Advaitic philosophy and the concept of personl God

anand hudli ahudli at SILVER.UCS.INDIANA.EDU
Tue Aug 6 10:49:11 CDT 1996

On Mon, 5 Aug 1996, Gummuluru Murthy wrote:

>           Now my question is:  Did  the concept of Saguna Brahman make
>           the understanding of non-duality more difficult ? If all the three
>  that
>           were mentioned above are all creations of mAya or ajnAna, why do
>           we need to classify the relative levels of ajnAna? Such a concept
>           may not be a very useful exercise.  I whole-heartedly think that
>           Devotion  and Bhakti towards Personal God are extremely important.
>           It allows us to completely surrender to something beyond us, and get
>           rid of the ego. But still the thoughts are confined to illusory
>  concepts.
>           Can we ever graduate with our thoughts confined only to this
>           world  ?  Neither in the great treatise on Advaita "The
>  Astavakra-Gita",
>           nor in the prakarana grandhas of Sri SaMkara, do we see the mention
>           of Saguna Brahman.

        You have raised an important issue, something by which I myself
    am as intrigued as you are. To worship or not to worship the saguNa
    Brahman is the question. In my opinion, the advaita AchAryas are
    somewhat divided on this. For example, Achaarya amalaananda, the
    author of Vedaanta Kalpataru, and VidyaaraNya do not consider the
    worship of saguNa Brahman necessary. On the other hand, Madhusuudana
    Sarasvatii is quite emphatic in saying that saguNa Brahman must be
    worshipped, at least until one becomes fit to meditate on the
    nirguNa Brahman.

   It helps to look at examples of great people who attained liberation
   even while living, jiivanmukti.
   Now, if you look at the recent Svaamii's of Sringeri Math, you will
   see  that they are extremely devout Shiva bhaktas. If they worship
   the saguNa Brahman, it may be because they worship Him out of sheer
   joy. Or it may be because they want to set an example for others to
   follow. In either case, we can safely say that worship of saguNa
   Brahman will not mislead us and will not make us perpetually stuck
   in the illusory existence. The Svaamii's of Sringeri were Shiva
   upaasakas before they attained nirvikalpa samaadhi, and they
   continued to be so even after becoming jiivanmuktas.

   It is generally admitted by all advaitins that very few people
   can directly approach the nirguNa brahman. For the vast majority
   of people, the saguNa brahman is the only way to get to the nirguNa
   brahman. The Vedanta paribhaashhaa agrees that meditation on the
   saguNa Brahman is also a cause of the realization of the nirguNa
   Brahman. Anandagiri in his gloss on Shankara's commentary on the
   Giitaa says that the knowledge of the saguNa Brahman is the
   gateway to the knowledge of the nirguNa Brahman. The meditation on
   the saguNa Brahman has been described by Krishna to Uddhava in the
   14th chapter of the 11th skandha of the Bhagavata. Krishna also
   says how this meditation leads to a complete absorption in the
   Self and the destruction of delusion.


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