Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 52

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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II – Are not alternative means available to gain mokña?

Another grave misconception is that different paths are available for gaining mokña and that we can choose any one of them. Each ‘path for mokña’ is called yoga and the paths are, jïäna-yoga, bhakti-yoga, karma-yoga and haöha-yoga. According to this thinking, jïäna-yoga will suit the intellectual, karma-yoga will suit the extrovert and action-oriented, bhakti-yoga will suit the emotional and haöha-yoga will suit those who are body-oriented. An ‘integrated’ yoga has also been put together based on the reasoning that only a combination of yogas would suit this complicated kali-yuga.


The above thinking that mokña is possible through various means other than by acquiring self-knowledge overlooks the fact that -

• the self is already free from all limitations and all that is needed is to become qualified to receive this knowledge and obtain it from a guru who has learnt it according to the sampradäya (jïäna-yoga);
• this knowledge cannot be obtained through bhakti-yoga, haöha-yoga, karma-yoga and performance of any karma;
• this knowledge can be obtained only through the appropriate means of knowledge, which is Vedänta.

The seeker of mokña has therefore no option except to gain self-knowledge through the pramäëa of Vedänta from a competent guru. We may now consider the contrary view.


As for bhakti-yoga, bhakti is the recognition of Éçvara and yoga is any karma done for the sake of recognising Éçvara. Even if we meditate on Éçvara, it is bhakti, since Éçvara is involved. Bhakti is karma, since we are doing it with our will. When the bhakti-yogé performs obligatory duties, he is doing karma. When he does daily püjäs, it is käyikaà karma (action through the body). If he does kértana, it is väcikaà karma (action through the mouth). If he does meditation for invoking the grace of Éçvara, then it is mänasaà karma (action through the mind). Therefore, the expression bhakti-yoga has to be taken as karma-yoga, bhakti being the common element in all these actions. As for the connection between karma-yoga and self-knowledge, we have already seen that it can only prepare the mind for knowledge and cannot bestow knowledge. Since bhakti-yoga is not different from karma-yoga, its usefulness is also restricted to being helpful to make the mind suitable for self-knowledge.


Bhagavadgétä [327] classifies bhaktas into the following four types:

• the devotee who is in distress [328];

• the devotee who is not only in distress but also wants to gain something [329];

• the devotee who seeks to know the svarüpa of Éçvara [330]; and

• the jïäné who knows that he is essentially not different from Éçvara.


In the case of bhaktas belonging to the first two types, they are not bhakti-yogis, as they are self-seeking and their connection with Éçvara is only for getting the result that they desire. Even so, their devotion will have some positive influence on them. But it will not result in the self-knowledge that he is the whole. As for the third category, the selfless devotion of these bhaktas will purify their minds and make them fit for knowledge. But, bhakti cannot lead the ajïäni-bhaktas to the recognition that the non-dual Brahman is the self. Only knowledge can remove the ignorance, which stands against the ajïäné-bhaktas from recognising that they are the whole and that they are already essentially non-different from Éçvara. In short, all ajïäni-bhaktas will not get jïäna through bhakti and therefore cannot gain mokña through bhakti. As regards the jïäni-bhaktas, they have already gained self-knowledge and they know the truth of their being only as though separate from Éçvara. He is, in fact, the only real bhakta, as his bhakti is fulfilled.


The question, however, arises as to how in the same Gétä there is a separate chapter entitled Bhakti-yoga. Each chapter in Gétä is given a title, based on the predominant topic therein and it is called yoga. The word ‘yoga’ is used here in the sense of topic. Saìgati (topic) is a synonym for yoga. For example, the topic of the first chapter is Arjuna’s despondency and it is called Arjuna-viñäda-yoga. Similarly, the chapter that deals with bhakti is called Bhakti-yoga. Both yogas are only topics.


We must understand that bhakti is common to all seekers, regardless of whether their life-style is of karma-yoga or of sannyäsa. It is easy to appreciate that the karma-yogé is a bhakta, since he considers his actions as Éçvara-arpita and their results as Éçvara-prasäda. As regards the sannyäsé, he is either a seeker of jïäna or a jïäné. When he is a seeker, his understanding of Éçvara progresses. Initially his appreciation of Éçvara is that he has become the manifestation and that he is viçva-rüpa. The seeker is reverential and devotional as he sees everything as saguëa Ésvara. Then he comes to know that all that exists is only the appearance of Brahman. All differentiations cease, objects become the self and saguëa Éçvara becomes ëirguëa Éçvara. He, as jïäné with sarvätma-bhäva, sees everything as himself. In the absence of the subject-object division, Éçvara-upäsanä now becomes contemplation on ätmä, which is called nididhyäsanam [331]. Therefore, sannyäsé is also a bhakta and bhakti is common to both the karma-yogé and the sannyäsé.


As regards haöha-yoga, all including the sannyäsé, the karma-yogé and the non-seekers may pursue it as a discipline. While it is useful to gain a certain degree of fitness and co-ordination of the body and the mind, it does not lead to mokña since it cannot provide self-knowledge. The basic position on this subject must be reiterated. The problem being ignorance and error, the solution can only be knowledge. In this, there is no choice. And when the çästra says that knowledge alone is mokña, it does not amount to fanaticism. If we say eyes alone see colors, we are not fanatics. There is fanaticism only when we propagate a belief, which is subject to negation, as the only truth, or hold on to one means as true while there are many equally valid options. When the self is mistaken for a limited being (saàsäré), nothing other than knowledge can correct that mistake. That is why Båhadäraëyaka Upaniñad states that ätmä has to be known for which one has to do çästra-vicära. [332]

327. Chapter 7.
328. ärthaù.
329. arthärthé.
330. jij~näsu.
331. Swami Paramarthananda, Lectures on the Bhagavadgétä, Volume I, The Samskrita Academy, Chennai, p. 177.
332. ätmä vä are drañtavyaù çrotavyo mantavyo nididhyäsitavyo maitreyi (2.4.5.) The self, my dear Maitreyi, has to be seen (known), heard of (from a guru), analyzed and contemplated upon.

Go to Part 53


Page last updated: 23-Jul-2018