[Advaita-l] Bhakti and Jnana - Two different paths?

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed Jul 20 05:26:50 CDT 2011

On Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 11:56 PM, Rajaram Venkataramani <
rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> Madhusudana talks of bhakti as a parama purushartha like moksha and that it
> is Isvara Svarupa. There are countless citations in Gudartha Dipika and
> Bhakti Rasayana both were written after Siddhanta Bindhu and Vedanta Kalpa
> Latika, leaving no room for argument, if it may arise, that Madhusudana
> started off as a bhakti and then matured in to an advaitin.  But it is
> important to show that he states that bhakti is a parama purushartha
> apparently (I stress apparently) contradicting statements such as "moksha
> eva parama purushartha:" in Vedanta Paribhasha -  "paramam purushartham
> vadanta rasajnah" (BhR Ch.1). Pl. note that he does not add a fifth
> purushartha like the gaudiya vaishnavas do nor does he say bhakti is same as
> moksha because there are statements in bhagavatham that devotees dont care
> for moksha though they get it. Here is the genius of the acharya. He says
> that dharma arthadi vishayams are purusharthas because they produce bliss
> "tajjanyasukhasyaiva purusarthatve" (BhR Ch.1). Then he defines
> paramapurushartha as bliss that is devoid of duhkha - "dukhasambhinnasukham˙
> hi paramahpurushartha iti" (BhR Ch.1). Then he establishes that bliss by
> itself is a purushartha "sukhañ ca tad eva svatantrah. purus. ¯arthah" (BhR
> Ch. 1). Then he says that "bliss alone is the purushartha" - "sukhamatram
> purusarthah" (BhR Ch.1). If you go with him logically until here, you are
> down with him on the roller coaster."bhagavadbhaktiyogasyapi duhkha
> sambhinnasukhatvenaiva paramapurusarthatvam" meaning "Since it is nothing
> more than bliss unmixed with suffering, the yoga of devotion to the Blessed
> Lord is also the parama-purusartha". Why does he use api (also)? That is
> because he has already established that mokasha is a purushartha -
> "mokshasya  parama nandarupatvena tu tasya purus.arthatvam˙ vedantavadino
> vadanti".

I wish to know if there is any difference between the 'parama-purushartha'
status given to bhakti and the mere 'purushartha' status, without the
'parama' adjective, given to moksha by MS.

Also is the question important that whether the Bhakti RasAyanam of MS is
studied in traditional Advaitic  circles.  In my experience so far, after /
other than the prasthAnatraya bhashyam of Shankaracharya texts like the
Vivekachudamani, Panchadashi, Jivanmukti viveka, svaatmanirUpaNam,
dRgdRshyaviveka, etc. are studied.  Sometimes the NArada bhakti sutras are
expounded along with the Acharya's bhashyam of the Vishnusahasranamam.
Bhaktirasayanam is not in the curriculum, as far as I know although his
siddhAntabindu is studied apart from of course the commentary on the Gita.

Appayya Dikshita and Vachaspati Mishra are known to have written works on a
variety of shAstra-s/subjects.  All these works are not studied by aspirants
of Vedanta although these two are regarded as very important Advaita
Acharyas .  These very authors' specific Vedantic works are, however,
studied.  In a similar vein it is possible to say that MS wrote the Bhakti
rasayana with a different audience in mind. Whatever is there in it which is
avirodha, non-contradictory, to traditional Advaita, is admissible, no doubt
even as Shankara is not totally against the pAncharAtra, for example.

> Bhakti Rasa, Madhusudana says, is Isvara himself. In addition to nyaya, he
> uses "Raso vai Sah" to give scriptural justification but dont fail to spend
> time on his logic. He builds a fort of nyaya to preserve the treasure of
> bhakti in our hearts. I mean, in our pratyagatman!"

I do not know what is meant by the term 'pratyagAtman' here.  In Shankara's
bhashyam of course this term means none other than the innermost Self,
beyond the five kosha-s, which is the 'thing' to be realized as one's Self.
The Kathopanishat too says in the famous mantra 2.1.1 -

पराञ्चि खानि व्यतृणत् स्वयम्भूः तस्मात् पराङ्पश्यति नान्तरात्मन् ।

कश्चिद्धीरः *प्रत्यगात्मान*मैक्षत् आवृत्तचक्षुः अमृतत्वमिच्छन् ॥
The Creator Lord cursed/damned the sense organs to be outward-turned and
therefore they always experience the inert world and never the Innermost
Atman.  Some rare, daring aspirant, with the resolve to attain the Immortal,
withdraws his attention from the outside world and succeeded in realizing
the pratyagAtman.

