We worship different forms of Divine and approach the Divine (Brahman) through different mantras. We spend time by worshiping different gods and pray to different gods and goddesses through elaborate rituals. The ultimate path is one, the path of Liberation. But, this is a process by itself; this is based both on one’s practice (sādhana) and karmic imprints. How is Brahman explained? “It is different from all known objects and even beyond all unknown objects” (Kena Upaniṣad I.4). This means that Brahman is beyond shapes and forms. Again Kena Upaniṣad says, “Brahman cannot be seen by the eyes”. Brahman is an invisible Power, from which everything has originated and unto which everything dissolves. Brahman is static energy and does not act on Its own, but through Its own Power or kinetic energy. It only witnesses all the actions happening in the universe and beyond. The shapes and forms we worship with mantras and rituals are nothing but Brahman’s manifestation. Individual souls are nothing but Brahman, yet covered by sheath of māyā. Māyā is nothing but the Power of Brahman (kinetic energy). Neither Brahman, nor Its Power known as māyā can never be seen as they are not objects to feel, or see or hear. They are beyond sensory organs (organs of perception or knowledge). Hence, Kena Upaniṣad says that Brahman should be investigated both inside and outside our body, as It is omnipresent. Brahman can be attained only through one’s consciousness (प्रतिबोधविदितं pratibodhaviditaṁ) and seeking Brahman through one’s consciousness is said to be Self-realized. It is not the worship that people do with the help of sensory organs, as Brahman is incomprehensible and enigmatical.
Brahman can be attained in this birth itself and all that is required is only knowledge about Brahman, beyond shapes and forms. How to attain Brahman is the question. It can be attained only through meditation. Meditation is nothing but exploring and investigating within using our breath, mind and consciousness. The purest form of own consciousness is Brahman. The methods to explore and investigate It within is called knowledge. This knowledge is different from material or worldly knowledge. Even Self-realized person will undergo pains and sufferings, which are nothing but experiencing one’s own karma. There is no way to expend karma except to experience it both through pleasure or pain.
Spiritual student asks his Guru, “Please tell me the teachings of (Kena) Upaniṣad.” Guru replies, “Austerity, self-restraint and spiritual practice form the foundation of knowledge to know Brahman. He who knows Brahman thus overcomes all ignorance (māyā comprising of dyads and triads) and remains in the state of perpetual Bliss. The Vedas are its limbs and Truth (satyam) is Its abode.” This means he is liberated from transmigration. Essence of Vedas is conveyed through this verse of Rig Veda (I.164.46):
इन्द्रं मित्रं वरुणमग्निमहुरथो दिव्यः स सुपर्णो गरुत्मान्।
एकं सद्विप्र बहुधा वदन्त्यग्निं यमं मातरिश्वानमाहुः॥
indraṁ mitraṁ varuṇamagnimahuratho divyaḥ sa suparṇo garutmān |
ekaṁ sadvipra bahudhā vadantyagniṁ yamaṁ mātariśvānamāhuḥ ||
Meaning: They (sages and saints) call IT (Brahman) as Indra (the resplendent), Mitra (the surveyor), Varuṇa (the venerable), and Agni (the adorable). He is the celestial and perfectly winged bird (Vedic Bird). The learned ones (sages and saints) call IT (Brahman) by many names, as they speak of the adorable as Yama (the restrainer or punisher) and Mātariśvan (prāṇa or cosmic breath).
Though Vedas speak of different shapes and forms as described above, they also convey clearly that only Brahman exists everywhere (omnipresent; both good and bad; both right and wrong). Just as all the water that fall from the sky reach the sea, worshiping different deities reach only Brahman. Īśa Upaniṣad (9) cautions us thus: “Those who mechanically perform sacrifices (avidayā) go into blinding darkness. But those who merely worship gods and goddesses (vidayā) go into deeper darkness.” This revelation is based on the purest form of Advaita, which alone leads to the realization of Brahman and consequent Liberation. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā (VII. 19 - 26), “After many births, only during his last birth, he realizes that everything that prevails is Me. But, such an illuminated soul is very rare to find. Those, whose wisdom is turned towards different kinds of desires, worship different gods and perform different rituals as prescribed for such gods and this largely depends upon their own nature. In whatever form he chooses to worship with dedication, I stabilize his faith in the form he chooses to worship. Endowed with that faith, he worships that particular form of god and gets his desires fulfilled as ordained by Me. The fulfilled desires of these men of lesser intelligence granted by these gods are perishable. Worshippers of such gods attain only those gods. But my devotees, howsoever they worship eventually come to Me alone. These ignorant men think that I have assumed an ordinary form and fail to understand Me as the Supreme Spirit, the embodiment of Truth, Knowledge and Bliss and beyond mind and senses. Because of the supreme power of my māyā, I stand veiled. Hence, the ignorant are not able to understand Me as the immutable and unsurpassable state. Arjuna, I am aware of the past, present and future of all the creatures, but no one knows Me.” Here, Kṛṣṇa should not be construed as an incarnation, but Brahman Itself.
Path to Self-realization is neither difficult nor time consuming. All we need is to shed our ego and work on our breath, mind and consciousness. The most important factor is our breath. When the breathing slows down, our mind becomes calm and remains in the state of tranquillity for some time. During this tranquilised period of the mind, Self can be realized. Brahma Sūtra (III.ii.25) says, “अपि संराधने प्रत्यक्षानुमानाभ्याम्॥ api saṁrādhane pratyakṣānumānābhyām ||”. This means that Brahman is realized in samādhi, as is known from direct revelation and inference.” As we know that samādhi is the highest state of meditation. It is now imperative that meditation alone can lead to realization of the Self. This is declared in Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad (III.1.8) which says, “…..If your mind becomes pure and you meditate, you realize the formless Brahman.” The next verse goes still further and says, “Brahman will reveal itself to you when your mind is pure.”
Therefore, it is important that we practice prāṇāyama and with the help of prāṇāyama, we cleanse our mind of its impurities and when the mind is as pure as morning dew, there Brahman reveals Itself. Whenever Brahman is about to reveal Itself, we always enter into unconscious state and this unconscious state in the beginning could last between a few seconds to a minute or two. With practice, we attain perfection in mediation and in the highest stages of mediation, trance or samādhi is automatically triggered and this could last for few minutes to several hours. All we need is patience, perseverance and dedication and above all faith. Nothing will happen overnight.