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Jnana and bhakti

From: Martin Gansten (
Date: Mon Nov 04 1996 - 14:19:39 PST

Hello all,

And thanks to Mani for subscribing me. I'm new to this list, and have both a
personal and an academical interest in Vaishnava theology and praxis. With
apologies to all for bringing up a subject which may be clear to everyone
already (and perhaps has already been discussed on the list?), I would like
to ask a question:

The dual focus of this list (and of the beautiful Sri Vaishnava home page)
on devotional sentiment (as in Alvar poetry) and Upanishadic philosophy
strongly appeals to me. Now, I wonder to which extent this reflects a
conscious balancing of these two elements within Sri Vaishnava tradition
itself. To put it in other words, how is the relationship between the quest
for aatmavidyaa and the development of bhakti towards the Lord viewed? Is
gnosis of the Upanishadic kind a necessary prerequisite for truly
transcendental devotion (as could be argued from, say, Bhagavadgita 18.54),
or is it possible to attain salvation even without gnosis, simply by
faithful worship (as could be argued from, say, 13.25 of the same text)? And
as an offshoot of this: if such a balancing does exist on the theological
level, is it matched on the practical level, e.g. by emphasis on both
yogic/meditative techniques *and* more devotional practices like arcanam,
chanting of stotrams, etc -- or is one element favoured over the other?

Any response to these questions would be greatly appreciated, as would all
references to suitable reading material (English or Sanskrit please -- I
haven't yet found anyone to teach me Tamil, though I'm keen to learn!).

Thanks in advance,
Martin Gansten