Author Topic: Intellectual Bhakti  (Read 9937 times)

Dr. Sadananda

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Intellectual Bhakti
« on: February 24, 2012, 12:58:04 AM »
Taken from my yet unpublished book - Discussions on Advaita Vedanta. Hari Om! Sadananda
12. Intellectual Bhakti
Q1: I have met the following problem and hope that whoever is a sincere God-seeker (of course all of you!) can help me. I am naturally an intellectual type and also a meditator. Recently I was told that I should develop more devotion towards the Divine in order to come closer to God. Always have devotion to the Divine. Ok. Now you see the problem: I naturally begin to think of this, how to solve it, how to become more devoted towards the Divine. However, this is a contradiction. Bhakti is a tendency of the heart to have feelings of devotion towards the Divine. It is not an intellectual affair, which can be solved by the intellect. It is the well-known heart vs. head "problem". As you all know Shankara was also a great mystic and poet and thus had also complete "heart- realization". Now so: How can I develop more devotion? The saying of it and thinking is not the same as actually being devoted. So: Who can shed some light on this problem, I will be happy to hear from you!!

Sadananda: You may be surprised - true devotion is not emotional - it is actually intellectual. Since you say you are intellectual, you are already a devotee.

What does being intellectual mean? Intellect is that which seeks for rational explanation. When the intellect cannot come up with a rational explanation that is where true wonder starts. True devotion starts.

Look at the cosmos. Look at the order in the cosmos: from planetary motion to galaxies and super galaxies. The intellect cannot comprehend any more the magnitude of the universe, nor the universal laws and the operation of these to minutest details. The very questioning intellect goes blank in trying to comprehend that which is beyond the comprehension. Any ordered system has low entropy and work has to be expended to create such an order and to keep it in that order. It cannot be done by just random process since the laws governing the cosmic system are universal. You cannot but admire that power which is source for such incredible order in the ever-expanding limitless universe, and your intellect cannot but bow down to that superior intelligence - and that, my friend, is true devotion.

Look at your own body - millions of cells - all precisely located, every limb and every organ functions in its own sphere and yet all perfectly synchronized to a perfect order. We just dump something into our stomach. But what happens to the food as it goes into the stomach - the gastric juices, the enzymes of the right type and right order have to act for the digestion to continue. The digestive system, the circulatory system, the distribution system, the excretory system, everything functions so beautifully without our input. What an incredible machine the body is. We cannot make an outside mechanical pump function without a problem for more than two years, as one experiences with his car etc. But look at the marvellous pump made of simple muscles and tissues, pumping day in and day out, whether we are awake or asleep. The process is beyond intellectual comprehension. We do not know what life is, yet its manifestation makes just organic matter to enliven to the degree that it is nothing short of a miracle. If there is a creator or if there is a superior intelligence in the universe, I do not need any further proof than what I see: a human being, a mosquito, a small bug, an ant or single cell or even a DNA. What an incredible information about the whole human being is stored in an embryo and how it can multiply itself to produce such a complex system. My intellect goes blank - that is the devotion.

You see, devotion is not emotional display of feelings but natural emotional expressions that arise as a result of intellectual appreciation. Intellect cannot but appreciate the incredible order and beauty in the universal systems which religions call creation. One cannot but admire looking at a tree, looking at a flower, looking at a simple leaf – everything bears His signature, His glory, His presence. That is the true devotion. Recognizing His presence everywhere - from tiniest bug to gigantic beings, love of a mother to a child, growth of baby to adult - life is incredible - watching life itself is a greatest entertainment one can have if one is sensitive enough.

Everyone is selfishly looking after oneself - a local disturbance in the total order - yet that is the part of the beauty - everyone is selfish yet at the grandeur level that is all within the order. I get the greatest entertainment watching people, particularly sitting in the airports when I have nothing else to do. It is amazing how people run around each concerned with himself and how people try to get what they want or what they think they deserve - conflicting each other and complaining about each other. Everyone feels his or her problems are most severe - yet the whole universe moves forward - in perfect harmony. Thousands of years ago, people must have had the same problems - how to raise their children, how to cope up with competition, how to make more at the expense of others. Each one thinking his problems are the most severe and more important than others’. Some crying for departed souls. Some celebrating the arrival of new ones. Some enjoying their good luck, while others cursing their bad luck; yet everything is in order. Same thing thousands of years ago, same thing now and same thing will be there thousands of years from now. Everything is in order. Some complain, that is also part of the order. Some cause others to complain, that is also part of the order. Just stand back and enjoy the tamaashha or entertainment. You cannot but marvel at His incredible play, just stand apart and enjoy; that is devotion.

Devotion is not necessarily sitting and praying some imaginary forms or concepts, but also involves admiring the beauty of creation and joy of life. That is devotion and that is meditation. You do not want to change the system, you do not want things to be different from what they are, and you just stand apart and see the incredible play going on. That is devotion. For this, one needs incredible intellectual observation, not a sharp intellect that divides but subtle intellect that integrates. Not an analytical mind that differentiates but a synthetic mind that integrates. In Sanskrit, it is suukshma (subtle) buddhi in contrast to tiikshNa buddhi (sharp intellect).

