According to Shankaracharya, knowledge of Brahman can only be had through Jnana Yoga but recent Mahatmas like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa say that it can also be gotten through Bhakti Yoga. Why doesn't Adi Shankaracharya agree with that? I'm trying to understand why this is.
The single line answer is "Pure bhakthi and Pure Jnana are same".
If you try to study both gurus lives, you will understand that:
- Sankaracharya is outwardly jnani but inside he is a pure bhaktha.
- Sri Ramakrishna is Outwardly bhaktha but inside he is pure Jnani.
Sankara himself re-initiated most of famous south Indian temple daily procedures and we can still see they are being followed without any change. Sankara's works like Devi Aparadha Kshamapana Stotram" also confirms that he is a pure bhaktha.
Like wise if you read Sri Ramakrishna's discussions with Brahmo samaaj devotees you will find that he is a pure Jnani.
Then why two gave 2 different paths? The answer is simple: What ever you follow follow the path with 100% dedication.
If you read Ramayana at the end it will say like this is ultimate scripture and through this alone one attains every thing. and if you read most of the strotras too you will find same kinds of "Phalasruthi". What does that mean? it means every path is good for those who born with certain tendencies. We cant say a single path is good for everyone. Actually this is the beauty of Sanathana Dharma.
Avatars will give paths and knowledge for that specific time and space if you understand it correctly. Usually it will be for masses. Yet certain people don't have to follow these, who have strong tendencies in other disciplines.
As you can see in Kaliyuga people are getting weaker both mentally and physically. Its not so easy to follow Jnana Yoga path. Where the follower has to take whole burden on his shoulders. This is not so simple with present body and minds.
On the other hand Bhakthi yoga is little simple here. All an aspirant needs here is simple "sincere belief" in his deity.
And if you study scriptures you will find that in Kali yuga with simple bhagavann namajapa itself one can attain the perfection or moksha. If you study Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa's life you will find plenty of examples for this. "Golapma" is one of them.
It is popularly believed that Sankara taught only Jnana. But an examination of his writings reveals otherwise. In his Vivekachudamani, Crest Jewel of Discrimination, Sankara says (Swami Madhavananda translator):
verse 31. Among things conducive to Liberation, devotion (Bhakti) alone holds the supreme place. The seeking after one's real nature is designated as devotion.
and is his commentary on this verse, Swami Madhavananda says:
The seeking etc. --This definition is from the Advaita standpoint. Dualists who substitute Isvara, the Supreme Lord, for the Atman or Supreme Self immanent in being, of course define Bhakti otherwise. For example, Narada defines it as--"It is of the nature of extreme love to some Being," and Sandilya, another authority on the subject, puts it as --"It is extreme attachment to Isvara, the Lord." On reflection it will appear that there is not much difference between the definitions of the two schools.
and in verse 34. Sankara says:
Worshiping that Guru [defined in verse 33], with devotion, and approaching him, when he pleased with prostration, humility and service, (he) should ask him what he has got to know:--
So why did Sankara emphasize Jnana? It would seem that he was born to establish Jnana as a way. In the Sankara Digvijaya, The Traditional Life of Life of Sri Sankaracharya, by Madhava-Vidyaranya (Swami Tapasyananda translator), it says:
...Siva, the great God having matted locks, spoke thus to His son: Dear One! Hear My words that are meant for the blessing of the world. The Veda has three strands in its comprehensive teaching--The ritualistic, the meditative and the gnostic. By establishing the sway of the Veda with its three pronged message, the spiritual ideal can be preserved in the world. If the spiritual ideal is saved, society is saved...Now, coming to understand My design and following My instruction, Hari and Sesha have already been born as the sages Sankarshana and Patanjali for the resuscitation of the middle section of the Veda dealing with meditation and have produced texts on Bhakti and Yoga. And I have now promised...that I shall undertake to rejuvenate the gnostic teachings which form the ultimate purport of the Veda [by taking birth as Sankara].
So many followers of Sankara see him as an incarnation of Siva whose mission was to bring out the fullness of Jnana in the Vedanta teachings.
Although his commentaries and writings are known for their dry Advaitism, Sankara also wrote many bhajans and hymns. Many people know it, but many forget that one of the most popular sanskrit bhajans, Bhaja Govindum, was written by Sankara. There are numerous other bhajans and hymns that he wrote that are filled with Bhakti.
Ramkrishna had tried many different methods of spiritual growth including Tantra. He found Kaali Upasana particularly engaging but soon realized that he is not progressing spiritually and graduating from Dwaita to Adwaita. Under the guidance of Totapuri, a master in Adwaita school, he attained the Nirvikalp Samadhi state. The account is mentioned in the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna in his own words,
Sri Ramakrishna once said, describing the event, "Nangta began to teach me the various conclusions of the Advaita Vedanta and asked me to withdraw the mind completely from all objects and dive deep into the Atman. But in spite of all my attempts I could not altogether cross the realm of name and form and bring my mind to the unconditioned state. I had no difficulty in taking the mind from all the objects of the world. But the radiant and too familiar figure of the Blissful Mother, the Embodiment of the essence of Pure Consciousness, appeared before me as a living reality. Her bewitching smile prevented me from passing into the Great Beyond. Again and again I tried, but She stood in my way every time. In despair I said to Nangta: 'It is hopeless. I cannot raise my mind to the unconditioned state and come face to face with Atman.' He grew excited and sharply said: 'What? You can't do it? But you have to.' He cast his eyes around. Finding a piece of glass he took it up and stuck it between my eyebrows. 'Concentrate the mind on this point!' he thundered. Then with stern determination I again sat to meditate. As soon as the gracious form of the Divine Mother appeared before me, I used my discrimination as a sword and with it clove Her in two. The last barrier fell. My spirit at once soared beyond the relative plane and I lost myself in samadhi."
So, the approach of both the masters, Adi-Shanakara, Ramkrishna and other Saints like Dyaneshwar, Tukaram, Ramdas etc. (Maharashtra), is to start with Dwaita worship, which is easy for unconditioned mind, and under the guidance of a able guru graduate to Adwaita state.
Sankaracharya has clearly stated that only Jnana or knowledge can lead to moksha.
Sruti clearly teaches that no road other than knowledge leads to moksha. Vide: "Knowing Him alone one conquers death: no other road is available for going there" (Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.8). Furher, 6.20 (ibid) teaches that the non-knower's achievement of moksha is as impossible as the folding up of the sky like a hide. Puranas, too, teach that moksha is won through knowledge.
Sankara Gita bhasya 18.66.6
So only Jnana Yoga can lead one to moksha according to Sankaracharya. Sri Ramakrishna disagrees with Shankaracharya on this issue.
Bhaktiyoga is the religion for this age. But that does not mean that the lover of God will reach one goal and the philosopher (Jnani) and worker (Karmayogi) another. It means that if a person seeks the knowledge of Brahman he can attain It by following the path of Bhakti too. God, who loves His devotee, can give him the knowledge of Brahman if He so desires. But the Bhakta wants to realize the Personal God endowed with form and talk to Him. He seldom seeks the knowledge of Brahman. But God, who does everything at His pleasure, can make His devotee the heir to His infinite glories if it pleases Him. He gives His devotee both the love of God and knowledge of Brahman. If one is able to reach Calcutta, one can see the Maidan and the museum and other places too. The thing is how to reach Calcutta.
The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, June 25, 1884