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

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 31 12:34:25 CDT 2011

In the context of this discussion it may be useful to read just one (of many) excerpts from Deivathin Kural - wherein His Holiness Kanchi Mahaswamigal expounds about this precise subject at great length and with great clarity. 
(thanks to Prof Vk-ji for kindly providing the english translation online - the complete work can be found at www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/downloads/sadhana.pdf)

Hari OM
Shri Gurubhyoh namah


Bhakti of the path of JnAna, enunciated by the Veda itself
In the path of jnAna the direct SAdhanA that finally takes you to the destination is called ‘nidhidhyAsanaM’. It is also considered as belonging to dhyAna-yoga. When considered like that, it is thought of as continuous reflection on the tattvaM, without the notions of life, relationship, etc. But it is not so. It has to be practised only as dhyAna-yoga in which the bhakti yoga of self-surrender through a relationship with the Universal Life is imbedded. In Vivekachudamani itself the Acharya has made this explicit in another place. He doesn’t talk of it as his opinion alone. He says the commandment of the Veda itself is this: (Shloka 46/48)
*shraddhA-bhakti-dhyAna-yogAn mumukShoH
mukter-hetUn vakti sAkShAt shruter-gIH /*
A basic shraddhA, over and above it a mix of Bhakti yoga and dhyAna-yoga – which means dhyAna yoga in which the Bhakti attitude is imbedded -- this is what leads to mukti for a mumukShu. Thus says the Veda itself. *shruteH gIH* means “the word of the Veda”. “Is that so? Does the Veda itself say that in the path of jnAna there is also bhakti? Where does it say so? In Kaivalya Upanishad. It occurs in Krishna Yajur Veda. The beginning itself of its teaching says
meaning, By shraddhA, bhakti and dhyAna-yoga (reach brahman).
It is these words of Upanishads that formed the basis of the Acharya’s own statements. It is not only in Vivekachudamani that the Acharya has talked about Bhakti as an ‘antaranga SAdhanA’ of jnAna. Even in (Brahma-)Sutra-Bhashya he has said the same thing. Why did I say “Even in”? Among the various Bhashyas, expository works and stotras in the name of the authorship of Acharya, there are many questions raised about whether it was he who wrote it. Though people ask such questions of one another, one thing that all of them unanimously agree about is his authorship of Brahma-Sutra Bhashya. Further, among all his works on advaita shAstra, it stands at the peak. So whatever is said there has a high value. In Brahma-sUtra, the means of achieving Brahman-experience is called *samrAdhanaM* . (III -2-24). The word gives the same meaning as ‘ArAdhanaM’ or ‘samArAdhanaM’. The worship through bhakti is called ‘ArAdhanA’ in general. Here,
 worship through jnAna is called ‘samrAdhanaM’. When the Acharya elaborates on the word in his Bhashya, he says *bhakti-dhyAna-praNidhAnAdi anushhTAnaM*.
*praNidhAnaM* is a word synonymous with ‘samAdhi’ or ‘samAdhAnaM’ ; it means a complete one-pointed unification. Whenever we think of jnAna-SAdhanA for the purpose of Brahman-experience, we always think, in line with the Acharya’s teachings, that it is a discipline of meditation by making the antaHkaraNaM totally one-pointed. But the same Acharya here gives priority to bhakti and then only mentions dhyAna and recommends a praNidhAna (profound meditation) in both cases and by both means.
Like ArAdhanA, upAsanA also generally refers to worship of something with attributes. Not just ‘generally’. In Vedas and Vedanta ShAstras it is so referred. Instead of Karma-Bhakti – JnAna, the Vedic scholars call it Karma- UpAsanA – JnAna.
In Brahma Sutra (IV – 1 – 1) it says, one has to repeatedly recall (mananaM) the teaching that was learnt – in other words, one has to think about it, analyse it and confirm it . Here in the original sutra there is no mention of upAsanA done with bhakti, or the jnAna-SAdhanA based on the intellect. It is just a general mention of necessity for mental repetition. But it is clear from the organization of the Sutras that go before and after that the repetition recommended in the context is for a mumukShu who has formally obtained the MahAvakya teaching.
The Acharya has clearly emphasized this point in his commentary.
