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Jnani is the Greatest Bhakta

by Swami Sivananda

Bhagavan Sri Sankaracharya defines Bhakti as devotion unto Atman. You cannot entirely separate Bhakti from Jnana. When Bhakti matures, it becomes transmuted into Jnana. A real Jnani is a devotee of Lord Hari, Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Siva, Durga, Sarasvati, Lakshmi, Lord Jesus and Buddha. He is a Samarasa Bhakta. Some ignorant people think that a Jnani is dry man and has no devotion. This is a sad mistake. A Jnani has a very, very large heart. Go through the hymns of Sri Sankaracharya and try to gauge the depth of his devotion. Go through the writings of Sri Appaya Dikshitar and measure the magnanimous depths of his unbounded devotion.

Swami Rama Tirtha was a Jnani. Was he not a Bhakta of Lord Krishna? If a Vedantin excludes Bhakti, remember, he has not really grasped and understood Vedanta. The same Nirguna Brahman manifests with a little Maya in a corner as Saguna Brahman for the pious worship of His devotees. Isvara is His Tatastha Lakshana only.

Lord Krishna takes a Jnani as a first-class Bhakta. "Of these, the wise, constantly harmonised, worshipping the One, is the best; I am supremely dear to the wise, and he is dear to Me. Noble are all these but I hold the wise as verily Myself; he self-united, is fixed on Me, the highest path. " (Gita: VII-17, 18. )

Bhakti is not divorced from Jnana. On the contrary Jnana intensifies Bhakti. He who has knowledge of Vedanta is well established in his devotion. He is steady and firm. Some ignorant people say that if a Bhakta studies Vedanta, he will lose his devotion. This is wrong. Study of Vedanta is an auxiliary to increase and develop one's devotion. The devotion of a man proficient in Vedantic literature is well-grounded. Bhakti and Jnana are like the two wings of a bird to help one to fly unto Brahman, to the summit of Mukti.

Hear this story with rapt attention. Sukadev was a perfect Jnani. He was an Avadhoota. How is it then that he studied the Bhagavata and held Katha for seven days for Raja Parikshit? This is a wonder of wonders! A perfect Jnani was absorbed in his Brahmanishtha but he came down from his heights and preached devotion. Did he lose his Atma-Jnana? What is the truth here? Sri Veda Vyasa wrote the eighteen Puranas for the benefit of the world. He wrote the Mahabharata which deals more with Pravritti. Yet he was not satisfied in his heart of hearts. He was quite uneasy and restless. Narada met Vyasa and enquired: "What is the matter with you, O Vyasa? You are in a sunken, depressed mood. " Vyasa spoke out his heart. Then Narada said: "You will have to write a book which treats of Krishna-Prem and the Lilas of Lord Krishna. Then only you will have peace of mind. " Then Vyasa wrote the Bhagavata, a book that overbrims with Bhakti Rasa and Kirtan of Hari. Rishis studied Bhagavata and held Kathas in a lonely forest in the vicinity of Sukadev's hermitage. Sukadev was very much attracted towards the Katha of the Rishis. He directly proceeded to his father and studied the Bhagavata under him. Then only he taught Bhagavata to Raja Parikshit.

Look at the devotion of Sukadev! From this incident it is quite clear that devotion and Jnana are inseparable and a Jnani is greatest Bhakta and those Vedantins who speak ill of devotion are deluded, ignorant persons.


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