Bhakti and advaita

Gummuluru Murthy gmurthy at MORGAN.UCS.MUN.CA
Tue Jan 28 12:42:24 CST 1997

On Mon, 27 Jan 1997, Giri wrote:

> If you are saying that Brahmaloka and svarga do not exist *apart from
> Brahman*, there is agreement.  If you are saying that Brahmaloka and
> svarga are like horns on a hare, i strongly differ. Seers, like Shankara,
> have written pages and pages on Brahmaloka. Further, there are detailed
> descriptions of svargas and naraka-s in our purana-s. To dismiss them all
> as non-existent as horns on a hare is not right, imho. I feel that if you
> dismiss all the lokas and Ishvara as horns on a hare, then not many
> vedantists will agree with you. Of course, knowledgeable readers of this
> list can correct me.

Swarga, Brahmaloka, the world all are as real or as unreal as we would
like to see them to be. In my opinion, swarga and naraka are creations of
the mind. Surely, there are descriptions in the ithihaasaas. But the
feelings of swarga and naraka are all only in this world and are as real
as this world and are as unreal as this world.

> >The concept of Ishwara is created by the great acaryas as an intermediate
>         What exactly do you mean by 'concept' ? In a sense, everything
> we talk about are concepts. However, Shiva and Vishnu are as real as
> you or I. Ramana Maharshi also expresses the same view. If you need, i
> will get you the exact quotations.

Shiva and Vishnu are as real as you or I. I agree with that.

>         If you are talking from the paramarthika position, you can
> deny Ishvara, jagat, jiva and say everything is only Brahman. Which is
> ok, provide you *acknowledge the existence*. Though you can deny the
> snake, you should acknowledge the rope. You can deny the names and forms
> imposed on the substratum, but not the underlying substratum as well.

I am not denying the substratum. We need a substratum for everything: you,
I, the world, the swarga, the naraka and all. I do not think I have said
anywhere that I deny the substratum.
>         If that is so, why does Shankara say that one attains Brahmaloka
> by following Saguna Brahman and is freed from the cycle of rebirths ? Why
> does Madhusudana Sarasvati say that one can attain mukti by following
> Saguna Brahman ? If your contention is correct (Brahmaloka etc are non-
> existent) then they just should not say freedom from rebirths can be
> attained from following Saguna Brahman. Don't you think so ?

What is the cycle of re-births ? Is that not the notion of the jeeva in
its ajnanic thinking ?

Shri Shankara said that Brahmaloka can be attained and we be free from
cycle of re-births if we do good things (e.g. follow Saguna Brahman). But,
in my view, Shri Shankara said that only to make us (ajnanis) do good
things and look beyond the maaya. Following Saguna Brahman (with powers)
is an easy first step for a mumukshu who is under the influence of maaya
(both for the teacher to teach and the disciple to grasp).

It is our ajnana which makes us think that we participate in the cycle of
births and re-births. But surely, there are no birth, death, or re-birth
for the Ultimate which we are. We are not freed from the cycle of
re-births. We are always free. It is our mind which is to be freed from
the notion of birth and re-births. That freedom from "re-births" can be
obtained from jnanam.

> Further
> there are several vedic rites for the attainment of svarga. If you are
> saying that svarga is non-existent, you have removed the use of these vedic
> rites. Vedic rites can be performed with a motive (of course, that will only
> keep you in samsara) or without motive (in which case, it will lead to
> purification of the mind).
Vedic rites is a topic which is monumental by itself.

>         If purification of the mind is the only use of devotion, and that
> purification can result from worshipping non-existent people for
> non-existent purposes (like attainment of svarga), then surely, you should
> agree worshipping Shiva/Vishnu is same as worshipping unicorns.

Worship is not the important thing here. The mental frame-up is the
important one.

> Namaste.

Gummuluru Murthy
Adau ante ca yan nAsti vartamAnepi tat tathA !
                                GaudapAda in Mandukya kArika
What did not exist at the beginning and what is not going to exist at the
 end is as good as non-existent even in the present.

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