Definition: Dr. K. Sadanada
True bhakti can only be an advaita bhakti - Bhakti involves love, and love demands unity as its ultimate goal. The lover and the loved have to merge into one if the love is to be fulfilled. If I say I love my wife, I and she are one in soul. I love her, but - if that but arises, the love is not pure enough for one's complete surrenderance.
Hence Love demands complete surrenderance. Swami Chinmayandaji says - 'one can give without love but one cannot love without giving'. The ultimate giving is giving all wrong notions about oneself - that includes the sense of separateness of the lover from the loved. While Bhakti means sharanNaagati for VishiShTAdvaitin, it means the complete surrenderance of ones ego - the surrenderance of false and identifying with the truth as the ultimate goal of bhakti - that is true advaita Bhakti. Bhagavaan Ramana from
bheda bhaavanaa so ha mityasou|
bhaavanaabhidaa paavanii mataa|
Bhakti with the notion that bhakta is separate from the Lord - in comparison to that - the clear understanding that 'saH aham iti' I and He are one and the same or complete unification with the Lord as one is the supreme bhakti.
Hence Shankara says in VivekachUDAmani:
moxa saadhana saamaagryaam bhaktireva gariiyasi| swa swarrupaanasandhaanam bhaktiH ityabhidhiiyate||
swaatmaanubhava sandhaanam bhaktirityapare jaguH||
Of all the paths for liberation, bhakti is the supreme. And that bhakti he defines as one's own contemplation on one's own nature - that sat chit ananda swaruupam of one self. The experience of one's own self is bhakti. Hence experience and knowledge of ones experience are both identical. This is where loved and the lover have become one. Hence Yajnavalkya says to his wife - My dear, no body loves anybody other than oneself. 'And any body loves anything that love is only a manifestation of love for his own self'. 'aatmanastu kaamaaya sarvam priyam bhavati'.
Sometime around 1998 there was one person who said that he was very intellectual or rational and was unable to cultivate the bhakti since he read that bhakti is important for self realization. I am copying here my response to him since I could not find the ready reference to this post from archives. I cannot improvise the discussion and hence posting again so that I can read again!
Question: I've met the following problem and I hope that whoever is a sincere God-seeker. (Of course all of you !!) can help me. I am naturally an intellectual type and also a meditator. Recently I was told that I should develop more devotion towards the Divine in order to come closer to God. Always have devotion to the Divine. Oke. But now you see the problem: I naturally begin to think of this how to solve it, how to become more devoted towards the Divine. But this is a contradiction. Bhakti is a tendency of the heart to have feelings of devotion towards the Divine. It's not an intellectual affair which can be solved by the intellect. It's the well-known heart vs head "problem". As you all know Shankara was also a great mystic and poet and thus had also complete "heart-realization". Now so: How can I develop more devotion?? The saying of it and thinking is not the same as actually being devoted. So: Who can shed some light on this problem, I will be happy to hear from you!!
Response: You may be surprised - true devotion is not emotional - it is actually intellectual. Since you say you are intellectual you are already a devotee. What does intellectual means? Intellect is one, which questions for rational explanation. When the intellect cannot come up with a rational explanation that is where true wonder starts. True devotion starts.
Look at the cosmos. Look at the order in the cosmos - from planetary motion to galaxies and supergalaxies and the intellect cannot comprehend any more the magnitude of the universe neither the universal laws and the operation of these to minutest details - the very questioning intellect goes blank in trying to comprehend that which is beyond the comprehension. Any ordered system has low entropy and work has to be expended to create such an order and to keep it in that order. It can not be done by just random process since the laws governing the cosmic system are universal. You can but admire that power which is source for such incredible order in the unlimited ever expanding limitless universe and your intellect cannot but bow down to that superior intelligence - and that is true devotion.
