Concept of Means of Liberation in Śuddhādvaita Vedānta

The Supreme Lord can be attained only through the path of devotion according to Śuddhādvaita tradition. The highest Liberation is residing with Lord Kŗşna in the eternal Gokula. Devotee does not become one with the Lord, but he remains what he is or becomes any object in the Gokula or becomes friend of Lord Kŗşna and all the time watches the divine form of the Lord. Liberation in the common meaning of the word is ‘not the highest liberation’ according to Śuddhādvaita. The liberation understood by the others is a state before the final Bhaktiyoga considering the order of Mukti or the thought given to Mukti in Śuddhādvaita. There are two ways leading towards Liberation. These two ways are path of knowledge and the path of devotion. The path of knowledge basically preached in the Upanişads is, Ātmā vāre dŗştavyah śrotavyo mantavyo nididhyasitavyah. The Ātman should be seen, heard, contemplated upon and concentrated upon in order to attain the liberation. Ādi Śaňkarācārya elaborates these means later in his commentary on the Upanişads and the Vyāsa sūtras. One can see the development of thoughts regarding the means of liberation, which are instructed in the scriptures.  Aspirant needs to study them properly and act accordingly. Śuddhādvaita differs from the above thoughts in many ways. The central idea regarding the means of liberation evolves around devotion. Therefore, they consider the path of knowledge inferior to the devotion. Śuddhādvaita has reinterpreted many of the Upanişadic passages in order to establish importance of devotion compared to knowledge. They consider that the path of knowledge leads to Akśarabrahman. The Akśarabrahman is described as the ‘state from where one does not return, still, it is not yet final liberation.’ Final liberation comes only when the Lord finally selects the soul as His own and includes the soul in the eternal Gokula. The soul (Jīva) can attain the liberation and Akśarabrahman with His own efforts. He can make efforts in the form of sacrifices, austerity, japa, study of Vedas and Samādhi. Thus, these efforts are within the capacity of Jīva. In other words, one can say that attainment of Akśarabrahman is possible through one’s own efforts; where as attainment of the Lord Himself is not within the reach of the soul. His efforts and performing of the means instructed by the scriptures fall short to attain the Lord Himself.

In the path of knowledge one can renounce the world and become an ascetic monk or don the saffron robe. This is considered a lower form of means. The path of devotion has utmost importance in Śuddhādvaita. The path of devotion is considered as ‘Puşţipath’. The word ‘Puşţi’ means ‘under the protection of Lord’. The devotee following the path of Puşţi is one who is dearer and nearer to the Lord. As the Lord has said in Bhagavad Gītā, ‘Yogakśemam vahāmyaham.’, i.e., the Lord takes responsibility of the devotee’s well being and his spiritual attainment. It means devotee need not do anything in order to enhance his spiritual growth. The Lord takes care of his spiritual growth and finally helps him to attain Himself.

The purport of “Puşţimārga” is, Lord takes the true devotee under His protection. Śuddhādvaitins consider Bhāgavata Purāņa as the highest authoritative scripture.

Athavā sarvadā śāstram śrībhāgavatamādarāt.
Pathanīyam prayatnena sarvahetu vivarjitam.
(Tatvārthadīpanibandhah: 2-253)

 (One should read the Bhāgavata Purāņa regularly with due respect and leaving everything else aside.)
The means of ‘Puşţi’ or Śuddhādvaita mainly consist of devotion. Puşţi has another aspect also. As seen above, devotee cannot attain the lord. It is the Lord who selects His devotee. (Vŗņute swām tanum.) Lord makes the devotee see the Lord’s own form and helps him to attain Himself. There is no devotion or any kind of feelings before devotee experiences and perceives the form of the Lord. Devotee feels the urge to hear about the Lord. After he listens to greatness of the lord, he feels love emerging in his heart for the Lord. He follows the means of liberation carefully and painstakingly as instructed in the path of devotion.
Path of devotion according to Śuddhādvaita tradition is called ‘Puşţi’. The concept of ‘Puşţi’ is based on the Upanişadic sentence, Yamevaişa Vŗņute tena labhyah. It means the Liberation is possible for him who is selected by the Lord Himself. This kind of acceptance by the Lord like a dear person is only possible in the path of devotion. The devotee needs to enter the path of devotion.  Sati bhaktimārge praveśāt bhaktaiva sa ituchyate. (Aņu.3-3-29) The Lord says, ‘Bhaktyā māmabhijānāti.’ , i.e., ‘I can be known only through devotion’. Further, the Lord says, ‘Tato mām tatvato jňatvā viśāte tadanantaramam.’, i.e., devotee can enter in my consciousness after knowing me properly. It itself shows that Liberation in the path of devotion is possible only through the knowledge of the Lord.
The knowledge of the Lord is the only mean to enter the consciousness of the Lord. (Bhaktimārge tatvatobhagavajjňānameva praveśasādhanamiti mantavyam. (Aņu. 3-3-29). There is another Upanişadic sentence, which proves this tenet. Eşa u eva sādhu karma kārayati tam yamebhyo lokebhyo unninīşati.  (Kauşī.Upa. 3-9) it means it is the grace of Lord rather it is selection of Lord in the path of devotion. When Lord wants to liberate or uplift someone, He makes him do good deeds and acquire merit. It can happen opposite way also, like, when the Lord does not want to liberate a soul, He makes him do bad deeds and acquire sin. Aņubhāşya says that, god has decided even before the creation to whom he would uplift and whom he would not. (Bhagavān sŗştipūrvakāla evaitasmai jīvāyaitat karma kārayitvā etat falam dāsya iti vichāritavāna iti tathaiva bhavati. Aņu. 3-3-7) Therefore, ‘Puşţi’ itself is interpreted by Śri Vitthaleśa Goswāmī as; ‘God makes the devotee to attain Himself using his own powers.’ (Svasvarūpabalena svaprāpaņam puşţirityuchyate.Aņu. 3-3-29) One, who is accepted by the Lord in the path of Puşţi, that devotee does not need the knowledge of scriptures nor does he needs to make efforts for liberation.
(Puşţimārgeńgīkrutasya jňānādi nairapekśyam yuktameva. Aņu. 3-3-29)   