Hence the term pratyagAtman does not translate to the term 'heart' (mind)
which is / could be the repository of bhakti rasa.  If bhakti rasa has to
obtain in moksha, after the fall of the body, the persistence of the mind
has to be admitted.  This has no support in the Upanishads.

> >
> > RV: My position is that highest bhakti and jnana are non-different. As to
> whether bhakti yoga and jnana yoga are two distinct paths leading to
> ultimate goal of advaita siddhi, I am (so far) convinced that they are
> according both Sankara and Madhusudana.  I have earlier posted referenced
> to Ch. 12 and 18. Pl. read both of Sankara's commentary and Madhusudana's
> exposition side by side in addition to his references to BhR. If you
> disagree, please do so with specific quotes. I respect people but by now you
> know that I dont have fear of established order.

I think a careful reading of the two Acharyas' commentaries on the two
important verses, 12.6 and 7 does not give one the feeling that these two
Acharyas are concurring  with the view stated above.  MS makes a detailed
case for distinguishing the bhakti yogin from the jnAna yogin and concludes:

After going to Brahmaloka, at the end of enjoying the bhoga-s of that loka,
he, the erstwhile bhakta-upAsaka, will gain the NirguNa BrahmavidyA in that
loka and eventually get liberated.  This is the idea conveyed by Shankara
too in the commentary for the word 'अथ ऊर्ध्वं’  = शरीरपातादूर्ध्वम्
(12.8). This bhashya is about the saguNopaasaka, the aspirant whose
everything is centered on the VishvarUpa Ishwara/Brahman. For such a one who
has completely turned away from the attractions of the world, the reward has
to be the highest.  Yet, the difference between the vairAgya-pUrvaka nirguNa
Brahma sAdhana that can culminate in the Brahman-Realization in this life
itself and the great upAsaka stated above is that in the latter's case the
nirguNa  BrahmavidyA is had ONLY in Brahmaloka and from there the final
liberation. This has to be inferred from Shankara's bhashya of 12.8.
शरीरपातादूर्ध्वम् permanent union with Brahman is possible ONLY thru
Brahmaloka.  Otherwise it will be jivanmukti here and after the fall of the
body, videha mukti.  So, Shankara talks about the bhakta-upAsaka only here.
MS has not deviated from this.

In the Mundakopanishad bhashya for the mantra where it is said 'in
Brahmaloka the attainment of Atman knowledge is very clearly possible'
Shankara says that though this is the case 'it is extremely difficult to
reach there'.  What does this mean?  It only means that it is extremely
difficult for one to withdraw completely from the worldly snares and be
totally devoted to Ishwara.  The reward for this undoubtedly tough sadhana
is very great: going to Brahmaloka and getting the AtmavidyA there and
liberation.  For the Jnana yogi, too, the sadhana is extremely tough, going
by the Gita 12.4 and 5.  The Lord and, following Him, the Acharyas too get
into this 'pep talk' mode, if I can call it so.  They have on hand an
adhikAri who is inclined to Ishwara Bhakti.  His saguNa inclination aught
not to be snubbed.  He is to be given all the encouragement to get complete
involvement in it.  So, by the rule of 'न हि निन्दा न्यायः’ the nirguNa
sadhana, called jnAna yoga, is shown as 'very tough' compared to the saguNa
sadhana.  Actually both are equally tough demanding great vairagyam for the
world and its various goals, here and the hereafter.  Both get the same
reward: AtmavidyA. This is Jnana.  ONLY through jnana does the bhakta as
well as the jnana yogi attain moksha.  The only difference, as pointed out
above, is that the bhakta gets it in brahmaloka and the jnanayogi gets it
here itself.  Considering all these points we conclude that it would be
incorrect to hold this opinion:

//As to whether bhakti yoga and jnana yoga are two distinct paths leading to
ultimate goal of advaita siddhi, I am (so far) convinced that they are
according both Sankara and Madhusudana. //

They are not distinct in the sense that bhakti does not straightaway lead
one to advaitasiddhi, moksha.  They both are non-distinct in the sense that
both reach a certain state where the mind is fit to receive the liberating
Atma jnana.
 This is what is called chitta shuddhi. ज्ञानादेव तु कैवल्यम्‘ is an
inviolable rule. Both Shankara and MS hold that these two are not distinct,
mutually exclusive, independent paths to moksha.

If RV has only meant the above in his statement quoted by me, then there is
nothing to debate on.


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