Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jainism In Karnataka

Nithin Sridhar

(This article was published in in June, 2010)

Jainism has been a small, but one of the most influential religious tradition in India. It has been a major cultural, philosophical, social, and political force since dawn of civilization in India. Jainism is often referred to as Jain Dharma or Shraman Dharma or the religion of Nirgantha by ancient texts. It is one of the oldest Shramana traditions, that is Ascetic tradition still surviving in India. Today, with 4 million population (2001 census), Jains are spread throughout India. They are present prominently in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Karnataka, Madya Pradesh and Bundelkhand have considerable population of Jains.

 In the Rig -Veda there are clear references to Rishabhdev, the 1st Tirthankar, and to Aristanemi, the 22nd Tirthankar. The Yajur-veda also mentions the names of three Tirthankars, viz. Rishabhdev, Ajitanath and Aristanemi. Rishabha has also been mentioned in Bhagavata-Puran (1). Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar, is the earliest Jain leader who can be reliably dated. According to scholars, he probably lived in the 9th Century BC. This pervasive influence of Jain culture and philosophy in ancient Bihar may have given rise to Buddhism. It has been said that, when Siddharta Gautama, left his home, he went into forest for penance, and he moved above naked and he plucked his own hairs and lived like Jaina Niggantha(2).

The beginning of Jainism in Karnataka has been a matter of speculation. Legend has it that Mahavira visited Karnataka and initiated King Jivandhara of Hemanagada country of the Kuntala (Karnataka) region and this probably accounts for the early beginnings of Jainism in Karnataka.

 The advent of Jainism in Karnataka is assigned to 4th century BC by a well-known Jaina tradition. It states that, Badrabhahu, of the line of pontiffs started by Mahavira and his royal disciple Chandragupta Maurya, migrated to South along with many followers due to famine in north and settled in Shravana-Belagola and breath their last in Chandragiri, by Sallekhana(Death by Fasting).

Chandragupta Basadi at Shravana-Belagola though a latter day structure, bears its connections with the tradition. But, unfortunately no epigraphic or literary evidence is available to corroborate this Bhadrabahu-Chandragupta tradition. The first mention of this tradition is found in Shravana-Belagola epigraph of 7th century. “Brhatkhosha” of Harisena of 931 AD also mentions of this tradition. Narasimhachar, who has examined the sources in detail, believes that, this tradition has some basis to stand. (3)

Historically, Jainism received huge patronage at hands of Karnataka Kings, royal families, merchants and even common men. Large number of monuments present throughout the state is the visible examples of Jain influence. A large number of epigraphical references also exist mentioning about patronage and grants received from Kings and Queens to Jain faith. Apart from this, contribution of Jains for Kannada literature too is immense.

Political position of Jainism under Karnataka Kings:

Beginning from time of Kadambas of Banavasi, until Vijayanagara period, Jainism received generous grants from Kannada monarchs.

Kadambas of Banavasi (345-525CE): The earliest grant from Kadambas comes from the time of Mrigesavarman(his fourth regnal year)(4). The copper plate mentions the grant of an entire village for the benefits of Jain Gods (Bhagavat, Arhat and Mahajinendra). He also gave thirty-three Nivartanas of land (in modern Halsi in Belguam) to Yapaniyas (Jainas) (5). The same copper plate also states that, Jaina ascetics must be fed during rainy seasons. Kadambas have to their credit of inaugurating the tradition of grants to Jainas.

The Gangas of Talkad (350-1000 CE): Tradition connects origin of Gangas to a Jaina teacher Simhanandi. Shripurusha gave Devanahalli grant to Jinalaya and Narasimharajapura grant to a Jaina Caityalaya.(6) Prithvipati Ist’s Billur grant records the gift of twelve villages on the banks of Lakshmanathirtha to Satyavakya Jinaalaya at Pannekadanga.(7)
There are many inscriptions showing huge grants made by Rachamalla IV, and his minister Chavundaraaya.

Chalukyas of Badami(6th century): In spite of being staunch Hindus, they extended patronage to Jainas. The existence pf a Jaina cave by side of Vaishnava cave at Badami, is the best example of tolerance of Chalukyas. During the period of Kirthivarma II, Kaliyamma built a Jinalaya at Annigeri. (8) Sendraka Durgasakti donated lands to Sankha-Jinalaya at Puligere(9). Vijayaditya gave away village Seribaluru near Laksmeshwar.

