I have been tortured by this dilemma for quite a while now. On the one hand, I feel intellectually drawn to Advaita Vedanta. I read and deliberate routinely on Ramana Maharshi's teachings. On the other hand, I am way too emotionally attached to Lord Krishna to be at peace with the possibility that I might never unite with Him if I merge into Brahman (realize Advaita). I was raised a Vaishnava, so I am aware that our philosophy criticizes Advaita and advocates Bhakti to Lord Hari. Some even warn that Advaita is dangerous and might permanently (like eternity level permanent) get one banished from Vaikuntha.

I was wondering if there were scriptures or verses from the Bhagavad Gita which indicate that the two paths are indeed contradictory. Guru Ramana Maharshi, however, dismisses this idea and claims that the two paths are indeed one and the same. Speaking from personal experience, it just doesn't seem so, no matter how hard I try.

In the end, what matters to me the most is my ultimate union with my beloved Lord. I was wondering if I could follow Advaita and Ramana Maharshi, but still unite with Lord Krishna in the end.

  • @Why don't you sincerely pray to Lord Krishna and see what happens?
    – Debbie
    Commented May 17 at 2:24
  • Mahabharata has Uttara Gita by Krishna, when he teaches Arjuna, the first and the third chapter should resolve your doubt.
    – user34684
    Commented May 17 at 6:52

4 Answers 4


Short Answer: To attain Krishna, one will need to hear exclusively about Lord Krishna from the mouths of His pure devotees.

Long Answer:

The process for both the paths is almost the same.

On the path of liberation, one associates with mahātmās, and on the path of bondage one associates with those attached to sense gratification and women. There are two types of mahātmās — the impersonalist and the devotee. Although their ultimate goal is different, the process of emancipation is almost the same. Both want eternal happiness. One seeks happiness in impersonal Brahman, and the other seeks happiness in the association of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As described in the first verse: brahma-saukhyam. Brahman means spiritual or eternal; both the impersonalist and the devotee seek eternal blissful life. In any case, it is advised that one become perfect (SB 5.5.2).

One can attain the path of liberation from material bondage only by rendering service to such mahātmās and receiving their mercy. Otherwise, all spiritual knowledge including Vedanta is only theoretical and becomes a cause of confusion.

Free will is ever present

A soul is never forcibly sent into impersonal liberation if he or she desires to become an eternal servant of Lord Krishna. One is always free to choose one's spiritual journey & destination.

This free will for attaining Krishna is present even in the jivan-mukt souls (e.g., those who've attained perfect realization of Advaita) having no material desires.

For example, the four Kumaras (the mind-born sons of Lord Brahma) turned into unalloyed devotees of Lord Vishnu due to the fragrance of the Tulsi leaves which had touched His feet, at the gates of Vaikuntha.

तस्यारविन्दनयनस्य पदारविन्द- किञ्जल्कमिश्रतुलसीमकरन्दवायु: । अन्तर्गत: स्वविवरेण चकार तेषां सङ्‌क्षोभमक्षरजुषामपि चित्ततन्वो: ॥ ४३ ॥

When the breeze carrying the aroma of tulasī leaves from the toes of the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead entered the nostrils of those sages, they experienced a change both in body and in mind, even though they were attached to the impersonal Brahman understanding.

Because of the fragrance of His lotus feet, carried by the air and mixed with the aroma of tulasī, their minds changed; instead of becoming one with the Supreme Lord, they thought it wise to be devotees

Non-difference between the soul and supersoul

Quantitative-oneness with the Lord is rejected by the pure devotees of Krishna as it is not conducive for Bhakti.

However, qualitative-oneness between the atman (soul) and paramatma (supersoul) is to be accepted to achieve perfection on the path of Bhakti.

आत्मानं परमं ध्यायेद् ध्येयं षट्‍‌शक्तिभिर्युतम् । विद्यातेजस्तपोमूर्तिमिमं मन्त्रमुदाहरेत् ॥ ११ ॥

One should think himself qualitatively one with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is full in six opulences and is worthy to be meditated upon (SB 6.8.11).

ब्रह्मभूतः प्रसन्नात्मा न शोचति न काङ्क्षति । समः सर्वेषु भूतेषु मद्भक्तिं लभते पराम् ॥५४॥

One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.

