[Advaita-l] On Bhakti Yoga

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 7 21:50:31 CST 2008

                           On Bhakti Yoga

After reading my notes on Karma yoga vs. Jnaana yoga, some one requested me to compare
Bhakti yoga or yoga of devotion also. 

Actually, Krishna lists only two yogas in sloka Ch. III-3. There are two paths – one is
karma yoga for those whose mind-set is in yoga of action and the other is jnaana yoga for
those whose mind set in yoga of knowledge. Bhakti yoga is not separately mentioned. The
reason is very simple – both have common theme and that is yoga. Yoga means whose mind is
yoked to the higher nature of reality.  That demands commitment towards the higher which
is nothing but Bhakti or devotion towards the goal.  Hence karma yoga means Bhakti
through action and jnaana yoga means Bhakti through knowledge. Thus, although Lord
Krishna does not consider Bhakti as separate yoga since it is the bottom line for both
karma and jnaana, Bhakti is emphasized through out Gita.  For example, Krishna says in
samoham sarva bhUtEShu na mE dvEShyOsti na priyaH|
yE bhajantitu mAm bhaktyA mayi tE tEShu cApyahaM|| 

I maintain equanimity to all – I do not favor anybody or disfavor anybody.  However,
those who worship me with devotion, they are in me and I am in them. 

Karma yoga involves IswrArpita buddhi that is offering the action as the prayer to the
Lord. When action itself becomes a prayer, then we have to make sure what we offer is the
best that we can offer; therefore dexterity in action is essential for a karma yogi –
yogaH karmasu koushalam-says Krishna. 

The whole of 12th chapter is called Bhatiyoga but in that the emphasis is 
Etu sarvaaNi karmAni mayi sanyasya matparAH| 
ananyE naiva yogEna mAm dhyAyhanta upAsatE||
tEShAmaham samudharthA mRityusamsAra sAgarAt|
bhavAmi na cirAtpArthA mayyAvEshita cEtasAm|
Those who surrender all their actions in me, and meditate on me without any other
thoughts, and those who have surrendered everything and whose minds are fully abiding in
me, I shall err long uplift them from the thralldom of cycle of birth and deaths.

Shankara defines Bhakti in VivEkachUDAmaNi as 
moksha kAraNa samArgryAM bhaktiH Eva garIyasI|
swaswarUpanusandhAnaM bhaktirtyabhidIyatE|
swAtmatatvAnusandhAnaM bhaktirityaparE jaguH||
Of all the paths for liberation Bhakti is the supreme. That bhakti is continuous
contemplation on one’s own essential nature. Others say that continuous contemplation of
the truth of one’s own Atma is bhakti.  Atma jnAna vichAra is therefore supreme bhakti as
per Shankara. 

Krishna says while classifying all the devotees into four groups, ArthaH (One who thinks
of me when they are  in despair), arthArthii (One who prays for things, artha) , jignAsu
(one who has desire to know Me) and jnAni(one who knows Me), JnAni is the highest bhakta
since he loves me the most and I love him the most. 
Hence Bhakti is not a choice here but is the essence in all sAdhanas. To understand
Bhakti how a karma yogi perceives bhakti in relation to jnaana yogi, and why Krishna says
jnAni is the highest Bhakta, we should examine what is involved in Bhakti or devotion.  

Let us look first at devotion.  The difference between devotion and love (word used in
common parlance) is love towards higher is devotion and love towards lower is actually
lust but mistakenly called love. Hence one rises in devotion while one falls in love. Now
what is higher and what is lower? Higher is that wherein the mind becomes calm, quiet and
surrenders itself. The surrendering implies all mental agitations are sublimated at that
alter of love.  This is also called prapatti – a term which has a special significance in
VishiShTAdvaita. In Gita we find that until Arjuna surrendered, Krishna did not start
teaching – shiShyatvOham sAdhimAm tvam prapannam – I am your disciple (prapanna) that I
am ready to subject myself to your discipline. That should be the attitude of a student
as Krishna himself enumerates that one should approach a teacher with that attitude of
surrender – tat viddhi praNipAtEna praripraShNEna sEvayA – That is devotion towards the
teacher and the teaching is essential for knowledge– Only in that attitude of devotion
the mind becomes free from agitations and ready to learn. In contrast, lower is that
wherein the mind gets more and more agitated – one cannot sleep or eat or do anything
constructively since mind is always pre-occupied – that is what happens when one is
falling in love.

