[Advaita-l] Is this list's position on bhakti correct?

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Tue Jun 14 08:59:24 CDT 2011

On Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 1:46 PM, Vidyasankar Sundaresan <
svidyasankar at hotmail.com> wrote:

> What you quote is list policy, as determined at the time of setting up the
> list.
> There is NO one general position on any topic that is maintained by this
> list.
> There are many individual subscribers to this list, and for any given
> topic,
> there are potentially as many positions as there are members on this list.
> Advaita-L is meant to be a a forum to share thoughts, opinions and
> analyses,
> to aid the philosophical ruminations of every single member. The wording of
> the list policy is targeted towards bhakti *as commonly understood* by most
> people, not as redefined by AcArya-s such as madhusUdana sarasvatI pAda.
> The policy is meant as a guideline to facilitate harmonious discussion; it
> is
> by no means interpretable as a siddhAnta that anyone is required to accept.
> RV: The forum policy gives a lower status to bhakti than jnana, which I
argue is not the traditional advaita position. Hence, I call for a revision
of the policy. It is like US constitution which hundred years considered
blacks three-fourth human and luckily re-written.

> A "traditional" advaitin would argue that atma jnana is the only path. All
> others, including bhakti, will lead to citta suddhi and culminate in
> Madhusudana Saraswati argues that bhakti is an independent spiritual path
> with no quest for liberation through jnana!

Citation please. Original Sanskrit if possible; not filtered through
> somebody's
> translation. Where exactly does Madhusudana Sarasvati divorce bhakti from
> jnAna and talk of the former as an independent path/goal that is mutually
> exclusive of (or independent of?) jnAna.**

> Bhakti is a supreme independent goal but *mutually exclusive to
> jnana* because bhakti is Isvara svarUpa and so is jnAna. That moksha is
> paramapurushartha and Isvara is jnana svarupam is something we all agree.
> But it is the lower status of bhakti as only a means to citta suddhi or
> mere mano-vrtti not Isvara svarupa that I counter based on what Madhusudana
> says.

> 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."bhagavadbhaktiyogasy*api* 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".

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!

> A "traditional" advaitin would argue that jivan mukti is the highest stage
> attainable before videha mukti but for Madhusudana Saraswati there are
> stages of bhakti rasa after attaining jivan mukti!

Au contraire, all traditional advaitin-s, with the exception of a few in
> recent
> times, talk of jIvanmukti as a varied and multi-faceted phenomenon. I would
> disagree with the words "highest stage attainable before videhamukti",
> because
> unlike videhamukti, which is defined by the event of physical death,
> jIvanmukti
> is not a specific event in time.
> I believe a rethinking of whom you mean by "traditional advaitin" is
> required on
> your part! I would suggest beginning with a good and detailed reading of
> some
> of the biographical accounts of the recent Sankaracharyas, who are
> traditional
> advaitins par excellence, *by definition*. Your ideas about what the
> traditional
> advaitin would say about bhakti and jIvanmukti may just receive a
> challenge.
> Based on what I hear, I believe that Kanchi Maha Periyava and Sringeri
Mahaperivaya were both parama bhaktas who relished vedanta bhakti though
only popular as jnanis. Sadasiva Brahmendral is another example I can think
of. Pl. suggest if there are authentic works that narrate the lives of
acharyas in Sankara tradition.

> Regards,
> Vidyasankar
> ** I am using the terms "mutually exclusive of" and "independent of" in
> their
> rigorous contemporary mathematical meanings (see for example,
> http://mathforum.org/library/drmath/view/69825.html).
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