Q.540 Following Bhakti Yoga

A: There are two main points here.

First, since you are asking a question about Advaita, you must appreciate that, in reality there is only Brahman, or Consciousness. From the empirical standpoint, of course, you see a dualistic world with other people etc. and, from this point of view, it is not unreasonable to speak of a god, or gods. But anything to do with this empirical point of view has to be provisional only. It all has to be acknowledged as simply name and form of that non-dual reality eventually. That ‘acknowledgement’, and the firm belief that it is true, is what we call ‘enlightenment’.

Secondly (and this follows from the above if you think about it), anything to do with God and worship of a god has to be only an aspect of the empirical appearance. It is only, at best, going to affect one’s apparent life within this appearance. Nothing can ever affect who-you-really-are, because you are already Brahman. Consequently, if you follow this line of thought, you are forced to the conclusion that the ONLY thing you can usefully ‘do’ in this life is endeavor to acquire the complete conviction of the truth of these statements. I.e. mokṣa comes from jñāna yoga, not from bhakti yoga.

Therefore the answer to your first question is that bhakti can only ever serve a ‘mental preparation’. It helps to focus the mind and cultivate the right sort of attitude to life and other people. But, once your mind is suitably prepared, you have to seek out some good teaching material on Advaita. Ideally, this would be from a qualified traditional teacher. If that is not possible, read some good books.

The answer to the second question really follows from what I said above. There are no ‘others’ in reality. Apparent ‘others’ are in fact your own Self. So, your ‘love’ for others should extend to everyone, not just ‘loved ones’. There isn’t really any ‘closer to reality’. There is the dualistic appearance, and the non-dual substrate of that appearance, which is Brahman.

Your last question is true for some. One answer could be that those jñānī-s whose early life included bhakti might continue to pray because that became part of their life. (A jñānī continues to live out his or her remaining life until expiry of karma, then is not born again.) But the jñānī also knows that what was previously prayed to as a separate god is one’s own Self, so might now pray knowingly in that sense. (I am not the best person to ask about bhakti since I have no experience of it and little knowledge of its theory and practice.)

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