This book, in six chapters, discusses Vallabhacharya’s doctrine of Bhakti Vedanta. The introductory chapter gives the quintessence of the major systems of philosophy — Advaita, Visishtadvaita, Dvaita and so on — and also mentions the tenets of the Hamsa sect of Vishnavism (of Nimbarka). While clearly bringing out how and where the Advaita differs from Buddhism, the author dispels the misconception underlying the description of Sankara as a “Pracchanna Bauddha.” His analysis, supported by ‘Sruti’ and cogent arguments, should help in getting a clear and proper understanding of these schools of philosophy, with all their nuances.
The concept of ‘pushti bhakti,’ which is Vallabahacharya’s contribution to Vedanta literature, has been explained by the author as both the means and the end of enquiry (pushti marga), which alone leads the seeker on the path to liberation. His theory can be placed between Advaita and the other Vedantic schools, namely Visishtadvaita and Dvaita. He holds that the reality is One and endowed with attributes. For Vallabhacharya, Bhakti, not Jnana, is the means to liberation and Bhakti, according to him, could be both nirguna and saguna — the former when directed towards Lord Krishna (the Supreme Being) and the latter when shown towards others. It is nirguna Bhakti that leads one to liberation, with divine grace. The second chapter, which deals with the summum bonum of human life, refers to Vallabhacharya’s concept of the ‘fifth’ purushartha, namely experiencing the immediate presence of Purushottama by re-enacting the divine sport of Lord Krishna and going through the ecstasy of participating in it in a spirit of self-effacing devotion.
The third chapter discusses the Purva Mimamsa concepts, mentioning the differing interpretations placed on them by the three schools, and explains how Vallabhacharya considers both Karma and Jnana as significant in one’s spiritual journey. While the fourth chapter spells out the different forms of Bhakti — his signal contribution here being ‘pushti bhakti’ (grace of God), which he holds to be superior to the conventionally recognised nine forms (he calls them ‘maryada bhakti’), the fifth elaborates on the ways in which devotion is practised. In the concluding chapter, the author makes some general remarks about the different schools of Vedanta. On the whole, this is a commendable effort by the author in bringing out the intermingling conceptual strands in Vallabhacharya’s philosophy and thereby helping one to understand it better.