How Brahman is worshipped in Hinduism?

Brahma, the Creator God

Manifestations of Brahman, Saguna Brahman

by Jayaram V

Readers may note that due to similarities in names between Brahman and Brahma, sometimes people become confused. Brahma is a Vedic god of creation, who is considered the progenitor of gods, demons and humans. Saraswathi, the goddess of knowledge and learning, is his consort. Brahman is the Supreme God or the highest God of Hinduism. He is the ultimate source of all existence, including that of Brahma. In this essay, we speak about Brahman only.

It is even a misnomer to call Brahman God, because it implies that he is a being or has a personality. Both ideas are wrong. Brahman has numerous states, but has neither beingness nor a personality in an objectified state. In his purest state, Brahman is the highest supreme reality, which is eternal, indestructible, indivisible, indescribable, infinite and invisible, who is frequently mentioned in the Vedas as “That” (tat) since he is without gender, attribute and objectivity.

Brahman is all this (idam sarvam), the whole existence. He is the sum of all, and probably more, including everything which is known, unknown and which supports it or depends upon it. All the objectivity or otherness or the duality of subject and object arises from him only as a projection or reflection or illusion. He is the source of all knowledge and diversity and manifestations

In Hinduism, he is the subject of all philosophical inquiry. Seers and devotees look upon him as the ultimate goal (parandhama) of all truth seekers and righteous warriors who seek liberation (Moksha). Although he is not directly worshipped in many rituals, he is the silent witness and participant in all Hindu rituals. It is true even in case of temple worship. If you envision him as a pure state rather than a being, you will begin to comprehend his reality and the truth of him.

You might have seen that Hindu temples are hugely decorated with many colorful images. However, when you enter the sanctum sanctorum, you see bare walls and the images of the presiding deities only. You do not see any decorations on the walls or the roof. It is because the space surrounding the deity in the sanctum sanctorum represents Brahman. It means that when you worship any deity in any temple, you are also worshipping Brahman, who is the supporter and sustainer of the deity, the temple, the priest, the offerings and you also.

Secondly, it is incorrect to say that Brahman is not worshipped at all because the numerous gods and goddess are but his numerous names and forms only. The moment you envision Brahman in any form, he becomes objectified as one of his manifestations with qualities and attributes. All his manifestations represent his manifested aspect, known as Saguna Brahman. He is Brahman with names, forms, functions and potencies. You are a Saguna Brahman. So is your pet, if you one.

Saguna Brahman is not Brahman per se, but a reflection of him in the field of Nature. That reflection does reflect the predominant mode or property (guna) of that field (kshetra) or body. Thus, in a field of darkness, he appears as a fierce being, and in a field of effulgence he manifests as a pleasant light being, radiating the brilliance of sattva. In both instances, Brahman remains immutable because he is not truly present in them. It is only his reflections which appear in the field of Nature and create the illusion of a play.

It is why we call this world Maya. It is not true because it is only a projection or reflection which partakes the modes and properties of Nature. The world is a mixture of light and darkness. Hence, the reality of Brahman appears in the world in both modes. It is the same with the light radiated by the sun. It equally shines upon everything in the solar system, but its reflection varies from object to object. In some it shines brightly and in some lightly. The nearest planet burns bright. The faraway objects like those in the Kuiper belt are in total darkness. No wonder, the Upanishads compare Brahman to the sun.

Thirdly, Brahman is not worshipped ritually but spiritually. He is approached through silence and pointed attention (samyama) rather than through words. He is not the suitable deity for householders seeking dharma, artha, etc., because he does not fulfill their desires or responds to their prayers. However, he is the only deity to be worshipped by those who seeks liberation.

Only by renouncing all that which is not Brahman, with the famous contemplative practice of “not this, not this,” one can comprehend the purity of his absolute reality and merge into it. This is well stated in the following verse (6.31) of the Bhagavadgita, “He who, established in unity or oneness, worships Me as the dweller of all things, that yogi exists in Me always whatever may be his present condition.”

The best way to worship Brahman is by contemplative methods, withdrawing the mind and senses and absorbing the mind in his thoughts with faith. Bhagavadgita also states that those who are carried away by desires worship his numerous forms, but its fruit is limited. However, "those who strive for liberation from old age and death,” they take refuge in Brahman only.

People worship God according to their nature. Sattvic people, worship sattvic (pleasant) gods. Rajasic people worship virulent gods and tamasic people worship fierce gods. Those who seek liberation worship the supreme reality of Brahman, which is free from names and forms, movements and modifications. In the Buddhist parlance, Brahman is the ultimate state of the arupa lokas (formless realms) or the state of Nirvana itself, which is indefinable, indistinguishable and indivisible, and which is neither a formation nor existence nor nonexistence..

For the yogis who are intent upon attaining that state, Brahman becomes the goal as well the support, as they renounce all worldly attachments and become fearless without any expectations. To the extent they purify their minds and bodies (the field), the supreme reality of Brahman (Self) becomes reflected in them with matching brilliance.

In Hinduism the paths are well set for those who pursue worldly life as householders and those who renounce the world to seek liberation. The Mundaka Upanishad draws the distinction clearly. It identifies two types of knowledge, lower (apara) and higher (para). The lower knowledge is helpful to worship rituals the forms and manifestations of Brahman, whereas the higher knowledge is useful to attain the imperishable Brahman himself.

By ritual worship of the gods one attains the world of good deeds (sukrta loka). However, that goal is for the deluded people, as it does not liberate one from the cycle of births and deaths. Therefore, the wise ones worship the Self (Brahman) only. By knowing Brahman as their very Self, they attain Brahman. Knowing that in the highest abode of Brahman everything shines with utmost purity, they worship him with the utmost purity of their minds and transcend the seed of birth.

Why Brahman is not worshipped in Hinduism?

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