Physically and mentally balanced and disciplined personality lays the foundation of a healthy, hearty and successful life.
This is what is referred to as a “matured personalit” by noted modern psychologists like Dr. Carl G. Jung. While defining such a personality, these experts explain that a psychologically matured and vigorous person is one who can work calmly and equally efficiently in all circumstances. A person of this kind is quite well-organized and emotionally matured and is capable of relating to the society harmoniously.
The development of personality largely depends upon the quality of ones thoughts. Our thinking affects our mental, intellectual and also the physical make-up. Psychosomatic disorders are well known manifestations of sickness, infirmities or depravation in ones thinking. Refinement and creative orientation of thoughts, on the contrary, is found to bring about positive changes at the emotional and behavioral levels and thus also improves ones ability for progressive social adjustment. Despite accepting the vital role of thoughts and emotions in the shaping of personality, so far the psychologists have not been able to discover effective solutions to the complexities of the mental and emotional world hidden inside; neither are they able to provide a definite method for improvement or positive orientation of attitude.
The Upanishads seem to hold the key to this mystic science and are therefore regarded by many as the source of complete knowledge of deep psychology. Especially in the Shvetashwar Upanishad, Vedic Rishis have described a universal method for resolving the conflicts and complications in the mental and emotional domains; healing and strengthening of the delicate roots of consciousness and inculcating positive orientation and enlightenment. This method designed, taught and successfully practiced by the rishis could be termed as “Upasana”. At a gross level, the word upasana is used for devotional worship with meditation. The linguistic meaning of this Sanskrit word means to sit near (Godliness). It implies being immersed in thoughts and sentiments that inspire divine attributes. It is a powerful source of personality development; because, the nature of human mind is shaped by its thoughts and, except for the highest state of trance, the mind cant remain thoughtless even for a fraction of a second. Thoughts flow as per the focus and medium of thinking and influence the actions and reactions accordingly. Haphazard or hazy thinking prevents one from doing anything properly; such people can hardly complete any task or produce anything worthwhile. Persons addicted to sub-standard or depraved thinking indulge in ignoble deeds and the foul smell of this dirt is also reflected in their character and conduct. People with negative, debased or criminal mentality spread their vices and infirmities among those influenced by their company and produce many more like them.
The lofty and pure thoughts of great personalities and saintly and eminent thinkers, on the contrary, generate an ambiance of positive and elevating thoughts and help in positive moulding of the characters of their disciples and also inspire others who come in contact with them. Today, we rarely find such great personalities who could induce the desired impetus in positive direction for the enlightened and integral development of our personalities. Moreover, it is not always possible for everyone to be in live contact of the great. Reading and pondering over their thoughts is also not feasible for most people. What could then be widely effective mode of personality-refinement and improvement at the individual and social levels?
The regular practice of “upasana” appears to be a promising medium for this purpose, as it could be practiced by everyone, everywhere, as per his or her natural tendencies and circumstances. The inculcation of divine qualities and the idealistic convictions and inspirations associated with the practice of upasana help in radiantly uplifting the level of thinking and infusing virtuous tendencies in the deeper layers of mind. If we could understand comprehensively the intrinsic nature of emotions and thoughts in this spiritual practice devised by the rishis, its potential in making perceptible impact at the psychological and deeper levels would become scientifically clear to us.
The principles and enlightened emotional spirit associated with upasana can indeed positively mould our thinking and character in ideal direction. In view of its strong and comprehensive foundation based on deep understanding of human self, the positive psychological effects of upasana affirm it to be a universal mode of personality development. A prominent and definite end-result of sincere practice of upasana is refinement of personality. Upasana at its best means unifying the devotees consciousness with the divine consciousness. This is practiced by mental and emotional engrossment of the devotee in the (divine) object of his upasana; the devotional sentiments attached with the latter help the devotee to visualize, contemplate and adopt the virtuous qualities and teachings inspired by the latter. It is not the appearance or proximity of the physical object or image; rather, it is the devotees faith and attitude towards this focus and the intrinsic energy-field of the latter in the devotees mind that is important here.
The depth of the devotees mental and emotional engrossment, in the highest kinds of upasana leads to submerging of his individual egotistic consciousness in the Divine Self; the devotee (upasaka) and the divine object of worship (upasya) both become one in this ultimate merging. The living presence of Goddess Kali experienced everywhere by Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa, the physical merging of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in the idol of Lord Krishna, the complete selflessness and unification with the cosmic consciousness realized by Swami Ramtirtha, are some of the live examples of this intense effect of total involvement in upasana. Although everyone can’t reach this extraordinary state of devotional esctasy, gradual purification and enlightenment of thoughts is certain to be accomplished with regular and thorough practice of upasana. Emotional inclination also begins to flow towards nobility through this process of upasana.
