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Upasana As Per Madhvacharya Teachings

Upasana or Upasanapada is one of the four parts of the four chapters of Brahmasutra. It consists of four chapters, namely ‘Samanvaya’, ‘Avirodha’, ‘Sadhana’ and ‘Phala’. Each chapter has in turn four parts (four padas). Upasanapada comes in the third chapter called ‘Sadhanadhyaya’. The four parts in the Sadhanadhyaya are – vairagya (renunciation), bhakti (devotion), upasana (spiritual practice) and jnana (knowledge of the Supreme).

Before one contemplates taking to spiritual practice (dealt with in the third pada in the Sadhanadhyaya), there are two prerequisites, namely, vairagya (renunciation) and bhakti (devotion). Vairagya Pada deals with eschatology, the doctrine of the state after death. If a person ignores God and totally lives in the material world, such a person after death will be taken through pitrayana. That means one has to return to this world. For one’s sins, one may be consigned to hell. Various types of sin-related hells and their horrors are described here, so that individuals may take appropriate steps to avoid such a fate.

In Bhaktipada, certain special mahimas (glories) of God are described in inculcate bhakti (devotion). God is associated with jivatman (individual or living self) in all states and stages of life. He is with it in the states and stages of life. He is with it in the states of waking, dreaming, sleeping, swooning, and even when it is in the womb. He creates dreams, taking the latent memories (samskaras) as the material cause. According to Madhvacharya, intense love of god with due conviction of His knowledge is bhakti.

Upasana leads to direct vision of God in one’s heart during meditation. A person who has realized God in that way is called an aparokshajnani. He is sure to get moksha (salvation).

Sri Madhvacharya says that upasana is of two types. Both approaches lead to realization of God. The first is sravana (listening) and manana (reflecting) on Shastras. The other is meditation. For meditation, a thorough knowledge of God through Shravana and manana are the prerequisites. After getting the required knowledge, one becomes eligible to undertake the course of meditation.

Upasanapada elaborates the spiritual practice to be observed daily and regularly. The various methods of upasana are as follows –

An aspirant has to study all the Vedas, Puranas, Itihasas etc., to comprehend God properly. If that is not possible due to one’s limitations, one can confine oneself to one’s own traditional branch (shakha) of Vedas.

Vedas describe Brahman with auspicious attributes. These are to be contemplated. There are an infinite number of auspicious qualities. As it is not possible to reflect on all these, one has to do as much as is possible.

All seekers necessarily have to meditate upon four attributes – sat (He is from any blemishes), chit (saturated with knowledge), ananda (saturated with bliss), and atman (regulator of all beings, Master).

Out of all the seekers, the four-headed Brahma reflects the largest number of qualities. Hence he is called sarvagunopasaka (sarva does not mean infinite). Even Brahmani (Saraswati) has to meditate according to her eligibility. The capacity of all the rest of the deities gradually declines. Hence there would be a gradual reduction in the number of the attributes they reflect.

In all, according to the Sutras, there are three categories of upasakas (seekers of God): manusyottamas (the best among human beings), the rishis (sages), and the devas.

Manushyottamas can meditate on only the four qualities. Rishis and devas reflect on a large number of qualities.

Lakshmi is not included in the list of upasakas. She is never liberated like Bhagavan Srihari Vishnu. Upasakas are listed from nama to prana.

Realization is possible by upsana, backed by renunciation and devotion. Such devotion is the means that leads to the grace of Parabrahman (Supreme Being). It is only when God bestows His grace on one that realization and liberation are possible.