The most misconceived concept, next to mithyAtva is the concept of Bhakthi in Advaita Vedanta. It is a usual idea that Advaita denies Bhakthi to be themeans for liberation. Further, it is generally felt that Advaita alienated Bhakthi from jnāna. More, on general opinion Bhakthi to Advaita is popularly regarded as a karma. In my observation, I perceive that Advaita, led byShankara had a much different stand with regard to the controversial triad, Bhakthi, Jnana and Karma. The primary inquiry that one must field, is to know whether Bhakthi is divorced from jnana. Subsequently we must also investigate on whether Bhakthi is an element on karma. As far as Advaita is concerned, we have enough material from shruthi and smrthi with ācārya's prasthana traya commentaries, throughout all these commentaries ācārya clearly established jnāna- Knowledge as the only means for liberation. Theproblem lies as whether we have any instance where acarya makes a distinct demarcation between jnana and Bhakthi. Taking Bhagawad Gita for example, Sankarācārya throughout his commentaries as we may simply observe, has never regarded jnana and bhakthi to be different. Let me give an example. Acaryasays, 'mad bhaktha ca uttamām paramārta laksanam bhakthi asthithah tē ativamē priyāh' Here for the word priya acarya explains 'priyo hi jnāninotyartam'Bhakthi by this opinion clearly explains the fact that Bhakthi and jnana areone and the same aspects. A bhaktha is no different from jnāni is what ācārya intends. More, for Advaita, one who realizes the real real, is one who is known as a jnāni. Ananda giri makes a very important note where he defines who a Bhaktha is. He says, Bhaktha is one who realizes the paramaartha. – 'punah punah Bhakthēh grahanam apavarga mērgasya paramārta jnānasyaupāyatvārtam'. Importantly the sub-sub commentary known as 'bāsyotkarsaDipika' the author frames these two views to his premesis to derive the conclusion, to re –emphasize the identity of Bhakthi and jnāna to say,'tēsām jnāni nityuktah ēkabhakthir visisyatē' Further is there raises an objection to say 'as renunciation alone gives the mood for jnāna – sarvakarma samnyāsa purvakāt ātma jnānam' which inturn is Moksa, what role has Bhakthi got to play between samnyāsa and Moksa ? since jnāna is the direct cause for Moksa, and they are synchronous by nature. Ācārya precisely answers to this objection, but before that we must again carefully note the distinction that is arbitrarily made between jnāna and Bhakthi. Ācārya promptly equates Bhakthi as a state which is neither different from samnyasa nor from jnana. Since both according to Advaita are synchronous, ācāryare-iterates the fact that the final culmination is achieved by Bhakthi which is non different from jnāna. In the voice of Lord ācārya says,'sarvārambaparityāgi yah mad bhaktha' and who is a samnyāsi? Ācārya sayskaruna krpa dukkhitēsu daya,tadvān karunah sarvabuta baya pradah samnyāsi' Sankarācārya fashions his argument in such a away that he clearly places karma on a separate plane and puts jnana and Bhakthi on the other. He even goes to the extant saying that 'if at all a karma can exist it can be that act whence all the fruits are submitted unto Lord, realizing his solerefuge'. More, ācārya classifies two types of Bhakthi. Saguna and Nirguna.He says both these groups are equally integrated giving no room for gradation. To mark that saguna Bhakthi to be no lesser than the other,ācārya says 'those devotees who take the sole refuge of the Lord Vāsudēva,by his grace will be relieved from samsāra. Thus Bhakthi may be discerned as the direct and immediate means for liberation. Bāshyam mentions, 'ksipramēvaPārta' Samsaya atra na Kartvayah' – do not have any doubt about this. From the above instances we may glaringly resolve the problem of jnana Bakthi and Karma – and affirm the identity of jnana and Bhakthi. What is the nature of Bhakthi? Is it apposed to the nature of jnāna? In ācāryas opinion Bhakthi is a means to attain the oneness with Visnu. 'Iswarasya prasādāt avāpnotisāswatham nityan vaisnavam padam avyayam'. Above all, there persists a widespread mis-conception in Advaita Vedanta that it is often said kirthana, arca and bagavad nāma smarana are futile means to reach the ultimate goal.This is utterly against the view of ācārya's opinion. Gita bashya mentions Bhakthi laksana. They are as follows.1. Manmana bava maccittha bava2. mad bhaktha bava mad bajana bava3. madyāji madyajanasilah bava 4. mām namakuru namaskāran - api mamaiva kuru. Set your mind on me, Love me, and devote yourself unto me. Sacrifice unto mehabitually. Prostrate before me (Vāsudēva) – here ācārya supplies 'he alone' indicating the mahāvisvāsa and ēka bhakthi. It is crystal clear that ācārya by his opinion preaches the non-difference of jnāna and Bhakthi. In his words 'Baktheh punargrahanāt Bakthi mātrēna kāvalēna sāstra sampradānēpātram bavati iti gamyatē' – this alone is the quitessence of all Sāstras.
Thus exclusive attachment and love towards supreme God – Visnu by the singular devotion non different from jnāna alone is the means for Moksa.
(Posted on the advaita-L list by Shri Devanathan-ji a young and eminent scholar of advaita)