To the impersonalist, achieving the brahma-bhūta stage, becoming one with the Absolute, is the last word. But for the personalist, or pure devotee, one has to go still further to become engaged in pure devotional service. This means that one who is engaged in pure devotional service to the Supreme Lord is already in a state of liberation, called brahma-bhūta, oneness with the Absolute. Without being one with the Supreme, the Absolute, one cannot render service unto Him. In the absolute conception, there is no difference between the served and the servitor; yet the distinction is there, in a higher spiritual sense (Bhagavad Gita 18.54).

Although the Lord is infinitely greater than any other living being, or than all of them combined, every living being is qualitatively nondifferent from the Lord, because all living beings are parts and parcels emanating from Him (mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ). Therefore, in one sense, the living entity is also not different from the material cosmic manifestation, which is an inferior sister energy of the Lord (SB 11.2.22 Purport).

Krishna is only realized on the transcendental plane

Krishna can be truly realized only when the mind transcends the three modes of material nature by remembering Him while following non-violence, mercy, truthfulness, peacefulness, tolerance, etc. This applies to both the paths / regardless of the end goal i.e., rendering Bhakti (devotional service) to Lord Krishna or merging into cosmic consciousness.

yāvan mano rajasā pūruṣasya sattvena vā tamasā vānuruddham cetobhir ākūtibhir ātanoti niraṅkuśaṁ kuśalaṁ cetaraṁ vā

As long as the mind of the living entity is contaminated by the three modes of material nature (goodness, passion and ignorance), his mind is exactly like an independent, uncontrolled elephant. It simply expands its jurisdiction of pious and impious activities by using the senses. The result is that the living entity remains in the material world to enjoy and suffer pleasures and pains due to material activity (SB 5.11.4).

Krishna personally reveals Himself to those who...

अनन्याश्चिन्तयन्तो मां ये जना: पर्युपासते । तेषां नित्याभियुक्तानां योगक्षेमं वहाम्यहम् ॥ २२ ॥

But those who always worship Me with exclusive devotion, meditating on My transcendental form – to them I carry what they lack, and I preserve what they have (Gita 9.22)

सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो मत्त: स्मृतिर्ज्ञानमपोहनं च । वेदैश्च सर्वैरहमेव वेद्यो वेदान्तकृद्वेदविदेव चाहम् ॥ १५ ॥

I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas (Gita 15.15)

First class devotees of Krishna have no interest in monistic philosophy

anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu- śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā

When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Kṛṣṇa favorably, as Kṛṣṇa desires (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu (1.1.11))

Such devotees do not know anything else but Krishna.

साधवो हृदयं मह्यं साधूनां हृदयं त्वहम् । मदन्यत् ते न जानन्ति नाहं तेभ्यो मनागपि ॥ ६८ ॥

The pure devotee is always within the core of My heart, and I am always in the heart of the pure devotee. My devotees do not know anything else but Me, and I do not know anyone else but them (SB 9.4.68).

  • Devotion to Krishna or Narayana is possible in Advaita, but seeing him as exclusively superior to the other 5 forms is not.
    – Haridasa
    Commented May 19 at 1:33
  • Yes, however that "devotion" is only a ladder which is disposed of after reaching the state of realizing the atman.
    – user34325
    Commented May 19 at 2:06
  • Yes Sanguna is a guide to Nirguna
    – Haridasa
    Commented May 19 at 11:58

OP: Will I be unable to unite with the Lord Krishna if I follow Advaitic teachings?

Yes. Why not?

But those who fully worship the unmanifested, that which lies beyond the perception of the senses, the all-pervading, inconceivable, unchanging, fixed and immovable – the impersonal conception of the Absolute Truth – by controlling the various senses and being equally disposed to everyone, such persons, engaged in the welfare of all, at last achieve Me.

For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.
BG 12.3-5


The advaita realization stage being the highest is debatable. Śrimad Bhāgavatam totally rejects it actually and is called the primary stage of God realization. It has many parallels to Patanjali's Citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ state and as such, not the highest state one can have.

