The Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra, Part 3


Sant Janesvara

Feb 11, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation of the Bhakti Movement's development in India.

The contents and character of Sant Janesvara's commentary on Bhagavad-gita, known as Bhavartha Deepika Teeka, or the Janesvari, is a tika generally characterized as being both a philosophical and a mystical and poetic commentary on the Gita. Author Srm. Chandran summarized eight basic points of interpretation that set Janesvara's Gita commentary apart from others:

    1. he refers to Brahman as the 'Sun of Absolute Reality';

    2. he offers a cosmological argument for the existence of God;

    3. he speaks to the theme of illusion as interpreted by Sankaracarya, and the 'flood of illusion' or mayanadi;

    4. he speaks on the way to search for God through miseries;

    5. he offers a psychological analysis of eight mystical emotions experienced on the spiritual path;

    6. he propounds the doctrine of unison, considered to be the core of his non-dualist siddhanta;

    7. he presents an original doctrine of 'asymptotism', comprised of mystical interpretation; and

    8. he gives a poetic description of spiritual victory.

The Sun of Absolute Reality

In describing the 'Sun of Absolute Reality', Janesvara explains in mystical terms the difference between the spiritual sun and the physical sun. He says that while the physical sun makes the phenomenal world rise into view, the spiritual sun makes it disappear altogether. As the physical Sun eats up the celestial stars when he rises above the horizon, the spiritual sun eats up the stars both of knowledge and of ignorance.

Among various similar metaphors, he compares intellect and illumination to a pair of Cakravaka birds, who love each other but are divided at night by the river of difference. They are crying out for each other but they cannot meet. It is only when the day dawns that they come together and there is great rejoicing. In other words, when mystical realisation arises, intellect and illumination meet.

The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

This is one of Janesvara's well developed themes. Among arguments for the existence of God, he notes that the ontological, the cosmological and the physico-theological have all been criticised by Kant, who concludes that none of these prove God. Kant says that God can only be proved by his moral argument, which he advances in Critique of Practical Reason, or by the theological argument he advances in Critique of Judgment. Janesvara, however, gives irrefutable examples in which God's cosmologicaI power is exhibited, and in which the acts of material nature exhibit God's power. All these things show that God's omnipotence is everywhere, and this omnipotence is a supreme cosmological argument for the existence of God.

The Flood of Illusion ( Mayanadi

Jnanesvara's description of the flood of illusion underscores and poeticizes Shankaracarya's presentation of maya . Jnanesvara speaks to the course of mayanadi which starts from the precipice of Brahman, which he calls brahmacala or .

In poetic phrase he suggests, according to Chandran, that "issuing from the precipice of Brahman, the river moves on, producing bubbles in the shape of the elements which appear on its surface. It is further augmented by the rain of the qualities. The qualities send showers of rain into the flood and increase its flow. In this flood, as it moves on, there are whirlpools of hatred and windings of jealousy, and huge fishes in the shape of moral aberrations swim inside the flood. The flood in its motion carries off the small hamlets of restraint and self-control which are situated on its two banks; it breaks its waters upon the island of sexual enjoyment which is a resort of a number of creatures, so that all these creatures ultimately are destined to be drowned in that great flood."

The Search for God through Miseries

Jnanesvara states that life may be regarded as a boat with a hundred holes, yet even so, it often appears a fair vessel. On the nature of death, he says that at the very beginning, death is encircling the fetus in the mother's womb. When a child is born, the parents may hoist auspicious flags, but in the midst of happiness comes misery… the child is really approaching death every day as it grows. Yet people cannot afford even to hear the word 'death'. Wherever we look, death is encircling us and it behooves all of us, therefore, to return to God and to think about Him unmindful of the power of death. Regarding the various kinds of miseries, he says that there is no way of escape from them except by devotion to God.

The Eight Mystical Emotions

Janesvara addresses the eight sattvika bhavas, suggesting that there may be many more than these eight, but these are the primary ones. Physiologically, the symptoms a mystic develops are horripilation, perspiration and lachrymation, this last being particularly due to feelings inside the mind. Then there are physio-psychological reactions such as tremor and paresis. These two are opposed to each other, and yet the mystic develops them both and exhibits them at different times. Regarding the psychological reactions, there are epoch, peace and joy. Janesvara gives a graphic description of each of these emotions.

Doctrine of Unison

Janesvara has given an account of the unison of a devotee with God, the chief condition for unison being surrender. Surrender is philosophically interpreted as meaning identification with the Lord. He discusses the complete annihilation of individuality which leads to mystical unison, giving scientific, material, psychological and moral illustrations. This doctrine of Janesvara's represents the core of his siddhanta, and appears to mark the most significant point of departure from the philosophy of the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

Using many metaphors to describe his non-dualism, Janesvara's focus is on the idea that there is absolute devotional unison between the pure devotee and God. He emphasizes the non-difference in qualities, but does not address the difference in quantities (i.e., potencies). This stands in contrast to the acintya-bhedda bhedda-tattva of the Gaudiyas. However, Janesvara does come closer to the platform of simultaneous oneness and difference in the next aspect of his position, Asymptomatic Realisation.

Asymptomatic Realisation

Here, in Janesvara's most original contribution to the philosophy of mysticism, is his doctrine of 'asymptotism', which addresses asymptotic realization and the assertion that perfection can be attained only gradually. Instead of there being a final and perfect identity between the mystic and God, the mystic moves towards God, meeting Him at infinity. When they meet, there is just a little difference between them, like the moon on the fourteenth day, and the full moon on the fifteenth day. Even though the devotee may reach unison with God, yet he remains a devotee.

In this doctrine, Janesvara focuses on the gradual and graduated perfection of the mystic, saying that it's the time factor that counts. A man who starts on his journey must not expect to reach the end at once. There is bound to be an interval between initiation and realization:

    "Granted that all the preparation is made for the realisation of God, that one meets the Guru, that the Guru imparts to him the knowledge of the true path; granted that the seed that is sown is the best of its kind, yet it is only in course of time that a rich harvest can be reaped."
    (Jananesvari, XVIII. 996-1008)

The Spiritual Victory

The eighth and final point of Janesvara's fundamental siddhanta emphasizes the concluding and ultimate message of Bhagavad-gita. Janesvara presents it as a mystical and poetic description of the ultimate victory of the spiritual warrior. The victory is presented in four stages: first, the accoutrements of the warrior; second, the battlefield of life; third, the imperial procession after conquest, and last; the coronation of the mystic on the Throne of Unitive Life.

Regarding the accoutrements, Janesvara describes the developing mystic, mounted on the steed of Rajayoga, putting on the armour of dispassion and holding the sword of concentration in his hand. Equipped with these accoutrements, he proceeds to the battlefield of life. On the battlefield, he moves like the Sun into darkness, and cuts to pieces all the different enemies, which Janesvara mentions by name. Success is described as winning the bride of liberation.

The mystic's procession on the imperial road is described in terms of the different stages of yogic development and all the gained siddhis, who assemble along the victory route in the thousands, showering flowers on the mystic who is soon to be crowned king, Ultimately, the coronation takes place and the drums of victory are beaten in honour of the attainment of swarajya -- the term Janesvara proclaims as the final goal. The victory banner is one of self-identity -- identity of self with God. Thus the mystic is crowned king on the Throne of Spiritual Experience.


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