The Rashtrakutas(8th century) and Chalukyas of Kalyana(12th century):
Altekar characterizes the age of Rashtrakutas as the most flourishing period in history of Jainism in Deccan. Amoghavarsha I was more a Jaina than a Hindu (10). Many of officers of Rashtrakutas were Jainas. The Rattas of Saundatti were staunch supporters of Jainism. Altekar estimates that at least one third of total populations of Deccan during this period were Jainas(11).

Chalukyas of Kalyana patronized all religions. Taila, the founder of Chalukya dynasty was patron of great poet Ranna(who was a Jaina). Satyashraya has a Jaina teacher as Rajguru. Attimabbe constructed many basadis. King gave golden Kalasha to one such basadi at Lokkigundi (12). Shantinatha, a minister of Someshwara II built Mallikamoda Shantinatha basadi at Baligrama (13)

The Hoysalas(10th-14th century): Hoysalas are traditionally connected with Jainism since origin. Sala, himself was a Jain. Ereyanga is said to have made many grants at Belagola. Vinayaditya II built large number of Jaina shrines. According to Belur inscription, Vishnuvardhana received prasadam of God Vijaya Parshwa from Jinalaya and made provision for performance of ceromonies of Vijaya Parshwa and 24 Thirthankaras. His wife Shantaladevi is described as jewel of Jainism (14). Many of his generals including Mariyane Dandanayaka, Punisa and Boppa were all Jains. These disprove the allegation that Vishnuvardhana after his conversion to Vaishnavism ignored Jainas. Narasimha I though a Vaishnavite made grants to Sravanabelagola. Ballala II built Nagara Jinalaya at Dorasamudra. Patronage to Jainism continued in the days of Narasimha and Ramanatha.

Vijayanagara Period (1336-1646 CE): With establishment of Vijayanagara kingdom, emphasis was more on Hinduism and Jainism received great setback. Yet, Jainas received some grants. Harihara II patronized Jaina ministers. He also constructed Kuntha Jinaalaya at Vijayanagara (15). Shravanabelagola inscription of 1442 mentions grants for Gommateshwara.

These shows that Jainas enjoyed patronage from Kings and were a dominant political force in Karnataka.

Jainism and Veerashaivism:

A cursory look into the philosophies of Jainas and Veerashaivas (their scriptures, Agamas,mythology etc) shows the commona concepts like Avidya, Acharanga, Karmikamala, Dyana, Paapa-Punya, Doctrines of Karma etc. Veerashaivas use Lingam as external symbol and Jainas wear Upasakasutra as external symbol.

For example, Jinasenacharya declares in Mahapurana- “Ahimsa Paramo Dharmaha, Ahimsa Lakshanam Dharmam”(Ahimsa is highest Dharma, and Ahimsa is indicative of Dharma). Similarly, Basava says in one of his vachanas “Dayavillada Dharmadavudidayya”(No Dharma without Compassion).

Vattakeracharya recommends Himsaviratti(Non-violence), Brahmacharya(celibacy), Amrashavada(good speech), Asteya(non-stealing) in his book Mulachara.
Similarly, Veerashaiva vachanas say “Kala Beda, Kolabeda, Husiya Nudiya beda”(Don’t steal, Don’t kill, Don’t lie).

Further, Jaina concepts of Samyagdharshana, Jnana and Chariya are the Samayagdharshanas of Veerashaivas also. The Veerashaiva Pancha Acharas viz., Shivachara, Gaachara etc agree with Jaina Pancha acharas viz., Darshanachara, Jnanachara etc (16).  These illustrate the commonality between different indigenous philosophical streams.

Kannada Literature:

Kannada literature is often classified into Jaina, Vaishnava and Veerashaiva literatures recognizing the prominence of these three faiths in giving form to, and fostering, classical expression of the language (17). Starting with the Kavirajamarga (c. 850), and until the middle of the 12th century, literature in Kannada was almost exclusively composed by the Jains, who found eager patrons in the Chalukya, Ganga, Rashtrakuta and Hoysala kings (18). Jainas dominated Kannada literature till 12th century.

