Upasana” is a Sanskrit word. The word Upasana includes three parts – up+aas +yuch. “Up” is a prefix “aas” is the root of verb and “Yuch” is an affix. It means the devotee’s mental unity with the deity for a long period. The synonyms of word Upasana are meditation, Sadhana, Aradhana etc. Accordingly, three things exist – devotee, devotor and devotion. Upasaka is a person whose mind is constantly busy in worshipping the mental form and qualities of the deity. There are different types of devotees and devotors. Therefore the methods of worship are also different- but one element of the Supreme Divine exists everywhere.
Upasana also means seating near. How? By withdrawing one’s consciousness from the mundane objects and directing it towards God & communicating with him emotionally. When this process of communication starts, a man begins to acquire Divine power.
Upasana means sitting near. This means sitting near divine. But how to sit near-divine, when divine is nearer than the nearest. Can I sit with myself? This is the puzzle for the practitioner to solve by different practices and enter into nearness to the divine.
Physical, mental and emotional proximity all have different meanings and experiences. When physical proximity to any object or person whether it be money, a big house or any other material possession does not and cannot solve our mental and emotional problems then how it can bring divine presence within? Near to the mind are thoughts which spring either from the past, our subconscious or unconscious mind or from our needs, desires cravings etc. we remain emotionally charged both due to the desired sense and or ego-sense –we remain dominated by our instincts and drives.
Whenever we think of nearness, we consider it in relative terms like I am sitting near you, the table is near me etc. Then what is the meaning of sitting near the divine. Who sits near-divine and how to sit near-divine so that it becomes Upasana?
Upasana is nearness with reference to unity and oneness; with reference to the unfolding of oneself. Upasana is awareness of the Real-Self which is one and the same in all beings. Upasana is a discovery of that element within oneself that is eternal, permanent and beyond the world of name and form. Upasana is a process by which the practitioner discovers the ultimate reality that lies within. Sitting near as in Upasana is more symbolic and points to the reality behind all appearances that can be achieved by hundreds of practices explained in yoga, spirituality and tantra. It is not impossible to search for the one and only one divine through the many practices that lie in the field of space and time. Upasana is generally associated with all forms of practices aimed at self-realisation e.g.
Bhanopasana: Ascribing to the Lord the Highest splendour, the deepest compassion, the most potent Power, etc. and worshipping Him with the deepest and highest emotion.
Gitaupasana: Adoring Him as the Master and Preceptor who teaches the Gita and reveals the Way.
Adwaithopasana: (Non-Dualism) the God is omnipresent and has to be discovered and experienced in order to realise Bliss and Awareness. Like oil in mustard, butter in yoghurt, like water inside the earth, like fire in timber, God is also present in all beings. God is in the human body and in the human mind. To become aware of Divine presence, the spiritual effort is necessary.
Dwaitopasana: (Dualism) The Dualistic outlook on the relationship between God and the individual is that of husband and wife. Vishnu, the Lord, the ever-free, ever-full, has to be adored as the wife adores the husband. The practices of chanting the name of God, living a life of penance, directing one’s heart to the one and only one god till one is able to manifest Divine within.
Saivopasana: This emphasises the worship of Siva as formulated in the Lingam. The Infinite Lingam is the symbol of the Primal Energy which represents the basic cause of origin, condition and progress of the ‘elements’ that compose the Cosmos. The Lingam is the Form of Siva Himself and realising it as such is asserted as the ultimate goal of liberation.
Virasaivopasana: the worship of Siva, the Lord or Isvara, as the omnipresent is the basis of this Upasana. The merging of the individual in the splendour of the Linga or Isvara is symbolic of Liberation. In fact, this Upasana begins with manifest or God of form and name and transforms the mind to realise, experience the formless divine known as Linga.
Pasupatiupaasana: The individual entity (Jiva) is tied by the bond (paasa) of the qualities or modalities arising from nature. Pasupathi (Siva) is worshipped in order to attain freedom from Bondage. The bondage of unconsciousness, ignorance and falsehood can only be freed by the one who dwells within all, is the protector of all and creates all sufferings to extend its essential nature of bliss, knowledge, truth and love to one and all.
Saktiupaasana: Goddess is an epitome of Shakti or power that is all and divine. The Primeval Universal Energy, Aadi Para Shakti, is conceived as the matrix of all forms of Divinity. The Cosmic Urge, the Prakrti, is the cause of the variety and multiplicity of expression, the manifold forms. The Maheswara (Supreme Divinity) has this capacity to manifest and is therefore so named. Maheswara and Para Shakti are two aspects of the same force. This dual-faceted force motivates the Universe, from the vast expanse of the sky to the entire earth. The unmanifest Supreme Person manifests as the feminine Universal, the Maya, and the Para Shakti. In each individual, it is experienced as knowledge, strength and activity.
The practices performed by Christians, Muslims, Jains, and Buddhists can also be placed under Upasana. By understanding the mechanism of Upasana, one can easily understand the process and mechanism of practices explained in scriptures of all religions.