[Advaita-l] (Advaita) Bhakti vs. Jnana

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Tue Aug 9 10:52:59 CDT 2011

On 31 July 2011 11:57, Rajaram Venkataramani <rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> RV: I agree. Ultimately, one has to become Brahman through through profound
> meditation in a purified mind or one with Bhagavan as we see in the lives
> of
> illustrious devotees who merge in to their deity.

The usage of terms such as "merger" is generally avoided by advaita
AchArya-s. There is actually no merger involved. The sAdhaka *understands*
his own status as nitya mukta, that's all. mukti is purely a matter of right
cognition, of "seeing through" one's status as a jIva and affirming one's
status as AtmA/brahman. As one is never different from brahman, there is no
question of either "becoming" brahman or "merging" with brahman.

RV: I agree that jnana is the anti-dote to ajnana, the root cause of
> problem. But if one does not have the sankhya buddhi for profound
> meditation
> on nirguna brahman but has the yoga buddhi to be intensely devoted to his
> deity, then the deity becomes the swift deliverer by generating this tattva
> jnanam. This is what Madhusudana says and would like to know the
> traditional
> opinion.
> Not only is j~nAna (obtained through the mahAvAkya) the sole direct means
> to
> mukti, nothing other than this j~nAna is required for mukti.
> RV: I agree because light alone is required to remove darkness. But someone
> has to open the windows.

It appears from the above that you have changed your stance and accept that
j~nAna alone is the direct means to mukti, and that bhakti cannot be used to
bypass the role of the mahAvAkya-s as the pramANa for Atmaj~nAna. Therefore,
it should be clear that bhakti is not an independent means (i.e. different
from or parallel to j~nAna) for mukti and that shravaNa in particular cannot
be bypassed.

Regarding the deity generating the tattvaj~nAna, it has already been
mentioned that the deity may do so only though mahAvAkya upadesha. The deity
is not a pramANa, but the vedAnta shAstra is.

If you accept the above as well, then the only point remaining is whether
bhakti is a pre-requisite to j~nAna.

The problem here is that bhakti is a fluid term and can mean many things.

What is required as a pre-requisite for j~nAnayoga is chittashuddhi (or more
specifically, the sAdhanachatuShTaya saMpattiH). chittashuddhi is obtained
through karmayoga, which involves a certain bhAva (IshvarArpaNabuddhi or
yaj~nabuddhi). So if by 'bhakti' one means this bhAva (arpaNabuddhi or
yaj~nabuddhi), one say that bhakti is a pre-requisite to j~nAna.

This bhAva is relatively easy to achieve in the case of nityakarma. But for
other kinds of karma, especially laukika karma which takes up the bulk of
our time, one needs to cultivate this bhAva.

However, many proponents of bhakti insist that bhakti necessarily involves a
personal relationship (sakhA bhAva, dAsya bhAva, etc) with a deity. If one
takes such a narrow view of bhakti then one cannot also claim that it is a
pre-requisite. There has to be a certain appreciation that people have
different temperaments. What is required in a strict sense is only the
arpaNabuddhi, which is expressed in different ways by different people.

For example, let us say there are two doctors who provide free treatment
once a week to poor patients. One doctor does so in order to get social
respect and recognition, whereas the other does it as an offering to society
in the spirit of manuShyayaj~na. The latter has arpaNabuddhi whereas the
former does not. Regular activities of life such as eating, exercising for
physical fitness, working for a living, etc can also be done with this

If it is asked, to whom does one make the offering, the answers can be
varied. One who has a personal relationship with a deity may make the
offering to that deity. Others may do so to the guru, parents, ancestors,
nation, etc. After all, we have the concept of the 3 debts (to the deva-s,
the pitR-s and RShi-s), the concept of the panchamahAyaj~na-s, and more
generally the concept of yaj~na itself.

We also have the beautiful concept of virAT, the divine as the gross cosmos.
In traditional Hindu culture, everything is looked upon as divine. We see
divinity in rivers, trees, mountains, stars, etc. We have events like Ayudha
pUjA where pUjA is done to tools, implements, etc. Many AchArya-s recommend
that actions should be done as an offering to the samaShTi. In the sense of
the gross cosmos, this means virAT. This idea is reflected in abundance in
the shAstra as well as in Indian life traditionally.

In fact, one great advantage of having arpaNabuddhi to the samaShTi is that
nobody and nothing is excluded. The bhAva here can be one of "connectedness"
(i.e. the interconnectedness of all phenomena including the sAdhaka) and not
necessarily a personal relationship.

So the arpaNabuddhi or yaj~nabuddhi can be expressed in various ways. As
long as this is recognized, and the term bhakti is used broadly to include
such different ways of expression, there is no problem in saying that bhakti
is essential for chittashuddhi, and in that sense is a pre-requisite to

Unfortunately, many proponents of bhakti take a very narrow view of it in
terms of a personal relationship only.

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