Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Madhusudana Sarasvat i (16th century), one of the greatest and most vigorous exponents of post-Samkara Advaita, was simultaneously, and somewhat paradoxically, a great devotee of Krsna. He authored several works in which he sought to give bhakti a more prominent place within Advaita, a system traditionally regarded as hostile to devotional spirituality. The Bhaktirasayana (BR), the most important of these, is an independent composition which attempts a theoretical integration of non-dualist metaphysics and the ecstatic devotionalism of the Bhagavata Purana. The work's main thesis, borrowed from the Vaisnava devotionalists, is that bhakti is highest goal of life (paramapurusartha). To establish this in the face of the orthodox Advaita doctrine that liberation alone is the highest aim, Madhusudana argues (1) that bhakti is God (bhagavat) appearing in the melted mind of the devotee, (2) that, since bhagavat is supreme bliss, so is bhakti, and (3) that bhakti includes knowledge of the atman and is a more blissful experience than moksa. While the argument for the experiential superiority of bhakti in the state of j ivanmukti ("liberation in life") is plausible, Madhusudana does not show, in Advaitic terms, how it can be experienced eternally after death. Moreover, he fails to establish that bhagavat is ontologically equal to Brahman, which makes it difficult to see how bhakti, as identified with bhagavat, can be ontologically superior, or even equal, to moksa. In short, he does not present a convincing argument for bhakti 's being the paramapurusartha. In later works such as the Gud a rthad ipika and Advaitassiddhi, Madhusudana abandons the idea that bhakti is an independent spiritual path and itself the paramapurus a rtha. The commonly accepted view that he was a champion of the cause of bhakti who successfully integrated devotion and Advaita cannot therefore be accepted without serious qualification.
Nelson, Lance Edward, "Bhakti in Advaita Vedanta: A translation and study of Madhusudana Sarasvati's Bhaktirasayana" (1986). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3453.