On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 6

Part – 5  

We ought to know first what really real Reality is in order to find it. To say so does not make sense either. If we knew the Reality already, what’s the purpose of this struggle?

Obviously, we don’t know the Reality. Still, we can say what reality cannot be.

Vedanta gives us a working definition for reality:

त्रिकाल अबाधितं सत्यम्

Meaning: The Truth is that which exists the same in all three periods of time (past, present and future).  (Not a good definition, but let’s stay with it for now).

Truth should not keep changing from man to man, place to place and time to time. If it is so highly variable, there can never be anything that can be said to be a Reality.

But before proceeding further we have to be aware of one more quality of the mind, the tool with which we investigate. Our mind has a tendency to reify or deify. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 5

Part – 4 

We have been assessing the reliability of our sensory apparatus – the mind plus the five sensory organs – in the last two Posts. We already discovered that they do not show what exactly exists out there. They may show non-existing things to be existing but we slavishly believe in what they show to us. Let us examine this issue one more time so that you will be free of doubt.

Undoubtedly a chocolate tastes sweet and a hammer dropped on our foot hurts. We find things hot or cold, tall or short, light or heavy and so on. But do these qualities rest within the objects seen out there or do our senses project them on to something which lies there? Is there truly an inherent solidity and physicality to the objects we perceive in our awake state? We seldom ever brood over this issue. Let us do a small experiment to know whether the solid looking stuff we see around really exists or not. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 4

Part – 3 

At the end of Part – 2, we raised the question “Who am I?” At the end of Part – 3, we introduced the concept of personality in place of “I.”

If I ask you “Who are you?” you may say your name. You may continue, “My parents are … … and I was born on August 15.” You may add, “I am an engineer / a doctor / a carpenter / a driver / an expert / etc.” If you feel patriotic, you may say, “I am an Indian, an American, a Mongolian etc.”

But have you noticed one thing? All the above aspects, which you claim to be “you,” are actually told by somebody else. Your name, parentage or your expertise are all just what you “learnt” and accepted. None of them are known directly by you from your experiencing. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 3

Part – 2  

We ended the Part – 2 with the questions, “Who exactly am “I”?; and “Is my “mind” the proper and the most efficient instrument for the job I am putting it to?”

Any good workman first examines the efficiency, sensitivity and efficacy of his tools, before using them, for, as experience shows, there could be an unaccounted “instrumental error” that can creep into the conclusions we draw. In a modern laboratory of scientific investigations, calibration of the error from various sources including the tools used is a standard practice.

So let us first find out what is mind, the only tool we have at our disposal, what is its nature, and what are its characteristics. We should be aware of the errors it may introduce and thereby bias the conclusions. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 2

Part – 1

Towards the end of NBS Part – 1, we had seen that the very presence of another is a cause for fear —  that is to say that the presence of an additional creature other than a ‘me’, in general, is a ‘challenge’ to my own existence. We then asked the question: “But suppose the second entity is a Savior, a Protector, a Godhead?”

That is a very comforting thought. It helps to calm the agitated, perturbed, worried mind. It feels soothing. Yes, comforting.

The idea of a Savior, a loving caring Godhead, gives me a confidence that there is someone out there to look after ‘me’, to take care of my interests, and to see that things work forever in ‘my’ favor.

And suppose, in that Savior, I pack all those qualities that I do not have —  in order to make good for my shortcomings, my weaknesses, my frailties, my infirmities, then I will have a colossal strength at my back. I can rest without a worry. I can sleep peacefully. So let me think of a Super-human, omniscient, omnipotent, Lord as my Protector. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 1

  Mind is the only tool we have as human beings to investigate and inquire into what is, if anything is, beyond the physical world of objects which we know from our direct perception (pratyaksha pramANa) using the five sensory organs. We want to know “That” which supports this solid looking world and the animate and inanimate creatures populating it. The “driver” for such an enquiry could just be an inborn curiosity or a desire to attain unswerving freedom from unhappiness.

As a matter of fact, we are already accustomed to use our ‘mind,’ without being ever even aware of doing so, for ensuring ‘security,’ which we believe gives us happiness. We have been able to detect certain “patterns” in the world. One is that all things are always changing. As a measure of this change, we ‘invented’ time. So time dimension or factor in the world is known to us only through the mind. Continue reading

Bhakti in Advaita

“Bhakti” in common parlance is generally taken to mean a sort of Master – slave relationship of a seeker towards a superior Guru/Master/Lord/God, an attitude that in a way does reinforce duality.

Historically speaking, Bhakti as a cult took root in India after the Muslim invasions. The Abrahamic monotheistic religions with their proselytizing spirit attracted the masses offering the promises of a personal God who would fulfill their wants. Perhaps to counter this, indigenous Bhakti cults developed and continue to do so today. 

The Advaita scriptural texts, strictly speaking, do say that devotional approach to a personal deity is an inferior path for Enlightenment. Further, some of them explicitly state that the devotee has to be a “Shiva” himself in order to worship Shiva. Yogavaasishta says a Vishnu only can truly worship a Vishnu. The implication in these statements is that the devotee should lose the sense of being a separate individual from what is being worshiped – it insists on a total identity, Oneness, of the subject-object.

I feel that the techniques like meditation, Bhakti, rituals, pilgrimages etc. are useful at two levels to a seeker:

  • Bhakti etc. will work as a sort of aid to train the mind in its ability to stay focused (instead of wavering) and unbiased (being aware of one’s own hidden prejudices). These two aspects sharpen the mind and make it ready to take up Self-inquiry on one’s own.
  • Bhakti and other such techniques are useful once again at a later stage after the Advaitic message is completely ingested without any doubt but a seeker experiences some difficulty to abide constantly in Brahman. The mind out of its sheer old habit pulls him/her back to the lures of the world from unceasing abidance as Brahman. Using Bhakti and other such things as little crutches, it will be easy for the seeker then to come back to rest as Awareness instead of being driven by the vagaries of the mind.

From:  Place of Bhakti in Advaita – The Reply to the Question, Jul 27, 2012

Bhakti and j~nAna are the same

“Of all the means to liberation, devotion is the highest. To seek earnestly to know one’s real nature – this is said to be devotion.” – Shankara, Vivekachudamani.

“Devotion consists of supreme love for God. It is nectar. On obtaining it, man has achieved everything; he becomes immortal; he is completely satisfied. Having attined it, he desires nothing else. Having realized that supreme Love, a man becomes as if intoxicated; he delights only in his own intrinsic bliss.” – Narada, Bhakti Sutras.

Just as the Self and the soul cannot be separated one from the other, neither can j~nAnI and bhakti be spearated; though mutually exclusive, they co-exist as complements in everyone. And as our knowledge grows, we must learn to adapt our vision of the world to accept and embrace apparently contradictory views. We must learn to feel comfortable with the notion that a quantity of energy is both a wave and a particle; that our lives are determined, and that we are free; that our identity is both the Whole and the part. We are the universal Self; we are the one Consciousness – and we are also the individualized soul, which consists of the mind and its own private impressions. We are the Ocean – but we are also the wave.

The Supreme Self, Swami Abhayananda, O-Books. ISBN: 1905047452. Buy from Amazon US, Buy from Amazon UK. Review Link

Bhakti Is the Basis of Brahma-jnan

By Ted Schmidt

One of the chief critiques often hurled at Vedanta is that it is merely intellectual, that it is dry and devoid of heart. This critique, however, is wholly unjustified. In fact, the very foundation of Vedantic self-inquiry is bhakti, or devotion.

It should be understood, however, that truly speaking love, the purest form of which is devotion, is not in its essence the exhilarating emotion it is romantically portrayed as and in whose name intimate relationships of diverse character are universally pursued. Love is simply focused attention. On an exoteric level (i.e., within the context of vyavaharika satyam, the seemingly dualistic empirical reality), we love what we pay attention to. In other words, the focus of our attention betrays or indicates what we love. On an esoteric level (i.e., from the perspective of paramarthika satyam, absolute reality or pure awareness), we can simply say that we are love, that, in fact, love is all there is. For love is attention, and attention is awareness. And since what we are in essence—what indeed everything is in essence—is awareness, love is the essential nature of reality, the “substanceless substance” that is the universal self.

Thus, even dry old pedantic Vedanta is love.

In practical terms, love lies at the heart of Vedanta as well. Only by virtue of focused attention will one be able to imbibe and assimilate the teachings that reveal the true nature of reality. For one thing, the non-dual nature of reality is counter-intuitive due to the fact that maya, or ignorance, projects such a convincing virtual dualistic reality. Additionally, the overlay of conditioning that we as apparent individuals are subjected to from every sector of the apparent reality—parents, school, community, church, government, and media—is so intense that we need a strong constitution, what Vedanta calls mumukshutva, a burning desire for freedom from ignorance, in order to withstand and overcome the constant barrage of obstacles that we as seekers of self-knowledge inevitably face on our quest for understanding and truth. This burning desire can only be characterized as love. In fact, it is essentially the self, limitless awareness, whose nature is love, seeking to know itself through the vehicle of the antahkarana (i.e., mind or intellect) of the apparent individual with whom it has become associated due to the power of maya. Therefore, self-inquiry is nothing but the self engaging in an apparent love affair with itself, an affair that is consummated by the knowledge that negates any and all sense of separation and reveals the singularity of all existence.

It is in this sense that jnana and bhakti are one.

Topic of the Month – bhakti

The topic for July 2014 is bhakti.

Along with many others, I used to think that there were 3 paths to enlightenment: karma, bhakti and j~nAna. I now know better! There is only one ‘remedy’ for saMsAra j~nAna, since only knowledge can eliminate ignorance. But karma yoga is valuable for mental preparation and bhakti is an attitude that should prevail throughout. It is also excellent as a starting point for many. We also need to differentiate bhakti and upAsana

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!