Author Topic: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009  (Read 1443 times)

Subramanian.R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43530
    • View Profile



This title of this article is intentionally flawed as the word 'versus' indicates a competition between two rival parties, one
against the other.  I have used this title to catch the eye of two kinds of readers, first, the discerning aspirant who will
instantly see the flaw in the supposition that Jnana and Bhakti could be opposed to one another.  And second, the eye
of the aspirant, who recognizes a problem he may have encountered in spiritual life, that of being unable to reconcile
the differences between the path of Jnana and the path of Bhakti and who therefore doubts that both can be followed
simultaneously without them being mutually exclusive.  This apparent conflict between the paths of Bhakti and Jnana is one
of the dilemmas that some seekers may face on the spiritual path.  Some sadhakas are proud that they follow  only the path
of Jnana, while others feel that they cannot comprehend the subtleties of Jnana philosophy and they stick with the so called
easy option of devotion to practice Self Inquiry and they cannot give up their cherished love for God.  A misapprehension
can come about from Advaita texts which seem to imply that it must be one or the other, and that we have to make a choice
and follow one path to the exclusion of the other.  i.e. if we follow Jnana we must stop our dualistic thinking and discontinue
our devotion to God.  This misapprehension happened in my case and I suspect that this mistaken conflict must occur to many.

Yet it is seldom discussed as an expanded topic of discussion.  The crux of the dilemma is the question: 'If we undertake
Self inquiry, are we being counselled to forget about our personal God because He does not exist and is only an illusion?
Is it wrong to practice Self Inquiry while remaining the devotee of a personal God?'  And yet during Sri Bhagavan's lifetime,
His devotees worshipped Him and they were not discouraged from doing so. 

This dilemma came to me while reading the Ribhu Gita. It is a pure Advaitic text that asserts in a long series of eloquent
statements, the nature of non duality.  It is a favorite among those who enjoy chanting it, both for its pungency of expression
and its direct approach to the highest Advaitic teachings.  It was much recommended by Sri Bhagavan and there are many
stories about its chanting at the Asramam, especially in the early days. For some devotees, the regular chanting of the
Ribhu Gita was their main sadhana.  (See the Foreword and Preface to the Essence of the Ribhu Gita translated by N.R.
Krishnamurti Iyer, 1999.  And Chapter 34 of At the Feet of Bhagavan by T. K. Sundaresa Iyer, 1998.)

continued.

Arunachala Siva.             

sanjaya_ganesh

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 859
    • View Profile
Re: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2013, 01:55:41 PM »
Good article. As Nochur Acharya says anyone who is debating Jnana or Bhakthi - clearly does not have any idea of either of them.

Sanjay
Salutations to Bhagawan

Subramanian.R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43530
    • View Profile
Re: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009
« Reply #2 on: May 28, 2013, 09:24:24 AM »

continues.......

Getting immersed in the Ribhu Gita can feel like one is in a dream in which God is whispering to us his secret nature, which
is our secret nature.  Its simplicity leaves no room for intellectual struggles to figure out what it means.   The total inclusiveness
of the Reality it presents is awe-inspiring.  It drums inspiring statements about the Being of the Self into the mind, so that
finally the mind is unable to think anymore and one is left in an intense but thought free awareness, the essence of Being
and Consciousness without limitation, a state that includes all.  In fact, Sri Bhagavan indicated that reading the Ribhu Gita
can lead to Samadhi.  For sadhakas not released  from samsara the rapture may not last and when we finish our readiing
and our absorption in it, the tumultuous world reappears with our bodies and names, our pains and pleasures, our likes
and dislikes.  What to do then? Lord, what to do?

