There are three normal states of human consciousness – active, dream and deep sleep states. Similarly, the universe also undergoes three stages, - creation, existence and annihilation. The three states of human consciousness occur one after another and they always work in cycles. Once a person has woken up, the cycle continues one after another. The universe is created and made to exist through various energies of Brahman. These energies are called gods and goddesses and due to our spiritual ignorance, we worship these energies by providing forms, instead of the cause of these energies viz. Brahman. Why worshipping different gods and goddesses is called spiritual ignorance? This is to be analysed from the point of view of Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (VI. 17 - 21) whose essence is given here. “He is Brahman and He alone controls the universe and no other power controls this universe. He first created Brahmā (lord of creation; not Brahman) and passed on the knowledge to him, through Vedas (passing on the knowledge to Brahmā means that Brahman has reduced His Grandeur, not revealing His true form because He, in original form is beyond any human comprehension). It is also important to remember that Brahman in His Grandeur is known as Brahman and in His subdued form, He is known as Māyā (Brahman’s Power). Brahman is the cause for both liberation and bondage. In order to have His Grace, we contemplate Him through our mind hence meditation attains more importance than other rituals. Śaṁkarācārya said, “Brahman is always there, but hidden by our inherent ignorance. When you attain knowledge, you realize Him and you are liberated. You are not born again”.
When there is a simple method to realize Him, we resort to tedious and expensive methods to know Him. Such tedious, expansive and expensive methods do not give us the requisite knowledge. We have to ultimately resort to simple method of looking for Him within and by the time we realize this, we already would have wasted major portion of our life. Śaṁkarācārya says, “Liberation is a question of hard work; reasoning, living an austere life (minimally functional life), meditation and always think of yourself as the Cosmic Self.” Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (VI.21) says that there are essential things to attain success in spiritual life and they are tapaḥ and deva-prasāda. What is tapaḥ? It refers to the highest level of meditation (penance) combined with simple life like observing austerity. What is deva-prasāda? It is the Divine Grace and this is the result of the highest quality of meditation. At the end of this meditation, deva-prasāda, or the Divine Grace descends on him. This does not mean that Brahman will appear in person to shower His Grace. When His Grace descends, the effect of his meditation is fructified by making his individual consciousness and the Cosmic Consciousness unite or yoke and after this yoke, he becomes a yogi. It will be too premature to discuss beyond this at this point.
On the contrary, says Upaniṣad-s, if one involves in rituals beyond a permissible level and without understanding the efficacy of the mantras, its meaning and applications (including proper pronunciation), offers oblations, he falls into hell (Based on this fact, irrespective other types of initiations, verbal initiation is always done by a Guru).
This sūtra says that the universe also undergoes cycles of creation, sustenance, dissolution and again creation. Irrespective of these three stages, Brahman along with His energies continues to exist at all points of time.
Sage Jaimini is of the view that gods are not qualified to have Brahma Vidyā? He said so because gods are incompetent to practice MadhuVidyā. What is Madhu Vidyā? This is explained in Chāndogya Upaniṣad (III) and Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (II.v). The essence of conveyance though is the same, there is difference in the way of conveyance in these two Upaniṣad-s. According to Chāndogya Upaniṣad, sun is the sum total sum of all good works of humans. Therefore, sun is like honey to gods, heaven is like beam, which gives support to the mid region which is compared to the beehive and rays of the suns are compared to the eggs of the bees. Four Vedas are compared to four cardinal points. Eastern rays of the sun are compared Rig Veda and its mantras, etc and the one who knows this becomes the knower of Brahman. The whole discussion revolves around the sun that is considered as honey to gods and goddesses. The point here is that gods and goddesses do not want to practice austerities and meditation; yet they want to attain the honey, the essence of all good things done by human beings. It implies that gods are not interested in attaining Brahman and hence they become ineligible to attain Him. On other hand, human beings practice austerities and meditation and try to attain Brahman. Hence, human birth is considered as more precious than gods.
Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad says that all those who exist in the universe are honey. For example, earth is like honey to all beings and all beings are like honey to this earth. Honey is compared to the individual self (individual souls), helpful to each other. This is the effect and the cause being Brahman. This Brahman is like honey to all the beings and all the beings are like honey to Brahman. What is the difference between Brahman and the beings? There is no difference and in fact, there exists nothing but Brahman. This is the crux of His omnipresence. The fact is that everyone is Brahman and only thing is that we do not realize this due to lack of adequate spiritual knowledge. Hence, this Supreme knowledge is being imparted by Brahma Sūtra.
