Q: In India which is mostly worshipped: God with form (Saguna Brahman) or God without form (Nirguna Brahman)? Do you think that to worship the Personal God is better than to worship the Formless God?
Certainly in India Saguna Brahman is worshipped more than Nirguna Brahman. But we must not forget that Saguna and Nirguna mean with qualities (guna) and without qualities, not just with form and without form–though that is included. As usual it is good to turn to the Bhagavad Gita in this matter. There we find this in the twelfth chapter:
“Arjuna said: The constantly steadfast who worship you with devotion, and those who worship the eternal Unmanifest–which of them has the better understanding of yoga?
The Holy Lord said: Those who are ever steadfast, who worship me, fixing their minds on me, endowed with supreme faith, I consider them to be the best versed in yoga.
But those who worship the Imperishable, the Undefinable, the Unmanifested, the Omnipresent (All-pervading), Inconceivable, Unchanging, Unmoving, the Constant–controlling all the senses, even-minded everywhere, happy in the welfare of all beings–they attain to me also.
Greater is the effort of those whose minds are set on the Unmanifest, for the Unmanifest as a goal is truly difficult for the embodied ones to reach.
But those who, renouncing all actions in me, intent on me as the highest [goal] worship me, meditating on me with single-minded Yoga–of those whose consciousness has entered into me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of mortal samsara. Keep your mind on me alone, causing your intellect to enter into me. Thenceforward, without doubt, you shall dwell in me” (12:1-8).
Are Lord Krishna and Rama both the Personal God?
Brahman is one, being both Saguna and Nirguna, and also beyond those distinctions. The same is true of every individual jiva as well. So whether we consider an avatara to be Brahman Itself or a perfectly liberated being, a siddha (as do the Sankhyas), the same applies.
But They [Krishna and Rama] are not here in this world anymore. Why even until now do so many people worship Lord Krishna and Lord Sri Rama?
Again we find the answer in the Gita–in part of the section I have just cited. Krishna himself says:
But those who, renouncing all actions in me, intent on me as the highest [goal] worship me, meditating on me with single-minded Yoga–of those whose consciousness has entered into me, I am soon the deliverer from the ocean of mortal samsara.
Sri Krishna and Sri Rama are eternal as are we. Just as they delivered those who took refuge in them when they were here on earth, so they deliver their sharanagatis even now. Thousands of years have proven this to be true.
Of the Trimurti–Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva–which one is superior?
As you know, Brahma is reverenced but not worshipped, and both Vishnu and Shiva are worshipped throughout India. Since Vishnu and Shiva are manifestations or forms of the one God, they are equal. Only ignorance makes them seem different–and ignorance is a poor basis for worship and devotion.
How do those who worship the Impersonal God (Nirguna Brahman) imagine Him for the purpose of concentration? Or is it not necessary to imagine any form of God during worship of Him?
It is very necessary to realize that there are not two Brahmans, Saguna and Nirguna. Rather there is only Brahman who to us in relative existence appears dual in aspect: with qualities (guna) and without qualities (nirguna).
Naturally, there would be no mental image of Nirguna Brahman, but according to the scriptures, the japa and meditation of Om unites us to Brahman in total being, nirguna and saguna. Here are some quotations regarding this.
Om is God (Brahman)
“Om! This Syllable is Brahman” (Amritabindu Upanishad 20).
“Om is Brahman in one Syllable” (Amritanada Upanishad 20).
“This Syllable is the Parabrahman, which it designates.… This Syllable is the Supreme Brahman” (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:2).
“That which is Om is the Pranava. That which is the Pranava is the All-pervasive One, the Endless One, the Deliverer, the Subtle One, the Pure One, the Shining One, the Parabrahman, the One Absolute Existence” (Atharvashira Upanishad 44).
“The innermost Fire, the esoteric Truth underlying the knowledge of Brahman, is Brahman. Om, the Monosyllable, is that Brahman. This is what has been said by the expounders of the Vedanta” (Brahmavidya Upanishad 1, 2).
“Om is Brahman, the Primeval Being” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1).
“That [Om] is the quintessence of the essences, the Supreme, the highest” (Chandogya Upanishad 1.1.3).
“I will tell you briefly of that Goal which all the Vedas with one voice propound, which all the austerities speak of, and wishing for which people practice discipline: it is Om” (Katha Upanishad 1. 2.15-17).
“The Supreme Being is the most excellent Pranava that is taught in the Vedas” (Mahanarayan Upanishad 8:1).
“The one Syllable Om is Brahman” (Mahanarayan Upanishad 33: 1).
“Om is Brahman.… Om is the Supreme Truth. Om is all.… Salutation to him.… O Supreme,…Thou art Om” (Mahanarayan Upanishad 68:1, 2).
