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Re: Jerry Schueler on "Bhakti Yoga"

Feb 02, 2003 01:52 AM
by Katinka Hesselink " <>

Dear Bhakti,

I don't really believe you are still here, but will reply to this 
post anyhow, as I do agree with Daniel that you raise some valid 

First let met quote from a popular textbook on Buddhism: "The 
Buddhist Handbook" John Snelling. My version is from 1997 a reprint 
of the second edition. On page 156, in the section on Chinese 
Buddhism, it says:

>> The Pure Land School (ching t'u)

Principal text: The Smaller and Larger Sukhavati-vyuha Sutras.

The devotees of this school venerated Amitabha (the Buddha of 
Infinite Light) and sought, not outright Nirvana, but rebirth in the 
Western Paradise or 'Pure Land' of Amitabha, also called Sukhavati. 
In that idyllic environment, no new negative karmic accumulations 
would be created and all existing ones would evaporate; Nirvana would 
be therefore just a short step away.
At root, the school harked back to the notion expounded in early 
Buddhist cosmology that within a few hundred years of the Buddha's 
death a degenerate period would set in when Enlightenment would no 
longer be attainable by one's own efforts or 'self-power' (in 
Japanese jiriki) alone. One would therefore have to depend on 
external grace: in this case, the benign intercession of Amitabha. 
This represented the opposite of 'self-power', namely 'other-
power'(tariki). It was also felt that there was in any case an 
element of egoism in the very idea of 'self-power': that one could 
win Enlightenment by one's own efforts alone. As that was basically 
the Hinayana outlook, Pure Land Buddhism reflected the Mahayana 
accomodation to devotional forms of practice. The mantric repetition 
of the name of Amitabha - 'O-mi-to-fo' (in Japanese: 'Namu-Amida-
butsu') - was the central practice developed here. >>

Which indeed sounds like Bhakti-like practice: a practice where 
divine intercession is sought. In a definition of bhakti that 
encompasses christianity, this should certainly be included. I do 
agree that devotional forms of religious practice is the kind of 
religious practice that is most popular. And Bhakti is the hindu 
(hindi?) word for that, so in that sense, I think you have a point. 
On the other hand, Jerry has a point that Christian devotees don't 
see nirvana as their ultimate goal, neither do Muslims, for that 
matter. So while the practice is similar, and the results are similar 
as well, it can indeed be argued that as the goal is different, the 
same label cannot be applied to both. 

On the other hand, from a theosophical perspective: any practice that 
teaches reliance on an outside power is exoteric by Blavatskian 
definition. Still, as many christians use their devotion to find real 
bliss and communion with the divine (probably their own higher 
selves), this practice is as popular as it is, probably precisely 
because the fact is that the divine is in all of us, and can be 
experienced by all of us. 

As for your other points, indeed Ramakrishna and Vivekananda were no 
Bhakti-yogi's. The first had a tantrist-instructor, and the second 
promoted a vedantic outlook. (source: An introduction to Hinduism, 
Gavin Flood, Cambridge, 1996) 

So from checking two of your assertions, it seems to me you are over 
all correct, where Jerry isn't. Though, I don't quote understand, is 
Jerry a member here or not??? 
Still - a theosophist usually sees in the outward and popular forms 
of religion, merely the cloack for esoteric wisdom found only by the 
few. Bhakti yoga, however defined, is clearly and exoteric form in 
its doctrines and explanations of experiences. 

