VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY

Serial No. Contents
1 PHILOSOPHY
2 Indian system of Philosophy
3 Vedanta Philosophy
4 Prasthan Trayi
4.1 THE BRAHM SUTRAS
4.2 Upanishads
4.3 Bhagvad gita
5. BRAHM, MAYA AND JIVA
5.1 Brahm
5.2 Maya
5.3 Jiva
6. Brahm Vidyas and celebrated FORMULAE
7. THE SCHOOLS OF VEDANTA
8. THE THREE MAIN SCHOOLS Dvaita, Visishtadvaita and Advaita
9. Similarity in essence: only different approaches
10. THE ADVAITA Vedant Philosophy
10.1 BRAHM—THE ONE WITHOUT A SECOND
10.2 THE WORLD—A RELATIVE REALITY
10.3 JIVA AND THE MEANS OF MOKSHA
10.4 VIVARTA VADA OR THE THEORY OF SUPERIMPOSITION
10.5 THE ADVAITA—A PHILOSOPHY WITHOUT A PARALLEL
11. THE VISISHT ADVAITA Philosophy
11.1 EVOLUTION
11.2 A PERSONAL GOD WITH ATTRIBUTES
11.3 THE WORLD—A REAL PART OF BRAHM’S NATURE
11.4 THE SOUL—A DISTINCT INDIVIDUAL ENTITY
11.5 THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL
12. THE DVAITA Vedanta Philosophy
12.1 THE SUPREME BEING AND HIS CONSORT
12.2 PRAKRITI—THE MATERIAL CAUSE OF THE WORLD
12.3 Plurality of Souls
12.4 BHAKTI—THE MEANS TO SALVATION
13. Some other Vedanta Philosophy
13.1 THE DVAITADVAITA PHILOSOPHY OF SRI NIMBARKA
13.2 THE SUDDHADVAITA PHILOSOPHY OF SRI VALLABHA
13.3 THE ACHINTYA BHEDABHEDA PHILOSOPHY OF SRI CHAITANYA
14. Neo- Vedanta Philosophy
   

1. PHILOSOPHY

The word ‘darshan’ is rooted in the verb ‘drush’ which is ‘to see’. The word ‘darshan’ means to know, to inspect or examine, or to view with due respect.

The Sanskrit saying. Drushyate anena iti darshanam” defines darshan as that which enables one to see.

It is not the macro or coarse vision. It enables us to see with our subtle internal eyes, which are also termed as ‘divine eyes’, ‘the eyes of knowledge”, or the ‘eyes of wisdom”, providing us the fine vision.

2. Indian system of Philosophy

According to the Indian System of Philosophy, 12 darshans or Visions are considered the most important. These 12 Darshans are divided into two categories.

 The first category is the one that is known as “Astik”. These have faith in and reverence for the Vedâs and consider the Vedâs as being beyond the need for proof or verification.

The other category is the one, which has been founded by Acharya having no knowledge or belief in the Vedâs, who has concluded based on their own intellect and reasoning independently. These are called  Nâstik or Atheist (Non-Believers).

In the Astik Branches there are six darshans as follows:-

1. Nyaya. 2. Vaiseshika. 3. Samkhya. 4. Yoga.

 5. Purva Mimamsa. 6. Uttara Mimamsa.

The Nastic Branches consist of six darshans as follows:-

1. Charvak. 2. Madhyamik Buddhist. 3. Yogachar Buddhist..

4. Sautrantik Buddhist.. 5. Vaibhashik Buddhist. and lastly,  6. Jain

3.Vedanta Philosophy

Amongst the Vedic Darshans, the sixth and final Darshana is the Uttara Mimamsa Darshana. Its other name is ‘Vedanta Darshana’. it stands first in respect of the impact.

The meaning of the term ‘Vedanta’ is ‘the end of the Vedas’. Here the word ‘anta’ implies ‘the essence’. In other words, this is the Darshana which tells us about the essence or the philosophic teachings of the Vedas. This Darshana deals with the doctrines propounded in the Upanishads.

4. Prasthan Trayi

The main set of sacred texts of this Darshana is called ‘Prasthan Trayii (literally three points of departure but in this context it refers to three canonical sacred texts). Amongst these, the foremost is the Uttara Mimamsa written by Badarayana Vyas . The Uttara Mimamsa analyses the essence of wisdoms propounded in the Upanishads, which are known as Brahm Vidyas. The Bhagavat gita is other important part of this Trayi.

4.1 THE BRAHM SUTRAS

Brahm Sutras or the Vedanta Sutras explain the doctrine of Brahm. Brahm Sutras are also known by the name Sariraka Sutras, because they deal with the embodiment of the Supreme Nirguna Brahman.