Love or devotion can be classified into three types: 1) Means Love 2) End-Love and 3)
Self-Love – (the terms are based on Swami Paramarthanandaji’s talks on Bhakti). Means
love means love of the means to achieve some goal in mind – that is the path to achieve
the goal in mind. Some are so obsessed with the means that they forget the goal and
fanatically fight for the means. We can remind ourselves the story in Gulliver’s travels
where the two Lilliputian countries fight among them selves – the cause is how to break
the egg – One country says Egg should be broken from the fat end while the other insists
on breaking from the thin end. The Means became more important than the end. Religions
try to survive in fighting that theirs is the only means to reach the goal while the
other means will take you to eternal hell. Some are ready to kill others in support of
their cause to save life of the unborn babies.   Since I love the end or the goal so much
that I tend to love the means too. That is one kind of love.  But some love only the
means so that they can get the goal they want. Once the goal is reached there is no more
love for the means since the mission is accomplished.  I love my uncle so much since I
like to have the wealth that he has; but once I got that wealth, uncle is of no
importance; in fact he is considered more a nuisance to me. 

How is this related to Bhakti?  For the most of the people, God’s love is only a
means-love. That is God is considered as a means to achieve some goal in mind.  What I
love is actually the goal that I want, and means is only a means for what I want –
Everybody has lots of desires – I want this, this and this and without this I cannot
live, etc – 'I' includes all mine too -that is my child, my wife, my children, grand
children, etc. and ‘this’ includes health, wealth, position, power, etc all that is
included as the goals of my life.  I want to be on the good side of God, since I have
learned that he is the one who is the giver. Hence I go from a temple to a temple, one
holy place to the other, of course with a big list of what I want from Him. I will make
sure I do not forget to prostrate all the gods in the temple (nowadays there are many in
each temple) to make sure that I am not in the black list of any one of the Gods there.
Whenever we go to a temple, the pujari asks during sankalpa that involves informing the
God who are we and why are we praying the Lord, etc. -  our gotram and our star, etc, so
that when God sends goodies he has the right address. Pujari has a standard list for all
that he repeats for every body without even asking what we really want.  Thank God,
Krishna lists us also as one of his Bhaktas under the category of artha arthiis – that is
all those who are always with begging bowls, however much he has already given. That is
called Means-Love. 

The second one is called End-Love not end of love.  God itself is the end not the goodies
that he gives.  I do not care for the goodies, what I love  is God. This kind of love is
rather rare and is what is really emphasized in most of the devotional paths. The nine
modes of Love are the modes of expressing this love towards God.  He is the master and I
am the servant is the one that is mostly emphasized in VishiShTAdviata.  The service
according to them involves serving the forms of God – that includes the daily puja and
vigra ArAdhana. This bhakti is exemplified by the twelve alwars in the vishiShTAdviata
tradition. The bhakti includes not only in bhagavat sava but also bhaagavata save, that
is serving the Bhaktas of the Lord. Serving the Lord is easier like Lakshmana serving
Rama, but serving the servent of the Lord is more difficult and ShatRighna personifies
that - He serves Bharata, who serves Rama. Love towards Lord is does not involve a any
expectation in return but doing what Lord wants. This was exemplified in Ramayana when
Bharata went to bring Rama back by his devotion. This was depicted beautifully in
Ramayana series by Ramanand Sagar.  There was a contest between Rama' devotion to his
dharma and Bharata's love for Rama. Janaka was asked to make decision - Janaka says
Bhakti superseeds duty, hence Bharata won, but there is fine print in this say Janaka -
Bhakta cannot demand the Lord to give but He has to surrender completely and do what
Lords wants him to do - that is true bhakti. Bharata learns hard way what is true bhakti
- He bows down to Rama and requests what Rama wants him to do.  

The third type of love is the self-love that Shankara emphasized in the above quoted
sloka from VivekacUDAmaNi. This is considered as the supreme love.  How can the self love
is the supreme love? Yajnavalkya says to his wife Maitreyi in Br. Up. – aatmanstu
kaamaaya sarvam priyam bhavati – essentially we love everything or anything else because
we love over selves. I love this – this can be anything (means love) or even God (end
love) – not for the sake of this but for my sake.  I love any this so that it feel that
it gives me happiness. What I love is actually happiness that I want to be than the thing
for thing sake.  Hence even God lovers do not love God for God’s sake but for their sake.
 What they really love is the self that is contended or full. They want to be complete
without any inadequacies since full and contended mind is the happy mind.  A jnaani is
the one who loves himself – since he revels in himself  and he has no desire for anything
else including God since he has discovered that the God he loves is nothing but his own
essence. I am in everyone’s heart and heart in Vedanta means the very core of one’s
individuality.  Hence Krishna says he is jnaani – the one who realizes that
sarva bhUtastam AtmAnam sarva bhUtAnicha Atmani – one who realizes he is the self in all
and all are in himself – he is jnaani and that jnaani is the one Krishna says is supreme
bhakta. The self realization is also God realization as Krishna himself in the very next
sloka – yo mam pasyati sarvatra sarvan ca mayi pasyati – those who sees Me everywhere and
everything in Me. 
Hence pure Bhakti should culminate in jnaanam hence Self-love is God-love – not as a God
separate from him – it is the culmination of Bhakti where lover and loved have become
one- that is advaita. In advaita, bhakti reaches its pinnacle – and that is moksha and
that is liberation. 

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