“Om is Brahman.… This alone is Brahman, the Brahma Pranava. This should be known.… As it alone is Brahman, this One-Lettered Brahman is shining always” (Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad, Upadesha VIII).
“Brahman, the Self-Existent, says: ‘Om is my very life.’” (Pashupatabrahman Upanishad 4).
“Brahman, indicated by Om, is Ishwara [God the Lord]” (Pashupatabrahman Upanishad Uttarakhanda 1).
“Brahman of absolute radiance and infinitude is identified with [one with] Om. The turiya-turiya of Brahman pervades the entire Pranava” (Rama Tapini Upanishad).
“Om is the Supreme Brahman” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 1:7).
“The real nature of Brahman is identical with the Pranava” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 2:8).
“God is the Syllable Om” (Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:17).
“Om is Brahman” (Taittiriya Upanishad 1.8.1).
“The Indivisible One Essence is the Syllable Om. The Indivisible One Essence is the japa of Om. Om is pure consciousness” (Tejobindu Upanishad 2:20; 6:42).
“The Single-Syllable [Ekakshara; Om] is the Parabrahman [Supreme God] himself” (Agni Purana).
“The gods, rishis, and the nagas, and the asuras, approaching Prajapati [the Creator], said to him: ‘Tell us the highest good.’ To them who were inquiring about the highest good, the Venerable One said, ‘Om, which is Brahman in a single Syllable.’” (Anugita XI. The Anugita is part of the Mahabharata and consists of teachings by Krishna.).
“Brahman itself is of the nature of Omkara” (Ribhu Gita 17:40).
“Brahman is just one Syllable: Om. The Imperishable is just one Syllable: Om” (Ribhu Gita 24:21).
“Brahman is the Truth that is indicated as ‘Om.’” (Yoga Vashishtha 6:1:30).
“The monosyllable Om is the highest Brahman” (Manu Smriti 2:83, 87).
“The sound Om is Brahman. The rishis and sages practiced austerity to realize the Sound-Brahman.…By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal” (Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, p. 404).
“It [Om] is not a word, it is God himself” (Swami Vivekananda, Inspired Talks, Sunday, July 21).
“Yesterday a Hindu asked Bhagavan, ‘Is Omkara a name of Ishwara?’ Bhagavan said, ‘Omkara is Ishwara, Ishwara is Omkara. That means Omkara itself is the swarupam (the true form of God)” (Ramana Maharshi, Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma, p. 60).
“Omkara itself is Brahman. That Brahman is the nameless and formless pure SAT [Reality]. It is That that is called Omkara” (Ramana Maharshi, Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, Suri Nagamma, p. 119).
“Pranava alone is Ishwara” (Lahiri Mahasaya in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras).
“All is he, the One pervading all, the One beyond all qualities. He is One, he is Om” (Avadhuta Nityananda Paramhansa, Nitya Sutra 88).
Om is both Saguna (With Qualities)
and Nirguna (Without Qualities) Brahman
“‘Omkara is the higher as well as the lower Brahman,’ as the Sruti says” (Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:2. This statement is also found in the Maitri and Prashna Upanishads.).
“Om, indeed, is the lower Brahman; this is, indeed, the higher Brahman. Anyone who, meditating on Om, wishes either of the Two [aspects], by him that is attained. This [Om] is the best means [of attainment and realization]; this means is the higher and lesser Brahman” (Katha Upanishad 1. 2.16, 17).
“It is said: ‘This Syllable Om, verily, is the higher and lower Brahman.’” (Maitri Upanishad 6:5).
“That [Om] is of the form of the qualified [saguna] and the unqualified [nirguna] Atman” (Mandalabrahman Upanishad 2:4).
“Om is Brahman. Know that the mantra of the one-syllabled Om is Pranava.… It is saguna [with qualities] and nirguna [beyond all qualities]” (Narada Parivrajaka Upanishad, Upadesha VIII).
“That which is the sound Om, O Satyakama, is verily the higher and the lower Brahman. Therefore, with this support alone does the wise man reach the one or the other” (Prashna Upanishad 5:2).
“Whether the unconditioned Brahman or the conditioned Brahman, the Syllable Om becomes a means of realizing it. For another scripture has it, ‘The Syllable Om is the higher and lower Brahman.’” (Prashna Upanishad 5:2) (Shankara, Commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad).
“Om is both the higher and the lesser Brahman” (Shankara, Commentary on the Mandukya Karika).
“Om is both Saguna and Nirguna [with attributes and without attributes], Sakara and Nirakara [with form and without form]” (Sivananda, Meditation On Om).
In churches there are pictures or images of Lord Jesus and a cross. Are these used for concentration during worshipping Lord Jesus?
Some people do concentrate on them and some do not–it is according to the preference of the individual.
More articles about Worship of God:
- Those Who Worship God and the Gods
- The Worship of Brahman
- 3 Types of Supernatural Contact and the People Who Engage in Them