Religion With God
Path Of Devotion (Bhakti)
In talking of bhakti (devotion) as a path to seek the Truth, unfortunately, it is inadvertently believed to mean (or suggest) realization of the dual aspect of God in the form one's Chosen Ideal. However, in fact Vedanta wants to emphasis Advaita or non-dual nature of Truth or Reality. Without deliberating on this misplaced conception, the matter is further discussed, elaborated, and eulogized in various forms of idol worship, devotion, faith, rituals, chosen ideal, and so forth. The whole history of religion and spirituality is imbibed with such misconception about the nondual nature of the goal. In flow of discussion, the concept of anthropomorphic God occupies the place of Brahman instead or in place of Absolute Consciousness as Truth or Reality.
Therefore, it becomes mandatory on our part to reconsider the path of Bhakti from Advaita Vedanta point of view. Such an approach suits the demands of modern thought and scientific temper of enquiry into Truth, and about interrelationship between Absolute Self, individual self, and the perceived universe. It is absolutely necessary to grasp the essence of Vedanta, the philosophy of Upanishads, which proclaims Absolute Consciousness as the only Reality that is without beginning and end, which is one without the second, which has no attributes, and which is formless. All the manifestations and attributes that we superimpose upon this Reality/Truth are but the limitations created by the narrow bounds of human consciousness. Our mind, our ego, our intellect, and our senses are limited in their perception of Reality; for, the inputs from sensory stimuli, thoughts, imaginations, and words are inadequate to gain the experience, and are inadequate means to describe the experiences in the realm of spirituality as well. We take the five senses (organs of vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch) along with mind-stuff as the final authority to enlighten us on Truth. However, it is impossible to grasp the whole with the help of any one or even with the combination of all these means of empirical knowledge; the whole is beyond mind and senses. The mind and the senses are but the parts of the whole, and it is therefore but natural that they cannot comprehend the Reality or Truth in its totality.
No amount of discussion, debate, logic, or explanation can change this fact. The only escape for us is to transcend these limitations imposed by mind and senses to reach the transcendental state when we would become one with Absolute Consciousness. Then what we witness, realize, or experience is the Reality. A flower cannot be perceived without its association with the stem, the leaves, the branches, the twigs, and the trunk of a tree or a plant. Still we write volumes of poetry taking a flower to be an independent whole. Still further, the tree and the plant do not exist independent of earth, ocean, and air, in short the whole universe. If and when we can do such analysis and synthesis - discrimination - we can grasp the essence and totality of Truth.
Spirituality expects us to think this way. The whole is the combination of this universe and something more than that; for, one has to go beyond the universe to comprehend its nature. One must wake up to know that one was dreaming! One cannot say that dream is false when one is still sleeping; for, during that state the dream is true for the dreamer. The same is the case with us; we are dreaming this world, and therefore it is real and true for us. Only when we shall awake in the transcendental state beyond, Turiya, shall we be able to say that we were dreaming, and the world has but a temporary existence. Unfortunately more often than not Bhakti reinforces our belief that this universe is true; when in fact the purpose of bhakti, as with any other path, is to make us realize the transience of this universe, including the aspects of personal God associated with it.
Vedanta means 'unity and divinity' or 'divine unity' as the basis of this universe, and the fulfillment of human birth is to realize this divine unity all around, which we, because of some inscrutable reasons, primal ignorance as it is called, take to be real in its multifarious names and forms. Bhakti in its complacency somehow prevents us or misleads us from the spiritual realization of One Truth or Reality. Therefore, there is a need to be very careful in following the path of devotion.
c s shah