The earliest existing prose piece in old Kannada is a Jain text Vaddaradhane ("Worship of Elders", 9th century) by Shivakotiacharya(19).Jain writers Adikavi Pampa, Sri Ponna and Ranna, collectively called the "three gems of Kannada literature", Pampa wrote “Adi Purana” in 941 AD, which narrates the life history of Rishabdev, the first Thirthankar of Jainism. Ponna wrote “Shantipurana”, a biography of the 16th Jain Tirthankar Shantinatha. Ranna's poetic writings reached their zenith with “Sahasa Bhima Vijaya”.
These clearly show the strong influence of Jainas in Kannada literature.


Jain contribution to Architecture is immense. The monolith statue of 60 feet, the famous Gomateshwara statue, in Shravanabelagola is the living example of Jain contribution to architecture and scupture. Shravanabelagola, Chandragiri, Indragiri, Moodabidiri, Karkala, Dharmasthala, Venur, Gerosoppa, Hadolli, Bilgi, Lakkundi,  are some of the important centers of Jain monuments in Karnataka.

The earliest references to Jaina monuments are found in Halasi and Devagiri inscriptions of Kadamba period. According to Gudnapur inscription Kadamba King Ravivarma built a temple, kamajinalaya for Manmatha. Ganga minister and commander Chamundaraya in honour of Lord Bahubali built it. Badami Chalukyas built a cave temple dedicated to Adinatha Thirthankara. Another Jaina cave is in Aihole. Structural temples built by them include-Meguti Jinalaya at Aihole and the jinalaya built by Kumkuma Mahadevi at Lakshmesvar.

The Jaina monuments of the Rashtrakutas period are found at Pattadakal, Malkhed, Lakshmeshwar, Koppal and Bankura, of North Karnataka. The Neminatha basadi at Malkhed, the capital of the Rashtrakutas belongs to ninth century A. D. Jaina temple at Naregal is the biggest Rashtrakuta temple in Karnataka. It was built during the period of Krishna III, by Padmabbarasi, the queen of Ganga Permadi Bhutayya in 950 A.D. Similarly many Jinalayas were built by Kalyani Chalukyas too including Brahma Jinalaya at Lakkundi and Sankha Jinalya at Lakshmeshwar. Chaturmukha basadi, Neminatha basadi, Vardhamana basadi and two Parsvanatha basadis located at Gerusoppa are important jain monuments built During Vijayanagara period.

These show, the enormous contribution of Jainas in every aspect of life of Karnataka people.

1-The Bhāgavata says: “In the womb of Merudevi, wife of Nabhi, Rishaba had his eighth avatara. He showed himself in a form that is to be worshipped by all Shramanas.”
2-Majjima Nikaya: Maha Siha Nada Sutta, mentioned in “Buddha and Mahavira: A Philosophical Perspective” by Dr.T.G. Kalghatgi
3-Epigraphia Carnatica, Sacred Books.
4-Indian Antiquary, Vol. 7, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.Narasumha Murthy
6-Ibid, Vol. 2, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.Narasumha Murthy
7-Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. 1
8-Epigraphia Indica, Vol.32
9-Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.Narasumha Murthy
12-South Indian Inscriptions, Vol.11
13-Shikripur 136, mentioned in Karnaraka Kings and Jainism, Dr. A.V.Narasumha Murthy
14-Soraba inscriptions.
15-South Indian Inscriptions, Vol. 9
16-Jainism and Veerashaivism, Dr.G.Marulasiddaiah
17-Narasimhacharya (1934)
19-Sastri (1955)

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Two Ways of Performing Action

Nithin Sridhar

“Karma” or “Action” is the very foundation of our existence. A second does not go by without anybody performing any action. People are continuously involved in performing one or the other tasks- eating, drinking, talking, driving etc. But action does not refer to physical activity alone. Every word, every thought that arise in the mind represents an action being performed. The whole universe works on the principle action and reaction.

