[Advaita-l] Bhakti and Jnana

Sunil Bhattacharjya sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 13 01:03:06 CST 2012


The visishtadvaitins  are bent on showing that bhakti also transcends Prakriti, as they do not understand the very concept of the panchakoshas given in the Shruti. They want to show that Madhusudana Saraswati (MS) was a visishtadvain in the garb of an advaitin. They appear to pretend not to know that MS wrote Bhagavad Bhakti rasayana, when he was head over heels infatuated with the Achintya Bhedabheda, which Chaitanya Mahaprabhu professed  Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's guru was Keshav kashmiri Bhattacharya, who was again a disciple of Nimbarkacharya. With that kind of spiritual heritage it was difficult for MS to accept Adi Sankara's advaita in the beginning. However MS being an intelligent person could later on realize the truth about Advaita, once he difficultly understood Adi Sankara's Bhagavad Gita Bhashya. Thereafter he (MS) did not look back, though the visihtadvaitins try to to drag him to his earlier views, in their (visishtadvaitin's) own interest.


Sunil KB

 From: V Subrahmanian <v.subrahmanian at gmail.com>
To: A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org> 
Sent: Sunday, February 12, 2012 10:01 PM
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Bhakti and Jnana
On Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 11:48 PM, Rajaram Venkataramani <
rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> Rajaram: With due respects, I disagree. If you re-read the quote posted
> earlier, the key point is bhakti rasa is *eternal* and
> *imperishable* like brahmavidya phala and not limited to body-mind as well
> as time-space limitations. It is not possible if it is dependent on the
> body-mind complex and time-space as Sri Subrahmanian says because then it
> will be perishable on death and cannot be called eternal. Also, the
> comparison of bhakti rasa with brahma-vidya phala will pose challenge.
> Also, Madhusudana has stated why it is eternal as I said in my quote
> earlier that it is because bhakti rasa is non-different from bhagavat being
> His reflection in the druta mana (melted mind).

I think here lies the distinct feature of the school MS seems to represent
here.  He stresses the presence of a medium of reflection, the melted mind,
to be an eternal feature in order to keep the bhakti rasa alive as an
eternal entity.  Here is where we can conclusively say that this position
differs from the Vedanta.  In Vedanta the mind is a product of PrakRti. The
Bhagavadgita chapters 7 and 13 are evidence for this.  And in Vedanta,
Advaita, realization of moksha presupposes the knowledge that the prakRti
is non-existent in all periods of time.  The BG 2.16 and the last verse of
the 13th chapter specifically teach this.  Shankara writes at the latter
occasion: bhUtaprakRti moksham = the abhAvagamanam of the prakRti.  Thus,
the position where the mind, in its melted form, is to remain eternally in
order to support the reflection of Bhagavan/Brahman in it to enable the
Bhakti rasa/brahmavidyA to be eternal is undoubtedly opposed to Vedanta and
Advaita as taught by Shankara.  The very idea of non-duality is sacrificed
in the bid to eternalize bhakti rasa through postulating a melted mind that
remains eternally.

It is important to note that Acharyas like Vachaspati Mishra and Appayya
Dikshita and Vidyaranya have authored works that are not restricted to the
Advaita school but a variety of others as well like sAnkhya, alankAra,
yoga, etc.  It would be definitely wrong to strive to somehow harvest
Advaita from all these patently other works of these Acharyas whose
reputation in Advaita is undoubtedly very high.  I would like to think that
Madhusudana Saraswati too has authored works like the Bhaktirasayana to
cater to a different audience.  For example Appayya Dikshita has penned a
popular commentary on a Vishishtadvaita work which is regarded by that
school as commendable.  He has written on Shaiva siddhanta and Dvaita as
well.  It would be wrong to say that these works are somehow talking about
Advaita.  Similarly MS's bhakti literature with the tell-tale-evidence of
maintaining a melted mind eternally cannot be taken to be a treatise on
Advaita by any means.  The distinction, even at the fundamental level, is
unmistakable.  The bhakta-bhagavan duality is clearly maintained.  For, a
melted mind is of no use unless there is a someone who identifies with it.
With no such person to identify with it, a melted mind cannot exist by
itself just bearing a reflection of Bhagavan.  Surely Bhagavan does not
need a reflecting medium called this melted mind for His reflection to be
borne.  It is only for the sake of the bhakta who has striven over several
lives cultivating this bhakti rasa and taking it to its pinnacle that this
melted mind, a receptacle, is maintained by MS.  So, without charging him
of not knowing Advaita or of having deviated from Shankara, one can happily
concede that such works of his are directed at some other audience/school.
Nothing wrong in it.

And that is the plain reason why such works of his are not studied/taught
as part of Advaita in traditional circles.  One might read them to increase
his bhakti like reading the Narada bhakti sutras.  But trying to reconcile
these with Advaita would not take us anywhere.

Also, the Eka jiva vAda is a construct not useful in this exercise.  It
only means that from the absolute standpoint there is no bondage, no
liberation, none liberated.  This position has nothing to do with MS's
bhakti rasa construct.  Great upasakas who are also Jnanis are rarely
directed by Ishwara to take up specific administrative positions in the
cosmic management purely owing to their extraordinary praarabdha karma and
even here at the end of such tenures these exalted jivas attain eternal
videha kaivalyam leaving no trace such as an eternal melted mind.  So, MS's
position on this has no relevance to the Eka jiva vada construct or the
aadhikArika purusha concepts of Vedanta.


So we cannot give an
> alternate explanation. Also, just as Sri Subrahmanian stated that if
> continuance of bhakti rasa after death is what Madhusudana meant, then it
> is a definite deviation from Advaita, Prof. Lance Nelson concluded that he
> has not successfully reconciled his position of bhakti with orthodox
> Advaita because he has asserted contunuance of bhakti rasa post death. Even
> Prof. Sanjukta is of the opinion that he added Bhakti Rasa to the Advaita
> literature by leveraging Bhakti in the previous writings and Upasana in the
> upanishads. According to her, he is orthodox in his philosophical
> affiliation to Advaita and heterodox in theology, thanks to the liberal
> atmosphere under Emperor Akbar. Not only academic scholars, one of the
> post-Madhusudana sanakracharyas is said to have ruthlessly critcized
> Madhusudana without naming him. Even Swami Gambhirananda in his
> introduction lists places where he differs from Sankara.  All these show
> that Madhusudana's conclusions such as eternal bhakti rasa, bhakti is
> the means and end of jnana (Gud. Dip. 18.66) etc. make many scholars
> believe that his views are not orthodox.  Long story short, Madhusudana is
> definitely at the centre of a controversy for saying that bhakti rasa is
> eternal, bhakti is an indpendent path to moksha without need for even a
> guru, jnana culminates in bhakti etc.
> On eternal bhakti rasa, I think the clue to the problem is in Madhusudana's
> support of eka-jiva-vada where the videha-mukti of even Suka etc. is an
> eulogy and not a fact. Nara Narayana rishis who were paramahamsa sannyasis
> did re-appear as KrishnArjuna as per smrti sastras. It is perhaps the
> classification of bhakti rasas according to Madhusudana, Sridhara, Hemadri,
> Jnaneshwar etc. and the origin of rasa theory perhaps in Hari Vamsa. The
> key to the problem of bhakti over jnana is in tracing the traditional
> scholars who link back to Madhusudana and have studied his works and that
> of his commentators such as Narayana Tirtha, author of Bhakti Chandrika. It
> would be a great find.
> __
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