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

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Sat Jul 30 00:19:52 CDT 2011

I hope my previous message also made clear (once again) the context in which
I used terms like "sincere", "basics", etc earlier in the thread. As the
very purpose of vedAnta is to lead the sAdhaka to mokSha, one cannot be
sincere towards it without at least being a mumukShu. Likewise one who has
internalized the basics (AtmA is non-dual and nitya mukta, avidyA pertaining
to this is the problem and therefore j~nAna the solution) will have no
doubts whatsoever regarding the centrality of j~nAna. For these reasons, it
is generally very useful to have an exposure to traditional teachers, at
least for some time. It enables one to appreciate the perspective of the

In this context, it is useful to have a look at the step-by-step progress of
a sAdhaka as explained very clearly by sureshvarAchArya in the
naiShkarmyasiddhi. In the sambandhokti to naiShkarmyasiddhi 1.52 he says:

nityakarmAnuShThAnAt dharma utpattiH
dharma utpatteH pApa hAniH
tataH chitta-shuddhiH
tataH saMsAra-yAthAtmya-avabodhaH
tataH vairAgyaM
tataH mumukShutvaM
tataH tad upAya paryeShaNam
tataH sarva-karma-tat-sAdhana-saMnyAsaH
tataH yogAbhyAsaH
tataH chittasya pratyag pravaNatA
tataH `tat tvam asi' Adi vAkyArtha parij~nAnam
tataH avidyA ucchedaH
tataH cha svAtmani eva avasthAnam

The performance of nityakarma yields dharma (puNya)
dharma destroys pApa (any obstacles to AdhyAtimika inclinations)
then comes chitta shuddhi
then the understanding of saMsAra (doSha darshanam)
then vairAgya
then mumukShutvaM
then the search for the means (of mokSha)
then the renunciation of karma and the setup thereof ('sAdhana' here refers
to the setup conducive for karma, i.e. the gRhasthAshrama in a traditional
sense, or obligations, relationships, etc in a more general sense)
then yogAbhyAsa (aShTA~Nga yoga)
then the introversion of the chitta
then the understanding of statements such as 'tat tvam asi'etc
then the destruction of avidyA
then abidance in the AtmA alone

Of course, this need not happen in the exact same sequence as there is an
element of non-linearity in the process. But the point is that nowhere is
bhakti (as conventionally understood, in the sense of bhajana etc or
devotion to any saguNa mUrti) mentioned anywhere among the steps. bhakti can
be included in the first step as the attitude with which one performs karma
(by dedicating it to Ishvara), or in the form of Ishvara praNidhAna in the
yogAbhyAsa stage as one of the niyama-s. But, final mokSha requires the
destruction of avidyA which takes place through j~nAna alone.

This does not, of course, mean that bhakti is rejected. In fact, advaita
AchArya-s have always valued it as a means to chitta-shuddhi, or even as one
of the niyama-s as part of yogAbhyAsa. But one cannot treat it as a separate
mArga or as a substitute for j~nAna, and certainly not as something "better"
(!) than j~nAna.

Of course, if one uses bhakti to mean j~nAna, j~nAnaniShThA or vichAra then
one is only affirming the centrality of j~nAna.

In fact, j~nAna is so central that even manana & nidhidhyAsana are regarded
as being subsidiary to shravaNa. The pramANa status of the mahAvAkya-s is
the key point to be understood. This point is repeatedly explained in one
way or the other by many AchArya-s. This is the primary theme of the
naiShkarmyasiddhi as well.

See for example, upadesha sAhasrI (tattvamasi prakaraNa: 18.190-191),
repeated in naiShkarmyasiddhi 4.31-32

nityamuktatva-vij~nAnaM vAkyAdbhavati nAnyataH
vAkyArthasyApi vij~nAnaM padArthasmRtipUrvakam
anvayavyatirekAbhyAM padArthaH smaryate dhruvaM
evaM nirduHkhamAtmAnamakriyaM pratipadyate

The knowledge of being ever free is obtained from the mahAvAkya only and
from no other source. The knowledge of the meaning of the sentence is
obtained from the knowledge of the meanings of the words, and these meanings
in turn are understood through the methods of anvaya and vyatireka. Thus one
knows oneself to be sorrowless and actionless.

All the effort that the sAdhaka puts in is ONLY to create the (mental)
conditions for the shAstra-pramAna to operate.

Even if one says that Ishvara grants mokSha, Ishvara can do so only through
mahAvAkya-upadesha. Ultimately, it is j~nAna alone that liberates. After
all, the AtmA is j~nAnasvarUpa!

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