Is scriptural knowledge needed only when devotion is dilute and not when devotion is pure?

by Chaitanya CharanJuly 11, 2014

From S Ramchandran

Based on  the Gita daily article Chapter 15, Text 19 
Knowledge of Krishna’s position stimulates submission and his disposition stimulates affection

Why do you say in your reply that “But can we love Krishna steadily throughout our life? Is this not a doubt. If your heart is full like Mirabai’s, why resort to knowledge, gyan, or any holy scripture/book ? By the very act of thinking, will Krishna not sit into our minds and hearts ? Once Krishna sits inside us, the very moment no external worldy subject can affect ? because what is affected is our consciousness, our feelings, our inner soul, our thoughts, our mental processes…all these of course are taken over by Krishna when we utter his name in intoxicated bliss…

Why are you saying “..We may feel some devotion for him sometimes, but such sporadic feelings ….. Because when those devotional feelings weaken”

How can devotion be ‘sometimes’/temporary or sporadic?  if we forget everything for a minute and think of Krishna and take his name, surely Krishna will come rushing in like a Tsunami and innundate our entire being inside out. In turn this will make us blind to worldly affairs. As I see it knowledge has no place in pure Bhakti. yes knowledge is required if Bhakti is diluted….

Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta

Question: Is knowledge needed in the path of devotion when one has devotion like Mira Bai? It’s based on Gita daily article where in the question was raised whether there is a need for knowledge on the path of devotion? It’s a question by S Ramachandran prabhu. The question is as follows:

If we just think of Krishna and if your heart is full like Mira Bai why resort to knowledge, gyana or any holy scripture book, by the very act of thinking will Krishna not sit into our minds and hearts? Once Krishna sits inside us the very moment no external worldly subject can affect. Because what is affected is our consciousness, our feelings, our inner soul, our thoughts, our mental processes….all these off course are taken over by Krishna when we utter his name in intoxicated bliss.

Why are you saying “We may feel some devotion for him sometimes, but such sporadic feelings ….. Because when those devotional feelings weaken”

How can devotion be ‘sometimes’/temporary or sporadic? if we forget everything for a minute and think of Krishna and take his name, surely Krishna will come rushing in like a Tsunami and innundate our entire being inside out. In turn this will make us blind to worldly affairs. As I see it knowledge has no place in pure Bhakti. Yes, knowledge is required if Bhakti is diluted….

Answer: The word knowledge can have multiple meanings. Srila Jiva Goswami, one of the great vaishnava acharyas, analyzes in his Bhakti-Sandarbha (part of Shada Sandarbhas which are philosophical classics theological treatise based on Srimad Bhagvatam and other bhakti scriptures) that gyana is often used to refer to impersonal knowledge, that means the knowledge of impersonal Brahman and not of the personal absolute truth, that is bhagwan. So knowledge of impersonal Brahman is bhakti pratikula whereas knowledge of bhagwan is bhakti anukula. The difference in the knowledge is in their content, in there affect intermediately and in there affect ultimately.

In their content the knowledge of Brahman focuses on the point that the absolute truth is without the qualities whereas the bhakti anukula gyana focuses on how the absolute truth person is a living, loving, reciprocal person and the affect is that intermediately there is the hardening of the heart because if the absolute is without emotions then we too have to become emotionless to attain that absolute truth. There is the hardening of heart and drying up of the emotions that happens by impersonal gyana but by gyana of bhagwan there is a warming up of the heart with spiritual emotions because when we understand that God is the person who is rich with spiritual emotions, we recognize that we too have to develop those emotions if we want to come close to Him and to attain Him and ultimately the impersonal gyana which actually focuses on minimizing the difference between us and God, say ok, I am Brahman, He is Brahman, ultimately we are all just going to merge in each other, whereas the bhakti anukula gyana focuses on maximizing the difference in terms of magnitude. We are infinitesimal, Krishna in infinite and therefore we are meant to serve and love Him. Basically the knowledge of bhagwan is bhakti anukula, that’s what Jiva Goswami explains. How is it bhakti anukula? Because it kindles pure devotion towards the Lord, it first of all kindles devotion and that kindles pure devotion.

Is gyana needed only when bhakti is dilute and not needed when bhakti is pure and strong? Actually we don’t have to divorce gyana and bhakti like this, once we understand the proper meaning of word gyana. Devotee also has knowledge of the beauty of Krishna, of the glory of Krishna. We may say that the brijwasis don’t have knowledge about Krishna’s supremacy, Krishna’s position as the Lord of the all the Gods. Gopis offer prayers which they also display knowledge of Krishna’s previous incarnations and they also when Krishna gives the philosophical message in the Uddhava-sandesh, they understand the philosophy also and they understand the inner message also. Firstly, even the brijwasis are simple cowherds, even they are not without philosophical knowledge. The point is that their devotion does not rely on philosophical knowledge. They did not have to get their impetus for serving Krishna by knowing that He is God. They love Krishna because He is simply lovable because they have so much attraction for Him. There is a difference between intentionally neglecting cultivation of knowledge and unconsciously transcending knowledge because of not needing it any more. These two are at different levels. One is neophyte devotees who consciously neglect cultivating knowledge by thinking that we just practice devotion and often because of that they stay below the desired level of steady purification and elevation. Then there are serious sadhakas who know that bhakti is essentially a matter of heart but they also know that the heart’s emotions are sustained by the head’s convictions. budha bhava-samanvitah-catur-sloki Bhagavad Gita, in 10.8 Krishna says:

aham sarvasya prabhavo

mattah sarvam pravartate

iti matva bhajante mam

budha bhavasamanvitah


budha bhava, once when we become buddha then bhava- samanvitah, one engages in devotion with full emotion with all the heart. So that is the threshold of devotion where one is becoming a serious devotee and when one becomes a very advance devotee then one may not need scriptural knowledge but that does not mean that one deliberately neglect scriptural knowledge. It just that one transcends the need for scriptural knowledge as a spur for focusing on Krishna. That advance level cannot be attained prematurely and we see that even those devotees who are very advanced like we have the Goswamis of Vrindavan, although they were very advanced and they renounced the whole world and they spontaneously absorbed in Krishna, barely eating and sleeping because they were so premonmatta, they were so intoxicated with love. But still even they are rigorously reading scripture and writing books and establishing scripturally the supreme glory of pure devotion to Krishna.



