jnAna, bhakti, and karma (long)

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Nov 9 10:48:13 CST 1998

Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>  wrote:

>  The condition being described here is that which follows a
>  feeling of love for God. From this condition, the absorption or
>  dissolution of mind results. The devotee then passes into a
>  trance or samAdhi, which has been confirmed by many great bhaktas.
>  That bhakti can be mixed with jnAna is confirmed by jnAni's such as
>  HH Shri Chandrasekhara Bharati and MadhusUdana SarasvatI, who were
>  great bhaktas.

>I have a question about the above. Bhakti can be combined with
>which I can accept. As per the causal chain given by SureshvarAchArya
>the naishhkarmya-siddhi, yoga practice comes after sannyAsa. So worship
>of Ishvara is subsumed in that. However in the process of shravaNa,
>manana and nididhyAsana, I cannot see how bhakti can be combined with
>these three (which is really what can be called GYAna). As per
>sha.nkarAcArya in his bhAshhya to kena upanishhad 2.5, which states
>brahman is not what people worship (na idaM upAsate), he presents the
>pUrvapaxa: vishhNur-Isvara-indraH-prANo vA brahma bhavituM arhati, na
>Atma loka pratyaya virodhAt, or VishhNu, Ishvara (Lord Siva), Indra or
>PrANa, are fit to be called brahman (that's what people worship here),
>but not Atma, from contradiction of worldly logic. Then sha.nkara
>proceeds to refute it and points out that Atman is indeed brahman, not
>what people worship.
>Further, in the mANDUkya-kArikA bhAshhya to GK 3.1, gauDapAda clearly
>points out that the worship of saguNa brahman is "narrow minded". Here
>sha.nkara is quick to point out the same kena verse (2.5) as proof.
>Further, even in his upadeshasAharI, the only thing he suggests for his
>disciple is parisa.nkhyAna, which does not have anything to devotion.
>GYAnis may _seem_ to be bhaktas, but we would have to take it as due to
>their prArabdha (or so I have been thinking all this time).
>Of course, if we accept the definition of bhakti (by equating it to
>absorption in the self, not on conditioned brahman) in the
>VivekacUDAmaNi the problem is solved instantaneously. But I Think
>not what you were saying here.
>Clarifications from the thoughts of Sri Chandrashekhara BharatI
>Mahaswami and Madhusudana Saraswati would be greatly appreciated.


 I must thank you for bringing up an important point about
 the relation between bhakti and jnAna.

 As I understand it, the main question as to how bhakti can be
 compatible with jnAna can be answered in two ways, - a simple
 and short answer or a long answer. First, the short answer -

 1) As you have correctly pointed out bhakti is compatible with
    sannyAsa. The real question is: how does a person who is
    more advanced in GYAna yoga practise bhakti? At this stage,
    the aspirant really sees no difference between God and the
    Guru who teaches vedAnta. In order for the disciplines of
    shravaNa, manana, and nididhyAsana to be successful, a true
    dedication to the Guru is required. Such dedication is just
    another manifestation of bhakti! (Please see the long answer
    for a list of ways in which bhakti can manifest itself.)
    Gurubhakti is equivalent to bhagavadbhakti. Devotion to Guru
    is equivalent to devotion to God.

    In other words, even a person steeped in GYAna will show
    bhakti to the Guru, even if not to any particular deity. Guru is
    a form of God. This person does not differentiate between God and
    Guru and is an example of the mahAtmA referred to in the saying of
    the shvetAshvatara upaniShad:

   yasya deve parA bhaktiryathA deve tathA gurau |
   tasyaite kathitAH hyarthAH prakAshante mahAtmanaH ||

   These truths are revealed to that great soul who has the
   highest bhakti towards the iShTadevatA ** and who has
   bhakti towards the Guru as towards the iShTadevatA**.

   Even after jIvanmukti, the person naturally feels bhakti
   towards God. At this stage, there is no difference between
   God and Self.

   In this way, we can say that bhakti is compatible with GYAna.

 2) Bhakti towards Ishvara can be treated as a part of YogAbhyAsa, as
   you have pointed out. Even if bhakti towards Ishvara is treated
   as separate from yogAbhyAsa, ie. in the more usual sense, still
   such bhakti is a strong recommendation, just as yoga, meditation,
   etc., are, for one who pursues jnAna yoga. By this fact, bhakti
   cannot be said to incompatible with jnAna, in the way karma is.

   What MadhusUdana says about upAsana/bhakti (introduction to
   the gUDhArtha-dIpikA commentary on the gItA) is :

   karmopaastistathaa jnaanamiti kaaNDatrayaM kramaat.h |
   tadruupaashhTaadashaadhyaayairgiitaa kaaNDatrayaatmikaa ||

   The three sections (of the Vedas), in order, deal with karma
  (work),  upaasana (worship), and jnaana (knowledge). In a similar
  fashion,  the Giitaa, with its eighteen chapters, should be
  (considered) as  consisting of  three sections.