When these gods want to live on the hard work of human beings, are they worthy of worship? No, says sage Jaimini. Then who is worthy of worship? The one, who has realized Brahman. But how to know that someone is realized or not? His words (teachings) and his way of life will reveal the truth. Take for example sage Ramana. He lived a simple life and he taught everyone to look within and explore “who am I”? He also said, “Know that union with the Absolute is the real aim of all accomplishments. This is also the state of liberation known as union (yoke, from which the word yogi is derived)”.
This aphorism advises not to waste our time any longer in worshipping gods and instead meditate on Brahman and get His Grace. This should not be interpreted from the grosser point of view. Attaining His Grace has subtle conveyance. During deep meditation, when Supreme Consciousness (Brahman) and the individual consciousness (individual person) unites, at the time of this union, Grace is transferred to the meditator. A light burns only when it is connected to electricity, similarly, Divine Grace is attained only by connecting to him. If we remain unconnected to Him, we will be like a lamp without electric connection.
Worshipping gods is like gaining knowledge through purāṇa-s, as purāṇa-s are manmade. How do we know that gods have shapes and forms? We learn this through their mantras. What are the sources of mantras? The source of mantras is Vedas. Is every mantra that we practice is from Vedas? No certainly not all? Then, how do we define forms for gods? We do not have a definite answer as Vedas do not give forms to gods. This aphorism straight away rattles us, as this hits the core of our misconception. This is the version of sage Jaimini. Next sūtra explains this.
This sūtra questions the veracity of the previous two sūtra-s. This sūtra says that such competence to realize Brahman exist in gods to realise Brahman? How? Because gods do have bodies and they can attain any types of bodies purely at their will. When they get a physical body, they do get desires and mind, etc so that they can also meditate and attain Brahman. We have already seen that Indra and Varuṇa waited for more than 100 years at the gates of Brahmā to acquire the knowledge of Brahman.
The question is when gods themselves are struggling to get knowledge about Brahman, why should we go to these gods to attain knowledge about Brahman. We are blessed to have our Gurus who can teach us this Supreme knowledge. For the same reason Indra and other gods approached different sages and saints for knowledge about Brahman. Why should we waste our time in invoking gods, who do not have even basic knowledge about Brahman? If they have knowledge, they would not have waited outside the gates of Brahmā. The subtle conveyance here is that it takes a very long time (this is explained as 100 years in Upaniṣad-s) to know Brahman in His True Grandeur. He cannot be seen and can only be known.
Patañjali Yoga Sūtra (II.44) says, “By the repetition of the mantra comes the realization of the intended deity”. Patañjali’s words are carefully observed. Patañjali chooses his words with greatest possible care. By intended deity he refers to one’s Iṣṭadevata. This sūtra is to be read along with the next sūtra (II.45) which says, “By sacrificing all to Īśvarā, samādhi is achieved.” The first sūtra can be interpreted in two ways. By repeating the mantra for our favourite deity, that deity is realized. It is not said that that particular deity is seen. It can only be realized. How it can be realized? It can be realized with the help of the highest level of contemplation, for which the mind needs to be absolutely pure. When a mantra japa is taken for practice, one has to meditate that mantra after fully understanding its significance. Dhyāna verses come to our help in contemplating that particular form. There is no point in counting the repetitions, but one should identify himself or herself with the mantra itself. This is the first union in spiritual life. Then only the contemplation becomes effective. The same sūtra can be interpreted subtly. The sūtra uses the word ‘svādhyāyād’ which means repeating a mantra to himself or herself. This means that the mantra should be repeated only through mind and not aloud. At the same time, this also means inner knowledge, or acquiring knowledge of the Self within. Whatever be the nature of this sūtra, it ultimately means that one has to work through his mind. If one is able to work through his mind properly, what is described in sūtra II.45 is automatically happens. This means by surrendering unto Brahman, one enters into the state of samādhi, where yoking of individual self and the Supreme Self happens and the one who is able to yoke perfectly and perpetually is called a yogi. This is the reason why yogi-s live a simple and contended life, as they need nothing. They always stay in perpetual Bliss. When they are in Bliss, they need nothing. It must always be remembered that mantras are to control mind. Hence it is important that while repeating an initiated mantra, an aspirant should meditate on the mantra, so that his mind does not wander. When a Guru initiates a mantra, he also implants the seed in the aspirant for his spiritual growth. For a true Guru, mantra initiation is as tough as delivering a child. Typically, a Guru delivers a mantra for initiation and plants it in the body of his disciple. If the disciple fails to advance, only Guru is at fault and not his disciple, as the Guru has failed to identify the right person for initiation.
Though we have vastly deviated from Brahma Sūtra, the above discussion only supplements and supports our discussions on Brahma Sūtra. The ultimate goal is only to realize Brahman, which is the only way to liberation. We do not have any alternatives or short cuts. Sādhana is the only recourse to realize Him.