Advaita, Dvaita and Visisthadvaita

I understood that all the three acharyas gave importance to Bhagavad Gita, BrahmaSutras, Upanishads and Vedas. And not as much to the puranas.


My next question was, how can 3 brilliant Acharyas read the same texts ie the Bhagavad Gita, BrahmaSutras, Upanishads and Vedas and come up with 3 significantly different interpretations?

My first clue came when I realised that the Veda Mantras were the insights of many different rishis with different ideologies and different levels of attainment. For eg our Gayathri Mantram is revealed to us by Viswamitra and the Purusha Suktham by Narayana Rishi and Devi Suktham by Vagambhrani Rishika.

The Upanishads which explained the Vedas were also the works of diverse rishis and influenced by their different ideas and understanding.

The Vedanta Sutras or Brahma Sutras were the gifted to us by Veda Vyasa.

The essence of the Upanishads was given to Arjuna by Sri Krishna as a free flowing conversation in an if-then structure.

It goes like this.

  • It is said by some in the Upanishads that “clause A” is true and by some others that “clause B” is true.
  • If YOU believe “A” then you should work because of ” reason X”, if you believe “B” then you should work because of ” reason Y”.
  • I believe you should work.
  • Even if you believe none of this and you believe in “clause C” then too you should work because of reason Z.
  • What people do is they quote single verses without reference to the context and to the whole argument. Then they weep that there are contradictions in the Gita.

Therefore, though the 3 Acharyas refer to the same texts, they are giving more importance to different statements in the texts made by diverse rishis and therefore able to draw different conclusions.


Sankara’s Advaita :

“Brahma Satyam. Jagat Mithya. Jivo Brahmaiva Na Parah.”

The reasoning of Sankaracharya leads to advaita : The unseen Brahman is the Truth, the experienced Jagat is an illusion and  The Jiva in you is the Brahman and no one else.

Knowledge destroys Karma.


Madhwa’s Dvaita :

Madhwa’s arguments lead to pancha bheda.

Paramatma is different from matter and from Jivatmas. The Jivatamas are different from each other and from matter. Matter is different from other matter.

This universe is real and is not Mithya or an illusion. The finite beings comprising the universe are subject to a system of gradation, beginning with the Goddess Laxmi, followed by other minor gods, seers, human beings and undivine beings. The rank of any soul in this scheme of gradation depends on the degree of its devotion to God. God is an embodiment of all virtues and excellences and ever remains untouched by any kind of blemish (Dosha). He has countless Roopas and forms. ……… Every follower of the Madhwa School should have a firm belief in the Pancha-bheda—five real and eternal distinctions. The distinction between one Jiva and another Jiva (jeeva-jeeva), between the Jiva and matter (jeeva-jada), between one piece of matter and another (jada-jada), between matter and spirit (Jada-Deva), between the Supreme Being and the individual soul (Deva-Jeeva).” (Source)


Ramanuja’s Visishtadwaita :

There is only one God. He has special attributes. The cit and acit form his sarira or body. He is nirguna in the sense of being free from blemishes and saguna in the sense of being ‘samasta kalyana gunakara’. Brahman is the atman of the atma.

There is prakriti. (Nature etc.. all you see around you). It is real. It is not maya.

There are numerous Jivatmas. These jivatmas are amsas or fractions of the divine paramatma. They are distinct from the brahman but inseparable from Him. They are dependent on the brahman, but they have free will. This is how they can accumulate karma. However they are also under the control of Brahman. Jivas are not just consciousness they are also knowers or gnyaatas.

Surrender to the Brahman and He will destroy your Karma. Spend your life in His Service. This is prapatti yoga.

Mother Lakshmi or SriDevi, pleads the cases of the individual jivatamas with the paramatma.

Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula

For more basic details on Visihtadwaita you may refer Sri Ramanuja and Visisthadwaita , Qualified Non-Dualism Simplified by K. R. Krishnaswami.