There are four chapters, viz., Samanvaya, Avirodha, Sadhana and Phala. Sri Vyasa has systematized the principles of Vedanta, removed the apparent contradictions in the doctrines, and then outlined the Brahm Vidyas, and finally explained the benefit of Upasana through these pearls of wisdom.

In the first chapter, an account of the nature of Brahman and its relation to the world and the individual soul is given.

In the second chapter, the rival theories, viz., Sankhya, Yoga, Vaiseshika, etc., are criticized. Suitable answers are given to the objections levelled against this view.

In the third chapter, the means of attaining Brahma, the Brahma-Vidya are treated.

In the fourth chapter, there is a description of the fruits of Upasana through Brahma-Vidya. The characteristics of the Jivanmukta or liberated soul are also discussed in this chapter.

Each chapter has four parts (Padas). The Sutras in each part form Adhikaranas or topics.

The first Sutra of the first chapter is: “Athato Brahma-Jijnasa—Now, therefore, the inquiry into Brahman.”

The last Sutra of the fourth chapter is: “Anavrittih Sabdat, Anavrittih Sabdat—There is no return for the released souls, on account of scriptural declaration to that effect.”

Sri Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha, Bhaskara, Yadavaprakasa, Kesava, Nilakantha, Baladeva, and Vigyan Bhikshu are the chief commentators on the Brahma Sutras. Each has commented in his own way and built his philosophy. The most reputed teacher of this school of philosophy was Sri Shankaracharya.

4.2 Upanishads

Brahm Vidyas from Upanishads are the pearls of wisdom which are considered the science of science. Upasana, continued Meditation on Brahm Vidyas have been considered very beneficial to attain knowledge of self and of the eternal super consciousness. These have been discussed in detail in the three book series “Eternal Meditation Principles: Brahm Vidyas”. The book links are mybook.to/EMP-1, mybook.to/EMP-2, and mybook.to/EMP-3 for first, second and third part respectively.

4.3 Bhagavad gita

Gita is a widely known scripture of Hinduism, although it cannot be said to be well understood by most of the people. The content of the Gita is the conversation between Lord Krishna and Arjuna taking place on the battlefield of Kurukshetra before the start of the great war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas.

Responding to Arjuna’s confusion and moral dilemma about fighting his own cousins, Bhagavan Krishna explains to Arjuna his duties as a warrior and prince and elaborates on different Vedantic concepts.

It is considered as a concise, practical, self-contained guide to play the game of life. During the discourse, Krishna reveals His identity as the Supreme Being (Svayam Bhagavan), blessing Arjuna with an awe-inspiring vision of His divine universal form.

The immortal appeal of the Gita lies in the guided tour of the Jagad Guru, Sri Krishna, who takes us through the annoying widespread pot-holes of ignorance (lack of right knowledge, avidya in Sanskrit) on the road and who ultimately makes it possible for us to reach the destination of enlightenment, free from the shackles of bondage. This journey from darkness to light is exasperating at times but yet manageable.

5. BRAHM, MAYA AND JIVA

5.1 Brahm

Brahm, the Absolute, after creating the elements, enters them. Some important attributes as per Brahm Vidyas, have been enumerated in Brahm Sutra:

It is the Golden Person in the sun. It is the Light of the soul. It is ever pure. It is Sat-Chit-Ananda, one without a second. It is Bhuma (infinite, unconditioned). It dwells in the heart of man. It is the source of everything.

Brahm is the material cause, as well as the instrumental cause, of the universe.

Brahm is without parts, without qualities, without action and emotion, beginning-less, endless, and immutable. It is the only Reality. Brahm is to the external world what yarn is to cloth, what earth is to jar, and what gold is to a ring.

Brahm is Absolute Reality. The world is a relative reality.

5.2 Maya

Maya is the Shakti (power) of God. It is the Karana Sarira (causal body) of God.

It is neither Sat nor Asat. It is Anirvachaniya (indescribable).

Maya has two powers, viz., the power of veiling or hiding the real, and the power of projecting or Vikshepa Sakti, making the unreal appear as real. Man has forgotten his essential divine nature on account of the veiling power of Maya.

5.3 Jiva

The Jiva or the individual soul is enclosed within five sheaths (Koshas), which are like the sheaths of an onion. The five sheaths are the food-sheath (Annamaya Kosha), vital sheath (Pranamaya Kosha), mental sheath (Manomaya Kosha), intellectual sheath (Vijnanamaya Kosha), and the bliss sheath (Anandamaya Kosha). The first sheath constitutes the physical body. The next three sheaths form the subtle body. The last sheath forms the causal body.

The individual soul should transcend all its sheaths through meditation and become one with the Supreme Soul which is beyond the five Koshas. Then only it will attain liberation or freedom.

There are three states of consciousness for the individual soul, viz., the waking state, the dreaming state and the deep sleep state.

