Antiquity of advaita vedanta (was : an open letter to all)

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 23 13:08:03 CDT 2000

>Then the Advaita acharyas are also guilty of undermining the Jnana
>tradition!  Because with a single voice they have stressed the importance
>of Bhakti as a complement to both the Karma _and_ Jnana margas.

Knowledge is the act of knowing. Bhakti cannot in any of its forms be
equated with this. According to the Upanishads and Advaita, brahman is
something to be known - brahma vid brahmaiva bhavati.

See what GaudapAdAchArya says in the 16th verse of the third chapter in
his KArikA : The merciful shruti teaches karma and upAsanA to those of
the lower and mediocre intellect, while jnAna is taught to the higher.
(Here don't condemn me for being arrogant! All of us have the same
brain and we only have to try).

Shankara says the opposition of jnAna and karma stands firm like a
mountain! In his BrhadAranyaka bhAshyam he says those who talk of
combining jnAna with karma, have perhaps not read the BrhadAranyaka
Upanishad nor do they seem to be aware of the glaring contradiction
repeatedly pointed out by the shruti and smriti. JnAna and karma are
opposed to each other like light and darkness.

>Have you been reading my translation of part of the Vasishtasangrah?  When
>the self is worshipped as possessing the lordly attributes, that too is
>bhakti.  To go the otherway and see ones self in the Lord is also
>Bhakti.  Devotion to the Guru (Shri Narayana is the Adiguru) is also
>Bhakti.  None of these things are in anyway incompatible with Jnana marga.

But do any of these acts imply "knowing"? I'm not saying that they're wrong
but that in the ultimate sense, they cannot produce jnAna. If any of these
authors say that bhakti can produce jnAna, I don't think it is compatible
with the Advaita as taught by GaudapAda, Shankara and Sureshwara -
especially read Sureshwara in his Naishkarmyasiddhi where he asserts that
*only* knowledge can lead to the goal. He's totally anti-karma.

>Please read the Gudarthadipika or Bhaktirasayana of Swami Madhusudan

Again please understand that I'm only contesting the ultimate efficacy of
bhakti. It definitely has its uses in the sAdhana - developing chitta
shuddhi etc but it cannot effect liberation and which only knowledge can.

>  JnAna and karma (which
>includes bhakti)

>Only some kinds of Bhakti.

Come on, Jaladhar. Bhakti involves duality - where the thought of the
sAdhaka is fixed on an external or mental object - either on an idol or even
one's own Self (objectified) - and thus it implies karma - either physical
or mental. All duality implies karma.

Atma VichAra on the other hand is the self reverting into itself and seeking
itself - it is a non-dual search. Right from the Purusha ShUkta, the
Upanishads and the Advaita texts - this is taught as the only way to the

>are diametrically opposed and to endorse bhakti at a
>higher level in Advaita, is more harmful than it being prachanna bauddham,
>which atleast always taught that reality can be attained only by knowledge.

>And knowledge is attained how?  Bhakti is one of the ways and it has the
>approval of all the Acharyas.  Whoever the dvipadam varam is why is
>Gaudapadacharya "saluting" Him?  Isn't salutation a form of Bhakti?

But does GaudapAdAchArya say that knowledge is a result of him saluting
NArAyana? Then what's the use of all his complicated dialectic and logic? He
could well salute NArAyana and be delivered from samsAra. It's OK at the
phenomenal level, but at the ultimate level it is knowledge of oneself which
results in liberation.

And if bhakti is the way to liberation, why do you need to learn the subtle
philosophy of Advaita at all? You could just go and fall at the feet of your
ishta deivata and liberation would be yours. What then would be the meaning
of all of Shankara's expositions of Atma VichAra in his various prakarna
grantha texts - Atma bodha, VivekachoodAmani etc? What would be the purpose
of neti, neti?

There's a place for divine guidance and there's a place for self effort in
Advaita. But take care not to undermine the latter's significance. I know it
is a tough call, but that's Advaita.

(Incase you didn't notice, this is what the Vaishnava that Anand quoted, is
subtly implying. He's saying that GaudapAda *prayed* to NArAyana and was
*granted* brahma vidhya - which is the VisishtAdvaita view of the way to

I know that I ruffle quite a few feathers by my attitude towards bhakti. But
understand that I'm not anti-bhakti, but that it should not be confused with
the ultimate end, which can be attained only by knowledge. Even I'm an
ardent devotee of PillaiAr (Ganesha) and this is ok at the phenomenal level.
But when aspiring towards jnAna, I seek his blessings and sincerely practice
atma vichAra - trying to *know* myself. Why should there be any conflict

There would be a problem if I should try to seek union with PillaiAr or pray
for him to grant me brahma vidhya. This attitude has no place in Advaita for
both imply dualism. You can practice bhakti towards your own Self or an
ishta deivata, but ultimately you've to KNOW yourself - knowledge is the key
and this is inviolate in Advaita.

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