[Advaita-l] Definition of Bhakti in Advaita

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sat Jul 23 12:52:54 CDT 2011

On Sat, Jul 23, 2011 at 3:33 PM, Rajaram Venkataramani <
rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> Sankara and Madhusudana define bhakti as knowledge (cf.18.54_. Where to
> find upanishadic support for this definition? Thanks.


In the Bhagavadgita Ch. 7 it is stated in clear terms by the Lord that of
the four types of bhakta-s the Jnani is the Supreme and that the Jnani is
none different from the Lord Himslef: ज्ञानी तु आत्मैव... एकभक्तिः, *प्रियो
हि ज्ञानिनोऽत्यर्थं* अहं स च मम प्रियि'' (गी. 7. 17) ...

In the Br.Up. we have this teaching:

'तदेतत्प्रेयः पुत्रात्प्रेयो वित्तात्प्रेयोऽन्यस्मात्सर्वस्मादन्तरतरं
यदयमात्मा । ...Br.Up.1.4.8
//This Self is dearer than a son, dearer than wealth, dearer than everything
else, and is innermost.  Should a person (holding the Self as dear) say to
one calling anything else dearer than the Self, '(What you hold) dear will
die' - he is certainly competent (to say so) - it will indeed come true.
One should meditate upon the Self alone as dear.  ..//

*न वा अरे सर्वस्य कामाय* सर्वं प्रियं भवति। आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं
भवति। *आत्मा वा अरे द्रष्टव्यः* श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्यो मैत्रेयि,
आत्मनो वा अरे दर्शनेन श्रवणेन मत्या विज्ञानेन इदं सर्चं विदितम् | ...Br.Up.

//...It is not for the sake of all, my dear, that all is loved, but for
one's own sake that it is loved.  The Self, my dear Maitreyi, should be
realized - should be heard of, reflected on and meditated upon.  By the
realization of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection and
meditation, all this is known.//

In another bhashyam of the same upanishad Shankara says:

//तथा च 'आत्मनस्तु कामाय सर्वं प्रियं भवति' इत्युक्त्वा, ... आत्मा प्रियः
प्रसिध्दः तस्यैव द्रष्टव्यश्रोतव्यमन्तव्यनिदिध्यासितव्यतां दर्शयति। तथा

च विद्योपन्यासकाले 'आत्मेत्येवोपासीत' 'तदेतत्प्रेयः पुत्रात्प्रेयो वित्तात्'
'तदात्मानमेवावेदहं ब्रह्मास्मि ---' इत्येवमादिवाक्यानामानुलोम्यं स्यात्
पराभावे. वक्ष्यति च --- 'आत्मानं चेद्विजानीयादयमस्मीति पूरुषः' इति।
सर्ववेदान्तेषु च प्रत्यगात्मवेद्यतैव प्रदर्श्यते --- अहमिति, न बहिर्वेद्यता
शब्दादिवत् प्रदर्श्यते असौ

ब्रह्मेति। तथा कौषीतकिनामेव 'न वाचं विजिज्ञासीत वक्तारं विद्यात्' इत्यादिना
वागादिकरणैर्व्यावृत्तस्य कर्तुरेव वेदितव्यतां दर्शयति।//

 The overall meaning of the above is: The Self is the dearest of all for
everyone.  That alone is shown, taught, by the Upanishad as the one worthy
of realizing, knowing, for attainment of the ultimate purpose of life:
parama puruShArtha.  The Upanishad does not show something external to
oneself as the Goal; it takes great pain to show that such a Goal is one's
own Self, oneself. It goes to great lengths to separate the Self from - the
senses, prANa, manas, intellect and ego - all of which claim the status of
the Self owing to the ignorance of the jiva.  Thus, that which is distinct
from all these, bereft of the attributes of all these, is the one that is
most loveable, the most sought after, for everyone without any exception is
the Atman.  Knowledge of this Self is mokSha.

 In fact this one mantra of the Br.Up 4.4.12: आत्मानं चेद्विजानीयादयमस्मीति
पूरुषः | किमिच्छन्कस्य कामाय शरीरमनुसंज्वरेत् || is enough proof of the fact
that the Jnani who has attained the highest goal is not at all in need of
any other attainment ceases to aspire for and attain anything in the world.
His fulfillment if supreme.  This jnanam which is the source of tRpti is
what means total unflinching devotion, bhakti, to the Self. The Panchadashi
of Vidyaranya has this mantra for its subject matter in the seventh chapter
called 'तृप्तिदीपः’.  The whole chapter consisting of 298 verses is a
commentary on this seminal mantra of the Upanishads.

 These other mantras too of the Br.Up. are proof of the Jnani's attainment
of the Supreme state where he has nothing else to seek; this is the
characteristic of supreme bhakti, devotion to nothing else but the self.  It
is that effortless flow of devotion to the Self which is  never an object
but the very subject itself of the 'devotee':

 स ब्राह्मणः केन स्याद्येन स्यात् तेन ईदृश एव 3.5.1

[How does the knower of Brahman behave? Howsoever he may behave, he is just

 एष नित्यो महिमा ब्राह्मणस्य न वर्धते कर्मणा नो कनीयान् 4.4.23

[This is the eternal glory of a knower of Brahman; it neither increases nor
decreases through (good or bad) action.]

 These above quotes are pertinent in the context of the Bh.G. 18.54 where
the प्रसन्नता, शोकमोहकाङ्क्षाराहित्यम्, सर्वभूतेषु समभावः and पराभक्ति: for
the Lord (Self) are the characteristics.  The tRpti aspect is very
prominently depicted in the above mantras.

 So, we see that the various terms 'artha', 'arthanam', prArthanaa, preetiH,
priyaH, bhaktiH, bhajanam, sevanam, jnAnam, Atman, Bhagavaan, AtmakAma,
AptakAma, akAma, mokShakAma, etc are all connected closely.  From the above
we find that it is the Jnani who has/had set the realization, jnanam, of the
Self as his topmost priority: arthanam.  He is called a bhakta and his, nay
he himself, is called eka-bhaktiH. His bhakti is not the sAdhana-bhakti but
the sAdhya bhakti itself.

 We may not find the exact term bhakti corresponding to Jnanam in the
Upanishads but the purport of the various quotes we have seen above show in
unmistakable terms that it is this supreme love, devotion, to one's Self
that is termed jnanam.  In fact it is the purpose of the smRti to bring out
in more explicit terms what is contained in implicit terms in the
Upanishads. That is the reason why Shankara says 'जानलक्षणया भक्त्या’ in
several places in the GitAbhAShyam.  The word 'lakShaNA' is crucial in the
understanding of the true purport of the various mantras quoted above, as a
sample.  Jnanam becomes the lakShaNA, the indicator, for the kind of bhakti
that is spoken of here. And the above quoted mantras give us a fairly good
idea about what that Jnanam is, why is it sought, what will be the
characteristics of the Jnani who possesses that Jnanam, etc.

 Om Tat Sat

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