Turiya or the fourth state is the superconscious state. Turiya is Brahm. Turiya is the silent witness of the three states. The individual should transcend the first three states and identify himself with the Turiya or the fourth state. Then only he can attain oneness with the Supreme Soul.

Avidya is the causal body of Jiva or the individual soul. The Jiva identifies itself with the body, mind, and the senses on account of Avidya. The moment the individual soul is freed from self-imposed ignorance by a proper understanding of the Truth through the Vedanta philosophy, Vichara (inquiry), reflection, and meditation on the Supreme Brahman, all the illusion disappears. The identity with the Supreme Soul or Brahm is re-established. The Jiva attains immortality and eternal bliss. It merges itself in Brahm or the Ocean of Bliss.

Vedanta believes in Jivanmukta or Liberation While Living.

6. Brahm Vidyas and celebrated FORMULAE

The 35 pearls of wisdom from Upanishads called Brahm Vidyas are base of Vedanta Philosophy. The following are the celebrated formulae of Vedanta, which are part of these Brahm Vidyas:

Ekam Eva Advitiyam—The Reality is One alone without a second.

Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithya, Jivo Brahmaiva Na Aparah—Brahm only exists truly, the world is false, the individual soul is Brahman only and no other.

Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma—All this is, indeed, Brahm.

Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahma—Brahm is Truth, Knowledge and Infinity.

Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavati—The knower of Brahm becomes Brahm.

Santam, Sivam, Advaitam—Brahm is Peace, Auspiciousness and Non-duality.

Ayam Atma Santah—This Aatma is Silence.

Asango Ayam Purusha—This Purusha is unattached.

Santam, Ajaram, Amritam, Abhayam, Param—This Brahm is eternal, without old age, Immortal, fearless and Supreme.

7. THE SCHOOLS OF VEDANTA

The Brahm Vidyas as identified by Badarayan Vyasa are the basis of the Vedanta philosophy. These Vidyas from Brahm-Sutras have been variously explained by different commentators. From these interpretations have arisen several schools of philosophy

Sri Shankarâchârya’s Doctrine – Advaita

Sri Ramanujacharya’s Doctrine – Vishisthadvaita

Sri Madhvâchârya’s Doctrine – Dvaiata

Sri Vallabhacharya’s Doctrine – Shabdâdvaita

Sri Nimbarkacharya’s Doctrine – Dvaitadvaita

Sri Kantacharya’s Doctrine – Shivadvaita

Sri Bhaskaracharya’s Doctrine – Bhedâbhed

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s Doctrine – Achintyabhedâbhed

Thus, we have different streams of thought. Though these doctrines are different from each other, all of them are based on the determination of the true nature of three realities, namely Brahm, Maya, and the Aatma.

The later schools of philosophy, such as given by disciples of Vallabhacharya, Nimbarkacharya, Kantacharya, Bhaskaracharya and of Chaitanya Maha prabhu are not purely based on Prasthan Trayi, but depend more on other scriptures.

8. THE THREE MAIN SCHOOLS Dvaita, Visishtadvaita and Advaita

Sri Sankara, Sri Ramanuja, and Sri Madhva are the most illustrious commentators on the Vedanta Sutras. These commentators have tried to establish theories of their own, such as Advaita-Vada (unqualified non-dualism or uncompromising or rigorous monism), Visishtadvaita-Vada (differentiated or qualified monism) and Dvaita-Vada (strict dualism).

 

They are all stages on the way to the Ultimate Truth, viz., Para-Brahm. They are rungs on the ladder of Yoga. They are not at all contradictory. On the contrary, they are complementary to one another. These stages are harmoniously arranged in a graded series of spiritual experiences.

Dualism, Qualified Monism, Pure Monism—all these culminate eventually in the Advaita Vedantic realization of the Absolute or the transcendental Trigunatita Ananta Brahm.

Madhva said: “Man is the servant of God,” and established his Dvaita philosophy.

Ramanuja said: “Man is a ray or spark of God,” and established his Visishtadvaita philosophy.

Sankara said: “Man is identical with Brahman or the Eternal Soul,” and established his Kevala Advaita philosophy.

Followers of Madhva want to serve the Lord as a servant.

A Visishtadvaitin wants to become like Lord Narayana and enjoy the divine. He does not wish to merge himself or become identical with the Lord. He wishes to remain as a spark.

Advaita Vedantic merges himself with Brahm.

People have different temperaments and different capacities. So, different schools of philosophy. The highest rung is the Advaita philosophy. Through his Upasana, a dualist or qualified monist eventually becomes an Advaitin.

9. Similarity in essence: only different approaches

Nimbark Acharya reconciles all the different views regarding the Lord taken up by Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, and others. He proves that their views are all true, each in his way. Sankara has taken Reality in Its transcendental aspect, while Ramanuja has taken It in Its immanent aspect, principally; but, Nimbarka has adjusted different views taken by the different commentators.

