By Swami Harshananda
Pratikopāṣanā literally means ‘meditation on a symbol’.
Though the word upāsanā literally means ‘sitting near God’, it is always used in the sense of worship or meditation. Religion posits mokṣa or liberation from transmigratory existence as the final goal of life. It is called paramapuruṣārtha.
Path leading to Paramapuruṣārtha
There are two royal paths leading to this:
Significance of Upāsanā
In both these paths upāsanā has an important place. In the Jñānayoga, the upāsanā has to be on the ātman which is nirākāra and nirguṇa, but whose essence is sat-cit-ānanda. Since this upāsanā or meditation is extremely difficult for the beginners or the ordinary aspirants, a pratika or a symbol is chosen for meditation. They are:
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 pratikopāṣanā.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore