Sri Sankaracharya strongly recommended Jnana Yoga. He considered Nirguna Brahman to be the only Reality and Saguna Brahman is not ultimately real. Yet he wrote stirring hymns to different forms of God.. Why did he do so? Sri Sankaracharya wrote these hymns to help those who follow the path of krama mukti or gradual liberation by stages.
(The journey of the souls along the path of the gods is) not restricted (to any particular meditation). It applies to all meditations (on the qualified Brahman). This involves no contradiction as is known from Upanishadic and Smriti texts (lit. direct text and inference).
Vedantin: This being the position, the aphorist says, “There is no restriction” etc.The path of the gods should pertain to all the meditations on the qualified Brahman, calculated as they are to lead to good fortune (i.e. Brahmaloka).
Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya III.iii.31 translated by Swami Gambhirananda
What happens to those who succeed in reaching Brahmaloka by meditation on qualified Brahman or Saguna Brahman?
On the final dissolution of the world of the conditioned Brahman, they attain, along with the lord of the world, what is higher than the conditioned Brahman, as is known on the strength of the Upanishadic declaration.
The idea conveyed is that when the time for the final dissolution of the world of the inferior Brahman is imminent, the aspirants who have acquired full realization there itself attain, thereafter, along with Hiranyagarbha, the ruler of that world, the supreme state of Vishnu which is absolutely pure. This kind of liberation by stages has to be admitted on the strength of the Upanishadic texts speaking of non-return etc. For we established earlier that it is incomprehensible that the supreme Brahman should be reached by any process of moving forward.
Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya IV.III.10 translated by Swami Gambhirananda
Sri Sankaracharya admits that liberation by stages or krama mukti is possible though he recommends pure Jnana Yoga. The path of krama mukti is for those who are for different reasons incapable of doing Jnana Yoga.
Of course people who follow Bhakti marga do not accept Sankaracharya’s position. Vaishnavas say that followers of Sri Krishna who succeed in reaching the highest stage reach Vaikuntha which is eternal.
More posts by this author:
- Experiences on the way to moksha
- Who is right, Sankaracharya or Ramanuja?
- The via negativa path to moksha
- Is it possible for an ordinary person to become enlightened without raising Kundalini?
- The problem of evil in Hindu thought
I did my school, college and parts of my University education in Kolkata. I got my M.Sc degree from Kolkata University. I went to USA in 1979 and got my M.S and Ph.D in Physics from University of Pittsburgh in 1984. I did my Post Doctorate in University of Southern California, Los Angeles and then worked as a Research Scientist in the Department of Physics, Astronomy and Space Sciences Center of University of Southern California. My scientific work includes heavy ion-atom scattering, multiphoton ionization and heliosphere data analysis of Pioneer 10/111 and Voyager 1/2 deep space spacecaft and analysis of solar extreme ultraviolet data obtained from SOHO spacecraft. I have been a National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration (NASA) Principal Investigator from 2002 – 2007. I have been a member of a NASA awards committee to decide allocation of money to different scientists. I have also refereed scientific articles submitted to Journal of Geophysical Research and Astrophysical Journal.