Bryant Edwin F. - Bhakti Yoga

Author : Bryant Edwin F.
Title : Bhakti Yoga Tales and teachings from the Bhagavata Purana
Year : 2017

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Introduction to the Volume. Statement of Purpose: Sources and Scope of the Volume There are as many variegated expressions of bhakti yoga in India as there are sects, languages, communities, lineages, castes, regions, villages, and, indeed, human hearts wherein it ultimately resides. This book is focused on one expression of bhakti: Vaiṣṇava bhakti centered on Śrī Kṛṣṇa as emerges in a sixteenth-century tradition. In this section, we discuss our vision and method for the volume and provide some rationale and contextual background for the texts on bhakti that we have chosen to feature. Our discussion in this introductory section may be mildly academic, but we have made every effort in the remainder of the volume to avoid scholarly language and specialized jargon in preference for straightforward prose and concepts accessible for the educated but nonspecialized reader. In this work, we attempt to navigate that unattainable line between producing something that is academically respectable, accessible to the interested nonspecialist, and useful to the intellectually responsible yoga practitioner. Since this is an impossible feat, I can only beg the indulgence both of scholars, who may find some of the discussion overly simplistic, and of lay readers, whether personally involved with yoga practices or not, who may find it too academic in places. In any event, anyone not interested in this section’s technicalities might prefer to proceed to the next section, “Definition of Bhakti,” where we begin our actual discussion on bhakti proper. Specifically, the tales and teachings in part 2 of this volume are translations from the Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa, the Beautiful Legend of Bhagavān (God) (henceforth Bhāgavata), as are the stories of Kṛṣṇa in part 3. After much deliberation, we have chosen the translation “legend” here for the Sanskrit term purāṇa, with the intention of denoting traditional lore, which presents itself as factual history, is purported to be true by its followers, and has been handed down and believed as such by its adherents across the centuries. The Bhāgavata is, as we will suggest later, arguably one of the most important texts on bhakti yoga, along with the Rāmāyaṇa, in that cluster of traditions that has come to be known as “Hinduism.” In addition to the text itself, the systematic analysis of bhakti yoga, which will occupy the bulk of part 1, will to a great extent be from the perspective of the commentaries and elaborations on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa written by the sixteenth-century theologians Jīva Gosvāmī and his uncle Rūpa Gosvāmī, two of the founding fathers of the Gauḍīya school of Vaiṣṇavism (also known as Caitanya Vaiṣṇavism). We will introduce these sources below. While we will engage a wide variety of other intellectual and theological expressions in India both prior and contemporary to the sixteenth century, our motive will be to compare and contrast these with our chosen case study. ...

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