What is Pramana?
The Advaita Vedanta of Shankara has six means of knowledge or Pramana, namely, Pratyaksha (प्रत्यक्ष perception), Anumana (अनुमान inference), Upamana (उपमान comparison and analogy), Arthapati (अर्थापती postulation or derivation from circumstances), AbhavaPramaan (अभावप्रमाण non-perception or cognitive proof) and Shabda (शब्द testimony of the past or present reliable experts). The Bhakti Sutras of Shandilya only accept three of the six Pramana of Shankara namely Pratyaksha, Anumana and Shabda; Shabda being the chief. In Sense perception, knowledge through senses come in two stages: When the senses come in contact with the object, the ignorance covering them is first destroyed and then only, knowledge will arise in the mind when it is illumined by the soul.
What are Prameyas?
They are three in number namely Jiva (जीव Individual soul), Jagat (जगत The World) and Ishwara (ईश्वर God). The important thing regarding God is that only devotion to God can give one liberation and not merely the knowledge about Him. The Lord’s energy or Shakti (शक्ति) is Maya (माय) or Jagat. This is also known as Prakriti (प्रकृति). The Lord creates the world with his Shakti, Maya or the world is the playground where the play of life happens. Maya undergoes change but the Creator of Maya, the Lord remains unchanged. The Lord is unchanging and Maya is ever changing and yet the Lord is in unison with His powers. One can never separate sunshine from the Sun and the power from the powerful. Hence the Lord and His Shakti are non-differentiated. Creation, although undergoes changes, is seen as the very manifestation of the Lord. The Lord is ever free. He is of the nature of pure consciousness and takes birth inside of Maya, by His own sweet will. The Lord takes a spiritual form, free of matter, to attract devotion towards Him. The purpose of the Lord taking a spiritual form is to attract the living entities so that living entities can qualify towards Mukti. The various types of Incarnations and the forms of the Lord is fundamentally to attract and suit living entities of various mentalities. There are several modes of devotion and even one is enough to please Him, if practiced intensely. When living entities give up their bodies before developing full devotion, they are reborn in the world, where their devotional practice will continue until they finally attain Him.
The individual soul is a separated part and parcel of God. It is sometimes known as Brahman. The soul stands separated from God, because of inner instruments such as Manas (मानस Mind) or Buddhi Intellect (बुद्धि). The inner instruments are contaminated by the three Gunas namely Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Added to this is the long disunion with God, not engaging in any form of devotional activity to further devotion to God. This results in bondage to Samsara (समसारा). Knowledge of God alone cannot help the dissolution of the three Gunas. Only pure devotion to God can eliminate Samsara from the heart of the Jiva. The Samsara is an evolute of Prakriti or Maya. The adjunct of Prakriti cannot be removed by knowledge. Knowledge at most can be an inspiration for the main devotional content. With Knowledge about God, interest to perform devotion can develop. When a red rose is kept near a pure crystal, the redness of the crystal cannot be removed by doing anything to the crystal. Here, either the crystal has to be removed or the rose has to be removed. Here to, in a Jiva, the soul being a permanent feature, it is important to dissolve Knowledge itself by pulling it back into its source which is God alone. Hence devotion has to be invoked. With this devotion, knowledge sinks back to its source which is God and the soul or Jiva regains its original purity. Thus in the sentient entity there are two components, which are Jiva and Ishwara. Prakriti exists as the non-sentient component.
Prakriti is the energy of the Lord. She is also known as Maya or Samsara, when she exists in the heart of a Jiva. Prakriti is the material cause of creation. Prakriti, by herself cannot manifest into the wonderful universe. Even a Jiva is incapable of creating the universe. She entirely emerges from the Supreme Lord. The beauty of the universe prevails because the Lord brings Prakriti to life with consciousness. Prakriti behaves the way she does, although she is insentient, which happens by the pure and direct will of the Lord alone.
What are the Sadhanas?
Bhakti is Sadhana. Bhakti Devi is the direct means to liberation. It means supreme attachment to and love for nothing other than God. All souls, however their condition, is qualified for Bhakti Sadhana. The Sadhana of Bhakti is not like Jnana because you can have Jnana or Knowledge of a person you hate and yet you will never have the capacity to have love for the person you hate, although you have complete knowledge about the person. Knowledge or Jnana gets dissolved as soon as Bhakti arises in the heart. Bhakti is emotion driven but, knowledge is not. Devotion is raga (राग attachment) and it becomes Anurag (अनुराग attachment to God) or deep Bhakti towards God. This Anurag is most desired because this love and attachment is towards God, who is non-material in nature. However raga refers to attachment to anything other than God which is material and hence condemnable.
Role of Knowledge in Liberation
Knowledge is important in a way that it helps destroy the impurities of the mind and reduces its heaviness. Knowledge is a great support for honing devotion. Shandilya refers to the Upanishads, the Gita and the Vedanta Sutras as Brahmakanda (ब्रह्मकाण्डा). He says that knowledge is common to Karma and Jnana. The ceremonial rites of the Vedas have certain purposes. There is a reason for performing the rites and there are certain effects associated with them. Knowledge here in Karma-Kanda is necessary. In the Jnana-Kanda to attain liberation, one attains liberation through devotion to Brahman. He gathers knowledge about Brahman so that he can develop devotion. Without knowledge he cannot be inspired to devote himself to Brahman.