[Advaita-l] Bhakti and Jnana

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed Feb 8 22:50:40 CST 2012

On Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 3:01 AM, <rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> I hear para bhakti being equated to jnana. I would like to know how
> otherwise they can be equated. They are two different words with distinctly
> different meanings.

Shankara has equated only parAbhakti and parAjnAnaniShThA.  The point to be
noted is, for this person the commitment, the adoration, etc. for the Self
(Brahman) is so high that nothing else in the world takes its place.  The
word 'niShThA' is crucial.  Again, any equation of bhakti and jnana is in
the plane where the body-mind apparatus is still alive.  It is only in this
state and this state alone that it is possible to talk of any 'nishThA' and

The word 'bhakti' is often said to be arising from the root 'bhaj' meaning
'sevAyAm' where one commits himself to something that is other than him.
 Even when Shankara equates parAbhakti with parAjnAnaniShThA it is only the
jiva, the holder of the mind-body apparatus, that commits himself to the
Self/Brahman.  The 'sevanam' by the jiva of the Self/Brahman affords
occasion for the use of the term bhakti or niShThA.  Having said this, it
is needless to reiterate that this 'niShThA' or 'sevanam' is impossible in
the videha kaivalya where the sine qua non for bhakti / niShThA /sevanam
which is the body-mind apparatus is no longer available.  There is no way
Advaita Acharyas can talk of 'a Jnani post-death having supreme nishTha in
Atman/Brahman or bhakti / sevanam for Atman/Brahman'.

Even the definitions of the VC quoted by Sada ji are expressions possible
ONLY when the body-mind apparatus is available, for no 'sva
svarUpAnusandhAnam' or 'svAtmatattvAnusandhAnam' can take place post-death,
for anusandhAnam requires the mind.

> Madhusudana treats them as distinct entities but equates them on the basis
> that they are ultimate goal, which is bliss. That sounds logical but not
> equating bhakti to jnana. Any explanation please?

Even when Madhusudana might equate bhakti with jnana and specify them as
the ultimate goal, bliss, it is possible only in the pre-death stage and
never post-death.  For nowhere in the Advaitic lore have we found any
Acharya saying 'this Jnani is experiencing the highest bliss in videha
kaivalya'.  To say that the Jnani (who was so when alive) is non different
from Ananda or Chit that is Brahman is not incorrect but to say that the
Jnani is experiencing / doing bhakti post-death is an impossibility.  In
other words in Advaita the term 'bhakti' ceases to have any operation in
the post-death scenario.


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