   So it is clear that MadhusUdana considers and emphasizes that
   the Vedas are made up of three kANDa's. More often than not,
   the upAsana kANDa is overlooked or clubbed with the karma-kANDa.
   And further he identifes the bhakti yoga, as taught in the GItA,
   with the upAsana kANDa of the vedas.

  The point being made is that the three paths - karma, bhakti, and
  jnAna - that are taught in the gItA directly correspond to the
  karma, upAsana, and jnAna kANDa's respectively of the vedas. And
  MadhusUdana uses the word "bhagvadbhaktiniShThA" while asserting
  the correspondence of bhakti with upAsana. It is clear, therefore,
  that devotion to Ishvara is not so much a part of yogAbhyAsa
  (although there is no reason why bhakti cannot be combined with
  yogAbhyAsa) but an independent discipline based on the vedas.
  The Vedas are  replete with hymns which are stuti's (praises) of
  various forms of God.

  MadhusUdana says further:

  tatra tu prathame kANDe karmatattyAgavartmanA|
  tvaMpadArtho vishuddhAtmA sopapattirnirUpyate ||

  In the first part (consisting of the first six
  chapters) of the gItA, by way of karma and the
  renunciation of the fruits of karma (karma-sannyAsa),
  the meaning of the term "tvam" (of the mahAvAkya
  "tattvamasi"), which is the pure Atman, is established
   and described.

 dvitIye bhagavadbhaktiniShThAvarNanavartmanA |
 bhagavAnparamAnandastatpadArtho .avadhAryate ||

 In the second part (consisting of chapters 7-12 in the
 gItA), God, who is Supreme Bliss and the meaning of the
 term "tat" (in the mahAvAkya "tattvamasi"), is ascertained
 by means of practice of bhakti (devotion) towards Him.

 tR^itIye tu tayoraikyaM vAkyArtho varNyate sphuTam.h |
 evamapyatra kANDAnAM saMbandho .asti parasparam.h ||

 In the third part (consisting of chapters 13-18 of the
 gItA), the identity of the two (tat and tvam), which is
 the meaning of the (mahA)vAkya (tattvamasi) is clearly
 explained. This too is the relation that exists
 mutually among the three parts (of the gItA or equivalently
 the Vedas).

 From the foregoing, bhagavadbhakti is essential for ascertaining
 the meaning of "tat", according to MadhusUdana. Let us now see
 how he interprets bhakti. It is necessary to consult his
 commentary on gItA 9.14 which is:

 satataM kIrtayanto mAM yatantashcha dR^iDhavratAH |
 namsyantashcha mAM bhaktyA nityayuktA upAsate ||

 MadhusUdana adopts the description of as mentioned in the
 bhAgavata, which he quotes in his commentary on gItA 9.14,:

  shravaNaM kIrtanaM viShNoH smaraNaM pAdasevanam.h |
  archanaM vandanaM dAsyaM sakhyamAtmanivedanam.h  ||

  This is the famous definition of "navavidha bhakti"
  or the nine-fold bhakti. The types of bhakti mentioned
  here are 1) listening to glories of God, 2) singing/
  reciting His glories, 3) remembering Him, 4) attending
  upon Him, 5) worshiping Him (according to traditional
  methods), 6) bowing to Him, 7) being His servant, 8)
  looking upon oneself as His friend, and 9) offering
  or surrendering oneself to Him. Bhakti manifests
  itself in these nine ways, as told by PrahlAda to
  HiraNyakashipu. (The latter got angry with Prahlada for
  this advice, but that is another story!)

  MadhusUdana interprets "kIrtayantashcha" in gItA 9.14
  as listening to the vedAntavAkyas from the Guru and
  by doing praNava-japa and reciting the upanishads in
  his absence. Therefore, "kIrtayantashcha" in the verse,
  includes shravaNa of vedAnta (vedAntashAstrAdhyayana-
  rUpashravaNavyApAraviShayIkurvanta iti).
  "yatantashcha" is interpreted as trying to
  eliminate doubts regarding what the Guru taught by
  means of reasoning or reflection, ie. manana.
  (tathA yatantashcha ... shravaNanirdhAritArtha-
  iti| This means those who are absorbed in reflection or
  manana whose nature is the inquiry of elimination of
  doubts that could possibly negate the purport ascertained
  by shravaNa.)

  "namasyantashcha" is interpreted as --

  mAM kAyavAN^manobhirnamaskurvantashcha mAM bhagavantaM
  vAsudevaM sakalakalyANaguNanidhAnamiShTadevatArUpeNa
  gururUpeNa cha sthitham.h| chakArAt.h

  shravaNaM kIrtanaM viShNoH smaraNaM pAdasevanam.h |
  archanaM vandanaM dAsyaM sakhyamAtmanivedanam.h  ||

  iti vandanasahacharitaM shravaNAdyapi boddhavyam.h|
  archanaM pAdasevanamityapi gururUpe tasminsukarameva |

  -- by worshipping, through actions, words, and thoughts,
  Me vAsudeva, who am BhagavAn and the repository of all
  auspicious qualities, and who am present in the form of
  the iShTadevatA (one's favorite deity) ** and in the form
  of the Guru**.
  (Please note the phrase "bhagavantaM vAsudevaM ...
  gururUpeNa cha sthitam.h.")