All schools of philosophy are necessary. Each philosophy is best suited to a certain type of people. The different conceptions of Brahman are but different approaches to the Reality. It is extremely difficult, rather impossible, for the finite soul to get—all at once—a clear conception of the Illimitable or Infinite Soul, and more so, to express it in adequate terms.

All cannot grasp the highest Kevala Advaita philosophy of Sri Sankara all at once. The mind must be disciplined properly before it is rendered as a fit instrument to grasp the tenets of Sri Sankara’s Advaita Vedanta.

10.THE ADVAITA Vedant Philosophy

The first systematic exponent of the Advaita is Gaudapada, who is the Parama-Guru (preceptor’s preceptor) of Sri Sankara. Govinda was the disciple of Gaudapada. He became the preceptor of Sankara. Gaudapada has given the central teaching of Advaita Vedanta in his celebrated Mandukya Karikas. But it was Sankara who brought forth the final beautiful form of Advaita philosophy, and gave perfection and finishing touch to it.

The commentary on the Vedanta Sutras by Sankara is known as Sariraka Bhashya. Shankaracharya had in view while preparing his commentary, chiefly the purpose of combating the baneful effects that blind ritualism had brought to bear upon Hinduism.

The teachings of Sankara can be summed up in half a verse: “Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya Jivo Brahmaiva Na Aparah—Brahman (the Absolute) is alone real; this world is unreal; and the Jiva or the individual soul is non-different from Brahman.” This is the quintessence of his philosophy.

The Advaita Vedant Darshan taught by Sankara is a rigorous, absolute one. According to Sankara, whatever is, is Brahm. Brahm Itself is homogeneous. All differences and plurality are illusory.

10.1 BRAHM—THE ONE WITHOUT A SECOND

The Atman is self-evident (Svatah-siddha). It is not established by extraneous proofs. It is not possible to deny the Atman, because It is the very essence of the one who denies It. Self is within, Self is without; Self is before, Self is behind; Self is on the right, Self is on the left; Self is above and Self is below.

Brahm is not an object, as It is beyond the reach of the eyes, and other senses. Hence the Upanishads declare: “Neti Neti—not this, not this, not that.” It is not to be known through another. It is all-full, infinite, changeless, self-existent, self-delight, self-knowledge, and self-bliss. It is Svarupa, essence. It is the Seer (Drashta), Transcendent (Turiya), and Silent Witness (Sakshi).

Sankara’s Supreme Brahm is impersonal, Nirguna (without Gunas or attributes), Nirakara (formless), without special characteristics, immutable, eternal, and Akarta (non-agent).

Brahm is non-dual, one without a second. It has no other besides It. Sat-Chit-Ananda constitutes the very essence or Svarupa of Brahman, and not just Its attributes.

The Nirguna Brahm of Sankara is impersonal. It appears as Saguna Brahm only through Its association with Maya. Saguna Brahm and Nirguna Brahm are not two different Brahmans.

Nirguna Brahm is not the contrast, antithesis, or opposite of Saguna Brahm. One can attain subtler and subtler forms through continued meditation, Upasana with the help of Brahm Vidya. So, Shankara also says that while one at first reaches Saguna Brahm, he attains Advait with Nirguna Brahm finally.

10.2 THE WORLD—A RELATIVE REALITY

The world is not an illusion according to Sankara.

The world is the product of Maya or Avidya. The unchanging Brahm appears as the changing world through Maya. Maya is a mysterious indescribable power of the Lord that hides the real and manifests itself as the unreal: Maya is not real, because it vanishes when you attain knowledge of the Eternal. It is not unreal also, because it exists till knowledge dawns in you.

The superimposition of the world on Brahm is due to Avidya or ignorance.

10.3 JIVA AND THE MEANS OF MOKSHA

To Sankara, the Jiva or the individual soul is only relatively real. Its individuality lasts only so long as it is subject to unreal limiting conditions due to Avidya. The Jiva identifies itself with the body, mind, and senses when it is deluded by Avidya or ignorance.

 It is not different from Brahm or the Absolute. Bhagavad Gita is also saying the same.

The Upanishads declare emphatically: “Tat Tvam Asi—That Thou Art.” When knowledge dawns on it through the annihilation of Avidya, it is freed from its individuality and finitude and realizes its essential Satchidananda nature. It merges itself in the ocean of bliss.

The release from Samsara means, according to Sankara, the absolute merging of the individual soul in Brahm due to the dismissal of the erroneous notion that the soul is distinct from Brahm. According to Sankara, Karma and Bhakti are means to Jnana which is Moksha.

