Bhakti and advaita

Anand Hudli ahudli at APPN.CI.IN.AMERITECH.COM
Tue Jan 28 13:31:17 CST 1997

       Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:
> >    Madhusudana Sarasvati does say that bhakti to Saguna Brahman will
> >    lead to mukti. Worshippers of the Saguna Brahman will reach Brahmaloka,
> >    where the truth of the upanishhad sayings such as, "tattvam asi", etc.,
> >    will automatically dawn on them. They will then attain moksha.
> >    So Madhusudana has reconciled his position with that of classical
> >    Shankaran advaita, which holds that moksha is through jnaana alone,
> >    obtained from the upanishhads.
> True. Actually, there is no great contradiction between Sankara and
> Madhusudana Saraswati. In the Brahmasutra-bhashya, Sankara clearly says,
> "saguNaSaraNAnAmapi anAvr.tti: siddhi:" - there is no return for those
> also, who take refuge in saguNa brahman. Why? Because, Sruti says, "te
> brahmaloke tu parAntakAle parAmr.tAt parimucyanti sarve" - they (in the
> brahmaloka), at the end of creation will all be released.

 There _seems_ to be a slight difference between what Shankara calls
 SaguNa Brahman in his bhaashhyas  and what Madhusuudana describes
 in his commentary on the Giitaa. But upon close examination, there is
 no contradiction by Madhusuudana. For example, in commenting on the
 MaaNDuukya and KaTha upanishads, Shankara is more inclined to define
 SaguNa Brahman as the praNava (Om) symbol. This is  in line with Shruti.
 But he adds that SaguNa-upaasana is for people who cannot conceive of
 nirguNa Brahman. He also says in commentary on the Prashna upanishhad (5.2),

    nedishhThaM hyaalambanamomkaaraH brahmaNaH

    The Omkaara is the closest prop (for conceiving) Brahman.

    Further, in the suutra bhaashhya (1.3.13), he explicitly says:

    trimaatreNa OmkaareNa aalambanena paramaatmaananaM abhidhyaayataH
    phalaM brahmaloka praaptiH, krameNa samyagdarshanotpattiriti
    **kramamuktiH** |

    For one who meditates on the Supreme Self by the aid of the Omkaara
    which has three components, the fruit is the attainment of Brahmaloka,
    and gradually, perfect realization. This is Krama mukti.

 But Shankara is perhaps not ruling out worship of a personal God as
 SaguNa-upaasana, because he uses the phrase shaalagraama iva vishhNoH
 (just as Vishnu is present in Shaalagraama) as an analogy for how the
 all pervading nirguNa Brahman can be thought of as SaguNa (with attributes).

 Finally, Shankara, in his suutra bhaashhya, agrees with the Bhaagavatas
 regarding worship of NaaraayaNa. Also, Shankara composed at least some
 of the devotional hymns that bear his name as the author.

 Perhaps, taking this as a cue, Madhusuudana seeks to equate worship of
 a personal God with SaguNa-Brahma-upaasana. Madhusuudana is not in
 contradiction with Shruti here because Shruti does talk about personal
 God or the universal form of God (vishvaruupa) in many places, for
 example, the purushha suukta. Second, Madhusuudana has the support of
  the Giitaa itself (Ch. 12), which is almost on par with Shruti.
 Therefore the fruit of SaguNa-upaasana using Omkaara and that of
 worshipping a personal God (Ishvara) are the same.

> A large portion of this debate between moksha (as defined in advaita) and
> krama-mukti is quite pointless. All that Sankara says is that moksha is
> possible even when living as a human being on earth. This is the condition
> of the jIvanmukta, which is attained through jnAna. Madhusudana Saraswati
> does not say otherwise. Conversely, all that Madhusudana Saraswati says is
> that krama-mukti, which is the path of the bhakta, is also moksha in some
> sense. Sankara does not say otherwise.


> Vidyasankar


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