I agree wholeheartedly that this type of approach following the absolute Oneness of pure Advaita Vedanta, which rejects
even the gods with their implied dualism, is inspiring, and there are times when I read the sacred Advaitic scripture with
the fullest faith in Sri Bhagavan for such inspiration and insight.  But for many of us, who live in a world where we are engaged
with what, to us, seems an all-too-real dualism, it is a major adjustment to the arrangement of our minds to make the whole-
hearted declaration  - 'I am the absolutely non dual Self.'  Life is often hard and challenging and we mortals, with our
weaknesses, take great comfort in calling up our Lord for support, guidance, protection, intervention, and spiritual blessings.

For those of us who are still battling with doubts and the intrusive demands of the world where we have to support ourselves
in the market place, there is invariably a niggling doubt.  Are we fooling ourselves by chanting these absolute verities? 
Is this just blind faith and merely a way to allay our pesky reservations? 

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                     

Subramanian.R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43530
    • View Profile
Re: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2013, 11:34:29 AM »

continues....

The glory words of the Ribhu Gita resonate inside me, but their power is such that I have in the past sometimes been
afraid to follow their admonitions to give up my old way of thinking for fear that they will radically upset that carefully
organized trolley of ideas and attitudes accumulated over the years, and force me to give up what is most precious
to me, devotion to my Lord.

The Ribhu Gita declares in the most concise words the basic tenets of Advaita Vedanta: 'I am Brahman' and 'All is Brahman'
only.  As in all the teachings of Advaita, the world and our thoughts are declared to be illusory, and the extreme position is
taken that the Guru and Lord Siva are also illusions.  The context of this extreme position should always be understood as
coming from the state of absolute unmanifest pure non dual Being which is our goal in Self Inquiry but not to be comprehended
by the mind.  These are essential matters of faith as we strive towards our goal, but for daily living in the manifest world with
our ego, and our involvements with other separate individuals, and daily decisions to be made in our material lives, the attitude
' All is One' does not provide us with the help we need.  For the Jnani a constant flow of guidance for everything comes from
within but the jiva has to reach out for such guidance. 

As long as we are still stuck in the dualistic world, if we can ask our friend to help us to life a heavy box or to lend us a cup of
sugar, then can we not ask God for His blessings and support when we need it?  We have to have the right perspective on
what it means to say that God and the world are illusory.  He is not more illusory than our neighbor.  A primary difference between
bhakti and jnana is this: in devotion we approach God carrying our burdens, our minds, our bodies and the world along with us,
but in Self Inquiry we attempt to shed all these things and realize our true nature as pure awareness without adjuncts.  While
practicing Self Inquiry we must relinquish all thoughts including thoughts of God and concentrate on the pure awareness of 'I'.
In this our goal is to vanquish the menacing mind, the trouble maker.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.
             

Subramanian.R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43530
    • View Profile
Re: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2013, 09:39:30 AM »

continues.....

There are intense challenges in moving from the traditional dualistic forms of religion where there is a loving and nurturing
God and we are His children, to Advaita Vedanta that declares 'I am That'.  In life's worst moments we can feel like poor
helpless souls, and it is more than consoling to have a God to call upon, to lift our spirits and help and guide us through our
trials and tribulations, our doubts and ignorance.  Until and unless our mind comes under control, and we find the inner peace
to realize the Divine residing as pure Consciousness in our heart, we cannot go about declaring 'I am not the body' and yet
still remain vulnerable to every vicissitude this tricky world sends our way.  'I am not the body' is the final truth, a realization,
the ultimate release from bondage.  It should not be adopted as a way of living when we still have not realized exactly who
we are, though faith in the idea, 'I am not the body' as absolute truth is essential to the Sadhaka. 

Can we practice Self Inquiry and still remain devoted to our God and worship Him?  Why not?  As long as we retain the
'I am the body' notion we should continue to worship and pray to God. Saying 'I am not the body'  because we believe
it by faith does not mean we are rid of the notion that we are the body.

Many of us have heard something similar to the following verses from the Ribhu Gita: 'I indeed, am the supreme Brahman-Bliss
ever.  I, indeed, am the supreme Brahman-Bliss, which is changeless."  (Chapter 16 - The Song of Ribhu, SAT, USA.)

From my reading, understanding and faith in Sri Bhagavan's teaching, I accept the truth of these statements because Sri
Bhagavan says they are true and because in His secret way, He blesses us all and awakens our hearts to His call so that
we might gain a glimmer of understanding of these truths.         
       
Intellectuals who have been dissatisfied with traditional religion because they just can't accept what they have been taught,
and who have perhaps adopted a somewhat atheistic outlook often find the teachings of Sri Bhagavan very appealing as they
search for a higher meaning to life, but I would claim that the devotee of God has a head start on the path to Self Realization.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

Subramanian.R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43530
    • View Profile
Re: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2013, 09:28:35 AM »

continues....

No doubt we are well of worshipping Our Lord who seems to be other than ourselves.  But our own Bhagavan, the supreme
embodiment of Him whom we worship, told us it is possible to go even deeper than this dualistic worship -- if we are capable
of doing so.  I admit to getting confused between the two paths at times, but when calmness prevails, I feel a natural inclination
to abide as close as possible to pure awareness, transferring the utmost reverence to the cause as if I am in the presence of
Lord Himself.

Any thoughts that Jnana overrides Bhakti and that Bhakti is an inferior path, should be dispelled even when confronted with
the statement that Jnana is the highest path.  God is Love. The Self is Love.  Devotion is pure Love.  Sri Bhagavan loved
devotion and He encouraged it.  How could it be otherwise since He is so adorable, so fit to be worshipped?  He was totally
devoted to Arunachala and He declared it directly and through His poems of devotion.  We should never be misled into
believing that He discouraged devotion.  An idea I have come across only recently through several recent articles in Mountain
Path is that devotion and love soften the heart and that softening is a prerequisite to Self Realization, according to Sri
Bhagavan.  (See Swami Sadasivananda, Practical Sadhana, Part II, Mountain Path, July-Sept. 2008.)

It may therefore be concluded that bhakti is a building block or stepping stone to Jnana, and I am convinced that bhakti never
disappears in the Jnani, and the bhakta attains the same indescribable non dual transcendence in the state of union with his
Beloved Lord.

According to Sri Ramakrishna, Hanuman said:  'O Rama, sometimes I think that you are the Whole and I am a part, and
sometimes that you are the Master and I am Your servant.  But when I have the knowledge of Reality., I see that You are
I and I am You.'  (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Ramakrishna Math, -  The Master in Various Moods.)

Shirdi Sai Baba said, 'Meditate on me as pure Anand Nirakara but if you cannot do this, then meditate on this Sai Body
exactly as you see it.'  He also said, 'I am the bond slave of my devotee.  I love devotion.   He who withdraws his heart
from the world and loves me is my true lover and her merges in Me like a river in the sea.  (Mani Sahukar, Sai Baba;
The Saint of Shirdi.)

When in the mood of devotion, I cannot look for Him in pictures and images, though they help to concentrate and focus
the mind., (Who would believe it seeing all the images surrounding me?).  Inevitably I seek Him within and pray to Him
to reveal Himself, knowing by faith that the only lasting revelation He can give me will be as my own Self.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         
                     

Subramanian.R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43530
    • View Profile
Re: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2013, 09:36:40 AM »

continues.....

'The Self' as a term in English does not arouse any feelings in me as do many of my favorite names of God used in devotion.
'Atma' has a more spiritual ring to it, though it does not arouse the fervor that the names of God do.  The name 'Brahman' does
not have a magic sound to me as 'Bhagavan' or 'Lord' in English.  The harsh-sounding name 'God' is also uninspiring to me.
The French 'le Dieu' and the Spanish 'el Dios' have a more spiritually moving sound.  I am jealous of those who feel a surge
of reverence for the name 'Brahman' which is repeated throughout Advaitic writings.  It is not exactly that I don't feel
reverence - I do - but just that it does not strike a magic chord as do certain names.  These names and the sounds and effects
they conjure up are just aids because I know from experience that attainment is possible without magic names.  If the name
'Brahman'  is awe inspiring for some devotees as the names of Bhagavan, Rama, Krishna and  Jesus are for other devotees,
then so much the better. It is a sattvic name and it softens the heart.

