(In this post, we present some excerpts by paṇḍit D. S. Subbaramaiya, as he discusses, from the Vedāntic standpoint, the twofold aspect of sādhanā: the higher one being the form it takes as the spontaneous nature of the always perfect ātman, and the lower being the effort through which the practitioner seeks to actualize the former. In this context, he offers us many interesting insights about practices such as meditation on the cakras and related sādhanas prescribed in Vaidik and Tāntrik sacred texts.)
The Mānasollāsa (IV, 11 to 23), and the ṭīkā thereon, make mention of the names of some of the principal nāḍīs, the extent and function of each of them as also the six cakras, concerned deities, bindu, nāda and some details in respect of them. Śrutis like the Darśanopaniṣad, the Yogaśikhopaniṣad, the Yogatattvopaniṣad, the Yogacūḍāmanyupaniṣad, and the Śāndilyopaniṣad, and also works on Yoga, like the Yogayājñavalkyam, make mention of these nāḍīs and cakras with the same nomenclature. From this it is clear that purification of the nāḍīs, meditation by concentrating the mind on the cakras etc., as prescribed in the Yogaśāstra, must be undertaken in such a way that they will prepare one to acquire the knowledge of the identity of Brahman-Ātman taught in the Upaniṣads. It is with this end in view that some of the Vedāntic texts have given details in respect of these cakras and delineated how they are to be adapted for meditation.
(...) Also the Mantraśāstra gives sādhana by showing how the fifty letters, beginning with अ are to be meditated as situated in the petals of the lotuses that are the cakras, as also bhūśuddhi, bhūtaśuddhi, mātr̥kānyāsa etc. This shows that the meditation etc. on the six cakras have been brought in to provide a scheme for eventually conquering the elements and paving the way for the realisation of the true Self bereft of all limitations.
Since enquiry is the principal sādhana in the Vedāntic system, karma and upāsanā of this type are indispensable for securing purity and fitness for sādhanasampatti which is most essential for successful enquiry. The purport of the Vedāntaśāstra is in casting off all limitations superimposed on Ātman by freeing oneself from the elements etc., i.e., by conquering them whether it be by following the path laid by Bhaktiśāstra or any prakriyā formulated on lines similar to the Pātañjalayoga, Śaivatantra, Śākteyatantra or any other tantra. The essential thing is to make an ascent from spheres or planes that are more and more 'veiled', 'closed', 'limited' and 'gross' to others that are more and more 'conscious', 'open', 'unrestricted' and 'subtle' i.e., from the aśuddha [impure] to śuddhatattvas [pure elements]. In all systems providing for the spiritual practice such a process is essential though the nomenclature and details differ. The Śruti itself indicates such a procedure - while referring to the dissolution of the effect into the cause, the gross into the subtle, that into the causal and that into the Substratum - as layakrama, upasaṅkramana, bādha etc. The Mānasollāsa on the ninth stanza of the hymn (Dakṣiṇāmūrti Stotram) points out that the meditation on the Aṣṭamūrtisvarūpa of Īśvara, as prescribed, is to overcome Māyā by the grace of Īśvara. In the Aṣṭamūrtisvarūpa mentioned, reference is seen to the five elements as also the Sun, the Moon, the deities associated with the nāḍīs - iḍā and piṅgalā. In other words, to reach the Svarūpa of Īśvara that is Consciousness as such, His grace is sought by such a meditation. Inasmuch as the manas cannot readily ascend to incomprehensible matters, the Guru teaches the contemplation of the Universal Self in the eight visible forms. Further, the Mānasollāsa outlines meditations on the cakras etc., as the seats of the seven worlds etc., in order to secure identification of the microcosm with the macrocosm. The eight limbs of Yoga and meditation on Praṇava are also mentioned and it is emphasized that the Grace of Guru who is none other than Īśvara is necessary for attaining perfection in Yoga, which consists in the realization of the true nature of the Self, Consciousness. The prakriyā suitable for the seeker is determined only by his own enlightened Guru. (...) Here it is not at all a matter of primary concern as to what the different cakras and nāḍīs are, how many of them are there and what the plexus associated with them are according to physiology, whether they have physical existence, or they are capable of being perceived only by yogis etc. These are paths designed for the seeker depending on the equipment he already has, to prepare him to acquire Brahmajñāna, i.e., they are of the nature of pratikalpanā, counter-concoctions, brought in to remove the concoction in which the disciple is entangled.
