Brindala -- Los Angeles -- J.S. Jayaram, M.D. -- Success and Peace from Holistic Living
Menu -- Writing

Article LXVI: Devotion and Knowledge

Numerous paths to enlightenment are described by Vedanta, but three prominent paths are devotion, knowledge, and selfless action. In practice, one may have any combination of devotion, knowledge, and selfless action, leading to limitless paths. One's path may be different according to one's duty (dharma), impressions from past actions (samskaras), tendencies (vasanas), and temperament (amounts of gunas). Each school of thought will generally accept all paths, but each will prioritize paths with varying hierarchies. For example, one school of thought may consider knowledge to be the only way to enlightenment, but would accept that ultimate devotion or ultimate selfless action will allow ultimate knowledge, and thus enlightenment.

Although people generally ascend toward enlightenment with components of devotion, knowledge, and selfless action, is it possible to exclusively follow only one of them? In other words, is it possible for one to approach enlightenment through devotion without any knowledge or selfless action? Similar to the way in which ultimate devotion may allow one to achieve ultimate knowledge, any amount of devotion may also allow one to have a greater amount of knowledge. Even for those without ultimate devotion, any amount of devotion can still increase knowledge. It is also important to consider that knowledge does not necessarily involve intellectualizing, philosophizing, or studying Sanksrit. Similarly, devotion does not necessarily involve worship of a deity. One can gain the knowledge of the Divine through pure devotion, and one can be devoted to the love of the Divine in others without worshipping a deity. Each person's quality and amount of devotion, knowledge, and selfless action will depend on duty (dharma), impressions from past actions (samskaras), tendencies (vasanas), and temperament (amounts of gunas).


Katha Upanishad

The context of this scripture is a dialogue between Naciketas, a spiritual aspirant, and Yama, the god of death:

II.17: This support [realization] is the best, this support is the supreme. Knowing this support one is worshipped in the world of Brahman.
II.18: The knowing soul is not born, nor does it die. It has not come into being from anything, nor anything has come into being from it. This unborn, eternal, everlasting, ancient One suffers no destruction, even when the body is destroyed.
II.19: If the killer thinks that he is killing, and the killed thinks that he is killed, both of them know it not. It kills not, nor is it killed.
II.20: Atman, smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest, dwells in the hearts of creatures. The desireless one being free from grief, realizes that glory of Atman through the purity of senses and mind.

East-West Counseling & Meditation -- Modern Psychiatry Integration -- Himalayan Philosophy -- Penn & Stanford Medicine
Home About Treatment Appointment Payment Writing FAQ Contact