The Hindu Shastras/Scriptures call this phenomenon which forms the very basic functioning principle of the cosmos as “Karma”. Every situation, good or bad a person faces in his life is the fruits of his past actions (Karma Phala). Every person or animal, a person encounters or comes in contact with, is result of some Karmic bond (called in scriptures as “Rina Bandha”) present between them. Many people often understand this negatively to mean “Destiny” or “No-free Will”. But, that is only a misconception. On the other hand, Karmic Law is based on complete Free-Will a person has to make choices, to take decisions in every situation he faces. The Karma Phala (Fruits of action) one gets is entirely depended on the Karmas one performs. As the saying goes, “As you sow, so you reap” the whole Universe is based on this Karmic law of action and its fruits.

The Shastras speak of the two ways a person can perform the Karmas- Sakaama and Nishkaama. “Sakaama” refers to performing an action with an eye towards the fruits that action will bore. Such action may lead a person to temporary happiness/Sukha or to temporary sorrow/dukka depending upon whether the Karmic fruit was as per the expectation of the person or not. On the other hand, the Karmas performed in Nishkaama way, i.e performing an action with the sense of duty without expecting any result, such a person will find inner contentment irrespective of the Karmic fruits.
“Sakaama Karmas” increases attachment to the sensory world. As there is no end to the desires of the person, he will be eternally pursuing one desire after another performing countless number of Karmas. He will be ever-struck in this Karmic cycle of Sukha-Dukka. Brahmavaivartha Purana (1) says thus-

Avashyam eva bhoktavyam krutakarma shubha ashubam |
Naa bhuktam kshiyate karma kalpa-koti-shaitairapi ||

A person will definitely enjoy the fruits of his action; it may be good or bad; for without giving the results, an action does not die out even after billions of years.

Hence, these karmas are also called as “Bandhaka Karmas”, actions that increases the bondage to the sensory world. If the same Karmas that cause Bandhana/Bondage are performed in Nishkama way, surrendering the fruits of action to God, giving up one’s sense of doership of action, such Karmas will become “Mochaka”-a way to Liberation from this karmic cycle of birth and death. Shastras say-

Krutena Karmana | Akrutena Mokshaha ||

Performing action leads to Karma, Performing Actionless action leads to Moksha.

“Krutena” means “performing action”. Any activity performed with the sense of identification with doing it, will invariably lead to the bondage of Karmic cycle. Even though literally “Akrutena” means “Not performing Action”, the real meaning is not “Inaction” but what can be described as “action-less action”, i.e performing an action without Ahamkara-sense of I-ness of performing it. In other words, surrendering to God the Action, its fruits and the sense of doership of it.

In Bhagvad Gita, Sri Krishna describes this Nishkaama Karma as “Yogah karmasu kausalam(2)”- Yoga is the action perfected. Further he explains what he means by Yoga as thus-

yoga-sthah kuru karmani sangam tyaktva dhananjaya |
siddhy-asiddhyoh samo bhutva samatvam yoga ucyate ||(3)

O Arjuna, abandon all attachment to success or failure and perform your duty by being steadfast in yoga. Such evenness of mind is called yoga.

“Samatvam Yoga Uchyate” means “performing action in a detached manner”. Krishna is asking Arjuna to become a “Stitahprajna”- one who is not affected by external factors. This yoga is called as “Nishkaama Karma” or “Actionless action”. No spiritual progress is possible for a person without him giving up his Ahamkara(I-ness) and Mamahkaara (mine-ness) and learning to perform Nishkaama karma with the sense of Dharma (Duty) and Tyaga (sacrifice).

“Moksha”or Final Liberation is not possible without attaining “Atma Sakshatkara”. But this cannot be attained without the Karmas. Sage Agastya in “YogaVashishta” lucidly explains this thus-

ubhabhyam eva paksabhyam yatah khe paksinam gatih |
tathai va jnana karmabhyam jayate paramam padam ||(4)

Just as a bird flies with its two wings, so also an enquirer flies to goal of Self-Realization through the co-ordination of two wings of Jnana and Karma.

Whatever may be the path, a spiritual seeker takes but he must develop Samabhavatva (treating everything in same manner without likes and dislikes) and perform Nishkaama Karmas. Only when a person performs the Karmas prescribed in Shastras (vihita karmas) in such a Nishkaama way, will he achieve Chitta Shuddhi-purification of mind and be able to develop the competencies necessary for Jnana Sadhana.