Look at your own body - millions of cells - all precisely located, every limb and every organ function in its own sphere and yet all perfectly synchronized to a perfect order. We just dump something into our stomach. But what happens to the food as it goes into the stomach - the gastric juices, the enzymes of the right type and right order have to act for the digestion to continue. The digestive system, the circulatory system, the distribution system - the excretory system everything functions so beautiful without our input. What an incredible machine the body is. We cannot make an outside mechanical pump function without a problem for more than two years - as one experiences with their cars etc. But look at the marvelous pump made of mussels and tissues pumping day in and day out whether we are awake or asleep. The process is beyond intellectual comprehension. We donot know what life is - yet its manifestation makes just organic matter to enliven to the degree that it is nothing short of a miracle. If there is a creator or if there is a superior intelligence in the universe, I do not need any further proof than what I see - a human being, a mosquito, a small bug, an ant or single cell or even a DNA who incredible information about the whole human being is stored in an embryo and how it can multiply itself to produce such a complex systems. My intellect goes blank - that is the devotion.
You see devotion is not emotional display of feelings but natural emotional expressions that arise as a result of intellectual appreciation. Intellect cannot but appreciate the incredible order and beauty in the universal systems which religions call it as creation. One cannot but admire looking at a tree, looking a flower, looking at a simple leaf - His signature, His glory, His presence. That is the true devotion. Recognizing His presence everywhere - from tinniest bug to gigantic beings, love of a mother to a child, growth of baby to adult - life is incredible - Watching the life itself is a greatest entertainment one can have if one is sensitive. Everyone is selfishly looking after oneself - a local disturbances in the total order - yet that is the part of the beauty - everyone is selfish yet at the grandeur level that is all within the order. I get greatest entertainment watching people, particularly sitting in the airports and when I have nothing else to do. It is amazing how people run around each concerned with himself and how people try to get what they want or what one thinks he deserves - conflicting each other and complaining about others. Everyone feels their problems are most severe - yet the whole universe moves forward - in perfect harmony. Thousands of years ago, people must have the same problems - how to raise their children how to cope up with competition, how to make more at the expense of others - Each one thinking their problems are the most severe - Some crying for departed souls - some celebrating for the arrival of new ones - some enjoying their good luck while others cursing for their bad luck - yet everything is in order - Same thing thousands of years ago - same thing now and same thing will be there thousands of years from now - Everything is in order - some complain that is also part of the order - some cause others to complain that is also part of the order - Just stand back and enjoy the tamaashha or entertainment - you cannot but marvel at His incredible play - just stand apart and enjoy - that is devotion.
You see devotion is not sitting and praying some imaginary forms or concepts - but admire the beauty of creation and joy of life. That is devotion and that is meditation - you do not want to change the system you do not want things to be different from what they are - you just stand apart and see the incredible play going on - that is devotion. For this, one needs incredible intellectual observation - not a sharp intellect that divides but subtle intellect that integrates - in sanskrit it is suukshma (subtle) budhhi in contrast to tiikshNa buddhi (sharp intellect). In Kenopanishad - the true devotion is defined beautifully: I will give only the English version: "That which the mind cannot think, but because of which the mind has the capacity to think that alone is Brahman not this that you worship; that which the speech cannot speak, but because of which one has the capacity to speak - that alone is Brahman not this that you worship; that which the eyes cannot see, but because of which the eyes have the capacity to see - that alone is Brahman not this that you worship; that which the ears cannot hear but because of which the ears have the capacity to hear - that alone is Brahman not this that you worship"
Devotion to that is true meditation - that is where the intellect inquiry goes stand still at the altar of the Almighty - And that is true surrenderance and true devotion.
Hence you have the right equipment to develop devotion. In fact you are more blessed provide you direct your mind into right understanding of the nature of the truth - And that is what is being discussed as the inquiry of Brahman in the Brahmasuutra bhaashhya.
Seeking of God is understanding of God - One understands when one realizes that there is not more to understand and there is no more to seek and that is true devotion and true surrenderance - where one is no more there to understand or to seek - he has surrendered to HIM.
Finally, Prof. V.Krishnamurthy gives the following references to previous posts on the Advaitin List: #33320: Kanchi Swamigal talks about 'Continuous Contemplating on the Form of one's own Self' as being the definition of bhakti.
#5280, 5282, 5289: My posts on 'Advaita Bhakti'
#32284: Sage Kapila in Bhagavatam on Bhakti.
Return to the Contents page for the Terms and Definition.