Jnana Yoga vs. Bhakti Yoga

In Jnana Yoga the seeker finds its way to Union (Yoga) through the practice of contemplation on the formless Non-dual Brahman. On this path, duality is seen as an illusion, as merely a superimposition that seems to exist within non-duality. Thus duality needs to be cut away, until only the direct experience of non-duality remains. One who has realized this Non-dual Reality, who truly knows this Truth, is called a jnani; a knower of Truth. In Bhakti Yoga the seeker finds the same union (Yoga), as there is only one summit, through the practice of deep devotion. Devotion in its highest form is directed toward the formless, but also the form, the play of Consciousness, the dance of the Divine is adored in awe by the bhaktas. Duality is not seen merely as an illusion but as a magnificent expression of the Divine Non-dual Reality. Sometimes, unfortunately, the word jnani is used toward someone of which one thinks is only intellectually understanding the Non-dual Reality. Using the word jnani in this way is not very positive, because it implies that someone is emotionless and lacking devotion….
 
Sometimes it is said that Adi Shankaracharya could not have written the Saundarya Lahari text because he was contemplating only on the formless attributeless Brahman, being purely Advaita (= non-dualism). Thus, he discarded all duality, as this is purely an illusion (maya) that doesn’t exist. How then could he have written such a devotional text in which he out pours his awe for Maha Tripurasundari? How could he have this intense devotion in which he is seeing himself as different from Her, so that he could adore Her in all Her splendor? which is seen as an expression of Bhakti. If he truly was only practicing Jnana Yoga, he would not see Her as something to be in awe of or to have deep devotion for, as all form is merely an illusion–She doesn’t really exist. There seems to be a contradiction in being purely Advaita and being in awe, in love with the manifestation….
 
In my own practice I have encountered this same appearing contradiction. I do both deep contemplation on Brahman, thus discarding all duality as unreal, by cultivating a constant awareness that everything is merely an illusion. AND at the same time I cultivate being constantly in awe of the play of Shakti, devoting my whole being to know Tripurasundari; the One that dances in the three cities of Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep. The appearance is that I do two different practices at the same time, implying that it might be better to do one or the other. But I keep remembering that in our tradition Swami Rama tells us: “That which is called maya, or illusion, in our worship becomes Mother and does not remain as a stumbling block or obstacle on the path of spiritual enlightenment.” We practice Yogasutras, as a preliminary practice, to remove the kleshas, to increase viveka = discernment. We practice constant contemplation as describe in Advaita Vedanta, which brings a deeper understanding of the Non-dual Reality. To finally fall into deep devotion on Maha Tripurasundari. There is no contraction! Everything comes together as constant devotion of the Non-dual Reality, being in awe of it also when it seems to play as form. The highest insight is that Shiva and Shakti are one and the same. In our practice we learn to discriminate between the different waves of beauty, so that we can understand how this dance appears to be manifested. We learn to discriminate between the appearing gross, subtle and subtlest aspects of this dance. So that we can follow the evolutes of Shakti back to find Shiva. Really finding the formless will simultaneously show that Shiva and Shakti are one and the same!
 
In my reading I encountered a PDF of a commentary on the Saundarya Lahari, written by Kanchi Mahaswamigal. I would like to share a piece of it, which touch me deeply, as here is another swami from another lineage, all descending from Adi Shankarasharya, sharing the same wisdom in other words. In this piece he shares that of course a jnani can do bhakti (deep devotion)! As he delightfully describes that it is not up to the jnani to get the realization of formless attributes Brahman. He tells us that you cannot break the illusion of maya yourself, because you as an individual are a part of maya. You are an illusion. So how can you break the illusion of maya, when you are yourself a part of it? Thus, he basically tells all the jnanis that deep contemplation on Brahman cannot be done without deep devotion toward Shakti and surrendering into Shakti. It is Her grace to eventually realize attributes Brahman. She appears to exist as long as maya appears to exist. Even after the veil has lifted She is still the one that plays. Thus my reason for sharing this piece is to show you another way to point out that there is no conflict in all these viewpoints–they dance together. Mahaswamigal bring this same wisdom in another way.
 
The only thing that I see different (for those who read the PDF) is that he says that jnanis eventually are higher than the one practicing Sri Vidya Tantra. I see this the other way around. Which also happens to be the way Swami Rama sees it, which doesn’t make it true though! I merely thought of sharing my thoughts that may inspire you, not to get into a debate or want to say my thoughts are better than the other…. Just a thought: If you would eventually only want to be in Brahman, and completely discard all appearing form because it is maya, “bad”, then you would be not of this world. You would only want to be on the other shore, in formless attributes Brahman. Thus, I think it is even higher to be eventually able to be on both the other shore and on this shore. To realized the Non-duality is one, but then also to become an adept within the dance of Shakti is a whole other level of mastery. You will first have to go through the process of completely discarding this duality as not real. At the same time you master to be in complete awe that Shakti appears to dance as maya and increasingly laugh in utter delight; isn’t this illusion amazingly beautiful? As long as there appears to be an individual playing within Shakti or maya, why not master Her play? Why not be fully awake, knowing all is Brahman and simultaneously know that maya does not exist. But when maya seems to exist, when Shakti seems to dance as multiplicity, learn to dance! Take full responsibility over the appearing instruments, do selfless service, be an instrument to radiate Her beauty. This view is adding even more responsibility! Not only do you discard yourself as something unreal (all is maya) but you add responsibility by surrendering yourself to the illusion of maya so that it can fully use you as a divine instrument. Only a rare few have this mastery within the evolutes of Shakti. These adepts cannot be fully comprehended by us. We can expand our awareness by contemplating the possibility and just keep going on our path.
 
This is why I am so unbelievably grateful for the way Swami Rama and Swami Jnaneshvara introduced the path. The path of Yoga, Vedanta, and the cultivation of deep devotion in Sri Vidya Tantra. As I have longed my whole life to be able to be in such a state of devotion. I longed my whole life to be okay with diving into this state of awe. It was/is my biggest fear; to actually be soooo happy, soooo in love with manifestation, to be soooo deeply touched by Her beauty, yet knowing that it is unreal or merely a dream, that I could fully surrender into it. The further I walk this path, the longer I do my practice, the deeper I dive, because the fear is so significantly reduced. If I keep going I will eventually be able to dive into complete surrender. Being in this state after so many years of practice is an indescribable joy, and the heart sings when it is both meditation time and (mostly) during the day. Over time I will learn to express it even more fully and will learn to keep dancing with everyone that I know on the path. This all happened because of the practice of cultivating constant awareness; of the formless, of the unreality of manifestation, as well as the awe of the beauty of manifestation… ooh, how joyous is the way to freedom!
 
ENJOY… SMILE… LIVE… LOVE and GIVE,
Swami Ma Tripurashakti

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Here is the excerpt from the PDF which is a commentary on the Saundarya Lahari by Kanchi Mahaswamigal:
It is wrong to think that the goal of Bhakti lies in the dualistic attitude of being separate from God. It is by this wrong assumption that people ask the question: How can a jnani exhibit Bhakti? In the very path of Bhakti wherein it appears there is an embedded duality, the same Bhakti would lead the practitioner to the stage where he will ask: Oh God! May I be one with You! This is the subtle point which the questioning people miss. When that stage comes to the devotee, the very parA-shakti [para means supreme, so read supreme shakti] known as karya-brahman or saguNa-brahman [Brahman with attributes or forms] will bless him with that jnana that takes him to the non-dual karana-brahman or nirguna-brahman [attributeless or formless Brahman] Not everybody can practice the path of jnana that brings the realization of the maha-vakyas by sravana (hearing), manana (thinking and recalling) and nididhyasana (contemplating). Only when the mind vanishes one can realize the Self as the Absolute Brahman. If that is so, the real question is: How to kill the truant mind, which refuses to be subdued, much less vanquished? The very effort of vanquishing the mind has to be done by the mind only. How can it kill itself? The palm can slap another; but it cannot slap itself. Though we are thus brought to a dilemma, there is a supreme power which has created all these minds. So instead of self-effort to kill our minds, we should leave it to the para-shakti and surrender to Her. Instead of falling at the feet of the witness for the prosecution we fall at the feet of the prosecutor himself! Then She will help us quell the mind; She will grace us with the necessary jnana.
 
