Thursday, August 8, 2019

Inspirational Sayings of the Great on Sandhya-Upasana 


B. V. Kameswara Aiyar
(Picked from the Sandhyavandana (1937), pp. 280-85)

"It [Sandhyavandana] begins with the external purification of the body by sprinkling water over the head and reciting a few hymns in praise of water and an internal purification by sipping a few drops of water and praying that all the sins committed during the preceding twelve hours be washed away. After having thus purified himself externally and internally the worshipper feels that he is worthy of approaching the Supreme Lord and pays his adorations to Him by the offering of water according to the immemorial usage of the Brahmans. He looks at the sun and makes this offering. It is not, however, to the sun but to the nameless One that he offers his simple tribute. But the sun is the visible symbol of God’s power and glory, and when he rises in the heavens and brightens hill and dale with his golden rays or goes down the horizon leaving behind him a rich, through short lived, legacy of crimson brilliance, he seems to speak directly to our heart and bid us praise the Lord whose will has breathed into him all the glory and effulgence; and the worshipper, in heartfelt obedience to this eloquent call, offers his humble greetings to the glorious Father. Then he shuts his eyes and contemplates His glory and prays for wisdom that he might know Him and love Him and have Him. Then he stands up and sings His praises with Vedic hymns and implores Him to forgive his sins and vouchsafe to him His grace and blessings. 

This then is the aim of the Sandhya service ... it is not to this or that aspect of nature that the worship is directed but to Him alone, whose phenomenal manifestation all nature is. The matter-of-fact man sees the mere surface of things -- the flash of lightning, the roar of thunder, the torrent of rain. The inspired Seer sees the spirit behind, the power that smites the miser clouds, which yield their hidden treasure with a dying yell; and the matter-of-fact critic that comes about five thousand years later and plods his way from results to causes inverts the process, arguing from his own experience and misreads the ancient songs. .... 

I have insisted on the necessity of a knowledge of the meaning of the mantras used ... It is indeed a wise provision to insist on the performance of the ceremony with or without a knowledge of its significance. Otherwise people who have hardly time, much less the inclination, for a study that does not hold out any immediate tangible inducements may be led to neglect the rite altogether and the institution of Sandhya service would have become defunct. But a prayer that appeals to the mercy of God is nothing if it does not come from the heart and it has very little chance of coming from the heart if it is recited in a mechanical, parrot-like sort of way ... The mantras are praise and prayer, and when we are at this solemn duty, let us know what we are about, let us, know what we are praying for, let us know whom we praise and how, and let us approach Him with noble words nobly uttered. Let us not mouth the sublime language as your town-cries do, reckless of accent and intonation, but let us recognize the sacredness of the rite and speak to Him in noble language of our ancient fathers, in those solemn tones which, as they fall so melodiously on our ears, attune our souls to the sublime cadence and induce an attitude of mind that harmonises with the words on our lips.

And is this asking too much? The Sandhyavandana is one of the few remaining links that unite us to a glorious past. It is a link that may not be rudely snapped asunder. It is a duty rendered imperative by the solemn voice of Vedic injunction. It is the indefeasible birthright of every Brahman. It is his distinctive badge. It is his special privilege that he can address his Father in the words that his fathers used thousands of years ago and in the same tones. And what noble words they are, how redolent of love and reverence, humility and faith.

Is it then asking too much of him, if I call on him, to remember his noble lineage, if I implore him, by all he holds sacred, to discharge in an adequate manner a duty which he owes alike to himself and to his fathers? I ask not for a blind and undiscriminating admiration for everything that has come down to us from of old. All that I ask of him is to exercise his franchise as a thinking being and hold fast to that which is good. Is this then asking too much? I hope not, I fervently pray not." 

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