Comparing Higher & Lower Devotion: Advaita vs. Dvaita Bhakti Puja (51)


Lesson 51 compares lower (dvaita) and higher (advaita) forms of devotion (bhakti) and their purpose. How does a realized master worship? What is the point of puja/devotion/temples/church, if in truth “I” am never NOT apart from the WHOLE? Krishna even says “Seeing atma everywhere is seeing ishvara everywhere”. Thus to know thyself is to actually know God. Because the essence of self and God is one SAME consciousness.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, verse 30, 31, 32

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, Verse 30:

yo māṃ paśyati sarvatra sarvaṃ ca mayi paśyati |
tasyāhaṃ na praṇaśyāmi sa ca me na praṇaśyati ||

I am not lost to him who sees Me everywhere and sees everything in Me. He also is not lost to Me.


Krishna is briefly referring to a topic which he will discuss elaborately in CH7. He says that this appreciation of ātma everywhere is the greatest form of bhakti. This appreciation of ātma, in and through everybody, and also knowing the fact that the ātma which is in every body is the ātma in this body also, and that ātma is my real nature, and therefore I am that ātma which is everywhere.

So Krishna wants to say sarvatra ātma darśanam is sarvatra īśvara darśanam (recognition of ātma/awareness is recognition of Īśvara). And this is the highest form of bhakti and therefore higher form of bhakti is possible only through self-knowledge.

Any form of bhakti practiced before self-knowledge is lower form of bhakti. In lower form of bhakti, Lord is not everywhere, Lord is confined to a place with a particular form. And Lord is subject to arrival.

Such devotion gives darśanam to the devotee and makes the devotee excited, and then the very same Lord tests the devotee by disappearing and making the devotee cry. So the very idea that the Lord can arrive and depart indicate, I see the Lord as a finite entity, subject to arrival and departure.

Such a form of bhakti is a wonderful form of bhakti as a stepping stone, but it is only a inferior bhakti called aparā bhakti (devotion of matter), dvaita bhakti or bheda bhakti (devotion to modifications of form).

After this aparā bhakti, one has to gain self-knowledge, ātma jñānam and through that, one begins to recognise the ātma everywhere.

And Krishna says the all-pervading ātma is really Bhagavān (Īśvara). A personal god is not real Bhagavān. It is only māyā mānuṣa veṣaḥ (Māyā human costume). Krishna says, people think I (Īśvara) am a human being, they think I am a person with a particular form.

And what is higher form of the Lord? Ātma svarūpam (nature of Ātma, which is nature of Brahman). Therefore ātma darśanam is equal to īśvara darśanam.

Therefore Krishna says yaha mām sarvatra paśyati, yaḥ means what the very same jñāni of the previous verse. In the previous verse 29, Krishna said that jñāni sees the ātma everywhere. In this verse 30, Krishna says that the jñāni sees the Lord everywhere.

If you combine these two verses, we get: Seeing ātma everywhere is seeing the Lord everywhere. Ātma is caitanya svarūpam, God is also caitanya svarūpam. (Meaning both self is nature of consciousness. And God is nature of the SAME consciousness).

Bhagavān is there in everybody as the very consciousness. So when you feel the sentiency of the body, you are in touch with God. You are experiencing the Lord in the form of the very life principle in every living being.

And not only he (jñāni) sees the Lord in everyone, he sees the reverse also. Meaning he sees everyone in the Lord. Meaning he sees all the bodies in God.

If Lord is comparable to space, what is the form of God? It cannot be Krishna form, cannot be Rāma form, it cannot be devi form. It should be formless. The real all-pervading God is formless ātma only.

Then why we do worship form? We have to worship form because to appreciate formless God, the mind has to be sensitised, made subtle. Until the mind is subtle, we require a formed God, and once we have prepared the mind, we should know formed God is not the ultimate; the formless God alone is the real one.

So jñāni appreciates that Lord, where? Everywhere. Why? Because where there is Awareness (tell me one moment when you're not Aware), there is Īśvara. Awareness and Īśvara are One.

What is the advantage of this appreciation? If you see the Lord as the very ātma in everyone, including own body, the advantage is you are ever with the Lord. There is no question of Lord coming being subject to arrival and departure.

Therefore Krishna says, aham na praṇaśyami; I will never disappear, I will never go away from him, he will never miss the Lord.