[Mother or para-shakti is speaking:] “Look, after all, all this is My Play. The Play appears real to you because of maya. I shall totally erase that maya-view for you. Then you can also be like me, with that calm non-dual bliss inside and having on the outside a mind which is untouched by maya. Thereby you can also be a witness to all this worldly Dance. You will thus see yourself in Me and see Me in all the worldly multiplicities. In other words instead of making the mind non-existent, your mind will then be full of Me.
 
And She might make you just exactly that way. But I know your worry. You constantly worry about the impossibility of transcending maya, of eradication this worldly vision and of vanquishing the mind. You keep worrying to the extent of almost weeping over it. To such a wailing seeker She replies:
Why do you worry and weep like this? You are worrying that you cannot discard the world from your view. But you forget that the world was not your making. This Sun and Moon, mountains, trees, oceans, animal kingdom, and the millions of living beings and categories. All this was not created by you.
When that is so, you are worrying about the little you that you are, and you forget that this little you also was not your creation. Instead of thinking all this is not only one but one with Me, your maya-clouded view makes you think they are all different and distinct. And even that maya-view that clouds you, again was not your making!
 
My dear child, you are caught up in the web of the world, a mind and a maya -cloud—all this is My making. If you had made it all, then you could have overcome them. But it was all made by Me in the fullness of Power. You jivas have only little fragments of that Power. So if you cannot eradicate the world, the mind and the maya that I have made, you don’t have to cry over it. It is not in your Power. It has to take place only by My Grace. Come nearer to Me through Devotion! I shall do the eradication in proper doses for you.
 
click here to read the whole PDF
 
To end here are some words written by Swami Rama:
My master explained anadi vidya—cosmic illusion—to me just as Shankara had described it. He said that avidya means individual ignorance, while maya is both individual and cosmic illusion. Ma means “no” and ya means “that”: that which is not self-existent, yet appears to exist, like a mirage, is called maya. Then he explained another school of philosophy, which maintains that maya is universal illusion and also the mother of the universe. He told me that in tantra philosophy maya is considered to be both cosmic shakti and the primal force, or kundalini—the latent force in all human beings. By focusing one’s awareness on the Absolute, this sleeping force is awakened within and directed toward the center of consciousness. When one comes in touch with this power he can easily attain the highest level of consciousness.
~ Swami Rama, Living with the Himalayan Masters

 

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Yoga Meditation, Contemplation, and Devotion for Self-realization

This site is an offering to those who deeply long to experience Pure Consciousness that is known as Divine Mother or Tripura (‘Tri’ means three, and ‘pura’ means city); She is the one that lives in the three cities of Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep. Temporary leaving behind the three cities and residing only in Pure Consciousness is called Self-realization. Another name for this realization is Yoga; the union of the individual self with the universal Self; the union of Atman with Brahman, or Shiva with Shakti; or the dis-union of Purusha and Prakriti. Some might think of Tripura as an anthropomorphic being but She is not, She is the Non-dual Reality in which all appearing manifestation seems to exist. All that is, is the Non-dual Reality.
 
On this site the teachings of Yoga, Vedanta, and Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra are offered to guide you in learning to meditate directly on Tripura by using modern ways of communication such as through animations, while preserving the ancient wisdom. These teaching have been given to us by an ancient lineage of meditation masters, lovingly called the Tradition of the Himalayan masters. These practices lead us to a space of stillness and silence where Yoga meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer converge into deep devotion and constant awareness of Tripura. At the end of the journey when all efforts are exhausted, grace will dawn. This is known as shaktipata, through which the final barrier is removed, which is the piercing of the bindu, and leads to the direct experience of Non-dual Reality. This finally reveals an unimaginable Joy from knowing the Non-dual Reality or Pure Consciousness!

 

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