The Saguna Form of God
A certain gentleman I met said, "I agree that Hinduism is the best of religions. What I fail to see is, how can that God, the attributeless, formless, Ultimate Reality, be considered approachable through numberless forms, each with its own upasana?" Later, a certain person came to meet him. Different persons referred to him by various names. Somebody said, 'Dada is not at home'; somebody said, 'Damodar has gone out'; while somebody else said ,'The master will return at such and such an hour'. The concept of the absolute form of God in so many tangible forms is comparable to this. Once one conceives Him in a tangible form, all the laws applicable to material things apply to that tangible entity.
One who denies the tangible forms in favour of an absolute, formless, entity, has simply failed to grasp the real essence of the matter. The vedas, the upanishads, the Brahmasutras, and the Bhashyas all talk about the formless, attributeless, absolute Reality; the saints, as it were, filled details in the outline and painted it; they gave different habitations and names, that the natural devotional tendencies of men may find suitable objects; this, in a nutshell, is saguna bhakti. Such bhakti or devotion is a sine qua non for attainment of salvation.
Upasana literally means 'being very close to', acquiring the special qualities of feeling extreme regard and love for, the particular form that one worships. Saint Tulsidas so deeply venerated and loved his ideal, Rama, as to become identified with Him. Rama never said 'the world is for me'; on the contrary, He lived for the world. This is true paramartha. Extreme faithfulness to His wife, and extreme veracity in speech and action, are prominent traits of His character. Other manifestations, too, have their traits, but Rama's life stands out as an ideal for man to follow.
To yearn for God is the essence and aim of life. This yearning God Himself can not create. Only saints can generate it; that is why association with the saints is indispensable. Our natural bent of mind is for sense-pleasures; the saints gradually dissuade us from there and direct it towards God. The day our mind turns to God is truly the most auspicious day in our life.
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