The specialty of Bhaktipath is, the devotee loves Lord so much that, and his immense love transgresses even the wish for liberation. Though, when one is following the divine path of Bhakti, the final attainment is liberation, which comes in the due course without fail. But, then it does not hold any importance for the devotee. Devotee listens about the Lord from the scriptures, which destroys his sins.  Destruction of sins leads to the love for Lord or creates love for the Lord and then the liberation is bound to be there.  Tad bhakteh sādhanmārgīyatvād ‘Nechchhato me gatimaņvīm prayunkte’ iti vākyādante muktireva bhavitrī. Asmin mārge śravanādibhih pāpakśaye premotpattih tato muktih. (Aņu. 3-3-29 )  

One, who is accepted by the Lord in the path of Puşţi, he is extremely graced by the Lord, the sin is destroyed. Therefore, it does not stand as the hurdle in devotee’s way of spiritual progress and simultaneously he has love in his heart. Devotee also follows nine kinds of Bhakti as the means to attain the Lord.
Viśiştarūpam vedārthah falam prema cha sādhanam.
Tatsādhanam navavidhā bhaktistatpratipādikā.
(Tatvārthadīpanibandhah: 2-220)

Listening to the names of Lord and His fame is also considered as fruit in this path. (Atra śravanādikamapi falarūpameva. Aņu.3-3-29) This is done through pure and intense love. Premņonyat sādhanam loke nāsti mukhyam param mahat. (Tatvārthadīpanibandhah: 2-326) Therefore, one cannot consider it as the instruction of the scriptures. (Snehenaiva priyamāņatvāt na vidhivişayah. Aņu.3-3-29) The Bhāgavata Purāņa also says that, ‘one who devotes totally to the Lord, the Lord destroys his bad deeds and the fruits thereof and resides in his hearts. Svapādamūlakambhajatahpriyasya tyaktānyabhāvasya harih pareshah vikarma tachchotpatitam kathanchiddhunoti sarvam hrudi sannivişthah. There is possibility that a devotee may commit sin but he need not do anything to ward off its consequences. The Lord takes care of that. (Etādvaśasyāpi yadi vikarma bhaveta tadā tannivruttyartham na tenānyatkartavyam. Aņu. 3-3-29)  A devotee is supposed to follow his devotional routine in a secluded place. He should secretly pursue his love for the Lord. Reciting the name of the Lord with intense love is considered better than the liberation. Bhāgavata says, ‘true devotees do not accept even the liberation, they prefer to serve me instead.’  (Bhajanānyasya tat ādhikyam tu muktim dadāti karhichit sma na bhaktiyogam. Aņu. 3-3-30) The intense devotion is the characteristic of this dharma, which is considered as separate Puruşārthah (the aim of human life).  First verse of the Catuhślokī of the Şodaşagraňthah says,  ‘the devotion should worship the Lord of Vraja at all times with total love, for this alone is his rule of life never and in no circumstance is there any other. (Translation by James D. Redington, the Grace of Lord Kŗşna, p.118)
Sarvadā sarva bhāvena bhajanīyo vrajadhīpah.
Svasyāyameva dharmā hi nānyah kvāpi kadāchana.

Ātharvaņa   Upanişad says, ‘who concentrates, experiences, devotes, meditates, loves, listens, instructs and behaves according to this Brahman, becomes immortal.’

Here, the different means in the devotion is discussed. There can be doubt whether one of the means leads to the liberation or all the means together lead to liberation. But there is no such rule. There are instances that even after following only one of the means, one can attain liberation, viz.,
1. Chintanśchetasā kŗşnam mukto bhavati sansŗteh.   2. Panchapadīm japan etc.                                                

Thus, ‘Puşţi’ is the path, which is to totally devote to Bhakti or devotion. This development further leads to worship of Lord Kŗşna’s form with one’s own money, physical ability and mental concentration and contemplation.




  1. The Grace of Lord Kŗşna- the Sixteen Verse Treatise (Şoḍaşagraňthah) of Vallabhāchārya, James D. Redington, Sri Satguru publication, Delhi, 2000

  2. Shrimad Brahmasutrāņubhāşyam, TR. By Dr. A. D. Shastri, Parshwa Publication, Ahmedabad, 1998

  3. Tattvārthadipanibandhah, 2nd edition, published by Shri Vallabha Vidyapeeth- Shri Vitthaleshaprabhucharanāshrama Trust, Kolhapur, V.S. 2039

  4. Vidvadmandanam by shri Vitthalesha, published by Shri Vallabha Vidyapeeth- Shri Vitthaleshaprabhucharana A. H. Trust, Kolhapur, V.S. 2059

  5. Vāllabha Vedānta (Nibandhasaňgrahah), Ed. By Goswami Shyama Manohar, Shri   Vallabhāchārya Trust, Mandavi, V.S. 2063   

Dr. Swati Shah
Department of Sanskrit-Samhita and Siddhant,
Govt. Akhandanand Ayurveda College,


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