In Kenopanishad the true devotion is defined beautifully: I will give only the English version: "That which the mind cannot think, but because of which the mind has the capacity to think that alone is Brahman, not this that you worship", "that which the speech cannot speak, but because of which one has the capacity to speak, that alone is Brahman, not this that you worship", "that which the eyes cannot see, but because of which the eyes have the capacity to see, that alone is Brahman not this that you worship", "that which the ears cannot hear but because of which the ears have the capacity to hear, that alone is Brahman, not this that you worship"

Devotion to that is true meditation. That is where the intellectual inquiry goes standstill at the altar of the Almighty; and that is true surrender and true devotion.

Hence, you have the right equipment to develop devotion. In fact, you are more blessed provided you direct your mind into right understanding of the nature of the truth - and that is what is being discussed as the inquiry of Brahman in the Brahmasuutra bhaashhya.

Seeking of God is understanding God - one understands when one realizes that there is no more to understand and there is no more to seek and that is true devotion and true surrender - where one is no more there to understand or to seek - he has surrendered to Him.

Bhagavan Ramana says in his introductory sloka for Sat Darshan - Oh! Lord I want to think of you before I start this text - But how can I think of you who is beyond all thoughts - all I can do is just 'be' without any thoughts, since in that very existence there is no more distinction of I and You. I am You.

Q2: Your answer to Robin's question Re: Devotion is one of the most beautiful posts I have read for a long time. I liked it very much when you wrote, "True devotion is not emotional - it is actually intellectual". In addition: "Just stand back and enjoy the tamaashha or entertainment. You cannot but marvel at His incredible play - just stand apart and enjoy - that is devotion."

Very beautifully expressed. However, I have never considered myself a bhakti type, not even when I was still a Christian. I tend to consider bhakti to be a mental attitude based on dualism: you are a devotee of a divinity only insofar as you feel yourself to be separated from That and longing for unity with It. However, once you accept that you are nothing other that That, what place is there left for bhakti? If there is only Consciousness, if you as an individual entity are just imaginary, if the only reality in you is That, then there is no separation and no place for a relation of devotion between an imaginary you and That.

Sadananda: Thanks for the kind words. When I wrote that bhakti is intellectual it is only half the truth. Intellectual bhakti is one aspect of it for those who are extremely rationalistic. It is the appreciation of the beauty in the nature when the intellect goes standstill, since no rationality can account for the beauty in the creation. That is when a devotion or admiration or reverence to the supreme intellect starts. I was brought up as a VishishhTaadvaitin in my childhood with personified God forms, but my half-baked rational intellect slowly revolted to the concept. I slowly turned into an agnostic and even atheist after getting exposed to JK's books. After I was thoroughly confused by JK's books, I accidentally met Swami Chinmayanandaji and was very much impressed by the rational approach of Advaita Vedanta. I understood the role of bhakti too. The other day I was watching a movie on Annamaachaarya, a 14th -15th century composer of bhakti songs in Telugu. To my own surprise, uncontrollable tears were rolling down my eyes. My wife was surprised too to see that I can be that emotional, particularly when there is no reason to be. What I was witnessing was an intense longing of a soul expressing through deep penetrating songs. These emotions are not self-centered emotions but emotions centered on the Self.

Yes, without understanding, bhakti can lead to fanaticism. You can see this in lot of bhakti cults.

Here the understanding is not just the bookish understanding. As JK puts it correctly - it is an understanding as an understanding as a fact and not as understanding as an understanding as a thought. The latter can lead to a different type of fanaticism. This you can see even among Advaitins; in the name of being honest, one is rude. This is an intellectual arrogance rather than intellectual humility. Intellectual bhakti should give the intellectual humility.

In the final analysis, true bhakti should lead to true understanding and true understanding should lead to true bhakti. Love for the Almighty converges to Love for oneself or pure love itself since there is no more duality and that is the same as state of Joy. Everyone loves that which gives happiness and love for one’s own self is the discovery that one is the very embodiment of happiness itself.

Q2: And yet I liked what you wrote. Because you stress the part of intellectual understanding in devotion. I think that everything boils down to understanding, to clearly seeing the true nature of things. If you have that, you have everything, you lack nothing, even if you are not enlightened. Am I wrong?

Sadananda: That is the beginning of the enlightenment. The very contented mind is the
mind free from wanting and free from longing. That is the mind that is pure, that is the mind ready to receive the true knowledge. There, one is free from dependency and I am free because I am full, free from limitations. Firm establishment in that state is the firm knowledge of oneself, what Bhagavaan Ramana calls 'Brahma nishhTaa or aatma nishhTaa'.

Those who are emotional also gain that knowledge when a proper teacher comes to redirect that love to knowledge. The story of Bhagavaan Ramakrishna Paramahamsa is a well known example.

I do not know if you have read the book - 'The Saint Francis of Assisi' by the famous Greek author - I forgot his name - complicated name. It was one of the most beautiful books I read in terms of how love evolves into knowledge.

There is one Kerala it saintly lady - Anandamayi maa, people call her Ammachi. She comes every year to this country. A poor fisher girl, who became a gigantic personality. However, one should read her biography. It is a fascinating story. One can see what an 'understanding' means too. It is not rational thinking but emotional surrender at the altar of love, leading to the very embodiment of love itself.

Hari Om