Pratikopāṣanā

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By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Pratikopasana, PratikopASanA, Pratikopaashanaa


pratikopāsanā (‘meditation on a symbol’)

Though the word upāsanā literally means ‘sitting near (God)’, it is always used in the sense of worship or meditation.

Hinduism posits mokṣa or liberation from transmigratory existence as the final goal of life (called paramapuruṣārtha).

There are two royal paths leading to

this: the path of jñāna (knowledge) and

the path of bhakti (devotion), also called Jñānayoga and Bhaktiyoga respectively.

In both these paths upāsanā has an important place.

In the Jñānayoga, the upāsanā has to be on the ātman (the Self within) which is nirākāra (formless) and nirguṇa (without any attribute), but whose essence is sat-cit-ānanda (existence-consciousness-bliss). Since this upāsanā or meditation is extremely difficult for the beginners or the ordinary aspirants, a pratika or a symbol like praṇava (Orii, the sound), surya (the sun), ākāśa (space), agni (fire) and so on, is chosen for meditation.

For those who find even this as a difficult path, Bhaktiyoga recommends meditation on the images of gods or goddesses. Here, the image is not considered God, but only as an aid to imagine in one’s own heart, God as a being of light and consciousness, lovingly responding to one’s prayers.

Such meditations come under the category of pratikopāsanā.


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore

OLD CONTENT

Though the word upāsanā literally means ‘sitting near (God)’, it is always used in the sense of worship or meditation. Hinduism posits mokṣa or liberation from transmigratory existence as the final goal of life (called paramapuruṣārtha). There are two royal paths leading to this: the path of jñāna (knowledge) and the path of bhakti (devotion), also called Jñānayoga and Bhaktiyoga respectively. In both these paths upāsanā has an important place. In the Jñānayoga, the upāsanā has to be on the ātman (the Self within) which is nirākāra (formless) and nirguṇa (with¬out any attribute), but whose essence is sat-cit-ānanda (existence-consciousness- bliss). Since this upāsanā or meditation is extremely difficult for the beginners or the ordinary aspirants, a pratika or a symbol like praṇava (Orn, the sound), surya (the sun), ākāśa (space), agni (fire) and so on, is chosen for meditation. For those who find even this as a difficult path, Bhaktiyoga recommends meditation on the images of gods or goddesses. Here, the image is not consid¬ered God, but only as an aid to imagine in one’s own heart, God as a being of light and consciousness, lovingly respond¬ing to one’s prayers. Such meditations come under the category of pratikopāsanā.