Why did an advaitavadi like Adi Shankaracharya compose hymns to Saguna Brahman?

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.

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