Shastras classify Karmas into four categories- Nithya, Naimitta, Kamya and Nishiddha. Nithya Karmas refer to daily activities that a person is supposed to follow like Sandhyavandana. Naimmitta refers to Karmas performed on specific occasions. Kamya refers to Karmas done to fulfill specific desires. Nishiddha refers to Karmas that are prohibited like Killing etc. A person must first practice Apara/Bhedha bhakti (5) by implementing the Karmas prescribed in the Shastras in a Nishkaama way and by avoiding the Karmas prohibited by the Shastras. Only such a practice will make him develop the surrendering required to be able to give up his Ahamkara and Mamah-Kaara. This results in Chitta-Shuddhi. Without performing Nishkaama Karma, Chitta Shuddhi is not possible.

A person who has thus purified his mind will develop qualities like Viveka(spiritual discrimination), Vairagya(dispassion), Titaksha(forbearance)(6) etc. Only such a person is eligible for practicing Jnana Sadhana. He should then approach a Sadguru and practice the Sravana Chatushtaya (the four fold spiritual practice)- Sravana ,Manana , Nidhidhyasa  and Atma-Sakshatkara.

Sravana and Manana refers to listening and internalizing the teachings imparted by one’s Guru. A shishya is expected to do further reading of the Shastras on the said subject and get cleared of the doubts that arises in his mind. The Guru will guide the disciple slowly towards Jnana by clearing one by one all the doubts that arise inside the disciple. After intellectually understanding the Guru’s words the shishya must practice Nidhidhyasa- Meditation and Contemplation as instructed by his Guru. By sincerely practicing the Sadhana’s instructed by the Guru, the Shishya will attain Atma-Shakshatkara.

Many people have this misconception that performing rituals alone (Karma Anushtana) can lead a seeker to Moksha and practice of Jnana Sadhana is not needed. But it is not so. In Vivekachudamni, Adi Shankara clears this doubt thus (7)-

Cittasya shuddhaye karma na tu vastupalabdhaye |
vastusiddhirvicharena na kincit-karma-kotibihi ||

Actions cause purification of the mind but they do not, by themselves, cause the attainment of Reality. The Self-Realization is brought about only by Self-Enquiry/Jnana Sadhana and not in the least by even ten million acts (alone).

Hence the Karma Anushtana of the rituals and practices done in a Sakaama way does not lead to Moksha but instead it will increase the bondage to the material world. But if these Karmas are done in Nishkaama way, it will lead to the purification of the mind of the sadhaka who will attain the qualities like Viveka etc. And these competencies will enable him to perform Jnana Sadhana Anushtana and achieve Atma Sakshatkara and hence Moksha.


1. Brahmavaivartha Purana 1.44.74

2. Bhagvad Gita 2.50

3. Bhagvad Gita 2.48

4. Yoga Vashista

5. For more information about classification of Bhakti, refer the article “The Two Stages of Devotion”.

6. For more information on Sadhana Chatushtaya-Four Competencies, refer the article “The Two Paths of Life”.

7. Vivekachoodamani, Verse 11

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Two Stages of Devotion

Nithin Sridhar

Bhakti or devotion is a concept which is found throughout the world in one form or the other. From Christian prayers and Islamic namaz to Hindu puja and bhajans, elements of Bhakti are present in all the religions. Hindu scriptures define Bhakti as “Parama Prema-rupa Amruta Svarupa cha” (1). “Prema” means “Love”. Every person has loved someone or experienced love in one form or the other. Love between two people creates a bond, an attachment between them. It results in a person experiencing both happiness and sorrow. But, Bhakti is not just normal love but it is “Parama Prema rupa”-“Supreme form of love”. It is called “supreme” because it neither causes attachment to sensory world nor traps a person in a never ending cycle of happiness and sorrow. Instead it fills his life with Bliss (Ananda). Hence Bhakti is called “Amruta Svarupa”. A Bhakta/devotee is one who completely and selflessly surrenders himself to his object of devotion. 

