The Adi Sankara Advaita Research Centre takes great pleasure in bringing out this book, The Voice of Sankara (Vol. II) being a compilation of select devotional/philosophical hymns composed by Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada, Though a propounder of Advaita, he propagated Sagunopasana and emphasised the path of bhakti or upasana and established the Shanmatas.
As Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada himself says, "Bhakti is the highest and easiest means to attain liberation". The poetical hymns composed by Sri Sankara in praise of deities of the Hindu pantheon in a language which is profoundly sublime and yet transparently simple are steeped with ecstatic devotion and are soul-stirring. The recitation of the mellifluous slokas is sure to fill the earnest devotee with devotional fervour, bestow mental peace and elevate him to sublime beatitude.
We at the Centre, pay our reverential obeisance to Pujyasri Jagadguru Jayendra Saraswati Swamigal and Pujyasri Jagadguru Sankara Vijayendra Saraswati Swamigal of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Pee tam at whose behest the present book has been published. We offer this book at the sacred lotus feet of Pujyasri Acharyas.
The present volume comprises twenty three hymns which had been previously published in the issues of our half-yearly Journal, "The Voice of Sankara". We owe a debt of gratitude to the various eminent scholars who had helped in translating into lucid English the different hymns.
We are grateful to the distinguished scholar, Prof. N. Veezhinathan for his Introduction, delving deep into Advaita and Bhakti.
We must also thank Dr. V.K.S.N. Raghavan, Professor and Head, Department of Vaishnavism, University of Madras for the meticulous and painstaking efforts put forth in the arduous task of reading the proofs and also transliterating some of the hymns.
We are greatly indebted to Sri G. Natarajan of our Centre for the invaluable contribution and efforts taken in co-ordinating with various persons in bringing out this publication.
We are grateful to Sri S. Gurunathakrishnan for his assistance in the compilation of this book. We are also indebted to several well-wishers for their help in obtaining suitable pictures enhancing the grandeur of this publication.
M/s. Multivista Global Limited, Offset Printers have done an excellent job of printing this book with fine get-up and we thank them for their neat execution.
Last, but not the least, we owe a debt of gratitude to M/s. Essar Shipping Limited, Mumbai and M/ s. Gemini Communication Limited, Chennai for their gracious sponsoring of this publication.
There is a general criticism that the fundamental metaphysical position of Advaita is such that it cannot accord any place to bhakti or loving devotion to lsvara in its scheme of practical discipline. The philosophy of Advaita involves the doctrine of avidya or maya. It is based on the Prasthanatraya, the triple canon of the Vedanta, that is, the Upanisads, the Bhagavad-gita, and the Brahma-sutra. The distinguishing feature of this school is the doctrine that the material world is an illusion. It is accordingly frequently referred to as maya-vada. The ultimate reality is termed Brahman which is absolute consciousness. Owing to avidya, it appears as lsvara, jiva, and the world. The true nature of Isvara and jiva is Brahman. The universe as such is indeterminable either as real or as unreal. Jiva is to realize its identity with Brahman. To remain as Brahman is the ultimate goal, that is, liberation. And, this is possible only by overcoming avidya. Avidya has Brahman as its content (visaya) and hence it could be removed only by the intuitive knowledge or the direct experience (saksatkara) of Brahman. The formulation by Sankara of Advaita in a systematic form and in alliance with the doctrine of avidya has established the way of knowledge as the sole means to liberation. On this ground it has been maintained by the critics of Advaita that bhakti or loving devotion to Isvara is not necessary in Advaita.
The critics of Advaita further contend that bhakti or loving devotion to lsvara is not only not necessary but also not possible in Advaita. According to Advaita, Brahman alone is real, and so there is no distinction between lsvara who rules and the world and jivas ruled by Him. The universe is neither one with nor different from Brahman. It is illusory. Bhakti involves a distinction between jiva and lsvara, and in order that it may be practised the universe must be real. The Advaitin contends that the difference between jiva and lsvara is only illusory, as both are in essence Brahman. And the universe also is illusory. Hence bhakti towards lsvara is not possible in Advaita.
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