There are different approaches to sadhana depending on the various kinds of people. Some people do Sadhana
- In terms of Energy, light – Brahman
- Worship form alone- Like Vishnu alone
- Form with a feminine deity like Vishnu and His consort Lakshmi devi
- And only worshipping Lakshmi ji alone.
In this blogpost we will look at point 1 and point 2 in detail. Point 1 and 2 define the Jnana and Bhakti Marga of Sadhana.
In the next blogposts we shall understand the depth of this philosophy with the help of scriptural evidences while the third post will cover point 3 and 4.
Form and Formless are one and the same
The various concepts, seen through many schools of philosophy focus on altering the state of present consciousness to a superior state of consciousness. The central focus is given on Sadhana, which is the medium to attain that perfect state.
Though the destination is the same, the methods as different and perhaps from a broader view they might contradict each other. One school says oneness while the other says duality. If I say, both are the same, then what’ll be your reaction?
Some great spiritualist-scholar said that perfection of Sadhana (be it through Jnana or Bhakti), can only be attained if the Shastric statements are united and not broken into fragments. We perceive contradictions in both the philosophies owing to our inability to unite them and see them in harmony, although its very teachings sync with one another.
Until we are able to see everything in line with the scriptures without dissecting them according to our thought process and mindsets, conclusions are error prone. Accepting one teaching and discarding the other simply means that our mind is biased. It is not yet an open vessel to house the spiritual essence.
The Shastras as in Bhagavatham and Ramayana speak of both the Brahman (formless aspect) and Bhagawan (form aspect) of the supreme person. So, a perfect philosophy must possess both the teachings in harmony. It cannot be fragmented in any respect for doing that will mean contradicting the Shastras. But, it is common to see people of the Jnana School ripping apart the Bhakti school by calling it hallucination.
They say there is no abode or Loka and everything is Brahman. This is true, but it is partial truth. It cannot be taken literally. Similarly people of Bhakti school mock at oneness expressed by Jnanis. They call this state hallucination.
2 different approaches towards God-realization
Keeping all these points in mind, we will see the discrepancies that have followed through the newer generations and how the original philosophies of the various Sampradayas have come into a baseless conflict. Actually, there is no true conflict as all of them propagate the one, same principal. However, we can see a differences in approach owing to the difference in time. Also, we see a blaring difference in the philosophy in terms of form and formless just because of the keen attraction of the guru of the Sampradaya.
Adi Shankara, the incarnation of Lord Shiva Himself initiated Shaivisim. Lord Shiva is a perfect Jnani and therefore propagating God in terms of formless or qualities (Jnana) was close to Him.
Similarly, Ramanuja, the father of Sri Sampradaya or Vishishta Advaita was none other than Lord Lakshmana (Shesha). Lord Lakshmana’s fundamental mood is ‘Service to Sri Rama’. Service is Karma and Sri Rama is Brahman or Form aspect. Therefore, Kainkariyam to a deity emerged as the rock principal of Sri Sampradaya, for its was the propagator’s internal mood. So form aspect of Brahman got its push through Sri Sampradayam.
Other sampradayas also have their teachings based on the personal, internal mood of the founder of that specific Sampradaya.
Jnana and Bhakti are similar
We shall see the key similarities and difference in both the school of Jnana and Bhakti. Some perceive that superior object as an energy or a force while some can better relate to the form of that Superior force. The age-old conflict of establishing one aspect superior to the other can be put to end through individual learning. Later one must sanction one’s realizations from a bonafide authority and mainly the scriptures.
If realization contradict the scriptures, where one concept is cutting through the other, the theory is half-baked and has no relevance. Until a sadhaka is able to embrace all theories presented in the Shastras without having biases, complete realization can perhaps never dawn.
Key similarities and differences in the Jnanis and Bhaktas.
The Jnana school of thought relies on the energy (formless) aspect while
the Bhakti school of spirituality connects with the deity (form).
We can draw a similarity in the two schools of thought by saying:
“Form and formless can be synonymously present in the superior force/entity and can be interchangeably used to address it/Him as per context.”
The similarity is that energy (formless) cannot be perceived without it manifesting on the physical plane. It requires a form for expression. Isn’t it? Let’s understand this deeply.
How Brahman manifests in form
Air is energy. But, air can be called ‘air’ only if it displays some properties. Moreover, it can be concluded as ‘air’ only if it manifests in a particular way. For proving it, in its presence, humans must be able to breathe, grass must move, dust must fly, motility must be exhibited. These are some key observations for something to be called ‘air’. So, Jnana subtly accepts that formless has a form (a precept of the Bhakti school), when it comes to expression. In this case, energy requires to manifest or take form to prove its existence.
Similarly Bhakti school which preaches the form principle adopts the existence of energy or formless. Now, we We may ask how?
For Bhagawan (Form) to function, he requires energy or his force, which can be termed Maya. The energetic is the one who is the Master of Energy. So, the form aspect (Bhagawan) has within itself the formless (Energy). Although it has a form, it’s formless attribute initiates activities like creation, maintenance and dissolution.
How form uses formless aspect
Another formless attribute ingrained in Bhagawan is ‘Bhava’. It is said that the Lord becomes overjoyed when receiving devotees in Vaikuntha. The feeling Bhava is formless, but it gets expression through the gestures of Bhagawan. The sole, unseen emotion is giving us pleasure, which manifests through the limbs of Bhagawan, like a soothing embrace. So, here too, formless plays a major role in tightening the bonds of love between Bhagawan and jiva.
Bhagawan can be fully experienced only with the involvement of the formless principle ‘emotion’ or ‘bhava’. Although, it is subtle, it can only be felt. This feeling is similar to a mother’s hug. The action ‘hug’ has no meaning if there is no warmth and care. People hug each other in parties just as a formality. The action itself has no meaning. But, it is the emotion which justifies an action. This is the closeness of Jnana and Bhakti.