Hindu scriptures speak about two stages of Bhakti-
                         1. "Apara Bhakti” is the “lower” stage of Bhakti. It is also called as “Bheda Bhakti”. 
                         2. "Para Bhakti” is the “higher” stage of Bhakti. It is also called as “Abheda Bhakti”.

“Bheda” means “difference”. Bheda bhakti refers to devotion wherein the Bhakta-worshipper and Ishwara-the object of worship are distinct. A devotee considers God as the creator and the Man and the World as the created. He is completely rooted in Vyavaharika Jnana(2). Hence such a Bhakti is also called as Dvaita Bhakti. On the other hand, the “Abheda Bhakti” which is higher stage of Bhakti is exactly opposite to the lower stage. “Abheda” means “No difference”. As the name states, in this stage, there is no duality of Bhakta and Ishwara. A devotee has developed an understanding of Paramarthika Satya(2) and sees no difference between his True self and God.

Prahalada, the son of Hiranyakashipu speaks about nine of types of devotional services that can be practiced as follows-

sravanam kirtanam vishnoh smaranam pada-sevanam|
arcanam vandanam dasyam sakhyam atma-nivedanam||(3)

“Hearing, chanting, remembering, serving the feet, offering worship, offering prayers, serving as a servant, becoming the best friend and surrendering one’s ownself to Vishnu (God).”

Sravanam, Kirthanam and Smaranam refer to Hearing, chanting and remembering about God. People in Bhakti will always love to hear about God and his play-Lila and indulge in chanting mantras and singing songs praising the God and his various manifestations. They spend every moment of their life remembering God. They try to see God in everything they do. “Pada sevanam” and “Dasyam” literally means serving at feet of God and serving God as his servant respectively. They refer to performing all the action as a service to God by surrendering at his feet. “Archanam” and “Vandanam” refers to offering worship and prayers to God with proper rituals and offerings. The offerings (4) may be five (Panchopachar) or sixteen (Shodashopachar) in number. “Sakhyam” refers to treating God as one’s best friend. The devotee here shares a bond of friendship with his deity whereas the bond is as that of master and servant in Dasya Bhakti. These eight devotional services involve external symbols and expressions. A bhakta while practicing these services see’s God in everything except his own self and he desires to be near God, at his feet. These kind of devotional services are called Bheda Bhakti.

Prahalada also speaks about a Ninth type of devotional service. He calls it “Atma Nivedanam”-Offering one’s own True Self to God. In this Bhakti, a devotee is not satisfied by staying near God. He wants to completely merge his identity in God. Just as a river merge in ocean, so also a devotee wishes to merge in God. Such Bhakti where there is no duality of a worshipper and worshipped is called Abheda Bhakti.

Similarly, Sage Narada speaks about 11 forms of Bhakti in his Bhakti Sutras as follows-

Gunamahatmyasakti, rupasakti, pujasakti, smaransakti, dasyasakti, sakhyasakti vatsalyasakti, kantasakti, atmanivedanasakti, tanmanyasakti, paramvirahassakti, rupaekadhapiekadashdham bhavati || (5)

“Although Bhakti is one, it becomes manifested in eleven forms- devotion towards God's glorious qualities, devotion towards His form and beauty, worshiping Him, to remembering Him, to serving Him, to love him as a friend, to caring for Him as a parent, to dealing with Him as a lover, to surrendering one's whole self to Him, to being absorbed in thought of Him, and to experiencing pain of separation from Him.”

 “Gunamahatmyasakti” refers to Bhakti wherein a devotee is enamored with different qualities manifested by God. He likes to listen to, contemplate and talk about God’s various Lila. “Rupashakti” refers to Bhakti wherein, a Bhakta is attracted to some specific form of God. He does upasana on particular form like that of Krishna or Shiva and perceives the whole cosmos as manifestation from that specific form. “Pujasakti” is nothing but “Archanam” that Prahalada speaks about. To Prahalada’s “Dasyam” and “Sakhyam”, Sage Narada adds two more forms- “Vatsalya” and “Kaanta”. “Vatsalyam” refers to perceiving God in the form of a child or that of a Mother/Father. It is the Love and attachment present between that of Parents and Children. “Kaantasakti” refers to loving God as a lover/spouse. 