That is why he cannot be threatened by any human being, nor blackmailed, because Lord is within. Whereas in most relationships people threaten and blackmail because we are emotionally dependent. Jñāni cannot be threatened. Thus he says “Why should I dependent on anyone… when I have Lord with me permanently, who will never reject me and who cannot reject me”.

sa ca me na praṇaśyati: He (jñāni) also does not disappear from Me (Īśvara). He does not get away from Me, we are in separable one.

Whereas in all other forms of bhakti, God comes into life and eventually goes away. God and him/herself are inseparable. In the 7th chapter, Krishna will say, jñāni tu ātmaiva me matham. In fact, inseparable is not an ideal word because it presupposed there was a separation in the past. More accurate to say “I am He, He is I”.

So what is the benefit of nidhidhyāsanam? You become the greatest bhaktha of the Lord.


Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, Verse 31:

sarvabhūtasthitaṃ yo māṃ, bhajatyekatvamāsthitaḥ |
sarvathā vartamāno'pi sa yogī mayi vartate ||

One who has attained (the vision of) oneness worships Me who am present in all beings. That Yogi abides in Me, though engaged every way.


In level of highest Bhakti, the expression of bhakti also differs. Previously one looked upon God as a person; with all the limitations and weaknesses of human beings, like hungry, thirsty, even dirty. Therefore one's expression of Bhakti also was in that manner.

“I have to take bath because I become dirty. And therefore when I look upon Īśvara also as a human being, He (Īśvara) should be also be bathed regularly.”

So Īśvara requires dress to protect Him from impurity. Īśvara also requires decorating like person does. These are all expressions of lower bhakti.

Śaṅkarācārya wrote a beautiful work called parā pūja, in response to these lower forms of bhakti: “Oh Lord, how can I offer you āsanam. In fact, you are the substratum on which the whole cosmos is resting. It is my limited narrow mind which thinks of offering āsanam; offering pādyam; offering argyam; washing the hand, washing the feet to the Lord who is handless and feetless”.

And therefore the offering the regular pūja appears meaningless, and irrelevant to the jñāni, and even inviting God is meaningless for him. He needs not invite God because God has never been away from him.

Hence jñāni's expression of devotion is appreciation of the very nature of God. Very jñānam itself is the expression of Bhakti.

So how does the jñāni worship? By the very perception of Me (Īśvara) everywhere. He/she resorts to the vision of the Lord to oneness.

And where is Īśvara located? sarvabhūtasthitaṃ, Lord is present in every living being as the very life because of which they are alive. Therefore remaining in advaita driṣṭi, he worships Me. Tthere is no special action of devotion.

And that is why when they take to this jñānam, and they take to the sanyāsa āsrama, they need not do any form of regular worship, in the four āsrama scheme.

Sannyāsi need not do any formal worship. For the sake of devotees, a jñāni or sannyāsī may do pūja, but it is a compromised practice. But as far as a sannyāsi is concerned, he does not have any pūja at all, because his pūja is in the form of the very jñāna yajñā. The very appreciation of the Lord is his pūjā.

sarvathā vartamāno'pi: even though he does not practice any regular religion as people practice, with pūja room, pūjā dravyam, he does not do with all that, and he does not perform any other rituals like sandyavandanam, agnihotram, etc.

He appears the most irreligious person, he does not do anything. This is why people think Vedānta means bhakti is gone. But in truth a Vedāntin's bhakti has reached invisible dimensions.

At home also, initially you express your love in the form of kissing, embracing, cards, hugging, lots of physical signs. In time both grow out of this immature love and the love reaches invisible dimension of mutual understanding.

In the same way, jñāni's bhakti is the highest and refined bhakti which is never expressed in the regular form.

And therefore, sarvathā vartamāno'pi, whatever be the lifestyle such a jñāni chooses, whatever be the āśrama that he is in; he might be in brahmacharya āśrama, gṛhastha āśrama doing business, vanaprastha āśrama… whatever profession you have…. what type of lifestyle you have does not matter.

You can be where you are doing your own duties, the transformation is within. External transformation is not compulsory, internal transformation is important.

saha yogi mayi vartate: he is always in me, I am always in Him, we are inseparable. The jñāni need not go to temples to see God, because for him, God is not confined to a temple. The whole creation is the abode of the Lord.