(Sri Sri Sad-Goswamyastakam)

They were expert in going through various scriptures in order to establish sad-dharma, the eternal dharma of pure devotion to Krishna. Is it that any time we just remember Krishna immediately He will take over our heart and whatever destructions are there will go away? Yes, that can happen but for that we took all out to Krishna sincerely and will we be able to call out to Krishna sincerely? The whole problem is that at our stage Krishna doesn’t seem attractive. He doesn’t seem as attractive as the world seems to be attractive. Rupa Goswami also talks about this (Nectal of Instruction Text 7)

syāt kṛṣṇa-nāma-caritādi-sitāpy avidyā- pittopatapta-rasanasya na rocikā nu kintv ādarād anudinaṁ khalu saiva juṣṭā svādvī kramād bhavati tad-gada-mūla-hantrī

He says that our stage the holy name which is very sweet, it still appears to be like sugarcane juice for a jaundice patient, it tastes bitter. If the jaundice patient is just left to one’s own means then that patient will not take the medicine, only when patient is convinced that although it tastes bitter still it will make me better and therefore I should take it. There is some intellectual understanding required. Yes, if we call out to Krishna sincerely, if we chant His name with intoxication, naturally He will come in our heart. But will we be able to chant with intoxication at out stage? It is a sign of humility as well as the sign of honesty to recognize the level of devotion that we are at and to take steps to rise higher from that level. If someone is at a level where one can spontaneously call out to Krishna and one can feel strong devotion and there by transcend everything material then that person is fortunate. If one is able to continue that lifelong then one will surely attain a exalted result but deliberately neglecting scripture with the presumption that one has advance devotion where one doesn’t need scripture can be disrespectful of scripture which also is coming from Krishna. If we say that I don’t need scripture for my devotion to Krishna and it is Krishna who has given us scripture then aren’t we disrespecting the gift that Krishna has given us? Is disrespecting the gift that the beloved has given us is a sign of love for one’s beloved?

That means there are three different things going on over here. First is that if one is truly advanced enough so that one can just spontaneously think of Krishna and immediately feel devotional emotion then that person is fortunate. But even if such a fortunate person will not disrespect Krishna’s gift of scripture but will instead use that scripture to reciprocate with Krishna and to set an example for others. Second is that in our stage especially scripture convinces us that Krishna is truly better than the best that the world can offer us. It is that conviction that enables us to call out to Krishna, otherwise though we may claim to have advance devotion but we will not advance in devotion. In fact we will not only stagnate but regress because of the worldly attachments that we have and the mis-directions that attachments cause us. Lastly, the bhakti anukula gyana of bhagwan about the personal absolute truth is something which even the great devotees have cherished and shared with us. Certainly, the knowledge of impersonal Brahman of merely differentiating between or merely rejecting matter by naiti naiti that is not anukula to bhakti but knowledge of Krishna or bhagwan is very anukula to bhakti. In fact we see most of the bhaktas what are they doing? They may be chanting and dancing in kirtan but they are also discussing Krishna katha and when discussing Krishna katha they are discussing from various scriptures, there realizations of Krishna, there revelations of Krishna that are given in the scripture and then they have written books based on the revelations. We cannot just take one example say like Mira Bai. Mira Bai, she is extraordinary devotee. It is not that she herself was ignorant of scripture or she was deliberately disrespectful of scripture. She had scriptural knowledge and she had devotion. The point is that where did that devotion come from? It came from previous life and that time one had acquired some knowledge. So one should not disrespect scripture and one should not assume that one has transcended the need for scripture in one’s own devotion. Rather one can humbly follow the process that scripture has given, the process that acharyas have exemplified and taught and by that way one can move from sadhaka stage to siddha stage, from seekers stage to the seer stage. There one may not need scripture to fix the mind on Krishna but still one will read scripture and share scripture because scripture connect us with one’s beloved Lord.

To summarize, the gyana of impersonal Brahman is not anukula to bhakti but the gyana of bhagwan is anukula to bhakti in the stage when our devotion is weak and it is also relish able when our devotion is strong. Thank you.

About The Author
Chaitanya Charan
  • krishna dasa
    July 11, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    hare krishna
    yes definitely there are certain scriptures which even great and advanced rasika devotees also like to hear .there is a example in caitanya caritamrta as follows (CC ML 2/11 ) which says that even caitanya mahaprabhu used to relish hearing the Krishna-Karnamrita and the Gita-Govinda .and definitely they can be considered as scriptures, and a great rasika bhaktas likes to hear about those intimate pastimes as mentioned in those books and some others .yes it may well be possible for devotees who are very advanced may not like much to hear about the books based on tattva like govinda bhasya and certain others .and there is no need for great devotees to know much about supremacy of krishna from the philosophical point of view ,as they are fully convinced ,but nonetheless they would love to hear those sections of scriptures which talks about pastimes of krishna and their devotees . but definitely devotees at initial stage should carefully look on both the aspects of tattva as well as bhakti ,because they can help devotees at our stage to keep us consistent in our devotion by completely convincing our mind about supremacy of krishna

Leave a Response