[Advaita-l] Bhakti in Shankara's Works

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Thu Jun 16 01:34:53 CDT 2011


Here is a reproduction from an old post of mine:

The sAdhanA required to attain this (Advaitic) realization:

The Scriptures have laid out a three-phased sadhana that will ensure the
attainment of this goal:  1. Karma, 2. Bhakti/upAsana and 3.Jnana.

Karma is the performing of actions that we are required to accomplish in our
various roles in life.  These actions, of the mind, body and speech, are to
be done in the manner of worship of the Lord who is the Supreme Power that
runs the universe through His shakti called mAyA.  When one progresses in
dedicating the fruits of the actions to the Lord and gradually dedicating
even the actions and the very ego that functions behind actions as ‘I am the
doer’, one attains great purity of mind.  One’s mind naturally develops love
for the Lord and engages in every action solely to please the Lord,
irrespective of whether the Lord is pleased or not.  Every action is done in
the spirit of ‘arpaNam’, offering, and every fruit of action that comes is
taken as ‘prasAda’, the Lord’s loving gift to us.  This is the essence of
surrender, sharaNAgati.  The Lord specifies such bhakti as:

यत: प्रवृत्तिर्भूतानां येन सर्वमिदं ततम् ।

स्वकर्मणा तमभ्यर्च्य सिद्धिं विन्दति मानवः ॥ 18.46

Shankaracharya comments:  Him from whom all creation proceeds and Him by
whom all this creation is pervaded, That Ishwara who is the antaryAmin, the
Ruler within, when worshiped through one’s allotted actions, there results
perfection, in so far as he becomes qualified for the devotion of knowledge
– jnAna niShThA.

The Lord promises that He Himself will destroy the bondage-causing-ignorance
in such devoted souls and release them from samsara, which is finitude,

तेषामेवानुकम्पार्थं अहमज्ञानजं तमः ।

नाशयाम्यात्मभावस्थो ज्ञानदीपेन भास्वता ॥ 10.11

Shankaracharya comments:

तेषामेव कथं नु नाम श्रेयः स्यात् इति अनुकम्पार्थं दयाहेतोः अहम् अज्ञानजम्
अविवेकतः जातं मिथ्याप्रत्ययलक्षणं मोहान्धकारं तमः नाशयामि, आत्मभावस्थः
आत्मनः भावः अन्तःकरणाशयः तस्मिन्नेव स्थितः सन् ज्ञानदीपेन विवेकप्रत्ययरूपेण
भक्तिप्रसादस्नेहाभिषिक्तेन मद्भावनाभिनिवेशवातेरितेन
ब्रह्मचर्यादिसाधनसंस्कारवत्प्रज्ञावर्तिना विरक्तान्तःकरणाधारेण
नित्यप्रवृत्तैकाग्र्यध्यानजनितसम्यग्दर्शनभास्वता ज्ञानदीपेनेत्यर्थः।।

// Out of mercy, anxious as to how they may attain bliss, I dwell in their
mind which is engaged in thinking exclusively of the Self and destroy the
darkness of ignorance – that illusory knowledge which is caused by the
absence of discrimination – by the lamp of wisdom, by the lamp of
discriminatory knowledge, fed by the oil of pure Devotion (bhakti-prasAda),
fanned by the wind of earnest meditation on Me, furnished with the wick of
right intuition purified by the cultivation of piety, chastity and other
virtues, held in the mind which is completely detached from all worldly
concerns, placed in the wind-sheltered enclosure of the mind which is
withdrawn from the sense-objects and untainted by attachment and aversion,
and shining with the light of right knowledge generated by incessant
practice of concentration and meditation.  //

The above commentary is a complete guide for sadhana by itself, in a concise
form.  It says everything that is required of an aspirant after liberation:
Discrimination, viveka, Dispassion, vairagya, Disciplines – shamAdiShaTka
sampatti, Deep desire for liberation – mumukShutvam, and Devotion to the
Supreme God.

Shankara, commenting on the Bhagavadgita verse 13.18, says:

अस्मिन् सम्यग्दर्शने कः अधिक्रियते इति उच्यते -- मद्भक्तः मयि ईश्वरे
सर्वज्ञे परमगुरौ वासुदेवे समर्पितसर्वात्मभावः यत् पश्यति शृणोति स्पृशति वा
'सर्वमेव भगवान् वासुदेवः' *इत्येवंग्रहाविष्टबुद्धिः *मद्भक्तः। स एतत्
यथोक्तं सम्यग्दर्शनं विज्ञाय, मद्भावाय मम भावः मद्भावः परमात्मभावः तस्मै
मद्भावाय उपपद्यते मोक्षं गच्छति।।  (One is reminded of the word
'कृष्णग्रहाविष्टः’ of the srImadbhAgavatam while describing the state of
PrahlAda as he was a young boy. He was not enamoured by the toys that he was
given in a bounty.  He was 'possessed' as it were by a 'spirit' called
'kriShNa'.)  It is doubtful if Shankara has surpassed Himself anywhere else
compared to the expression of Bhakti here.  Nor can anyone surpass Him in

