Bhakti and Jnana : Two wings of the same bird

In the path of Yoga, people often speak of two distinct types of people. The people of the heart (Bhakti) and the people of the intellect (Jnana). These paths seem unbridgeable to many. The people of the intellect criticise the people of the heart saying that they are too “Wishy-Washy”. The emotional people often criticise the people of reason, saying that they cannot see beyond the limitations of the intellect. The Yoga of Bhakti is based on an Ishta Devata or a personalized God or Guru. One surrenders to this God, prays to him or her and directs all emotions towards this figure. The Yoga of Jnana lies on the bedrock of unbiased reason. One keeps questioning everything. But the higher form on Jnana Yoga is to separate the unreal from the real by using the intellect. Often you do not find the Bhakti Yogis mixing with the Jnana Yogis because of this fundamentally dichotomous approach. Can these two things ever be reconciled?

The magnificent step well of Adalaj, Gujarat. 2019

I believe there that is a middle path. In fact, there is only one path. What appears to be two is in fact only a mirage, which when closely investigated and experienced, turns out to be just one. The culmination of Bhakti Yoga is when the form of the selected God (Ishta Devata) also drops away. The craving to be near the God or the Guru falls away. There is just a feeling of elevated consciousness – a buzzing energy of fullness.

The culmination of Jnana Yoga happens when one realizes that the judging intellect is also an illusion and the seeker drops it in entirety. When one drops the seeking intellect, one just dissolves into nothingness which in turn brings about a state of elevated consciousness – just like Bhakti Yoga. The culmination of both is the dissolution of duality. In Bhakti, the duality was between me and my Guru or God. In Jnana , the duality was between me and my judgements. There is no fundamental difference, since both are rooted in duality.

Ramana Maharshi used to say it very elegantly. When asked about the differences between the two approaches, he used to say that it is akin to two people starting out on a trek to the mountain top from diametrically opposite ends of the mountain. The culmination, though for both these people is the same pinnacle of the summitt.

So what does this mean for a seeker? If you are motivated by the heart, then go beyond the form of the Guru or God. Move towards feeling that the Guru or God is within you, not outside you. Then move towards feeling that the Guru is you, and the Guru is everything around you. This way the distinctions drop off and the illusory thought that ONLY the Guru is special and nothing else falls away.

If you are an intellectually driven person, then go beyond the mind that judges. Watch the judgmental mind and wonder who is it that watches. Are those judgements permanent? Or do they ebb and flow in sync with deeper emotions? This way the illusory thought that “I am distinct from others” drops off gradually.

And when these barriers have fallen, A Jnana Yogi can sit perfectly in Bhakti and a Bhakti Yogi can sit effortless in Jnana.

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