, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 39–51 | Cite as

Knowledge and Devotion in the Bhagavad-Gītā: A Suggestive Parallel from Chinese Buddhism

  • Michael S. AllenEmail author


How is devotion (bhakti) related to knowledge (jñāna)? Does one lead to the other? Do they correspond to different paths for different people? Commentators on the Bhagavad-Gītā have debated these questions for centuries. In this essay I will suggest, as many Indian commentators have, that the paths of devotion and knowledge described in the Gītā can be harmonized. I will not draw from Indian texts, however, but from a suggestive parallel in the history of Chinese religions: namely, the development of a tradition of “dual cultivation” of Pure Land and Chan 禪. I will focus in particular on the works of Yunqi Zhuhong 雲棲祩宏 (1535–1615) and his use of the distinction between principle (li 理) and phenomenon (shi 事) to reconcile seemingly divergent religious paths. I will conclude by considering the implications of this synthesis for nondualist interpretations of the Gītā.


Advaita Vedānta Pure Land Chan Zhuhong 祩宏 Nondualism 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard College Writing ProgramCambridgeUSA

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