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Re: Jnana and bhakti

From: Krishna Kalale (
Date: Mon Nov 04 1996 - 17:47:22 PST

At 11:19 PM 11/4/96 +0100, you wrote:
>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


to start with, I like your questions.  Traditionally, scholars tend to sway
to the view that "Advaita steals the heart of Upanisads, and Visistadvaita
gets closer to the Bhagawadgita and Sutras".  Visistadvaitins contend that
their system is well established as per the prasthanatrayas - Bhagawadgita,
Upanisads and Brahmasutras.   

As per Visistadvaita - there are two paths which are certified as valid
means to Summum Bonum (Moksha) - 1) Bhaktiyoga 2) Prapatti.  Bhakti yoga is
the one which is explained from the 7th chapter onwards,( 9th, 12th, 18th )
chapters.  18-64 is similar to the last verse of 9th chapter.  This
Bhaktiyoga has two subbordinate processes - Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
Either through Karmayoga or Jnanayoga, an aspirant has to attain
"atma-sakthatkara" ie. the realization of the self (jeevatma) who is
different from and similar to God and is an aprithaksiddha (invalid
(non-existent) without God), attribute of God. AFter atmasakshatkara, one
attains bhaktiyoga in continued meditation - which takes three steps -
parabhakti (seeing Lord), parajnana (meeting) and paramabhakti(a stage when
the seeker in his deep devotion gets the fear that he would lose sight of
him- who is such brilliant essence of this universe). AFter such stages one
is supposed to reach Sriman Narayana, and become similar to him and enter
the state of eternal service to him.  

This is a path followed by a person who - is 1) capable of such meditational
practice 2) and can wait so many possible lives to continue that practice of
meditation to attain the lord

Even to start, maintain and complete bhaktiyoga, an aspirant needs to
surrender for those respective purposes! (since all these cannot be attained
by anything other than grace of the lord).  

On the otherhand, if one who is not capable of going through this mammoth
long process of bhaktiyoga, can do a prapatti (surrender) through the help
of an Acharya, and attain the same benefit.  Here, the aspirant is using
prapatti as a means instead of bhaktiyoga, and making Lord himself of the
path and the goal.  This, surprisingly is a valid method as per
visistadvaita - and is supported in various Rigvedic texts. In fact -
Ahirbudhyna samhita explains a vedic mantra from Taittiriya aranyaka -
"Tasmaadom iti...Atmanam Yunjeeta" as an explanation of prapatti with 5
components (angas).  The difference being, a prapanna gives up even the
responsibility of his protection to Lord, clearly understanding that the
Lord is behind all his capabilities and only due to Him does he possess all
those.  A bhaktiyogi, on the otherhand continues to experience the joy of
the process of bhaktiyoga and does not mind the delay in attainment of the
goal, knowing that the Lord is his friend, philosopher and guide helping him
attain the goal. He does not give up the responsibility of attainment to
God, but seeks his help in that process.


Please refer to Vaishnavism - by SMS Chari (Motilal Banarsidas - available
also at South Asia book house - Columbia Mussouri). This book goes into
great detail to answer your questions with all the necessary PRAMANAS -
testimonies from Vedas, Agamas, Upanisads etc. Dr. N.S. Anantharangachar's
thesis on Visistadvaita is a good source and unfortunately is out of print.

If you search through - archives of this network you can find a number of
interesting articles related to this subject.

the practices such as - archanam, namasamkirtanam, etc. can lead to either
bhaktiyoga or prapatti eventually and thus are ancillaries to the main paths.  

I am sure learned folks on this network have a lot to add to this.

Please do describe your purpose, ie. are you writing some papers on this
subject? and how did you get interested in this subject.


Krishna Kalale
Krishna Kalale
619-658-5612 (phone)
619-658-2115 (fax)