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Pujya Dr. K.C. Varadachari - Volume -10



Sri Ramanuja in the very opening verse of his Sri Bhasya expressed the content and function of bhakti by revealing it al the form of semusi: "semusi bhakti-rupa". Semusi as essential knowledge of the Divine takes the form of devotion to the Ultimate form of Brahman as Sri-nivasa the abode of Sreyas, the freedom and liberation personified as the Divine Mother. Sri Vedanta Desika in his Sri-stuti spoke of the Sri as Sreyo murtih, thus confirming the view of the Kathopanishad that the Ultimate Lord shows the path of Sreyas not preyas.

The Divine to be worshipped must be one who grants this supreme state of liberation and immortality and absolute santi which even the lighting of the Nachiketa fire cannot grant. Thus the devotion to the paramapurusa spoken of in the Srutis--Brahman as the dwelling place of Sreyas—Lord Narayana--Vishnu—is bhakti.

1 * Reference: Srimad Rahasyatrayasara, Tatparya Chandrika, etc..


Bhakti is capable of being given to the Purusottama in his murta or amurta forms; the former are obviously the Archa and the Vibhava, whereas the amurta forms are the Antaryami or Harda and Vyuha and Para. Though to certain persons forms of the transcendental order were revealed yet generally they have been conceded as amurta. The Divine Lord in both these forms is saguna not nirguna. He has the supreme perfect qualities which are infinite in number. Those qualities are such as remove or abolish the evil and imperfections on the one hand and on the other grant supreme felicities to the devotee; Heyapratyanika and supremely subhasraya.

Bhakti can be sadvaraka or Advaraka--through or direct, mediated or unmediated. One may develop the association with God through any other means or persons or may gain it without mediation. This point is clearly further elucidated when Sri Vedanta Desika affirms that Bhakti can be practiced directly by oneself (when, of course, any other person or guru is not available or unwilling) or through the mediation of an eminently qualified acharya (acharyanishta)

Similarly bhakti can be utilized as a subsidiary (anga) to the other yogas like Jnana or karma or this can be the angi and they could be made angas of this bhakti. Sri Vedanta Desika reveals an acute understanding- of the interdependence of the three modes of human consciousness, cognition, conation and affection. He reveals however that the other two modes culminate and find fulfilment in Bhakti (supreme devotion to God).

Even prapatti or Sharanagati is shown to be an anga of bhakti though again with an acute psychological understanding Sri Vedanta Desika points out that prapatti can become the end of those yogas, for human effort cannot avail and surrender is necessary to gain the grace of God.

Prapatti at the beginning need not have devotion but that becomes added to it when the Divine answers to the sharanagati. This is resulting bhakti (phala-bhakti) arising spontaneously from the experience of the grace of God. This may occur not only from the prapatti-experience but also from the karma or jnana also. Devotion can arise in almost every way as the usual ordinary course of bhakti-sadhana followed by the Bhagavata, Narada and Shandilya schools show, and might be expressed in all ways of human relationships, dramatized in the life as if of reminiscence. The alvars had revelled in the popular mode of Bhakti sadhana. Kulasekhara is a supreme example. More spontaneous and less schematized have been the bhakti of the other Alvars. Though Sri Vedanta Desika fully participated in this, his bhakti is more of the 'amour intellectus' philosophical love or platonic love. His love was refined and sublimated and fully conformed to the view expressed by Sri Ramanuja as semushi bhakti.

Further this semushi bhakti can only arise when one has not merely realized oneself as the sesha of God but as the body of God (sarira-bhava). Sri Vedanta Desika emphatically stated2 that the differentiating doctrine of Visistadvaita is 'Sariri-sarira sambandha between God and the soul. May that mean anything more than or less than living and moving and having one's being in the Parama Purusottama! It is true that Sri Ramanuja and Sri Vedanta Desika did not wish sarira to be understood in the sense of Naiyayikas or Vaisesikas or even other systems have maintained, but as that which the Divine supports, destines and enjoys for His own purposes. This definition applies equally to Prakriti or Nature ('achit'). The karmasarira of man is only partially under the control support and enjoyment. Therefore it is that one must seek the real sariri and depend upon Him, rather than on his own sarira or on himself. This is invaluable for realisation.

2 Rahasyatrayasara

Above all bhakti is not a philosophy but a way of living in God, for God and by God. Sri Vedanta Desika wrote voluminously to impress on all aspirants for the highest Sreyas or nissreyas, the necessity to practice god-devotion in the fullest spirit that one is the body of God, living and moving and having his being in God and not merely a temple. The Sarira·Bhava had helped Sri Vedanta Desika to emphasize the panchakala-parayanata of the ekantins or parama-ekantins, giving a secondary place to the symbolisms of the temple. Sri Vedanta Desika synthesized all the various currents of spiritual devotion and ordered them in such a way as to deny none their legitimate place. For Himself however he liked the 'amour intellectus dei’.

This is a truth we have tended to forget during the past seven centuries.

May this spirit be revived.