[Advaita-l] Advaita Vedanta & Krsna Bhakti

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sat May 1 01:24:13 CDT 2010

On Fri, 30 Apr 2010, Krunal Makwana wrote:

> Jai Sri Krsna
> I've created this new post as i would like to discuss the setoriological
> position of krsna bhakti within the boundries of advaita vedanta.
> Before i begin i would like to lay the position of our bhagavatpada
> regarding liberation.
> 1. Mukti can ONLY be realised by correct knowledge
> 2. All that we experience through our senses is temporary
> 3. There is no difference in reality between individual souls and brahman
> Although acaryasri had created many hymns in the praise of various deities
> he staunchly only accepts that the path of knowledge or correct knowledge
> leads to ultimate realisation. He accepts that going to mandir, doing puja
> etc are only mediums for purification of mind but do not directly lead to
> realisation.

This requires some clarification.  In the past I've quoted from the 
bhashya on the chaturvyuhadhikarana (specifically Brahma Sutra 2.2.44) but 
it bears repeating again.  For those that don't know, here the theory of 
the Vaishnava Pancharatra agamas that Ishvara has a fourfold form is 
discussed and ultimately rejected.  Shankaracharya says inter alia:

"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."

So you see bhakti versus jnana is not the issue; bheda versus abheda is. 
Insofar as bhakti practices postulate a difference between bhakta and 
bhagavan then they are criticised.  But then so for that matter are the 
jnana practices of the Samkhyas, Bauddhas etc.  When bhakti is "unceasing 
concentration of mind on the Highest Being" it _is_ jnana.

> How can one who does not and has no interest or inclined in following the
> path of knowledge but rather only pure devotional service to God achieve
> liberation?

As noted above by "unceasing concentration of mind on the Highest Being"

> (Please note: I have only used Krsna bhakti here as a matter of
> personal preference but for consistency could we stick to this form of
> bhakti) We have had so many saints within the bhakti movement and jnana
> movement e.g narsaiyo of gujarat, mirabai, kabir, tukaram, surdas, swami
> haridas, madhusudana saraswati etc. Would we still count them as
> non-realised? do they not realise liberation? or are they an exception to
> the rule?

Your list includes followers of Ramananda, Nimbarka, and Pushti Marg 
sampradayas.  Insofar as these philosophies teach bheda they cannot lead 
to jnana.  Swami Madhusudana Saraswati may have been a Krshna bhakta but 
he was an Advaitin through and through so we definitely can rely on his 
teachings.  Even the others, do they have nothing to offer?  On the 
contrary if one believes that Brahman pervades all, there is always 
something that can be learned from saintly people even if they are not 
100% correct.

> Also if be the case that they are not realised two things then unfold:
> 1. Krsna bhakti is inferior to jnana marg = no point of worshipping Krsna

Only bhakti that fosters bheda is inferior.

> 2. The saint discussed are born again into the cycle of birth and death and
> they wasted their time

The very last Brahmasutra says, that for those sattvika ones who meditate 
constantly on saguna Brahman there is no return to samsara.  They abide in 
Vaikuntha, Kailasa, etc. until the pralaya when they attain the final 
mukti at the dissolution of all names and forms.  (This is called 
kramamukti.)  So their efforts are certainly not wasted just a little more 
roundabout than jivanmukti.

> Although i've started this discussion i don't know what i really want to
> achieve out of this discussion. Talking from a personal view, i've been
> reading our acaryas work and by all means something i admire and respect,
> his words have carried me through so many struggles in my life BUT there has
> come a point for me where i just want to solely devote myself to God within
> the confinements of our parampara without getting into the nitty gritty of
> scriptural interpretation etc.

What is the essence of bhakti?  Prem rasa am I right?  Think of those who 
you love in a laukika sense.  Do you not want to know everything about 
them.  Aren't you concerned that you are treating them right and don't you 
want to understand all the ways to make them happy and conversely the 
things that make them unhappy?  Is caring about these things a sign of 
obsession or due diligence?  Perhaps a little of both?  A bhakta feels the 
same way about bhagawan.  Learning these things is the purpose of shastras 
for him.  if you don't want to get into all the hairsplitting 
right now there is nothing wrong with that but I think you will find that 
you yourself want to do so as your vivek increases.

btw I am not just talking theoretically here.  My own interest in learning 
sanskrit and shastras originally came from a desire to increase my faith I 
feel that I am a better bhakta because of it.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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