Question: As you know, Madhusūdana Sarasvatī is a famous Advaitin who wrote a commentary on Bhāgavata Purāṇa 1.1.1 called Śrīmad-bhāgavata-prathama-śloka-vyākhyā and also a book called Bhaktirasāyana in which he characterizes Bhakti as the parama-puruṣārtha. Many have noted that his belief in Advaita is inconsistent with his belief that Bhakti is the parama-puruṣārtha, but my question is about his definition of Bhakti as a “citta-vṛtti” in his own Ṭīkā on 1.1 of the Bhaktirasāyana. This definition would make sense in Advaita, since the mind is given up upon attaining mokṣa, just as in Patañjali’s Yoga Sūtra the puruṣa gives up the citta in kaivalya.
But in Bhaktirasāmṛtasindhu (1.3.3) Rūpa Gosvāmin also defines Bhakti as a “mano-vṛtti,” and in Sārāthadarśinī (3.25.34) Viśvanātha writes: “This Bhakti has the nature of the functioning (vṛtti) of all the senses [including the mind?] with the Lord Bhagavat as the object; it is devoid of ritual action and non-dual knowledge, it follows after the Śāstra and it is svābhāvika, natural,” anena bhakter bhagavad-viṣayatvaṁ sarvendriya-vṛtti-rūpatvaṁ karma-jñānādi-rāhityaṁ śāstrānusāritvaṁ svābhāvikatvaṁ coktam.
If Bhakti is a vṛtti of the citta, manas, indriyas, etc. and if the ātman is without any transformation (Bhāgavata 11.7.48), how does Bhakti for the Lord continue once the jīva has shed the citta, indriyas, etc.? In other words, if Bhakti is in the citta, where is Bhakti once the citta is gone?
Sri Jiva Gosvami
Answer: There is a difference between the definition of bhakti given by Madhususdana Saraswati and the one given by Gaudiya acaryas, altough they appear same. In the former case, it is only a manovrtti and hence material. In the latter case, it is antaranga sakti of Bhagavan which appears in the mind as a vritti – avirbhuya manovrttau vajanti tatsvaupatam (BRS 1.3.4). It looks like a vrtti but it is not. It is like fire, making an iron object hot. Fire is not the iron object, but appears in the form of the iron object.
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The human mind is conditioned by material name and form. To get rid of this conditioning it needs to be fixed on spiritual name and form. It is very difficult to make it devoid of name and form. Therefore, Sri Krsna says that those who worship the unmanifest face big difficulty.