What should be the object of upasana? Should it be a visible or physical object or symbol of divinity (e.g. an idol or a photo of a manifestation of God or a saintly personality)? Or, should it be a formless conception or realization? This choice depends upon the mental status and faith of the person who wants to practice upasana. Usually, concentrating the mind over a physical object best suits the beginners. One can choose a symbol, image or idol as per his liking and faith in a form that reflects the divine qualities of this idol/deity and also inspires the devotee. In the initial stages of upasana, the devotee could look at this object and recall the virtues represented by the associated name, manifestation or image of God or divine character. He should try to focus his thoughts within the same domain and ponder over it as much as he can without much disturbance.
This practice could gradually be converted into meditation. As the extent and duration of mental concentration increases, the emotional fervor of the devotee for the divinity also intensifies and induces a subtle process of spiritual refinement. Similar is the case of meditation on formless visualization of divinity. Innovative research in deep-psychology towards the late 20th Century has revealed some new facts that affirm some of the principles and values of spirituality. The nature of ones thinking and emotions is now regarded as the basis of his personality development. Research in this direction has shown that how ones overall personality develops mostly depends upon what is his attitude towards life, what is his ideal, what he aspires for and what are his values in life? If his ideal or source of motivation is enlightened and noble, then his attitude, thoughts and hence conduct will also be of superior quality.
The inferior or unscrupulous level of ones aims or goals, on the contrary, would induce and encourage growth of evil mental tendencies and thoughts and lead to the emergence of a depraved and perverted personality. Selecting the deity or divine focus of upasana is implicitly like setting a preeminent role model or ideal of ones value system, personifying mental and emotional intimacy and association with which one would like to mould ones personality. Eminent researchers and modern thinkers like Eric Fram, Harry S. Sullivan, Dr. Henry Lindlahr, etc consider that we can improve our physical and mental health by linking our consciousness with some divine source, angelic power or cosmic consciousness. They assert that if we deeply contemplate over a specific object or focus, our mind gets connected to the corresponding source or domain, as a radio-station gets connected with the radio sets through microwaves. Such mental conjunction or emotional linkage with divine sources bestows not only spiritual but also mental and physical benefits.
Human mind is like an ultra-sensitive wireless receiver, which, unless focused on a specific domain, keeps receiving pell-mell thought-waves from all directions, all the time. What kind of thoughts the mind will generate depends on what it has been receiving and storing in general. Thus, focusing and linking it with specific kinds of thoughts through contemplation and meditation is the most effective way of positively conditioning, training and orienting the thought process. Upasana gives an added advantage of emotional fervor. Sagacious and bright thoughts induce a matching ambience wherever they are generated and spread widely and forcefully. Noted thinker U. Sinclair elucidates this fact further in his book “The Mental Radio” and explains that devotional meditation (upasana) is a complete process of refinement of personality; anyone who follows its practice sincerely would develop an excellent personality and also inspire others in his company. He can transmit his (spiritually energized) thoughts without any physical medium.
The intense field of such thoughts possesses the power to influence peoples minds and the subtle environment around. Renowned Psychologist C. G. Jung regards upasana as a necessary requirement of a refined human life. In his views, the methods of devotional worship and meditation preached under different religions of the world all provide useful and essential basis and support for healthy and overall development of personality. According to him, the total number of psychological disorders and problems cured by the psychiatrists and psychologists across the globe would be nothing as compared to the positive effects of the simple religious practices of devotion.
The fall and decline in the level of peoples thinking, character and conduct and the rising pollution, corruption and weakening of personality seen today can be checked and controlled only by the practice of upasana by each one of us. This simple but universally applicable solution would also gradually reverse the present negative trends and produce healthy, hearty and virtuous personalities. Upasana, in one form or the other, has been an integral part of the lives of the saints, seers and sages of the ancient and the modern times the world over. They have set living examples of how this practice could lead to successive strengthening, enlightenment and even divine transmutation of personality.
The philosophy and science of this devotional method contain all the elements of mental and emotional refinement at the individual and the collective levels.
The golden path of resolving the complexities of the personal, professional and social life and ushering into an era of peace and happiness is open for all of us. It is up to us, how soon we start walking on it?
Pt. Shree Ram Sharma “Acharya”. [from Akhand Jyoti Sept-Oct 2003]