--- In, "Bhakti Ananda Goswami 
<bhakti.eohn@v...>" <bhakti.eohn@v...> wrote:
> Dear Mr. Schueler,
> "Bhakti Yoga as I understand it, is a very special type of yoga and 
> is not all that popular. Probably its most famous proponent and 
> practitioner was Ramakrishna during the late 19th century India. "
> What is your qualification for this pronouncement? What is your 
> source ? Have one read one book about the Kali Tantrist 
> and now think that this qualifies you? Do you know what Sahajiya 
> Tantra are ? These are NOT Bhakti Yoga. Only complete outsiders 
> know nothing about Vaishnavism or Sattvic Shaivism think that 
> Ramakrishna practiced Bhakti Yoga. There are innumerable Vaishnava 
> and Shaivite Saints who were on the sattvic Bhakti Path in India. 
> You could have mentioned any of them. They are so famous that they 
> are studied in universities all over the world. But you mention a 
> Mayavadi Tantrist as an example of Bhakti Yoga! 
> Mahatma Gandhi was a Pranami and Rama Vaishnava Bhakti Yogi, and he 
> had hundreds of millions of followers who were also non-violent 
> Bhakti Yogis. He left this world with the Name of Rama on his last 
> breath. He, like most Vaishnava Bhaktas in India, recognised 
> Theistic Shaivites, Christians, Muslims and any other devotees of 
> as being on the path of Bhakti Yoga. Where have you been all of 
> time ? I have traveled the world lecturing on Gandhi and never met 
> educated person who did not understand that Gandhi considered there 
> a generic Western term of course, but the 'worship' of Bhakti Yoga 
> includes the rarest heights of Bridal Mysticim and popular 
> or the simple love of a child as well. 
> When say the above, you are 100% wrong, as the essence of Bhakti 
> is Other-centered devotion. Ramakrishna was a Mayavadi, whose 
> devotion was exoterically to Kali but esoterically to himself. He 
> his followers taught monist impersonalism, which means that they 
> not actually practicing Bhakti Yoga at all. Bhakti Yoga can not be 
> self-centered. Such self-centered 'devotionalism' is not Bhakti, 
> is called impersonalist (mayavadi) Sahajiya Tantrism. Ramakrishna 
> not a sattvic Theistic Shaivite or a Vaishnava. 
> Note that the Adherants site does not give a similar large number 
> Tantric Kali worship as for Shaivism and Vaishnavism. The Adherants 
> web page charts (which pasted-in as lists in my previous mail) 
> the number of persons identified as Vaishnavas and Shaivites. These 
> hundreds of millions are people for whom God is Vishnu or Shiva. 
> THE PATH OF BHAKTI YOGA. The Bhakti Yoga of these people can be 
> simple enough for a little child, or as challenging as the greatest 
> jnani wants it to be. The origin and basis of Bhakti is not our 
> for God, but God's love for us. God has reached out to humanity 
> a Self-revelation of Love, and pours-out His grace / love freely, 
> which can be received by anyone with an honest (humble) open 
> There are no impediments to Bhakti except selfishness, 
> dishonesty, pride and a closed heart. 
> It is actually appalling that any educated person would know so 
> little about the religions of India as to think that Ramakrishna 
> representative of mainstream Bhakti Yoga ! Sadly this is the case 
> outside of India, and even among westerners who have gone there, 
> just stayed in the myopic elitist little self-involved world of 
> Advaita Vedanta and Tantra. 
> I was a member of the Executive Committee of the World Hindu 
> Organization under the Patronage of the Late King of Nepal. In this 
> capacity I met with governmental heads of state and the leaders of 
> Vaishnavism, Shaivism and other traditions. I actually discussed 
> religious demographics at length with government leaders in Nepal, 
> India and Sri Lanka. If you read my biography posted here, you 
> know that I am currently the Interfaith Coordinator for the World 
> Vaishnava Association. I am recognised as an expert on the world 
> history of Bhakti Traditions and as a Master in one of the most 
> venerated lineages of Vaishnavism. I was given the Sannyasi name 
> BHAKTI Ananda because of my reputation as an 'adept' and a scholar 
> Bhakti Yoga. These are some of my qualifications for speaking on 
> Bhakti Yoga in this forum.....and yet you continue to be 
> dismissive of what I say, and argumentative just for the sake of 
> looking like an expert in front of your deluded followers. 
> You made a preposterous statement and I corrected your 
> by posting here the statistics from the Adherants web site. Now you 
> are trying to dismiss what I have presented on the numbers of 
> Vaishnavas and Shaivites with another equally uninformed statement, 
> which is as outrageous and offensive as your last. 
> I am sure that you are expert at some things, but you are 
> people by presenting yourself as knowledgeable about Hinduism and 
> knowing very much of the various traditions and history of Buddhism 
> on this forum. The historical core of MAHAYANA Buddhism is PURE 