  By the "cha" (in namasyantashcha) is to be understood
  the others (in the nava-vidha-bhakti) such as hearing, etc.,
  which are clubbed together with offering prostrations
  (vandana). Worshipping (archana) and attending upon God
  can be easily done in the case of God in Guru's form too.

  MadhusUdana further says:

  atra mAMiti punarvachanaM saguNarUpaparAmarshaartham.h|

  Here, the intent of the  usage of "mAM" again (as in
  namasyantashcha   mAM ...) is to refer to the saguNa form
  of God.

  As previously indicated, the saguNa form is that of the
  iShTadevatA and the Guru who teaches vedAnta.

  By practising bhakti in this way, the sAdhana becomes strong
  and all impediments disappear. As MadhusUdana says -

  ... etena sarvasAdhanapauShkalyaM pratibandhaka-abhAvashcha
      darshitaH |

   yasya deve parA bhaktiryathA deve tathA gurau |
   tasyaite kathitAH hyarthAH prakAshante mahAtmanaH ||
       (shvetAshvatara upaniShad)
   These truths are revealed to that great soul who has the
   highest bhakti towards the iShTadevatA ** and who has
    bhakti towards the Guru as towards the iShTadevatA.

  By the practice of shravaNa and manana, and bhakti as described
  above, the aspirant passes on the final stage of nididhyAsana.
  MadhusUdana described nididhyAsana thus:

   tadevaM shamadamAdisAdhanasaMpannA vedAntashravaNamananparAyaNAH
   parameshvare paramagurau premNA namaskArAdinA cha vigatavighnAH
   paripUrNasarvasAdhanAH santo mAmupAsate vijAtIyapratyaya-
   anantaritena sajAtIyapratyayapravAheNa shravaNamananottara-
   bhAvinA satataM chintayanti mahAtmAnaH | **anena nididhyAsanaM
   charamasAdhanaM darshitam.h |

   In this way, having acquired the qualities of shama, dama,etc.,
   they are absorbed in shravaNa and manana of vedAnta. By their
   loving devotion, expressed by prostrations, etc., to the Paramaguru,
   Parameshvara (God), all obstacles to progress disappear. Becoming
   perfect in all their sAdhana's, they worship Me. (That is), they,
   the mahAtmA's, are constantly in the flow of thoughts that are
   are of the same type, that are not impeded by thoughts that are not
   of the same type, and that follow the practice of shravaNa and
   manana. By this, the final sAdhana, nididhyAsana is shown.

  yadvedAntavAkyajamakhaNDagocharaM sAxAtkArarUpamahaM brahmAsmi -
  iti jnAnaM tatsarvashaN^kAkalaN^kAspR^iShTaM sarvasAdhanaphala-
  bhUtaM  ... nirapeXameva sAxAnmoxahetuH ...|

  By the strengthening of nididhyAsana, the knowledge which arises
  from the vedAnta vAkya's and pertains to the Undivided (Brahman),
  which of the nature of direct realization and which is of (the
  nature of) "I am Brahman", is untouched by all doubts and blemishes,
  is the fruit of all sadhanas, and is the direct cause of moxa
  without  depending on anything else.

  Thus, it is clear that bhakti plays an important role in the
  disciplines of shravaNa, manana, and nididhyAsana which themselves
  represent the highest stage of GYAna. My personal opinion based on
  reading MadhusUdana  is that  even if one is not much attached
  to bhakti towards God, he must have bhakti towards the Guru who is
  really nothing other than a form of God. Without even bhakti towards
  the Guru, it is not possible to succeed in GYAna. Indeed, if we read
  the accounts of the revered SvAmi's of Sringeri, for example, we see
  how much bhakti each svAmi had for his predecessor and Guru and how
  much service he rendered to his Guru as his disciple. Further, these
  svAmi's had great devotion for God in His various forms as well.
  ShrI Chandrasekhara Bharati, for instance, used to perform the
  mAnasika pUjA of Shiva on pradoSha days, and the pArAyaNa of
  rAmAyaNa regularly. These have been mentioned in discourses by Shri
  Abhinava Vidyatirtha, and have been presented in the book "Divine
  Discourses", published by Sri Vidyateertha Foundation, Madras, 1994.
  All these sages were examples of mahAtmA's who are extolled in the
  shvetAshvatara upaniShad verse, which is worth repeating:

  yasya deve parA bhaktiryathA deve tathA gurau |
  tasyaite kathitAH hyarthAH prakAshante mahAtmanaH ||


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