//Who is fit to attain this right knowledge? He who is devoted to Me, who
regards Me, Vasudeva, the Supreme Lord, the Omniscient, the Supreme Guru, as
the Self, the Soul, the Essence, of everything, i.e., he who is possessed,
as it were, with the idea that all that he sees or hears or touches is
nothing but the Lord, Vasudeva.  Thus devoted to Me, and having attained the
right knowledge described above, he is fit to attain to My state, i.e. he
attains Moksha.//

The bhakti of the saadhana state manifests in its completely mature form in
the realized souls.

Verse 14 of Shivanandalahari:

प्रभुस्त्वं दीनानां खलु परमबन्धुः पशुपते

प्रमुख्योऽहं तेषामपि किमुत बन्धुत्वमनयोः ।

त्वयैव क्षन्तव्याः शिव मदपराधाश्च सकलाः

प्रयत्नात्कर्तव्यं मदवनमियं बन्धुसरणिः ॥

O Lord of creatures! Are You not the Almighty as also the greatest friend of
the miserable, of whom I am the chief? Is there not, then, a close kinship
between us two? Therefore, O You bestower of good, You should forgive all my
transgressions and work for my salvation even if it be fraught with
difficulty.  For this is the test of close relationship everywhere.

Verse 68 of the Shivanandalahari:

अमितमिदमृतं मुहुर्दुहन्तीं

विमल-भवत्पदमावसन्तीम् ।

सदय पशुपते सुपुण्यपाकां

मम परिपालय भक्तिधेनुमेकाम् ॥

O Thou merciful cowherd ! Protect that only cow of mine – the cow of
devotion to Thee – which yields continually as milk an endless supply of the
nectar of joy, which lives in the cow-pen of Thy holy feet, and which I have
acquired as the result of my meritorious deeds.


*Verse 27 of the Soundaryalahari:*

japo jalpaḥ śilpaṁ sakalamapi mudrā-viracanā

gatiḥ pradakṣiṇya-kramaṇamaśanādyāhuti-vidhiḥ |

praṇāmaḥ saṁveśaḥ sukhamakhilamātmārpaṇa-dṛśā

saparyā-paryāyastava bhavatu yanme vilasitam ||

Let the mutterings that I do, with the yajna in my soul become chanting of
your name, Let all my movements become thine Mudras, Let my travel become
perambulations around thee, Let the act of eating and drinking become
sacrifice to thee,
Let my act of sleeping become namaskarams to you , And let all actions of
pleasure of mine, become parts of thine worship.

Advaita never equates a jiva to God, Ishwara.  In Advaita the concept of
Ishwara, God, is different from that of Consciousness, Brahman.  This
distinction is most unmistakably brought out in these two representative
works of Shankaracharya:
In a verse of the ShaTpadI stotram the devotee prays:

सत्यपि भेदापगमे नाथ तवाहं न मामकीनस्त्वम् ।

सामुद्रो हि तरङ्गः क्वचन समुद्रो न तारङ्गः ॥

satyapi bhedApagame nAtha tavAham na mamakInastvam |
sAmudro hi tara~NgaH kvachana samudro na tara~NgaH || 3 ||

Even at the time of true realization, when I see no differences,
I am but a part of you, and you are never my part,
For a wave is a part of the ocean and the ocean can never be a part of the

Then can't we claim that the jIvAtma is paramAtma? AcArya says no to this
'ego' manifestation. Just as the individual wave rises in the ocean and
dissolves into the ocean indistinguishably; yet the wave cannot claim that
it is the ocean!

This realization is the ultimate form of sharaNAgati/prapatti!

Now contrast this with the opening stanza of the nirvANa ShaTkam where the
sAdhaka contemplates:

// I am not the mind, nor the intellect, nor the ego-sense, nor the
store-house of memories. I am not the ear, nor the tongue, nor the nose, nor
the eyes. Nor am I the sky (space), or the earth, or fire, or air. I am the
supreme auspiciousness of the form of consciousness-bliss. I am the
auspiciousness. //

Thus while a clear distinction is maintained between the devotee and God
(Ishwara), the identity is taught only when the body-mind appendage is
separated from the jiva, at the ultimate Consciousness level.

In the realm of ‘difference’, it is possible to visualize the Infinite
Brahman as a child, caress it, cuddle it, threaten it, command it to obey
one’s bidding and reprimand it if it does not obey.  Sri Purandaradasa has
given expression to these emotions in an enchanting manner.  His songs:
‘Gummana kareyadire’
jagadoddhAraNa’ are just two in this category.  Papanasam Sivan’s
’enna tavam seidanai Yeshodha..’  is another gem in this line.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list