The Devotional Metaphysics of Śaṅkaradeva (1449–1568): The Advaitic Brahman as the Beloved Friend
Various forms of Advaita Vedānta as well as devotional Vedānta developed during the medieval centuries diverse hermeneutic strategies of positioning and repositioning jñāna and bhakti in their own conceptual-soteriological systems. These Vedāntic systems do not place jñāna and bhakti in hermetically sealed compartments but interweave them from within their distinctive metaphysical structures. Our discussion of the Assamese poet-saint Śaṅkaradeva (1449–1568) will highlight these broader themes in the reception histories of the Vedāntic materials. Śaṅkaradeva developed a distinctive pattern of devotional metaphysics rooted primarily in the Bhāgavata-purāṇa, where the ultimate reality, which is indicated with highly characteristic Advaitic analogies, is also repeatedly described as the beloved friend who lovingly protects the devotees and who even becomes subservient to them.