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

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Tue Jul 5 11:12:52 CDT 2011

On 5 July 2011 11:21, Rajaram Venkataramani <rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> << As far as I am concerned, I am interested in the history,  philosophy
> and
> practices of our traditions each one of which are profound in their own
> right.>>

Welcome. I share this interest of yours. And this clarifies a lot of things

> << Just as you are interested in some topics and have learnt it, I am
> currently
> interested primarily in "Bhakti in Advaita". Please note that I did not
> challenge. You challenged me saying that I don't know the basics>>

Just to clarify, I never had any intention to "challenge" you or anybody
else. By "basics" I meant being conscious of the framework one is using,
which means being aware of both one's own implicit assumptions (such as "why
am I studying this", or even "why should anybody study this"), as well as
the underlying assumptions/concerns of the system one is trying to study.
Without these (in particular the latter) it is easy to misunderstand things
and get lost in individual verses and/or peripheral topics.

For example, the underlying concern of many vaiShNava schools, though not
always explicitly stated, seems to be "how to maintain my bhakti", whereas
the underlying concern of the advaitin (explicitly stated) is mokSha here
and now in the sense of freedom from limitations. Therefore, typical
vaiShNava reactions to the advaita philosophy are things like, "the
advaitin's mokSha is 'dry', our 'bhakti rasa' is better", "savisheSha
brahman is 'superior' to nirvisheSha brahman", etc. Please note that I am
not at all trying to have fun at the vaiShNava-s expense. In fact I respect
them for what they are. But the underlying concerns are different. This is
reflected in their conceptions of mokSha also. For example, for the
shrIvaiShNava-s, mokSha involves being in vaikuNTha and serving mahAviShNu.
This does not mean they don't have philosophical depth (in fact, they do),
only that they use it in a very different way.

One of your earliest questions (perhaps the very first) on the list was on
the "mAyAvAdam asat shaastram" verse from the padma purANa, and then your
several questions/responses on bhakti reminded me of certain earlier
discussions with some vaiShNava-s who wanted to somehow extract an admission
from the advaitins that bhakti is the most important, or were hell-bent on
proving that sha~Nkara was a vaiShNava :-).

Perhaps your intention was different and I was reading too much into your
words. In any case, no offence meant whatsoever. Let bygones be bygones and
let us move on :-)

On the role of bhakti, it all depends on what you mean by bhakti. mokSha, of
course, is through j~nAna alone.

> <<Regarding my question on avidya, this is a poser from vyasatirtha in
> nyayamrta which madhusudana addresses in advaita siddhi.>>

Thank you. Some years back, I did attend a few classes on the advaita-siddhi
by some of the very teachers you mention, but don't recall this issue being
discussed. Of course, I did not (rather, could not) attend the full series
so it may well have been discussed in my absence. In any case, the advaita
siddhi is an ocean.

In fact, certain conversations in the context of that advaita-siddhi series
were (partly) responsible for what I said about problematic frameworks. For
example, there was a discussion on what vyAsatIrtha (IIRC) means by "real".
Needless to say, it is very different from what an advaitin means by "real".
I did not specifically include the madhva-s in my list, but what I said
about gauDiya-s and sometimes naiyyAyika-s applies to madhva-s as well. In
fact I had them, and a few other vaiShNava groups, in mind when I said
"certain others".

Please note that the problem is not so much with what is explicitly stated
but with what is implicitly assumed. The former can always be taken into
account in a scholarly discussion. The latter are difficult to account for.

<< Whether the cognizer knows or not, sakshi jnana reveals both

> the object and its ignorance. .... Sakshi jnana, unlike vrtti jnana,
> reveals unknown objects as both
> known and unknown, that is unknown to the individual and known to the
> sakshi.>>

Oh well, I am quite familiar with this, and if this is what you were trying
to say (your wording was quite confusing), it is quite an anti-climax given
how much interest Subbu-ji showed in it :-)

One can put it simply as "I know that I don't know", i.e. "I (sAkShI ) know
that I (pramAtA) don't know", or more technically as: sAmAnya j~nAna of the
AtmA does not prevent or preclude visheSha aj~nAna in the pramAtA; in fact,
visheSha j~nAna/aj~nAna of the pramAtA are predicated on the sAmAnya j~nAna
of the AtmA.

It is analogous to what is said in terms of existence, i.e. the general
existence of brahman is the substratum for the specific
existence/non-existence of individual objects. But all of us (Subbu-ji,
Sadananda-ji and myself) understood your question quite differently, very
differently in fact. In fact all our responses were on somewhat similar
lines - AtmA being self-evident, AtmA being never completely unknown
(i.e.partially known), only the limitlessness of the AtmA being unknown,
etc, except that I additionally emphasized that avidyA is not particularly
amenable to investigation as it is the very cause of the duality within
which the investigation is being made.

Anyway, the matter ends here.

Once more, I do appreciate this statement of yours and share the same

<< As far as I am concerned, I am interested in the history,  philosophy and
practices of our traditions each one of which are profound in their own

Best wishes for all your pursuits !!

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