10.4 VIVARTA VADA OR THE THEORY OF SUPERIMPOSITION

He advocated Vivarta-Vada or the theory of appearance or superimposition (Adhyasa). In Vivarta-Vada, the cause produces the effect without undergoing any change in itself. An example is rope appearing as a Snake in the dark. The rope has not transformed itself into a snake, like milk into curd.

Brahm is immutable and eternal. Therefore, It cannot change Itself into the world.

Brahm becomes the cause of the world through Maya, which is Its inscrutable mysterious power.

When you realize the eternal immutable Brahm, you are not affected by the phenomena or the names and forms of this world. You shine in your true, pristine, divine splendour and glory.

10.5 THE ADVAITA—A PHILOSOPHY WITHOUT A PARALLEL

The Advaita philosophy of Sri Shankaracharya is lofty, sublime, and unique. It is a system of bold philosophy and logical subtlety. It is highly interesting, inspiring, and elevating. No other philosophy can stand before it in boldness, depth, and subtle thinking. Sankara’s philosophy is complete and perfect.

Advaita philosophy has brought solace, peace, and illumination to countless persons in the East and the West. His philosophy has soothed the sorrows and afflictions of the most forlorn persons and brought hope, joy, wisdom, perfection, freedom, and calmness to many.

Advait philosophy commands the admiration of the whole world. In modern times, Swami Vivekananda won the hearts and admiration of all through this Vedanta philosophy.

11. THE VISISHT ADVAITA Philosophy

The Visishtadvaita is so called because it teaches the Advaita or oneness of God, with Visesha or attributes. It is, therefore, qualified monism. God alone exists. All else that is seen are His manifestations or attributes. God is Visishta—though it is one. Hence the name Visishtadvaita.

According to Sri Ramanuja, the attributes or manifestations are real and permanent. But they are subject to the control of the one Brahm. Attributes are not independent entities. They are Prakaras or the modes, Shesha or the accessories, and Niyama or the controlled aspects, of the one Brahm.

Ramanuja’s celebrated system of philosophy admits a plurality of forms as souls (Chit) and matter (Achit). Matter and souls constitute the body of the Lord. The Lord is their indweller. He is the controlling Reality. Matter and souls are the subordinate elements. Hence it is called Visishtadvaita or qualified non-dualism.

Visisht advaita philosophy is known as Vaishnavism. The Sampradaya of Ramanuja’s cult or creed is known as Sri Sampradaya. His followers are Vaishnavas.

Ramanuja’s cult is called Sri Vaishnavism because ‘Sri’ or the Goddess Lakshmi is made to have an important function to perform in the salvation of the soul.

11.1 EVOLUTION

The Visishtadvaita system is an ancient one. It was originally expounded by Boudhayan in his Vritti, written about 400 B.C.

The Bhakti school worships a personal God. The devotees develop devotion to Vasudeva or Narayana. Those who worship the personal God are called Bhagavatas. They have their scriptures, called the Pancharatra Agamas which are regarded by them as equal to the Upanishads.

Ramanuja accepts the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the Tamil works of the Alvars also as the source of authority for his philosophy. Therefore, his system is known as Ubhaya-Vedanta. Ramanuja wrote the commentaries on the Brahma Sutras known as the Sri Bhashya.

Ramanuja accepts perception, inference, and scripture as valid sources of knowledge. The Vedas and the Smritis are the sole and independent authority for the knowledge of Brahm. He adopts the theories of Satkarya-Vada and Parinama-Vada, i.e., the doctrine of a real effect proceeding from a cause.

11.2 A PERSONAL GOD WITH ATTRIBUTES

Ramanuja’s Brahm is Savisesha Brahm, i.e., Brahm with attributes. God is Saguna.

It follows the Vedic texts like Brahm Vidya declaring that Brahm is Nirguna, explaining that there are no base or lower qualities such as sorrow, pain, mortality, change, and old age in Him.

The Lord is interpenetrating everything. He is the essence of the soul. He is the Antaryamin or the Inner Ruler. He is one with the soul. He is all-pervading (Vibhu). He is the Supreme Being. He is full of auspicious attributes. He is of the nature of Satya (Truth), Jnana (Intelligence) and Ananda (Bliss). Matter and soul depend on Him.

The Lord is immanent. He is also transcendent. He is unchanging. Para, Vyuha, Vibhava, Archa and Antaryamin, i.e., the transcendent, the group, the incarnation, the image and the immanent are the five forms of the Lord.

Ramanuja identifies God with Narayana who dwells in Vaikuntha with His Sakti or consort, Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Prosperity. She is the Divine Mother. She pleads with Her husband on behalf of the man. She introduces the devotee to Her Lord and obtains for him salvation. Lakshmi occupies a pre-eminent place in Vaishnavism.

