[Advaita-l] Shankaracharyas' view of devotion

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Fri Feb 20 11:20:40 CST 2004

We've recently had some discussion about the place of devotion in
Advaita Vedanta.  Although there are numerous stotras etc. ascribed to
Shankaracharya, some doubt they are genuine.  However the
Brahmasutrabhashya is acknowledged by all to be the genuine work of the
Acharya.  Thus I thought it might be apropos to repost a translation of
part of the bhashya on Brahmasutra 2.2.44 which is a refutation of the
4-vyuha theory of the Vaishnava Pancharatra Agamas which I made on this
list in June 2002.

"Concerning this system we wish to remark that we do not intend to
controvert the doctrine that Narayana, who is higher than the avyakta
(pradhana or the prakriti of Samkhya in its unmanifest state) who is
the highest Self and the Self of all, reveals Himself by dividing Himself
in multiple ways; for various scriptural passages such as "He is onefold,
He is threefold" (Chandogyopanishad 7.26.2) teaches us the highest Self
appears in manifold forms.  Nor do we mean to object to the inculculation
of unceasing concentration of mind on the Highest Being which appears in
the Bhagavata doctrine under the forms of reverential approach etc.; for
that we are to meditate on the Lord we know full well from Smrti and

Earlier in that same section Shankaracharya described the methods by which
these Bhagavatas worshipped ("reverential approach" etc.)

"The believer after having worshipped Vasudeva for a hundred years [i.e.
all his life] by means of reverential approach to the Temple (abhigamana),
procuring of things to be offered (upadana), oblation (ijya), recitation
of prayers etc. (svadhyaya), and devout meditation (yoga) passes beyond
all affliction and reaches the Highest Being."

>From this we can draw the following conclusions:

1. Shankaracharya does not believe that Bhakti is to be discarded by
Vedantins or is just a sop to the ignorant.  On the contrary, it is
necessary (because commanded by the shastras) and the very goal of jnana.
("The highest self", "the self of all.")

2.  Shankaracharya is not one of these new age "all religions are one"
types.  He is quite prepared to criticize even "Hindus" like the
Pancharatras when they deviate from Vedic teachings.

3.  Nevertheless insofar as these religions can help in Advaitic sadhana
(by e.g. "inculculation of unceasing concentration of mind on the Highest
Being") they are not rejected in total.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
It's a girl! See the pictures - http://www.braincells.com/shailaja/

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