As has been pointed out again and again, Vedānta takes its stand on the supreme teaching of the Upaniṣads, the Mahāvākyārtha, Brahman-Ātman which alone exists. All else is concoction. Ordinarily, however, the disciple is not in the frame of mind which enables him to recognise this all at once. (...) The result is that he finds himself in a rigid conceptual framework. He has to be retrieved from this position. In the spirit of Vedānta, the Guru in His Infinite mercy has recourse to the method of adhyāropa-apavāda, through providing a suitable counter-concoction involving the very concepts or categories employed by the disciple but with a changed complexion that remains unnoticed for the time being, leading to the situation where there remains absolutely no kalpanā speculation of any sort whatsoever. At every step it is only Brahman-Ātman that is spoken of, perhaps with suitable delimitations to enable the establishment of contact with the notions entertained by the disciple. The Śruti, the Bhagavadgītā, the Sūtasaṁhitā etc., themselves show the way in this regard. It is pointed out, for example, that all the necessary prerequisites for securing the plenary experience such as the four-fold equipment - sādhanacatuṣṭayasampatti - stem from the Svarūpa itself. Such is the case with whatever has been enumerated in the Gītā under jñāna such as amānitvamadaṁbhitvaṁ humility, modesty (XIII - 7 to 11) and abhayaṁ sattvasaśuddhi: fearlessness, purity of heart etc., (XVI - 1,2,3) under Daivīsampat.
The characteristics of Sthitaprajña [he of firm intelligence], Saṁnyāsī [renunciant], Bhakta [devotee], Guṇātīta [he who transcends the guṇas], Yogī etc., which happen to be the very nature of the enlightened, provide the means for the seeker; what is sahaja [spontaneous] of the siddha is the sadhana [means] for the sādhaka. The Sūtasaṁhitā and the Aparokṣānubhūti for example, which speak of the various limbs of the Rājayoga such as yama, niyama and āsana along with their subdivisions, show how each of these stems from the Svarūpa. The same is the case in respect of the Vedāntic pūjākrama as given by Śrī Śrī Ācāryapāda in His Parāpūjā. All such sādhana emanating from the Svarūpa Itself may be spoken of as the parā aspect of the concerned sādhana in each case. In addition, each of these has an aparā aspect as well in which karma, external or internal, pūjā, yajña, homa etc., upāsanā, dhyāna, cittivr̥ttinirodha etc., find a place. The aparā aspect is always to subserve the parā aspect as a necessary preliminary enabling the adhikārī to attain the competence to proceed to the parā aspect. The various types of yajña referred to in the Bhagavadgītā (IV), coming after the śloka 24 - where Jñāna has been represented metaphorically as yajña, serves as an illustration:
brahmārpaṇaṁ brahmahavirbrahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam |
brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ brahmakarmasamādhinā ||
(Brahman is the offering, Brahman the oblation; by Brahman is the oblation poured into the fire of Brahman; Brahman verily shall be reached by him for whom karma is nothing but Brahman)
So it is when Jñāna is spoken of as tapas in Śruti and elsewhere and other types of tapas involving action, bodily and mental, are mentioned along with it. Again, in the Sūtasaṁhitā, along with the Rājayoga already referred to, the concerned aspects are mentioned as well. The concepts such as mūlādhāra, svādhiṣṭhāna, maṇipūra, anāhata and viśuddhi would refer, in their parā aspect, to the Svarūpa Itself in the light of the statements such as: I am verily the support of all, the non-dual substratum of the universe, clear as crystal am I, unscathed am I, the witness of all am I, by very nature am I absolutely pure. The aparā aspects of these may very well be what is conceived of as real in parlance or what is prescribed by the Śāstras by way of superimposition as in the case of worship of idols, images etc.
The important point is to secure, by these artifices, purity of mind, one-pointedness of mind and alignment of the undeviated attention in the right direction. (...) The purport is in securing for the disciple the appropriate equipment in respect of his mind and intellect and not in the delineation of the karmas and upāsanās, just as the purport in discussing creation is not in delineating it - as it is shown to be a concoction - but in directing the attention towards the Creator, as has already been explained. The actual disciplines that are prescribed, which may have a Vedic, Tāntric or apparently mixed complexion, would depend upon the particular adhikārī and the situation in which he is placed, much like the dictum that one has to follow his svadharma at any cost, as taught by the Gītā. (...) The statements in the Sūtasaṁhitā (1.5.4) are to be understood in this manner. In the ṭīkā thereon, Śrī Śrī Vidyāraṇya points out that the culmination of the Vaidic and the Tāntric paths is the same, viz., the realisation of the non-dual Brahman. However, the path to be pursued depends on the adhikārī.
("Śrīdakṣiṇāmūrtistotram - A Study based on the Mānasollāsa and the Tattvasudhā" volume 2, by D. S. Subbaramaiya (1990), pp. 90 - 99. Published by Dakṣiṇāmnāya Śrī Śāradā Pīṭhaṁ Śr̥ṅgeri. )