11.3 THE WORLD—A REAL PART OF BRAHM’S NATURE

The world is the body of the Lord. The matter is real. It is an Achit or non-conscious substance. It undergoes a real Parinama or evolution. Suddha-Tattva is the substance that constitutes the body of God and is called His Nitya-Vibhuti. The manifested world is His Lila-Vibhuti.

11.4 THE SOUL—A DISTINCT INDIVIDUAL ENTITY

The soul is a higher Prakara of God than matter, because it is a conscious entity. It is of the essence of God. According to Ramanuja, God, soul and Nature are three eternal entities. The soul is self-conscious, unchanging, part less and atomic (Anu). The souls are infinite in number.

The individual soul is real and eternally distinct from God. It has indeed, sprung from Brahm, and is never outside Brahm; nevertheless, it enjoys a separate personal existence and will remain a personality forever.

According to Ramanuja, there are three classes of souls, viz., Nitya (eternal), Mukta (free) and Baddha (bound). The eternal souls have never been in bondage. They are eternally free. They live with God in Vaikuntha. The freed souls were once subject to Samsara, but have attained salvation now and live with God. The bound souls are caught up in the meshes of Samsara and are striving to be released.

11.5 THE EVOLUTION OF THE SOUL

When the individual soul is immersed in worldliness or Samsara, its knowledge is contracted. It gets its body according to its past Karma, and goes from birth to death and from death to birth, till it attains Moksha or the final emancipation. When it attains Moksha, its knowledge expands. It knows everything.

 “Every action that contracts the heart of the soul is bad, and every action that expands the heart of the soul is good”—this is the statement of Ramanuja. The soul is marching on in this Samsara, expanding or contracting through its good and evil actions, till it attains the final emancipation through the grace of Lord Narayana. The grace descends on those souls who are pure and struggling for the divine grace.

Emancipation or Passing into Paradise

According to Ramanuja, Moksha means the soul’s passing from the troubles of mundane life into a kind of heaven or paradise (Vaikuntha) where it will remain forever in undisturbed personal bliss in the presence of God. The liberated soul attains to the nature of God. It never becomes identical with Him. It lives in fellowship with the Lord, either serving Him or meditating on Him. It never loses its individuality.

There is no such thing as Jivanmukta, according to Ramanuja. Salvation comes when the soul leaves the body.

Bhakti—The Means to Emancipation

The final emancipation can be obtained only through Bhakti and the grace of the Lord. The grace of the Lord comes through devotion and Prapatti or absolute self-surrender. Karma and Gyana are the only means to Bhakti.

12. THE DVAITA Vedanta Philosophy

Sri Madhvacharya evolved a dualistic system of philosophy out of the Prasthana-Traya, viz., the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Brahma Sutras. It is an unqualified dualism.

Madhva’s Vaishnavism is called Sad-Vaishnavism, to distinguish it from Sri Vaishnavism of Ramanuja. Madhva makes an absolute distinction between God and animate and inanimate objects.

God is the only independent Reality. The animate and inanimate objects are dependent realities.

Madhva’s Vedanta is the doctrine of absolute differences. He insists on five great distinctions (Pancha-Bheda), viz., (i) the distinction between God and the individual soul, (ii) the distinction between God and matter, (iii) the distinction between the individual soul and matter, (iv) the distinction between one soul and another and (v) the distinction between one material thing and another.

Madhva’s philosophy has many points in common with those of Ramanuja. In Madhva’s system of philosophy, Hari or Vishnu is the Supreme Being. The world is real. The difference is true.

All the Jiva are dependent on Hari, the Lord. There are grades of superiority and inferiority among the individual souls. Liberation is the individual soul’s enjoyment of its innate bliss. This is Moksha or the final emancipation. Bhakti, or devotion, without faults, is the means of attaining Moksha.

Perception, inference, and the scriptures are the three Pramana, or ways of knowledge. Hari is knowable only through the Vedas. Worship of Lord Krishna as taught in the Bhagavata Purana is the centre of his religion. This is the quintessence of Madhva’s teachings.

According to Madhva, God, the Supreme Being, is the only independent Reality. The soul and the world are dependent realities. God rules them. The dependent beings are of two varieties—positive and negative. Conscious souls (Chetana), and unconscious entities like matter and time (Achetana), are the two varieties of the positive. Unconscious entities are either eternal like the Vedas, and non-eternal like Prakriti, time and space, or non-eternal like the products of Prakriti.

12.1 THE SUPREME BEING AND HIS CONSORT

The Supreme Being is Vishnu or Narayana. He is the personal first cause. He is the Intelligent Governor of the world. He lives in Vaikuntha along with Lakshmi, His consort. He manifests Himself through various Avataras. He is present in the sacred images.

 He is also the Antaryamin or the Inner Controller of all souls. He creates, maintains, and destroys the world. God is free from Doshas or faults. He is endowed with all auspicious qualities. He is omnipresent or all-pervading and independent. He is beyond time and space. He is greater than Lakshmi. There is no other who is greater than Lakshmi. She is the foremost of the dependents.

Lakshmi is the Lord’s Sakti or energy. She is the personification of His power or creative energy.

12.2 PRAKRITI—THE MATERIAL CAUSE OF THE WORLD

God is the efficient—but not the material—cause of the world, because Prakriti which is the world-stuff is different from Him. Prakriti is the material cause of the world.

The three aspects of Prakriti are presided over by the three Powers: Lakshmi, Bhu and Durga. Avidya is a form of Prakriti.

Mahat, Ahankara (egoism), Buddhi, mind, the ten senses, the five sense-objects, and the five great elements are the modifications of Prakriti. These exist in the primordial Prakriti in subtle forms before their evolution.

According to Madhva, the world is not an illusion. It is not also a transformation of God, as curd is of milk. Madhva does not admit that the world is the body of God. The distinction between God and the world is absolute and unqualified. Hence the system of Madhva is called Dvaita or unqualified dualism.

12.3 Plurality of Souls

There is a plurality of Jiva. They are all atomic size. The entire universe is filled with Jiva or individual souls.

Madhva says in his ‘Tattva Nirnaya’: “Infinite are the souls dwelling in an atom of space.”

No two Jiva are alike in character. They are essentially different from one another. There are different grades among them even in their enjoyment of bliss after salvation.

The Jivas are different from God, and from matter. Madhva regards the distinction between Brahm and Jiva as real.

Though the Jiva is limited in size, it pervades the body owing to its quality of intelligence.

The Jivas are active agents, but they depend on the guidance of the Lord.

So long as they are not freed from their impurities, they wander about in the Samsara. They pass from birth to death, and from death to birth. When their impurities are removed, they attain salvation. The natural bliss of the soul becomes manifest at the time of Moksha or salvation.

Salvation Does Not Entitle the Soul to Equality With God

The soul does not attain equality with God. It is entitled only to serve Him.

Madhva accepts Ramanuja’s classification of the souls into Nitya or eternal (like Lakshmi), Mukta or liberated (the gods, men, Rishis, sages, and fathers), and Baddha or bound ones.

The third group consists of two classes: (i) those who are eligible for Moksha (Mukti-yoga) and (ii) those who are not so eligible. Of those who are not eligible for salvation, there are two classes again: (a) those who are bound to the cycle of Samsara forever (Nitya-samsarins) and (b) those whose destiny is hell, the region of blinding darkness (Tamo-yoga).

Some are pre-ordained for the final emancipation by their inherent aptitude. Some others are eternally destined either to wander in Samsara without end or to go to the world of darkness. The Sattvika souls go to heaven, the Rajasa souls revolve in Samsara and the Tamasa souls fall into hell.

12.4 BHAKTI—THE MEANS TO SALVATION

Bhakti is the means to salvation. Souls attain salvation through the grace of God. That grace comes on the devotee only through the mediator Vayu, the son of Vishnu. God cannot be approached directly. Vayu is the mediator. The grace of the Lord is in proportion to the intensity of devotion.

Worship of God is the indispensable preliminary condition for obtaining the grace of God. The soul is saved by the knowledge that it is dependent on God and is under His control. Correct knowledge results in the love of God. Bhakti is the result of knowledge of the greatness of God.

13. Some other Vedanta Philosophy

13.1 THE DVAITADVAITA PHILOSOPHY OF SRI NIMBARKA

This is also known by the name Bhedabheda School of Philosophy or dualistic monism. This system was evolved by Sri Nimbarkacharya, who was a Telugu Brahmin of the Vaishnava faith.

Nimbarka’s view was largely influenced by the teachings of Bhaskara who flourished in the first half of the ninth century and who interpreted the Vedanta system from the viewpoint of Dvaitadvaita or dualistic non-dualism. This doctrine was not a discovery of Bhaskara. It was upheld by the ancient teacher Audulomi to which Vyasa himself refers in his Vedanta Sutras.

Nimbarka holds that the relation of God to the soul and the world is one of identity in difference. The soul and the world are different from God because they are endowed with qualities different from those of God. At the same time, they are not different from God, because God is omnipresent and they depend entirely on Him.

Nimbarka’s philosophy admits Brahm as the Supreme Reality without a second. The world and the Jivas are only partial manifestations of His Power (Sakti).

Jiva and Prakriti are dependent realities. Jiva is the enjoyer (Bhokta). The world is the enjoyed (Bhogya). Brahm is the Supreme Controller (Niyanta)

 Nimbarka says that both difference and non-difference are real. The soul and the world are different from Brahman, as they are endowed with natures and qualities different from those of Brahman. They are not different, as they cannot exist by themselves and as they depend absolutely on Brahman. Such a relation exists between the sun and its rays. the fire and its sparks. The souls and matter are distinct from God, but they are closely connected with Him—as waves with water, or coils of a rope with the rope itself.

They are both distinct and non-distinct from Brahman.

13.2 THE SUDDHADVAITA PHILOSOPHY OF SRI VALLABHA

The philosophy of Sri Vallabhacharya is Suddha-Advaita or pure monism, because he does not admit Maya like Sankara, and believes that the whole world of matter and souls is real and is only a subtle form of God. Those who bring Maya for the explanation of the world are not pure Advaitins, because they admit a second to Brahman.

Vallabha holds that Brahman can create the world without any connection with such a principle as Maya, but Sankara traces the universe to Brahman through the power of Maya. Hence the philosophy of Vallabha is called pure monism or Suddhadvaita.

Vallabha expounded that system in the Anu-Bhashya, his commentary on the Brahma Sutras.

Vallabha accepts the authority not only of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Brahma Sutras, but also of the Bhagavata Purana. God is personified as Krishna, when He possesses the qualities of wisdom and action. He appears in various forms to please His devotees.

The Jivas are not effects. They are Amsas or parts of God. They issue from Him spontaneously as sparks from fire.

The way of life and salvation, preached by Vallabha is called Pushti Marga. The soul of man has become weak and lean on account of sin. It is, therefore, in dire need of the grace of God for its upliftment and emancipation. God’s grace gives Pushti (nourishment) and Poshana (strength); and hence the name Pushti Marga or the Way of Grace.

The individual soul can attain the final emancipation only through the grace of God. Bhakti is the chief means of salvation. Jnana is useful.

13.3 THE ACHINTYA BHEDABHEDA PHILOSOPHY OF SRI CHAITANYA

Sri Chaitanya or Lord Gauranga may be regarded as the greatest Vaishnava teacher of the North. He gave a new form to the Vaishnava faith. He was born in 1486 A.D., in Bengal.

Chaitanya had a very large heart. He accepted converts from Islam freely. His disciple Haridas was a Muslim Fakir.

The Ultimate reality is Vishnu. He is the God of love and grace. He is one without a second.

He is Sat-Chit-Ananda. He is Nirguna in the sense that He is free from the qualities of Maya. He is Saguna as He is endowed with the attributes of omnipotence and omniscience. He is the material and the efficient cause of the world. He is the source, support and end of this universe. He is the efficient cause through His higher energy (Para-Sakti). He is the material cause through His other energies (Apara-Sakti and Adya-Sakti).

The Supreme Lord Krishna manifests Himself as Brahman to Jnanins; as Paramatman to Yogins; and as Bhagavan full of all glories, all beauties, all sweetness and all attributes, to Bhaktas.

Lord Krishna is the Soul of all souls and the Lord of all that is. A Bhakta only has full knowledge of the Supreme Personal God with all His divine attributes.

Krishna’s form is unique. He assumes endless forms.

Chaitanya taught that God could be realized only using ardent and all-absorbing love. Love of Krishna is the highest thing worth attaining.

The following qualities makes a Vaishnava. He is compassionate, truthful, saintly, innocent, charitable, gentle, pure, spite less, humble, serene, tender, friendly and silent. He is a universal benefactor. He solely depends upon Lord Krishna. He is desire less. He is  abstemious in diet and self-controlled.

The distinctions of caste have to be ignored. Anyone can obtain the grace of the Lord.

14. Neo- Vedanta Philosophy

Neo-Vedanta has been popularized by Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While Vivekananda reiterated the Vedanta Philosophy of Shankara, he emphasized the practical application of Vedanta principles in addressing social and humanitarian issues.

He showed how the Vedanta Philosophy advocates for the harmony of religions and the unity of all beings.

Various Western scholars and spiritual teachers have contributed to the interpretation and dissemination of Advaita Vedanta in Western contexts. Figures like Alan Watts, Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert), and Rupert Spira have popularized Advaita Vedanta teachings through books, lectures, and retreats.

 

4 thoughts on “VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY”

  1. Dilip Magar

    Tha author has nicely explained the philosophy of Vedant as also relevant information from upnishad lucidly . The way of presenting knowledge is very apt and to the point

    1. Thank you sir for reading the paper on Vedanta. Your comments are highly encouraging. Please see the space every fortnight for some interesting posts.

  2. Padma Raghunathan

    Nice concise write up on Vedanta and brahma sutras and the different paths explained by the acharyas

    1. Thank you madam for the encouraging comments. Please check the website regularly for information about all the published books including in Audio format. You may suggest some titles for next posts, as I am trying to post every fortnight on Veda and Upanishads.

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