> BUDDHISM. If you have no familiarity witheven the existance of Pure 
> Land Buddhism, then you are unqualified to teach any general course 
> on Buddhism. 
> > Christians, Muslims, Jews, and so on know nothing of Bhakti Yoga. 
> YOU obviously know nothing about Bhakti Yoga as a path /pada, or 
> vehicle / vahaana, or Dharma Door / Dvara, or Yoga / yoke. Bhakti 
> Yoga is not something that you "... try to practice it for 
awhile, ".
> The goal of Bhakti Yoga is NOT about merging / 'union', as Advaitis 
> want to merge with the Brahman ! This is exactly NOT what any form 
> traditional Bhakti Yoga is about. Such merging is a Sufi Advaiti, 
> Shaivite Tantric Advaiti, Kali Tantric Advaiti and Sahajiya goal. 
> Gnostics and 'Christian' practitioners of the extreme apophatic 
> tradition, like Meister Eckhart, and many New Agers have confused 
> goal of such merging as some kind of Bhakti Yoga. There is no 
> authentic Bhakti Tradition in India where a soul-self wants to BE 
> their own lover / beloved or merge-into GOD. Merging is the anti-
> thesis of Bhakti. 
> > Mysticism, is union with God or even union with Godhead which is 
> > more impersonal perspective of one's personal God.
> Advaiti Impersonal Mysticism is. 'Nature' pantheistic mysticism 
> Godhead is only 'more impersonal' in the writings of such 
> impersonalists as Meister Eckhart. In authentic Bhakti Yoga, there 
> no such 'more impersonal' Godhead. 
> > Are you sugggesting that Theosophists should quit and become 
> Christians or Muslims? If you want me to worship a god, then maybe 
> you can tell me which one? And why should I chose one at the 
> of the others? I love them all.
> Why would I want you to "worship a god..." ? I wish you to be 
> loved and to fully love, that is all.
> God is not the same as a god or gods. There is only one Supreme 
> Personality of Godhead, Who is infinite and has infinite 
> relationships with the beings that He has manifest and created. 
> Vaishnavas experience Him as Hari-Vasu-Atma To the Shaivites He has 
> revealed Himself as Hara / Shiva. To the Jews and Christians, He 
> revealed Himself as Eli-Yahu-Adon and the Trinity. Do you really 
> get that Godhead is ONE, but infinite and infinitely revealed?
> AND for those unable to establish a good relationship to GOD, there 
> is ESS / ISHISH / ISIS Shekinah / Shakti !
> > The Bhakti tradition, even when understood in the broad general 
> > terms of anyone who prays to a god, functions under the 
> > of a personal self who seeks favors of a personal not-self. 
> "seeks favors" ? This and the rest of your statements are all such 
> nonsense that I can only conclude that you have surrounded yourself 
> with people who know less that you, who have done you the 
> of encouraging you to make pronouncements on subjects that you have 
> no grasp of. 
> > Muslims, and most other religious folk would consider such a 
> > as blasphemy, and this is why I did not include the world's 
> > religions in the "Bhakti Tradition." Prayer and devotion and 
> > worship to God with the intent of ultimate union or at-one-ment 
> > limited to only a small percentage of people.
> Again the at-one-ment of merging that you are describing is NOT 
> I am an expert on Bhakti Yoga from its history to its living, and 
> what you have described is Advaiti impersonalism, the very opposite 
> of Bhakti Yoga. This Advaita Vedanta is a purely a Jnana Path. 
> Instead of accepting the clear evidence I presented, of the largest 
> populations of devotees of GOD, including Catholics, Muslims, 
> Vaishnavas and Shaivites, you have presented an attempt to disguise 
> your great arrogant foolishness, by making yet another baseless 
> argument, that Christianity etc. is not a Bhakti Path. 
> It is one thing to be wrong, but quite another to be proud and 
> incapable of correction. It is wrong to mislead people, and 
> yourself as an expert when you are not. Anyone who encourages you 
> this behavior is doing you a great disservice. 
> Because I care about you and those your extremely wrong statements 
> have misled, I am posting these strong words. However because of 
> prevailing attitude here, I doubt if they will do any good. 
> Since it is apparently the Theosophical Society tradition to 
> completely reject any kind of actual real-world expert testimony in 
> favor of an unqualified Theosophist's opinion, I don't expect 
> anything of value to come out of posting anything else in this 
> which is dominated by people like you, who cannot learn because you 
> already think you know it all. I am now unsubscribing from this 
> Please stop misleading others with your proud misinformation. Your 
> prejudice against Monotheism and Bhakti Yoga will not make billions 
> of people go away. You may be able to mislead a few people here 
> your disinformation, but like it or not, there are still billions 
> people on the Bhakti Path. It is by all evidence the "Yuga Dharma".
> wishing you all well, 
> Bhakti Ananda Goswami 

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