[Advaita-l] Is bhakti necessary?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Tue Jun 24 18:56:36 CDT 2008

Sorry Suresh, I had written this earlier but never got around to posting 

On Fri, 23 May 2008, Suresh wrote:

> #1 Philosophically, it seems a little
> self-contradictory, perhaps also redundant. If there's
> jiva-brahma abhEda, one doesn't see the need for
> bhakti.

In the definition of Brahman as sacchidananda, the ananda part is often 
overlooked but bhakti is ananda.

> #2 Doesn't Sankara himself say that jnAna is the
> highest? Doesn't he also define bhakti in terms of
> jnAna, such as true bhakti is the love of atma-jnAna,
> or something to that effect? The point I am trying to
> stress is, none of the advaitins ever defined bhakti
> the way vaishnavas and other devotional sects do,
> namely singing, chanting, and other sentimental
> activities.

On the contrary I posted this quote from brahmasutrabhshya vyuhadhikarana 
a few weeks back and it is worth repeating:

"Concerning this system we remark that we do not intend to controvert the
doctrine that Narayana who is higher than the avyakta, who is the
paramatma and sarvatma, reveals Himself by dividing Himself in multiple
forms...Nor do we mean to object to the inculculation of unceasing
concentration of mind on the highest Being which appears in the Bhagavata
shastra under the forms of abhigamana etc. [earlier it was mentioned that
bhakti consists of abhigamana, upaadaana, ijyaa, svaadhyaaya, and yoga.]"

Shankaracharya may consider jnana as the highest bhakti but he definitely 
does not belittle "sentimental activities" in the process.

> They defined it as the love of the self, which is born
> of viveka, the discrimination between the real and the
> unreal. This definition of bhakti seems more logical,
> and devoid of blind sentimentalism which often
> characterizes bhakti. In short, bhakti in the advaiti
> sense is simply the constant discernment of the real
> amidst the unreal, constant dwelling in the self,
> rather than activities like bhajans, puja-s etc.

This needn't be an either/or situation.  Remember the ahamkara/atma bheda 
also has to be overcome and this is a goal of bhajan etc.

> I don't mean to offend anyone, but I just can't see
> activities like these-baby Krishna eating butter, his
> running around the house-as worthy of contemplation.
> This is because I can't spot anything divine and out
> of the ordinary, they just appear to be normal
> activities that any kid might do.

Exactly!  And this is their importance.  Our first glimpses of advaita 
tattva are in love whether parent-child, husband-wife, patriot-homeland 
etc.  If you told the average person that what is plainly visible in 
front of their own faces is mithya they would think it highly strange 
indeed but all except the most sociopathic personality understands that 
love for another transcends love of ones own ego.  Bhakti extends the 
feeling of love from a limited sense to all that is.  As such it is a most 
effective sadhana for self-realization.

Another thing occured to me.  It is possible that all the talk of mithya 
and maya might result in a weak-minded sadhaka developing contempt for the 
world.  Bhakti prevents this by showing how Bhagavan is "purna"

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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