But when he finishes the commentary on this particular sutra, he himself takes up the matter of the upAsanA path and demonstrates how the Upanishads talk about both the process of upAsanA and the process of knowing as the same without any distinction between them.
DhyAna is the continuous dwelling mentally on the meaning of something which has been repeatedly already analysed (manana) by the mind after hearing it (shravaNa) as taught; in the same way if a disciple dwells his mind without break on his guru we call it guru-upAsanA; if a subject does the same thing to his Lord the King, we call it upAsanA of the King; a chaste wife does the same thing to her husband and we call it ‘pati (husband) upAsanA’ -- thus demonstrates the Acharya. Thus he delineates the highest bhAvas among all bhakti-bhAvas -- AtmanivedanaM (offering up of one’s self), dAsyaM (servitude), mAdhuryaM (Love) . Only after doing all this, he comes to the Upanishad matter of knowing and worshipping and says they have been spoken of as the same and also offers two examples in this context (ChandogyaM IV-1-4 and IV-2-2 for the first example; ChandogyaM III – 18-1 and III – 18 – 3 for the second example). Of the two, the first example is
 a great support to what we have been talking all along. Instead of keeping the goal as just an abstraction, it should be figured as a living entity and it should be contemplated on with love and devotion. Let me tell you what it is. One hamsa bird, as it flies along in the sky, tells another hamsa bird about a JnAni named Raikva in a most complimentary manner: “Whatever every one knows is all subsumed by what he knows”. This shows that he should be a brahma-JnAni. A King by name Janashruti, who was relaxing in the balcony of his house heard this statement of the bird and sets out to find this JnAni. And here comes our topic. He goes to request that JnAni to teach him that Knowledge which he knows. But when he goes there, he does not say: “Please teach me the Knowledge of Wisdom that you know”. Instead he says: “Please teach me about the Deity that you worship (do upAsanA)”! in other words, it is very clear that what we call Philosophical
 enquiry, research or contemplation, in Vedanta tradition is to be done with the attitude(bhAva) of a worship of a living mUrti (icon, deity). This is of great significance, since it is straight from the Upanishads, and our own Acharya has specifically quoted it, in almost what looks as an out-of-context mention. The Acharya, though he writes elaborately in his commentaries, usually makes all that elaboration only to explain what is there in the original; he never goes about in a round-about way or take unnecessary digressions. Even Vinobha has said: “The commentaries that he makes for the sUtras are themselves crisp like the sutras themselves. *vyartha-vistAr kahIm nahIm karte* (he nowhere does unnecessary elaborations)”. If such is the nature of our Acharya and here he appears to be drawing something out from a total out-of-context source, it only means it is of great significance.
At the same time he is a great supporter of Tradition. So probably he thought it not fit to explicitly mention and elaborate bhakti in his advaita shAstras and create confusion in the minds of unknowing people. So he might have left it for disciples to learn from their respective gurus at the appropriate time. However, when it comes to Viveka Chudamani in which he condescends to explain as if this is his final upadesha (teaching), in the manner of *eshha AdeshaH, eshha upadeshaH, etad-anushAsanaM* (This is the commandment, this is the teaching, this is the order), he talks about bhakti and mentions it as the most important of all the accessories to jnAna-yoga.
More than the idea that bhakti is an important accessory for jnAna, Lord Krishna has shown that jnAna itself is Bhakti. He mentions four categories of devotees and in naming them he lists ‘ArtI, jijnAsu, arthArthI and jnAnI’ (B.G. VII – 16: Arto jijnAsur-arthArthI jnAnI ca bharatarshabha). ‘Arta’ means the distressed sufferer. ‘jijnAsu’ means the one desirous of knowledge, that is, the one who wants to know the Truth and makes effort to know. ‘ArthArthI’ means one who desires wealth, money, possessions, property, power etc. The fourth is JnAni himself. The formal order among these should be ArtaH, arthArthI, JijnAsu and jnAnI. For the purpose of metre requirements, the order has been changed in the Gita verse. Our business here is the mention, namely, the jnAnI as the topmost devotee. Why can’t we take him as a dvaita (dualistic) JnAni? – may be a quixotic question here. But this has been met with already by the Lord’s statement
