In this Upanishad, this ritualistic understanding is denied totally, but denied in a very positive way. So one thing must be understood very distinctly and clearly.
The Upanishads were born in a very revolutionary period as far as the Indian mind is concerned: there was a great rebellion against the Vedas. When I say against the Vedas, I mean the ritualistic structure that was built around the Vedas. It was a dead ritual; everything was a ritual. Religion was not something deep, not something concerned with consciousness and its transformation, rather, it was just concerned with doing something: “If you do this, then you will get this; if you do that, then you will get that.” Every ritual was fixed as if it was a science: “Do this prayer and there will be rain; do this prayer and the enemy will be killed; do this prayer and you will be victorious – do this and this will follow.” This was proposed as if it was a science.
This ritualistic structure killed the very progressive spirit of the Indian mind. A revolution followed; it was bound to follow. It took two shapes. One was negative – Jaina and Buddhist. These two currents of thinking took a very negative turn. They said, “Rituals are meaningless, absurd, so all rituals should be abolished.” This was an absolutely negative attitude. The Upanishads were also against rituals, but they took a very positive attitude. They said, “Ritual is not absurd, but you misunderstand the meaning of it.”
This sutra is concerned with a yagna ritual, aawahanam – invocation. The word aawahanam – invocation – means that before you begin any worship, any yagna, any prayer, first invoke the deities, first call them. “Aawahanam” means: invite them, invoke them. As far as it goes it is good. How can you pray unless you have invited? How can you surrender unless you have invoked?
So these are the ways. The negative way will be first: that it is useless because there are no deities. Second: they have no names even if there are. Third: even if they have names they will not respond because whatsoever you are doing is just bribery, just flattery. Do you think that by your flattery, by your prayers, by your briberies, you will be able to invoke them? If you think that you can invoke them and call them and invite them, then they are not even worth it – because if you can bribe them, then they are just like you. The language is the same and the level also, so they are not worth it.
Buddha has said: “There are no deities, and even if there are they are not higher than human beings. They are not higher. You can persuade them, you can bribe them through your flattery – stuti. You can force them to do something or not to do something, so they are not higher than you. They can be just forgotten.”
The Upanishads take a very different attitude. They say that deities are there and invocation is possible, but they give a much deeper meaning to invocation. They say: