The teachings of Advaita (nondual) Vedanta can appear drab and unfeeling. Luckily, there’s more to the story…
Long back in the 8th century, there lived a teacher of Advaita Vedanta named Mandana Misra. He was a contemporary of Sankara, who is credited with reviving Hinduism in India. Mandana Misra taught that love, in the form of passionate affection, is a driving force that initially induces one to seek the higher reality.
Mandana Mimisra wrote a treatise called Brahma-siddhi (Realization of Brahman, or Ultimate Reality) which had a profound impact on the development of post-Sankara Advaita.
In Mandana Misra’s words, from his prosaic Brahma-siddhi (Realization of Brahman) we find:
“It is established that Brahman is essentially bliss, the higher self-luminosity of atman; the atman is essentially bliss, since it is attained through the higher passion.”
Passionate love (prema), preached by Mandana Misra, bears a strong resemblance not only to bhakti (literally: being a part of, hence — attachment, devotion), propounded by Ramanuja, a follower of Vishnu, but also to the ‘gentle tenderness’ (sneha), which is so important for the religious mysticism of Madhva and other Krishna devotees.