of That which is eternal. That Source is referred to as the Creator (savitar). Any person who supplicates that Lord (devā) sincerely to intervene and bring about a removal (viśwam) of suffering should understand that, in the final analysis, his allegiance is not to creation as such but to its Creator first, otherwise suffering will continue. There is no greater vice (duritam) than to turn away from the Lord in preference to His gifts! All other vices are mere offshoots or, in other words, a consequence (karma) of this supreme abandonment. We have been given the free choice to seek the Lord or to reject Him. By reversing the issue, we open the way for that Holy Influence to percolate into the deepest recesses of our being so that we may develop those noble (bhadram) qualities; the substratum for a life divine, which leads into the experience of ultimate freedom (mokşa).

The process of supreme abandonment or renunciation of one's home in the Lord happens as a result of desire (vāsana) and the subsequent externalisation of Life (Prāņa). Initially, before creation (agre) there was only the one indivisible Spirit (Paramātmā) Who desired to play a game (līlā) with Himself. As soon as this desire was expressed, there was a projection of sound vibration, the creative OM. However, the idea of a creation existed in the Divine Mind first in causal form. This sound of the universe (Omkāra) went out of the bosom of the Infinite and due to its spherical expansion in space, there was friction which resulted in the manifestation of prāņa. The Rg Veda 10.190.1 states: "The Law of Heaven and Truth were born of conscious fervour set of fire. From this came stillness of the night, from this the ocean with its waves." This subtle "fire" is said to be "neutral" and exists in a quiescent state and, depending upon certain conditions (more may be said here), it has the potential to metamorphose into any object. Thus, the idea was energised and began to take shape according to a predefined blueprint. The energised idea is referred to as hiraņya garbhah or the golden fetus. It is the "luminous" astral sphere or the rarefied vibrational universe of prāņa which is present behind the veneer of grosser vibrations and, yet, it is also the substratum upon which these depend for their existence. This hiraņya garbhah is "God the Creator" (jātah) in form as INTELLIGENT electro magnetism which is both the motivator, coordinator and sustainer (dādhāra)" of all the worlds" (bhutasya) and their sentient thinking lifeforms. The word earth (pŗthivīm) signifies the firmament of earthly or materialistic vibrations which constitute the physical cosmos as well as the microcosm of the human body (dehah, sthūla śarīra) with their underlying "solar regions," respectively, an oblique reference to hiraņya garbhah. As the "blissful" Lord is the Great Motivator of man's life through the agency of Prāņa, the devotee (sadhaka) prays (havişā) "to that blissful God" (devāya) "with faith and devotion." The Rg Veda 10.191 brings this across beautifully: "O God, the fulfiller of all our desires, you pervade everything animate and inanimate, You shine resplendent in this material world which we, at best describe in words. You grant all the resources necessary for our use. Please grant us material wealth and divine qualities."

The theme of prāņa continues as the same Lord temples the ātmā in a physical body through the agency of this subtle force. Prāņa is also the chief "source of strength" (baladā, vīrya) in the human body as certain vital energy (ojas śakti). It is this energy that gives vitality to, and revivifies, the myriad cells that constitute the complex structure and mechanism of the bodily temple. It is also prāņa in its aspect as tejas śakti that illuminates the discriminative intellect (buddhi) thus enabling one to discern right from wrong, to learn about the world in which one is placed and, through the agency of the same, realise the truth that "gives immortality" (amŗtam), ultimately. This same energy is none other than the Lord Himself and, so, He is venerated "by the learned" (viśwa devāh), or the intelligentsia, who also sing His praises. To forget Him is indeed "death" (mŗtyuh) of spiritual consciousness, however, it is impossible to think of Him continuously throughout the day, therefore, this teaching cannot be taken literally. Through deep meditation and the elevation of the preeminant prāņa in the body, the sadhaka's intuitive perception is heightened to the point where it can perceive the Cosmic Vibration of OM manifesting as certain sounds (nāda). One intuits these sounds and tunes into them until one hears the OM itself. This is the true remembrance which unfolds into the ecstatic experience of the Lord Himself as Omkāra and His individualised expression as ātmā in man.