Why do jnanis say that bhakti is for the less intelligent and Prabhupada say that only the intelligent can take to bhakti?

by Chaitanya Charan dasNovember 20, 2013

From Vinayak:

Answer Podcast

Transcription: Sesa Vishnu Das

Question:Some jnanis say that bhakti is for the less intelligent whereas Srila Prabhupada says that only those who are intelligent can practice bhakti. How to understand both the statements?

Answer: The jnani’s idea of bhakti being for the less intelligent is based on misunderstanding of intelligence and a lack of understanding about bhakti that is rooted in scriptures. A misunderstanding of intelligence means they think of intelligence as the capacity for intellectual processing of information and concepts. That is they think it as the capacity for speculation. They consider that  a person who has a lot of capacity for speculation is an intelligent person. However information processing capacity is only one faculty of intelligence. The most important faculty of intelligence is the capacity of discrimination in terms of right and wrong, in terms of what is beneficial and what is detrimental. Krishna talks about this intelligence in goodness in 18th chapter and he is basically talks about what discrimination- what is going to cause bondage, what is causing liberation, what is good, what is bad, what is dharma and what is adharma? Essentially he talks about intelligence as the capacity for discrimination and later he talks about the determination also, determination in goodness and intelligence in goodness.

So the intelligent person doesn’t have to be intellectual. Even a person who can’t do much intellectual processing of data, if that person understands that this is material and this is spiritual, this is sinful and that is virtuous then that person has intelligence. So not all devotees need to have intellectual capacity in terms of information processing. And even if they don’t have many devotees seem to be like sentimentalist like they chant and dance, sing and they may not seem to have a deep knowledge about philosophy and they may not have the capacity to speculate. That’s why the jnanis may consider them to be not so intelligent and they may say that bhakti is meant for such sentimental and less intelligent people. They may be less intellectual but they are not less intelligent.They are actually very intelligent because they know what is right and what is wrong. They know that spiritual advancement is not just a matter of capacity for intellectual processing it is a matter of grace, it is a matter of mercy and they by their sincere devotional sentiments of their heart attract the mercy of Krishna and make spiritual advancement.

So now when Srila Prabhupada says that only those who are most intelligent can practice bhakti then the point is that Prabhupada refers to this intelligence as to recognize the need to shelter of Krishna. Krishna jei bhaje sei bada chatur, that’s what chaitanya charitamrita says.  Krishna also says bahunam janmanam ante jnanavan mam prapadyate vasudevam sarvam iti sa mahatma su durlabha. He says who does prapadyate? Jnavan mam prapadyate. It is not that all devotees have to be intellectual but they have to have the basic intelligence to recognize that I need the help of a higher power. They take shelter of Krishna by recognizing that need and that willingness to take shelter of Krishna is itself a sign of intelligence. Krishna also says that even if a devotee doesn’t have the intellectual processing capacity still he says that whatever intellectual resources are required Krishna says I provide them. Dadami buddhi yogam tam jnana dipena bhaswatam in 10.10 and 10.11 Krishna says I will compensate for any intellectual deficiency that is there in a devotee.

So in that sense what is the devotee’s intelligence? It is the recognition that I have to take shelter of Krishna and further a devotee’s intelligence is directly a gift from Krishna. And that intelligence is far superior to mere information processing capability which in on itself can’t lead to spiritual advancement. A jnani may be able to speak a lot about scripture but that doesn’t mean that the jnani will be able to live scripture. That requires determination and that requires grace and that requires dynamic application insight which is not possible through mere information processing capacity. That is why the jnanis are often intellectual but they don’t really become very transcendental. They often stay in the mode of goodness and sometimes they come down from goodness to the lower modes. They speak philosophy and lofty spiritual concepts but if you look at their life often they are caught up in sense gratification. This is how those who are mere jnanis are actually not very intelligent and those who take shelter of Krishna irrespective of whether they have intellectual processing capacity or not they are supremely intelligent.

Thank you.  Hare Krishna.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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