CHENNAI: The Upanishads are the most important scriptural source for a spiritual aspirant embarking on a study of Vedanta. But, the prerequisites for undertaking Vedantic study are quite stringent; hence it is difficult for the majority of seekers. Why do the Upanishads deter even the ardent aspirant? The reason is the emphasis on meditation on the formless Absolute for attaining spiritual knowledge, which dispels ignorance the cause of bondage. Will worship of God in His aspect of manifold form then not result in spiritual knowledge, which leads to liberation?

In his discourse, Sri Goda Venketeswara Sastri said after Lord Krishna graced Arjuna with the vision of His cosmic form while teaching Him the truth on the battlefield (the Bhagavad Gita), he also raised a similar doubt. Arjuna asked, "There are Your ever-steadfast devotees who love and worship You as the Divine Person; there are again others who contemplate on You as the Imperishable Absolute which of these has a greater understanding of Yoga?" Contrary to the teaching of the Upanishads, the Lord replied, "I consider them to be the best Yogis, who endowed with supreme faith, and ever united through meditation with Me, worship Me with the mind centred on Me." In this context in the Gita He has thus spoken highly of adoration of God with form.

This must thus be seen from the perspective of the person to whom these teachings are intended. Vedanta (the Upanishads) certainly is only for one who has developed detachment to the world. But, not all will have the necessary dispassion as long as identification with the body continues to exist. It is commonly said that a person comes to the fold of Vedanta only after hundreds of births. Hence it must be the culmination of the spiritual practices that the individual has performed in countless births.

Considering how difficult it is to reach this level and the strain involved in pursuing it till Self-realisation results, Lord Krishna taught that He could be worshipped in form, which is relatively easier for a devotee. The same end (liberation) that a man of wisdom (Jnani) attains by meditation taught in the Upanishads is thus granted by the Lord to one who worships Him; God thus overlooks the aspirant's shortcomings by taking into consideration his devotion and steadfast faith in Him.