 in the next verse : He has one-pointed devotion (*eka-bhaktiH*). The Lord caps this by the further statement *JnAni-tvAtmaiva me mataM* (JnAni and Myself are One – that is my final opinion). Later when he dwells on ‘bhakti-yoga’ itself and teaches the upAsanA (dualistic saguNa upAsanA) he only uses the words *atIva priyaH* (XII – 14 – 20) (most dear to Me), he never says “he is Myself”; from this it is clear (when he talks about this JnAni here) he refers only to the advaita-JnAni. In the teaching of bhakti-yoga he says: “The nirguNa-SAdhanA gives difficulties (klesha) and dukha (unhappiness) for those who are conscious of their body” and then goes on to teach the saguNa-upAsanA. In other words, for those who are too conscious of their body, the jnAna path is not easy to attain and that is why he teaches the saguNa upAsanA to them; not with the idea that the saguNa upAsanA is superior to the jnAna path. Let that be. Later when he
 starts talking about the qualities of the Bhakti upAsaka from the shloka *adveshhTA sarva-bhUtAnAM …* (The one who has no hate towards any being ,,,,) through seven or eight shlokas and winds up the chapter with “Such people are dearest to me”, it will be clear to any neutral observer that whatever qualities he has described here apply only to a JnAni. Nowhere has he said in Bhakti yoga, about revelling in the multifarious qualities of Bhagavan, weeping, laughing, dancing, singing, going into unconscious trance, establishing relationship with God through various moods like, servitude, filial affection, etc. or enjoying the ritual bathing (abhisheka) or decoreating the deity, etc. The qualities that He enunciates, viz., love and affection to all beings, getting rid of the feelings of ‘I’ and mine, equanimity with respect to happiness and misery, fear and delusion, contentment with whatever one gets and being independent of possession and
 property – all these qualities are only those of the JnAni! There is
 also one shloka which describes devotees:
Mac-cittA madgata-prANAH bodhayantaH parasparaM /
Kathayantashca mAM nityaM tushhyanti ca ramanti ca // B.G. X – 9
Those who have turned all their mind toward Me, who have reposed their very lives in Me, who are constantly enlightening each other and talking about Me and for whom that is the satisfaction and that is the delight! But note that this statement does not come in Bhakti Yoga or about those generally termed to be bhaktas. It comes under ‘ VibhUti Yoga’ where the Lord’s Glory and Power is declared to be manifested in the whole universe. In short He says those who see such Godly Power and Glory in everything repose their mind and life in the Lord and revel in thinking and talking about Him. However they are not dry philosophers, but ‘bhAva-samanvitAH’, that is, knowledgeable people (budhas) who are involved in God with Love. In other words they are like JnAnis as described by the Acharya. Further on when the Lord continues, He does not propose to give them Bhakti Yoga. He specifically promises to Grace them with the path of JnAna, that is, buddhi
 yoga; and burn any remnants of darkness of ignorance in them by the Lamp of Wisdom (jnAna deepena).
In the final chapter also He says “bhaktyA mAm abhijAnAti” – by bhakti one knows Me right; and thus emphasizes the jnAna angle. The root ‘jnA’ gives rise to both the words ‘jnAnaM’ as well as ‘jAnAti’. ‘Through Bhakti one knows Me as I am, thereby enters Me and by My Grace obtains the eternal Immortal position’ -- so ends His message in the advaita fashion. In pursuance of the same, while giving it to Arjuna, He says ‘Adopt Buddhi Yoga’ – not Bhakti Yoga!
Thus there is no ringing of bells, no offering of flowers, no relationship in several moods. However it is the mood of Love with which one gives Himself up to the Universal Life-Source and this apex bhakti is what plays an important role in the path of jnAna.

--- On Sat, 7/30/11, Ramesh Krishnamurthy <rkmurthy at gmail.com> wrote:

But the point is that nowhere is bhakti mentioned anywhere among the  steps.

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