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Bhakti Yoga 8: The Worship of Substitutes and Images

This is the eighth chapter of the Bhakti Yoga series by Swami Vivekananda.


The next points to be considered are the worship of Pratikas or of things more or less satisfactory as substitutes for God, and the worship of Pratimas or images. What is the worshp of God through a Pratika?

It is – Joining the mind with devotion to that which is not Brahman, taking it the be Brahman – says Bhagavan Ramanuja. “Worship the mind as Brahman this is internal; and the Akasha as Brahman, this is with regard to the Devas”, says Shankara. The mind is an internal Pratika, the Akasha is an external one, and both have to be worshipped as substitutes of God. He continues, “Similarly – ‘the Sun is Brahman, this is the command’, ‘He who worships Name as Brahman’ – in all such passages the doubt arises as to the worship of Pratikas”. The word Pratika means going towards; and worshipping a Pratika is worshipping something as a substitute which is, in some one or more respects, like Brahman more and more, but is not Brahman. Along with the Pratikas mentioned in the Shrutis there are various others to be found in the Puranas and the Tantras. In this kind of Pratika-worship may be included all various forms of Pitri-worship (worshipping ancestors) and deva-worship (worship of gods).

Now worshipping Ishvara and Him alone is Bhakti; the worship of anything else – Deva, or Pitri, or any being – cannot be Bhakti. The various kinds of worship of the various Devas are all to be included in ritualistic Karma, which gives to the worshipper only a particular result in the form of some celestial enjoyment, but can neither give rise to Bhakti nor lead to Mukti (liberation). One thing, therefore, has to be carefully borne in mind. If, as it may happen in some cases, the highly philosophical idea, the supreme Brahman, is dragged down by Pratika-worship to the level of the Pratika, and the Pratika itself is taken to be the Atman of the worshipper or his Antaryamin (inner ruler), the worshipper gets entirely misled, as no pratika can really be the Atman of the worshipper.

But where Brahman Himself is the object of worship, and the Pratika stands only as a substitute or a suggestion thereof, that is to say, where, through the Pratika the inipresent Brahman is worshipped – the Pratika itself being idalised into the cause of all, Brahman – the worship is positively beneficial; nay, it is absolutely necessary for all mankind until they have all got beyond the primary or preparatory state of the mind in regard to worship. When, therefore, and gods of other beings are worshipped in an for themselves, such worship is only a ritualistic Karma; and as a Vidya (science) it gives us only the fruit belonging to that particular Vidyal but when the Devas or any other beings are looked upon as Brahman and worshipped, the result obtained is the same as by worshipping Ishvara. This explains how, in many cases both in the Shrutis and the Smritis, a god, or a sage, or some toher extraordinary being is taken up and lifted, as it were out of his own nature and idealised into Brahman, and is then worshipped. Says the Advaitin, “Is not eveything Brahman when the name and the form have been removed from it?” “Is not He, the Lord, the innermost Self of everyone? says the Vishishtadvaitin.

“The fruition of even the worship of Adityas etc. Brahman Himself bestows, becuae He is the Ruler of all” Says Shankara in his Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya

“Here in this way does Brahman become the object of worship, becuase He, as Brahman is superimposed on the Pratikas, just as Vishnu etc. are superimposed upon images etc.

The same ideas apply to the worship of the Pratimas as to that of the Pratikas; that is to say, if the image stands for a god or a saint, the worship is not the result of Bhakti, and does not lead to liberation; but if it stands for the one God, the worship thereof will being both Bhakti, and Mukti.

Bhakti Yoga

The path of devotion to the Divine is Bhakti Yoga. This is the path of surrendering your ego to whatever is your perception of divinity. Through complete surrender, you start to realize the reality of self.

On the world Yoga Forum, the complete text on Bhakti Yoga by Swami Vivekananda has been compiled in the form of 10 chapters.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is often seen as a way to get physically fit through postures and breathing exercises. However, there’s much more to Yoga than asanas or breathing exercises. Yoga is one of the 6 philosophical schools of Hinduism. These include Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. The practice of yoga has been thought to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; possibly in the Indus valley civilization around 3000 BCE.

What is the Goal of Yoga?

Yoga is cessation (nirodha) of the activities (vrittis) of mind (chitta) according to patanjali’s definition in the 2nd sutra in Yoga Sutras. Vrittis refer to any sequence of thoughts, ideas, mental imaging or cognitive act performed by the mind, intellect, or ego. The mind & body are one and a part of nature (prakriti), and the soul is separate. Read More on the Goal of Yoga

It is important to note that the mind & body are one and a part of nature (prakriti), and the soul is separate.

Chitta consists of 3 things i.e.

  1. Intelligence (Buddhi)
  2. Ego (Ahankara)
  3. Mind (Manas).

Chitta can be compared to the software and the body to hardware. Both software & hardware are useless without the presence of an observer. Only the soul (purusa) is truly alive. When the soul is uncoupled from the mind in its pure state cannot be rambled and is changeless (unlike the mind).

About World Yoga Forum

World Yoga Forum

World Yoga Forum is a platform for Yoga, Meditation enthusiasts, practitioners, trainers, and teachers to share knowledge and experience on Yoga. World Yoga Forum’s mission is to promote better living through the wisdom of ancient spiritual knowledge and practices. Yoga is often seen as a way to get physically fit through postures and breathing exercises. However, there’s much more to Yoga than asanas or breathing exercises. Yoga is one of the 6 philosophical schools of Hinduism. These include Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. The practice of yoga has been thought to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; possibly in the Indus valley civilization around 3000 BCE.

Topics and Chapters Covered on The World Yoga Forum

  • Basic of Yoga – Yoga is often seen as a way to get physically fit through postures and breathing exercises. However, there’s much more to Yoga than asanas or breathing exercises.
  • Raja Yoga – It is the path of control. In this practice, you bring body, mind, and breath under control to let go of ego and realize the self.
  • Bhakti Yoga – The path of devotion to the Divine is Bhakti Yoga. This is the path of surrendering your ego to whatever is your perception of divinity. Through complete surrender, you start to realize the reality of self.
  • Karma Yoga – The path of selfless duty. When you follow this path, you do your duty to the best of your abilities, without attachment to results or rewards.
  • Jnana Yoga – Jnana Yoga (Also read as Gyana Yoga) is the path of knowledge. In this practice, you surrender the ego through acquiring knowledge, which removes ignorance and illusion, and leads to understanding the reality of the Self.
  • Hatha Yoga – Hatha Yoga focuses on Asanas and Pranayama (yoga poses and meditation) and a large part of Yoga that we see today in the form of Yoga poses and asanas are essentially Hatha Yoga.

Basics of Yoga Free Ebook pdf

Book Title – Basics of Yoga

Number of Pages: 7

Learn the basic concepts of Yoga including its origins, meaning, definitions, and goals through this simple free e-book.

The goal is to place Yoga in its correct context and bring forward the ancient practices & rich knowledge of Yoga that can help you set a strong foundation. Most schools of Yoga today have been derived from the Yoga Sutras. Yoga Sutras is a compilation of all the learnings of Yoga. Its interpretations have given rise to multiple schools in Yoga. This book is useful for beginners, practitioners, and enthusiasts in Yoga.

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