These Nine forms of Bhakti are lower stage of Bhakti i,e Bheda Bhakti. “Atmanivedanasakti”, “Tanmayasakti” and “Paramavirahasakti” belongs to higher stage of Bhakti i,e Abheda Bhakti.
As explained earlier, “Atmanivedana” refers to “complete surrendering of everything including one’s ownself to God”. “Tanmayata” is the final stage of “Atmanivedana”, it refers to complete merging of Self in Brahman, the Two becoming one. The Bhakta merging and becoming one with Ishwara is Tanmayata. “Viraha” refers to “separation/pain of separation”. The Bhakta faces extreme pain because of his separation from God. He continuously desires to become one with the object of his devotion. Such Bhakti where a devotee continuously bears the pains of separation and desires to be united with God is “Paramavirahasakti”.

For a spiritual practitioner both Bheda Bhakti and Abheda Bhakti are very important. Many modern day Bhakti proponents concentrate only on lower stage of Bheda Bhakti while completely rejecting Abheda Bhakti. Similarly Neo-Vedantins seem to ignore the Bheda Bhakti concentrating only on Abheda Bhakti. But, both sides fail to understand that Bheda and Abheda are two stages of same Bhakti and both are very vital for one’s spiritual progress.

Bheda Bhakti facilitates a person to purify his mind and give up his Aham-kaara and Mamah-kaara. A person by practicing devotion by using external symbols and rituals will learn to surrender his actions, the doership of actions and the fruits of action to God. These qualities in turn will create a transformation in a person’s svabhava (internal and external behavior). He/she will develop qualities like Viveka(discrimination), Vairagya(dispassion), Indriya Nigraha(self-control), Titaksha(forbearance) and Mumukshutva (burning desire for Liberation) without which no further spiritual progress is possible.

The ultimate goal of life according to Hindu scriptures is Moksha-liberation. And Bheda and Abheda bhakti are two stages that ultimately lead a person to Moksha. Without the practice of Bheda bhakti and Nishkama Karma it is impossible to develop an understanding (viveka) that Jiva and Brahman are in essence one and not two separate things; one’s True self is identical with God. Without the development of this viveka-spiritual insight, it is not possible for a devotee to practice Abheda/Para Bhakti and hence cannot achieve Moksha. Adi Shankaracharya in vivekachudamani describes Para Bhakti as follows-

Moksha Kaarana Saamagryam Bhaktireva Gariyasi |
Svasvaroopaanusandhanam Bhaktirityabhidhiyate || (6)

“Among things conducive to Liberation, devotion (Bhakti) holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion.”

Here, Bhakti is defined as “Svasvaroopaanusandhanam” meaning “seeking after” or “contemplating on” one’s own “True Self”.  A person cannot gain Moksha without practicing Abheda Bhakti-contemplation on True Self/Atman. And it is not possible for him to practice Abheda Bhakti without developing viveka and other qualities. Bhakti leads to Jnana and this Jnana in turn leads to Bhakti which finally leads to Jnana and Moksha. Jnana is “Viveka” in first case and “Atma Sakshatkara” in latter case. Bhakti is “Bheda Apara Bhakti” in first case and “Abhedha Para Bhakti” in the latter case.


1.       Narada Bhakti Sutra, Verse 2-3.

2.       Vyavaharika refers to Relative reality, Paramarthika refers to Absolute reality. For information refer to my article- “The Two Realities”.

3.       Srimad Bhagavatam, Verse 7.5.23.

4.       Panchopachara puja- offering of five items-Gandha(sandalwood paste),Pushpa (flower), Dhoopa(insense), Deepa(lamp), Naivedhya (food). Shodashopachara puja- offering of 16 items- Dhyana(meditation), Avahana(invocation), Aasana(seat), Padhya(water to wash feet), Arghya(sprinkling of water),Snana(water for bath), Vastra(clothes), Yagnopaveeta(sacred thread),Gandha(sandalwood paste),Pushpa (flower), Dhoopa(insense), Deepa(lamp), Naivedhya (food), Taambola(beetle leaves), Neerajana(camphor/aarti), Pushpaanjali(flower).

5.       Narada Bhakti Sutra, Verse 82.

6.       Vivekachudamani, Verse 31.