Story to demonstrate: jñāni inside the temple was was stretching his leg towards the Śivaliṅga. All the other devotees said: it is a sacrilege, how can you stretch your leg towards the Lord. Because for such devotee, the Lord is in direction of Śivaliṅga. The jñāni wanted to teach a lesson, so he said, you can turn my leg to a direction in which God is not there. Devotee then understood that there is no question of this direction or that direction.


Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, Verse 32:

ātmaupamyena sarvatra samaṃ paśyati yo'rjuna |
sukhaṃ vā yadi vā duḥkhaṃ sa yogī paramo mataḥ ||

Oh Arjuna! Keeping himself as the standard, that yogi who sees pleasures and plain alike in all is considered to be the greatest.


Here Krishna says a jñāni's mind expands to such an extent that he identifies with all the bodies as his own body. Previously he was identified with one body only. Now he knows “I am the ātma, not only behind this body, I am the very ātma behind all the bodies. And therefore all the bodies becomes like my bodies, my hands, and my legs.”

And because of this universal identification, Krishna says a jñāni cannot hurt anyone, because hurting any living being is as though hurting himself, because of universal identification.

“Previously I could comfortably hurt anyone, except my own body, but now it is not possible.”

Therefore jñāni becomes an embodiment of compassion, sympathy, ahimsa (non-injury). Because if anyone feels pain, he also is capable of sensing the pain of everyone. He has that empathy by which he/she intensely appreciates the pain of everyone, and therefore he cannot pain anyone. And if there is pain to anyone, then immediately and automatically, he goes to person's rescue.

ātmaupamyena sarvatra paśyati: he looks at every living being, as himself because the same ātma is in everyone. So ātmau pamyena, taking himself as a standard – he looks at every living being.

Samam paśyati yaha Arjuna: he does not have any partiality or selfishness, he does not consider his body as more important than other bodies… because all the bodies he equally identifies with.

Therefore he follows this universal value, which is “I only do unto others those things which I'd have others do unto me. Because others are exactly like me. If I do not want to be hurt, nobody wants to be hurt, and therefore I cannot be the cause of hurt”.

sukhaṃ vā yadi vā duḥkhaṃ: When any human being has got something favorable, the jñāni is able to be happy with others' happiness. He does not become jealous or start thinking “How can I also have some of THAT!”.

Because jñāni identifies with everyone. Anybody is happy, it is as though his own happiness. Anybody is sorrowful, it is as though his sorrow. And therefore the universal identification or a jñāni is indicated, universal love.

Such a jñāni is paramaḥ; the greatest person in the world, he/she is the greatest yogi… the most accomplished person. Hence the benefit of knowledge is universal love.

There is a general complaint, pursuit of Vedānta is selfishness because one is working for one's own liberation. Especially if he/she takes to Sannyāsa. Then the society complains that he does not contribute to the society, he wants to go to the forest, he wants to get self knowledge, he wants to get liberated. It is selfishness people think.

Krishna says jñāni is selfish. In fact he withdraws from one family, so that he can identify with all the families of the world. He withdraws from one house, so that he can identify with all. He breaks a few finite relationships so that he can be related to the whole world. It is a withdrawal for the sake of expansion.

“I do not want to belong to a few people. I want to belong to the whole universe.”

Therefore self-knowledge is a withdrawal for expansion, it is a withdrawal from finite, so that one can expand to identify with the whole world.

Therefore śāstra says either do not identify with anyone, or identify with everyone.

This is process of destroying your narrow I, to replace it with universal I. Jñāni does not think “I am an Indian, am an Australia, Asian” – because all these are narrow identifications. Even though he will gladly say his/her position to world.

“I belong to the whole creation, and every living being belongs to me”. This kind of expansion, this universal love, this universal compassion is the result of jñāna niṣṭā (firm self knowledge).

Keywords: apara, asana, ashrama, atma, bhagavan, darsanam, darshana, grihastha, isvara, jnana, jnanam, jnani, manusa, manusha, maya, padyam, para puja, pashyati, pasyati, rama, samnyasi, Sankaracharya, sannyasi, sanyasa asrama, sanyasi, sarvatha, shivalinga, sivalinga, svarupa, svarupam, vedantin, vesa, yajna


Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching is given to Swami Paramarthananda

Recorded 28 May, 2019


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