It is to the saguna Brahman that devotion is offered. Devotion, in its primary sense, implies the relation between the devotee and the devoted-to. As regards the nirguna, there is no relation at all possible either external or internal. And so, the devotee-deity distinction does not obtain there. The realization of the distinction less Reality is gained through knowledge. But knowledge can dawn only in a mind that has become pure, and is disciplined in concentration. The path of dedicated duty, cleanses the mind. Actions and their fruit are to be dedicated to God.
This means devotion. Devotion to God serves as the link between the path of action and the path of knowledge. On the devotee the grace of the Lord descends and it is the descent of Grace that culminates in true knowledge. "It is by knowledge that comes through God's grace," says Sri, Sankara in his Sutra-bhaya (II, iii, 41) "that one gets released from bondage."16
Devotion, in the highest sense, however, is the same as knowledge. It is the supreme devotion, Para-bhakti, devotion that does not involve the sense of otherness, ananya-bhakti. In the Gita (VIII, 22), it is taught that the highest Self is gained through ananya-Bhakti. Because the supreme Self is unexcellable, explains Sri Sankara, because there is nothing whatsoever, other than the Self, the Self is attained through devotion that is of the nature of knowledge, having for its content that very Self." 17
Thus, devotion in its highest reach is knowledge. This is described as ananya-yoga, the yoga of non-otherness, avyabhicarini-bhakti, the unstraying or non-inconstant devotion. And that, says: Sri Sankara, is knowledge (sa ca jnanam).18
16. tad-anugraha-hetukenaiva vijnanena moksasiddhir bhavitum arhati.
17. paro niratisayo yasmat purusat na param kimcit sa bhaktya labhyah tu jnanalaksanaya ananyaya atmavisayaya.
18. Gita, xiii, 10.