[Advaita-l] Did Madhusudana Saraswati Reconcile Bhakti and Advaita?

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Sat Feb 4 06:09:25 CST 2012

2012/2/4 श्रीमल्ललितालालितः <lalitaalaalitah at gmail.com>

> *
> *
>  bhakti as defined by shrI-sha~Nkara in vivekachUDAmaNi is one of the
> types of bhakti accepted by madhusUdana. This is just re-branding of
> GYAnam. We accept that such bhakti is same as GYAnam and not greater and
> better than that.
> Other types of bhakti-s are special types of rasa originating from
> shravaNa, kIrttana, etc. They are definitely limited in their scope. They
> can't be said higher and better than GYAna. This is what members tried to
> tell you in a previous threads.

Rajaram: This view is based on ignorance of the works of Madhusudana. This
is exactly the view that the opponent gives and Madhusudana Saraswati
crushes it in his inimitable style. The opponent in BhR says "Devotion to
the Lord is merely knowledge of Brahman by another name... hence the
undertaking of this enquiry is useless" (nAmAntarena brahmavidyaiva
bhagavad bhakti: ... vyartho 'yam vicarArambha:). But Madhusudana says that
"Devotion and Knowledge have distinct natures, means, ends and
qualifications for eligibility" (svarUpasAdhanaphalAdhikArivailakshanyAt)
(BR 1.11). Madhusudana demonstrate his knowledge of the homology between
bhaktivrtti and akhandAkAravrtti and the conceptual similarity between
devotion as the reflection of bhagavat and knowledge as the reflection of
brahman. But he also highlights the difference. Madhsudana
explains,"Devotion is a deteminate mental modification, the mind's taking
the form of the Bhagavat after becoming melted (cittdruti). Knowledge of
Brahman is an indeterminate mental modification whose object is the
secondless Self only, and it is not preceded by melting of the mind".
Please note that melting of the mind happens after its purification
(cittasuddhi) through naishkamya karma. "The hearing of the compositions
that bring together the exalted qualities of the Bhagavat  is the means to
devotion, while the means to knowledge of Brahman is the great sayings of
the Upanishads such as Thou are That". In terms of qualification
Madhusudana says, "While all living beings are qualified for devotion, only
the renunciates of the highest degree who are possessed of the four fold
means are eligible for knowledge of brahman". The result of devotion is
"abundance of love for the Bhagavat" and the result of knowledge of Brahman
is "cessation of ignorance".  Those whose mind is conditioned to think that
according to advaitam bhakti is merely a means to citta suddhi will think
that liberation does not come through devotion which is reserved for
renunciates who can meditate deeply on tat tvam asi etc. But Madhusudana
clarifies that "a devotee does not desire devotion but the Lord gives it
anyway". One may say that he attains liberation at the end of the kalpa
through jnanopadesam but Madhusudana says that "he attains in this life
itself even without the need for a guru!" (Gudartha Dipika). One may argue
that a devotee does not experience nirvikalpa samadhi because he is
attached to the form and qualities of the Lord. But Madhusudana says that
the devotee attains that also (too big an analysis to quote here). The
opponent argues that Bhakti has to end but Madhusudana says it is eternal
and identical to nirupadhika Ishwara - so no end. The best spin or the
curve ball as they call it in the US comes here. "Real devotion starts
after realization of the essential nature of the Lord (svarupAdhigati) or
jivan mukti". He lists five advanced stages that a bhakta, who is an atma
rama or a jivan mukta, experiences after realizing Brahman. This high place
for bhakti is not unique to Bhaktirasayana but also Gudartha Dipika and
other works.

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