“For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5)
क्लेशो ऽधिकतरस् तेषाम्
अव्यक्ता हि गतिर् दुःखं
kleśo ‘dhikataras teṣām
avyaktā hi gatir duḥkhaṁ
1. Less prone to errors
The distinction is clear from the start. There is dvaita, or duality. Sure, there is also advaita, or non-duality, but that can be understood later on. A person who is embodied already draws distinctions. This begins from the time of birth.
For instance, let’s say that a child grows up in a home without a father. The two primary caretakers are both women. The child, through instruction, refers to both of them as “mommy.” This continues for the first few years of life.
When the child begins attending school, they follow the same pattern. This is a pattern they believe to be true, based on personal experience. In this way, they are a scientist of sorts. They exhibit intelligence that must have been placed there prior.
सर्वस्य चाहं हृदि सन्निविष्टो
मत्तः स्मृतिर् ज्ञानम् अपोहनं च
वेदैश् च सर्वैर् अहम् एव वेद्यो
वेदान्त-कृद् वेद-विद् एव चाहम्
sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo
mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo
vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham
“I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)
The teacher sends a note home. They inform the parents that the child is referring to every female adult as “mommy”. It is not a big problem, but eventually the child should learn who is the actual mother, and make distinctions along those lines.
In the personal path of spiritual life, the worshiper offers services to the object of worship. There are two distinct entities. One inferior and one superior. One taker and one supplier. One fallible and one infallible. One suffering through birth and death and one perpetually situated in the apparent spirit-body combination.
2. Easier to follow
This kind of spiritual life is also known as bhakti-yoga. It is linking the individual to the Supreme, through consciousness, by dedicated service. It is not that the service is limited to physical activity. As Shri Krishna explains in Bhagavad-gita, a person can also sacrifice knowledge. They rise through intelligence, through consulting and learning from proper sources. This is as much yajna, or sacrifice, as dedicating the results of work, karma.
श्रेयान्द्रव्यमयाद्यज्ञाज्ज्ञानयज्ञः परन्तप ।
सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते ॥
śreyān dravya-mayād yajñāj
sarvaṁ karmākhilaṁ pārtha
“O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice of knowledge is greater than the sacrifice of material possessions. O son of Pritha, after all, the sacrifice of work culminates in transcendental knowledge.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.33)
The impersonal path is more difficult to follow since it is not easy to identify the end-goal. It is difficult to see any sort of distinction, precisely because impersonalism removes distinctions. The entire experience of life, from birth to death, has conditions in duality. The circumstances are always changing, but in truth they are always the same.
Sacrificing directly to the object of worship, i.e. following the personal path, maintains these distinctions while providing increased awareness of the nonduality. That is to say, a person following bhakti-yoga will eventually see clearly, in the same way as through impersonalism.
3. Provides more bliss at the end
There is something known as brahmananda. This is sometimes referred to as brahmasukha. It is the joy and bliss of understanding Brahman, which is the spiritual energy. If someone were to ask the purpose to it all, why any kind of genuine religious system should be followed, one of the justifications is to experience brahmananda.
The personal path is less difficult and identifies the target goal from the very beginning. Brahmananda will automatically take place, but in the highest stages of understanding there is even more bliss.
नृप गहे पाय असीस पाई मान आदर अति किएँ |
अवलोकि रामहि अनुभवत मनु ब्रह्मसुख सौगुन किएँ ||
nṛpa gahe pāya asīsa pāī māna ādara ati kiem̐ |
avaloki rāmahi anubhavata manu brahmasukha sauguna kiem̐ ||
“The king went and received blessings and then paid so much honor and respect after that. When he saw Rama, he experienced a happiness one hundred times that of Brahman realization.” (Janaki Mangala, Chand 5.2)
Goswami Tulsidas refers to the incident of King Janaka meeting Shri Rama as bringing one hundred times the enjoyment of brahmasukha. This is but an attempt to relate something which cannot be quantified. The joy of connecting directly cannot be put into words and it cannot be placed on a scale to give an accurate measurement.
This is one of the reasons the Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as Adhokshaja. His qualities are too great to measure, and those who experience Him through direct connection, in yoga, also understand the immeasurable greatness of His association.
Difficult to learn,
When distinction at every turn.
That everything actually the same,
From single source came.
From personal path immediately clear,
Through direct worship to steer.
That similar but also different so,
Whose greatness impossible to know.
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