Bhakti or devotion is often compared with Jnana or knowledge. The two paths have little in common, except perhaps their ultimate goal. The two paths converge only at their end. Looking at it from another perspective, one could say that the two paths are like two views of the same path rather than two different paths that converge.
If the fruit of Bhakti is Jnana, Jnana intensifies Bhakti. They are both as inseparable as two sides of a coin. Jnana is the path that appeals to the logical part of the brain. For that to happen, the emotional part of the brain has to be rekindled through Bhakti. While Bhakti turns the positive part of the mind outward to achieve union with the Supreme, Jnana turns the negative part of mind inward to achieve the same. If one looks at the experiences along the spiritual path and realises them in either Bhakti or Jnana terms, he would find the same Truth. With a silent prayer as in Bhakti or by the practice of negation in Jnana, one becomes simple and surrenders all attachments to forms in order to get closer to the formless. The easiest way to start is with Bhakti or surrendering to the Supreme and acquire Jnana. Bhakti is the mother of Jnana.
A Bhakta’s longing ends at achievement of Divine love whereas a Jnani’s longing starts as a simple means of enquiry on Truth. The Self of both is emptied as attachments are surrendered to the love of the transcendent and the Truth of eternality. Bhakta uses nama japam to help turn attention away from the world, while a Jnani contemplates on teachings obtained from his Guru to do the same. Both then cultivate awareness of the Truth.
The Bhakta will find God in all the forms he sees while the Jnani justifies emptiness, which is the same thing said in different ways. Bhakta enters the Supreme through self-surrender, while a Jnani expands and become one with Him through Self-enquiry. A Bhakta shuns doer-ship while a Jnani shuns both doer-ship and enjoyer-ship.
“There is nothing as pure as the knowledge”, says Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 4, verse 38). The knowledge Krishna refers to is both spiritual as well as material science. The ignorance to recognise our true nature and origin has made us fall into the whirlpool of samsara. By Jnana one can overcome ignorance and attain salvation for which Bhakti is necessary.
Some argue that Bhaktas can never be Jnanis, but it is not true. It so happened that Mirabai decided to meet a spiritual guru at Brindavan. He was a brahmachari and kept away from womenfolk. On knowing that Mirabai was at the ashram he asked his pupil to ask her to leave as she was a woman. When Mirabai learnt about it she asked: “I know there is only one Purusha (man) in this universe; that is my Nandalala and the rest are His gopis...” The spiritual guru came out of the ashram and touched the feet of Mirabai. Here, a mere devotee revealed the truth of Sankhya yoga to a Jnani. Another Bhakta and Jnani was Kanakadasa who, when he was given a fruit and asked to eat it without anyone knowing about it, could not do so as he found Him in all forms and knew he could not escape Him.