According to Sri Vaishnavism, there are two paths to Moksha- Bhakti-Yoga and Sharanagati. Bhakti-Yoga to them is considered a longer and more difficult path to Moksha and involves Karma-Yoga and Jnana-Yoga as it's angas. Whereas Sharanagati, also known as Prappati, is considered an easier path as it only involves complete Self-surrender to Narayana.

Here is how the Sri Vaishnava acharya, Vedanta Desikan describes the path of Bhakti-Yoga in his Rahasyatraya Sara:

Karma Yoga means the performance of certain kinds of Karmas or rites and duties as the result of knowledge acquired from the shastras in regard to the true nature of the Jivatma and the Paramatma. The rites and duties consist of the following: (1) Nitya Karmas or regular duties to be performed compulsorily (2) Naimittika Karma or rites to be performed compulsorily on special occasions (3) such Kamya Karma or rites as are optional and as have been chosen to be within one's ability.... Though these Kamya rites are ordained for obtaining specified fruits like Svarga, they have to be performed without any desire for those fruits.... Karma Yoga, either through Jnana Yoga or without it, becomes the means of having a vision of one's own self or soul, with the help of Yogic auxiliaries like Yama, Niyama, and Pranayama.

Jnana Yoga is the constant and uninterrupted contemplation, by one who has conquered his mind by Karma Yoga, of his Svarupa or essential nature or the self as being distinct from matter - his Svarupa which is the mode or Prakara of Ishwara in virtue of its relation to Him as his body or Sharira.... If a person has succeeded in obtaining a vision of his self by the practice of Yoga preceded by Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga and if he escapes the snare of being attracted by the pleasure of enjoying this vision which is so great as to create a distaste for all sense-pleasures - then he begins the practice of Bhakti Yoga, which is the means for the attainment of the supreme goal of enjoying Bhagavan.

Bhakti Yoga is the special form of meditation which is of the form of unsurpassed love and which has, for its object, the essential nature and the like of Bhagwan who is not dependent on anyone else, who is not subject to the authority of anyone else and who does not exist for the fulfillment of the purpose of anyone else. Bhakti is of the form of a continuous stream of knowledge which is of the nature of uninterrupted memory like oil streaming down continuously; it has clearness similar to that of visual perception; it grows from strength to strength by being practiced every day until the day of journey to Paramapada and terminates in the remembrance [of Vishnu] of the last moment. The performance of the rites and duties of one's Varna and Ashrama is auxiliary to it, as it dispels sins that cause Rajas and Tamas which, like weeds, impede the growth of Sattvam so necessary for the expansion of knowledge.... Bhakti Yoga which has thus been prescribed as the means of obtaining Moksha has been called Parabhakti. It produces in its turn an eager desire and determination to see the Lord[.]... By this keen desire alone, he wins the grace of Bhagavan who awards him with a perfect visual perception of himself for the time being. This visual perception is called Parajnana. From this perfect vision of the Svarupa of the Lord is born an excessive an unsurpassed love for the Lord similar to that felt by a man suffering from great thirst at the sight of a tank. This is called Paramabhakti. Paramabhakti produces an eager desire and determination to enjoy the Lord without any limitations, as the Bhakti feels that it is impossible to live any longer without the experience of the Lord[.]... It causes an excessive eagerness in the Lord to give him Moksha immediately and makes him attain Moksha after quenching his great thirst for union.

And this is how Vedanta Desikan differentiates Sharanagati with Bhakti-Yoga:

[He who pursues Bhakti Yoga] is capable, like Vyasa and others, of other means or Upayas than Prapatti and is therefore not absolutely helpless. Since he can bear delay, he is not averse to other interest. He will attain Moksha only at the expiration of the Karma which has already begun to yield fruit, when he will have the intense thought of the last moment before death. Since the primary Upaya or means which he has chosen is Upasana or Bhakti, he attains the fruit thereof, namely, Moksha, when it is performed fully and in accordance with the rules and injunctions prescribed for it. On the other hand, Prapatti adopted as the primary or direct means is open to all Adhikaris, is capable of averting all hindrances, can further the attainment of all that is desired, is easy of performance, has to be performed only once, can bring about the fulfillment quickly and will not countenance any opposition or obstacle.... The man who has resorted to Prapatti as the direct and independent means will have no hindrances at all in the way of his attaining the perfect enjoyment. Therefore from the moment of the performance of Prapatti, there is nothing in the way of his attaining Moksha but his own desire to live till the death of this body so that he may enjoy such things as the rendering of service with this body to the images of the Lord to which he has an attachment. So his Moksha has to await only the death of this body and will consist in rendering, in Vaikuntha, or perfect and full service which has begun even here in the performance of service limited by the conditions of place, time and the nature of bodily life.

The main scriptural basis of Sharanagati is this verse from the Bhagavad Gita:

Abandoning all attributes. come to Me as your sole refuge; I shall rescue you from all sins; don't be sorrowful. (Bhagavad Gita 18.66)

A key point to note is that Bhakti doesn't refer to Bhakti-Yoga according to Sri Vaishnavism as both the paths of Bhakti-Yoga and Sharanagati to them involve Bhakti for Sriman Narayana.

Now, coming to my question, are there any Sampradayas other than the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya that accepts this distinction between Sharanagati and Bhakti-Yoga? I know Madhwas don't accept this but what about Gaudiya Vaishnavas and Nimbarkites? Do they recognise this difference?


2 Answers 2


Yes, Ramanandi Vaishnavas differentiate between Bhakti Yoga and Sharanagati. Ramcharandas (1760-1831), a renowned Ramanandi Vaishnava theologian, believed to be the reincarnation of Tulsidas Himself, writes in His commentary on the Ramcharitmanas, Ananda Lahiri:

Bhakti is of three types. One in bhakti mixed with karma (Karma Yoga). One is bhakti mixed with jnana (Jnana Yoga) and the last is only premapara bhakti (Sharanagati). Bhakti mixed with karma and jnana (Bhakti Yoga) is harsh, it cannot be practiced by everyone. Sharanagati, on the other hand is open to all. Just saying Rama’s name, seeking his protection and contemplating on the Ramayana having abandoned all else is easy for all.

  • Isn't Ramanandi Vaishnavism also part of Sri Vaishnavism?
    – RishX
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 8:11
  • 1
    No, seperate but similar in many ways and the lineage descends from Lakshmi/Sita and Ramanujacharya of course. @RishiX
    – user9969
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 8:14
  • Never knew about that. I always thought Ramanuja-Ramananda relations were like Brahma-Gaudiya.
    – RishX
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 8:21
  • 1
    Yes, the difference is we say Sita. But that's only a difference of who we consider "Original Supreme Personality of Godhead". @RishX
    – user9969
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 8:23
  • 1
    See this: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/17855/… @RishX
    – user9969
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 8:25

The nimbArka school views sharaNAgati or prapatti as different from other sadhAnas. There are five sadhAnas, including bhakti and prapatti as separate members of the list. NimbArka also creates a distinction between prapatti and bhakti in his dashashloki:

kR^ipAsya dainyadiyuji prajAyate yayA bhavetpremavisheShalakShaNA bhaktirhyananyAdhipatermahAtmanaH sA chottamA sAdhanarUpikA parA

His grace is born in one united with Himself through helplessness, whence grows a particular love for that great soul who has no one for His master. This is devotion of the highest kind; and there is another kind of devotion, in essence a means to liberation.

For nimbArka, prapatti (being united in helplessness) creates a kind of bhakti, but this is altogether distinct from the bhakti which is an independent sadhana.

puruShottamAchArya in his vedAntaratnama~njuShA defines prapatti as such:

प्रपत्तियोगो नाम शास्त्रोक्तमानादिसर्वसाधनेषु

prapattiyogo nAma shAstroktamAnAdisarvasAdhaneShu

Prapatti yoga, namely declared in scripture to be giving up in all [other] sadhanas

Completely giving up in every other sadhAna is a qualification for prapatti according to nimbArka. This means that there is a clear distinction between this and bhakti. See here and here as well.

You must log in to answer this question.