Don't forget that Veda-vyāsa had svarūpa experience (the same thing Advaita tries hard to get) but was still uncomfortable and dissatisfied, before he had the darśana of bhagavān and wrote about his glories.

Bhaktas acknowledge that you can have the experience of your own svarūpa but they totally reject it. What is the experience of this puny little svarūpa compared to the whole ocean of bliss that is bhagavān? Jīva Gosvāmi writes that the experience of merging into your own nature (Brahman) is like water trapped in the hoof print of a calf, compared to the whole ocean, i.e. Bhagavān/Para-brahman.

Krishna never once says that the world is false, Advaita injects its own opinion in there. Krishna never says you become one with him, Advaita injects its own opinion there.

One cannot follow Advaita and still be a Krishna bhakta. That kind of bhakti is called jñana-miṣrit bhakti, where you use bhagavān as a prop to gain another thing, not bhagavān.

If you're actually interested in Advaita, consider looking into Śuddhadvaita and Viśiṣtadvaita.

I'd suggest reading more about the pūrva-pakśa of Advaita, especially since you lean towards Vaiṣṇavism.

There's plenty of intellectual stimulation in Vaiṣṇava theology. You can watch videos by Satyanarayana Das from Jiva Institute of Vedic Studies, lectures on Indian philosophy by Edwin Braynt.

I recommend watching this lecture by Professor Edwin Bryant: https://youtube.com/watch?v=l1dE0B1AEIA

I hope this helps! Hare Krishna

  • Thanks for sharing, especially about the point of gyana-mishrit bhakti. Glad to see more Vaishnava perspective on the site. Hare Krishna.
    – user34325
    Commented May 21 at 21:28
  • When you say happiness of the svarūpa is rejected by the devotee, you're refering to brahman realization, correct?
    – user34325
    Commented May 21 at 21:35
  • Yes, the impersonal brahman, the svarūpa of the ātman is not the goal of the bhaktas because there is no love involved. It's a static experience, the world still exists when you're invested in your svarūpa, God still exists out there and that is what bhaktas seek.
    – MenoMore
    Commented May 22 at 3:31

The advaitin says that everything is Brahman. In the Bhagavad Gita, Bhagavan Krishna says this -

bahūnāṅ janmanāmantē jñānavānmāṅ prapadyatē. vāsudēvaḥ sarvamiti sa mahātmā sudurlabhaḥ৷৷7.19৷৷

7.19 At the end of many births the man of Knowledge attains Me, (realizing) that Vasudeva is all. Such a high-souled one is very rare.

The statement "vAsudevaH sarvam", is like "sarvam khalvidam brahma" (from chhAndogya upanishad) or "everything is indeed brahman" - one of the mahAvAkyas in advaita.

Bhagavan Himself is saying that one comes to the advaitic realization that Brahman/Vasudeva is everything and attains Him (Krishna).

Also, just before the above sloka, Bhagavan distinguishes four classes of devotees and praises a jnAni as the best devotee.

caturvidhā bhajantē māṅ janāḥ sukṛtinō.rjuna. ārtō jijñāsurarthārthī jñānī ca bharatarṣabha৷৷7.16৷৷

7.16 O Arjuna, foremost of the Bharata dynasty, four classes of people of virtuous deeds adore Me: the afflicted, the seeker of Knowledge, the seeker of wealth and the man of Knowledge.

tēṣāṅ jñānī nityayukta ēkabhakitarviśiṣyatē. priyō hi jñāninō.tyarthamahaṅ sa ca mama priyaḥ৷৷7.17৷৷

7.17 Of them, the man of Knowledge, endowed with constant steadfastness and one-pointed devotion, excels. For I am very much dear to the man of Knowledge, and he too is dear to Me.

Above sloka also implies that bhakti and jnAna are not contradictory paths.

udārāḥ sarva ēvaitē jñānī tvātmaiva mē matam. āsthitaḥ sa hi yuktātmā māmēvānuttamāṅ gatim৷৷7.18৷৷

7.18 All of these, indeed, are noble, but the man of Knowledge is the very Self. (This is) My opinion. For, with a steadfast mind, he is set on the path leading to Me alone who am the super-excellent Goal.

The Lord loves a jnAni.

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