Especially for devout Christians who have accepted the authority of Bhagavan, it is hard to break away from the duality of
orthodox Christian theology, with its concepts of sin and guilt followed by punishment and the issue of free will.  Well, may be,
not so hard to break away from the notions of sin and guilt, since that is what some of us ran away from in search of a
deeper truth.

Let us assume that the reader of this magazine has already accepted the legitimacy of both bhakti and jnana, and has
already given up the idea of God being a far away super-being who rules by remote control and who will look down on
us from above in stern judgement after we die.  That instead, an all loving and tender God is near and dear to us, is a
beautiful way to express it in a way not contradictory to the Christian teaching.  He is closer than we realize, but Advaita
takes it to the next step:  He is ourselves, the substratum of our own consciousness.

I think of Christians as being more faced with this dilemma, but Hindus, who come from a background of bhakti, will have
the same challenges to break away  from their heart felt devotion in favor of the seemingly mechanical and sterile
proclamations of non duality which seem to have no heart.  The head is necessary but so too is the heart.  Many devoted
spiritual aspirants have had communion with their chosen deity,  Naturally in their intense devotion they never want to let
go of the holy feet of their Lord.  Did not Sri Ramakrishna encourage that eternal devotion?

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.
                 
       

Subramanian.R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43530
    • View Profile
Re: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009
« Reply #7 on: June 02, 2013, 02:17:56 PM »

continues.....

Recently I tried to read passages from the writings of a Christian saint but stopped because of the dualistic language.  Yet
in picking it up again, I could find union and intimacy with God as the underlying theme.  St. Thomas Aquinas is a Father of the
Church and he wrote profound and detailed volumes on complex theological issues.  He also had experiences of angels and
he told us about them.  Later he got so enlightened that he said: "All I have written now seems like so much dust."   (Such
things have been revealed to me that now I all have written appears in my eyes as no greater value than straw -
So spoke St. Thomas Aquinas, the 'Prince of Scholastics', in answer to his secretary' anxious urgings that SUMMA THEOLGIAE
be completed..... St. Thomas Aquinas experienced a profound a profound mystical insight.  The glory of divine knowledge so
overwhelmed him that hence forth he took no interest in intellectiality.' Swami Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, Jaico
Publishing House, Bombay.)

The purpose of an Ashram publication such as Mountain Path is to inspire and enlighten and it is a bonus when it can guide as
well.  Many aspirants ma suffer from intellectual conflict between notion of duality and non duality and some may try to give   
up totally on dualistic devotion.  I think that creates unnecessary problems for many.  They should be guided not to give up
totally on simple worship and prayer to God but rather cling to the feet of their God.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 43530
    • View Profile
Re: Jnana Versus Bhakti - Niall Anglin - M.P. July - Sept. 2009
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2013, 09:27:25 AM »

continues.....

We know it works, and that the Supreme Being is well pleased being worshipped and surrendered to.  Those who are
particularly strong bhaktas will probably not even entertain giving up their devotion but they still migh have doubts
about Sri Bhagavan's teachings on Self Enquiry, and worry that they may have to give up what is more valuable in their
spiritual life.

The bliss of Sri Bhagavan is beyond logical thought or expression in words.  In Him we seek the resolution of the conflict
between our heart and mind.  In Him our devotion is transformed into pure knowledge, understanding and totally peaceful
and thought free abidance in pure awareness of the consciousness of Being, peace that surpasses all understanding.

Pure continuous awareness.  Pure Consciousness.
Pure Being. Stillness of Being.
I AM.
Consciousness of being by intense yet peaceful one pointed abidance in self awareness without thought.

Om Namah Sivaya |

*** concluded****

Arunachala Siva.