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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.

As aforesaid, every created object in the universe, whether animate (prāņatah) or inanimate (nimişatah), starts as an idea in the mind of God. The idea is then energised otherwise it cannot manifest. The infinite forms that spring from His mind are solidifications of prāņa and are endowed with life and varying degrees of consciousness, depending on the species in question. The reference to "bipeds" (dwipadah) and "quadrupeds" (catuşpadah) brings into focus the process of evolution. From the infinitesimal single-celled amoeba to humans, the Lord has the ability to "bring into existence" (jagatah) life in all its rich diversity. We have the same albeit a more limited ability to create. Before we manifest anything, we must first create the image in our minds, then we labour to bring it forth. In other words, we must energise the idea through the combined fiat of will and prāņa. This is the "great power" (mahitwā) of God which has also been bequeathed to His children. The intellect in man predominates thus giving him a superior position in the universal hierarchy, however, he is still unable to bestow life. That power belongs to God alone (ekah)! In this regard alone, the Beneficent Lord is worthy of our praise.

The Lord "sustains" (stabhitam) the firmament of earthly vibrations or, in other words, the physical cosmos. The words "earth" (pŗthivī) and universe are synonymous. The sustaining power of the Lord lies in His underlying Intelligence that informs all matter. This Intelligence is not circumscribed by the material universe but extends through and beyond the length and breadth of the same into the "expansive heavens" (ugrā dyauh) or the "luminous regions" (swah) or astral universe and the even finer causal universe. These three: physical, astral and causal universes interpenetrate each other at various levels. Both the physcial and astral universes depend upon the ideas that spring forth from their source in the Creator (vimānah), the One Cause of all becomings. But, all are projections from His one Being. Similarly, the Lord as individualised ātmā in man is the source of the physical, astral and causal (karaņa) bodies which interpretate each other at various levels, in turn. The breath of life or prāņa which when tranquilised produces the sustaining factor. This is also the Vişņu state of consciousness. The Sāma Veda, Pavamāna Prapā 6 states: "This God is the support and nourisher of the world. He is the giver of all wealth and is the adorable Lord and creator of the universe. Purifying all, He, the Lord of the multitude, pervades all and as the omniscient Supreme Being looks upon the earth and heaven."

O Ruler (prajāpate), Thou art indeed the "Support of all" as the reflected soul and consciousness (citti). Thou art the Mainstay of all! Who in the three worlds (trilokāh; jatāni) can exist without Thee? Thy word in this regard is irrefutable (Bhagavad Gītā 2:17): "Know as imperishable the One by whom everything has been manifested and pervaded. No one has the power to bring about the annihilation of this Unchangeable Spirit." The desires (kamāh) that arise we offer with non-attachment (vairagya) to Thee as oblations into the fire of our devotion (bhakti) for Thee. We pray for their fulfillment "by Your grace" and the extirpation of their binding influence which keeps us body bound, and creates in a us the sense of separative existence from Thee. As Thou art the fountainhead of all love, we beseech Thee that the cup of our lives overflow with Thy love and that we master this precious wealth.

Oh Beloved Lord, Thou art the Supreme Friend (bandhuh) of all; "the friend behind all friends." Thou knowest the deepest desires of our hearts for Thou hast created us in Thine likeness. Thou art omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, and, as Creator (janitā), Thou hast endowed Thy human children with similar attributes. May we through Thy grace "reach without obstruction" and enjoy (bhoga) the promised-for bliss which leads into the "third stage" of freedom from "births and deaths" (samsāraņa).

By ourselves and through our myopic vision, we have stumbled and fallen into the ditch of continuous errors borne of ignorance (avidyā) of Thy immaculate image within. Oh Spirit, lead (nayati) our footsteps on the "noble path" (supathā) of "Thy devotion and grace" (rāye) which has for aeons been covered by the brambles of wrong thoughts, speech (vak) and actions. Open that eye within us which is ever directed toward Thy luminosity and please keep it open so that we may help others to do the same. Thou art aware of our innermost thoughts and "our deeds" (vayunāni) and we pray that these vibrate in attunement with Thee, so that we may never falter nor lead others astray. As such, "remove (yuyodhi) from us (asmat) all our vices (juhurāņam) and sins" (enah) that we ourselves have set into motion in the past, and give us the strength to do the same by cultivating those soul qualities that negate the enervating influences of evil, so that we may develop an ever-expanding awareness of Thee, in our daily lives. Accept this offering with our "homage and salutations" (namah uktim) which we make at Thy "lotus feet" sincerely. OM Śāntih Śāntih Śāntih. Hari OM.

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