[Advaita-l] Advaita and Bhakti

subhanu saxena subhanu at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 8 07:15:05 CDT 2011

 Srikanta Narayanaswami wrote:

“By his books we can only gather that the swamiji gave more
importance to the "Jnana"marga than Bhakthi or karma,though they may
be impotant for the seeker initially”


The above view is a common misunderstanding amongst the many
misunderstandings of SSS’ teachings (another, for example, is the wrongly
attributed view to him that he believes that through viveka alone a direct
experience of Atman can accrue. For more details on his  correct position on this point please see

Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati of Revered Memory has written
extensively of the integral role of bhakti in achieving the highest knowledge
declared in the advaita tradition of Shankara. Not only has he written a short
English translation and commentary on Narada Bhakti Sutras, but also he has
written an extensive Sanskrit commentary on this text entitled Bhakti
Chandrika. He also discusses this issue in his Sanskrit work
Geetashastrartha-vivekah. In chapter 18 of this work, entitled bhakti-jnAna-sambandha-vivekaH,
or an enquiry into the connection between bhakti and jnana, he makes this
pertinent comment while discussing the Bhashyam on Gita XVIII 54-55:

“brahmabhUto jnAnaniSTho bhavati, jnAnaniSTha eva parabhakto
nAma. Sa cha eva bhagavantam tattvato jnAtavAn tam praviSTashcheti.”

“One who has become Brahman is steadfast in knowledge, and
steadfastness in knowledge is alone the name for a supreme bhakta. Only such a
person has known the truth of the Supreme and merged with it. [Geetashastrartha
viveka, p126]”

In his introduction to Bhakti Chandrika, Sri Swamiji states
that in his view the content of the Narada Bhakti Sutras is no different to the
supreme teachings of the Upanishads, Gita, and Brahma Sutram as well as works
such as Vishnu Puranam. He states as follows:

“yA bhagavadgItAsUpadiSTA parA bhaktiH athavA jnAnaniSTHA
saiva nAradabhakti sUtrANAm paramam lakshyam ityeSa mama abhiprAyaH.”

“That which is declared in the Gita as supreme bhakti and
steadfastness in knowledge is also declared in the Naradha Bhakti Sutras in my

When discussing Narada’s definition of Bhakti in sutra 21 “
nAradastu tarpitAkhilAchAratA tadvismaraNe paramavyAkuleti”, “ But Narada says
it is the offering of all acts to Him and feeling the highest pang of separation
of losing remembrance of Him “ , Sri Swamiji quotes the traditional verse
attributed to Hanuman describing his relationship with Rama:

dehabuddhyA tu dAso’smi, jeevabuddhyA tvadamshakaH

AtmabuddhyA tvamevAham, iti me nishchitA matiH

“From the view point of the body, I am your servant

>From the viewpoint of my life, I am a part of you

>From the viewpoint of the Supreme Atman I am you and you are
me, this is my firm conviction”


In his Sanskrit explanation of this verse Sri Swamiji writes
“vastuto vichAryamANe nistarangaAnandAmbudhau bhagavati kva vA dvaitAdvaita
vArtA”, or “ when in reality one, having deeply reflected, is absorbed in the limitless
ocean of bliss that is the Supreme, then what use is the talk of dvaita and

He then quotes avadhuta gita:

Advaitam kechidichhanti dvaitam icchanti  chApare

Param tattvam na jAnanti dvaitAdvaitavivarjitam

“Some seek advaita, others seek dvaita

They have not known the supreme truth which is devoid of such
labels as dvaita and advaita”

When commenting on Sutra 29 Sri Swamiji again states: “parajnAnam
parabhaktishcha abhinnam pratyetavyam iti” or “Supreme Knowledge and Supreme
Devotion must not be seen as separate”.

When commenting on sutra 54 where bhakti is described as
anubhavarupam, or our innermost experience, Sri Swamiji’s commentary  clarifies that this experience through love
is no different to the experience through knowledge at the highest level.  “bhagavat-prema tu sadA sarvAntaram sat
paramAtmarUpamevA’stItyataH asyA’nubhavarUpasya premNaH utpattinAshAveva na

In Gitashastrarthaviveka Ch 18, the secondary notions of
bhakti and jnana as separate disciplines are described as from the vyavahara
standpoint only

In Bhaktichandrika’s  conclusion Sri Swamiji states that  Love alone is the nature of the supreme  which yields knowledge of the supreme  and merging with the supreme, and that this is
the teaching of bhakti shastra: “bhagavati paramam prema kevalam yathArthA
bhaktiH. Tatprema tu bhagavatsvarUpam eva. tasmin premarUpe bhagavati sAyujyam
prApya tanmayatAvApteH anyA na parAgatir astIti bhaktishAstrasya paramaH

In summary, the path of enquiry requires complete surrender by
dedicating all we do to the Supreme. This allows us to live a path of service,
compassion, and selfless devotion so that our whole life can become a yajna, a
sacred offering. We can then live a life of giving not taking which makes life
fulfilled. It is only when this unconditional love is infused through our whole being, by selflessly
following our duty full of compassion,  can the conditions
for knowledge arise, which can only accrue to such a qualified aspirant through
the sruti vakya such as tat tvam asi. It is therefore incorrect to state that
the path to knowledge as laid out by Shankara’s advaita tradition is devoid of

I hope the above clarifications are helpful.





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