There are six Darshan, that is philosophy in Hinduism which are :

  1. Samkhya.
  2. Yoga.
  3. Nyaya.
  4. Vaisheshika.
  5. Mimamsa.
  6. Vedanta.

Among these six schools, Vedanta is very popular and has it’s root in Vedas/ Upanishad (Shruti). Vedanta is a spiritual philosophy which deals with the following three elements and relationship between them:

  1. Brahman
  2. Atman
  3. World/Universe

Different Vedanta schools/ philosophies explain the relation among above three entities/elements differently as

1.Identical [non-duality]

2.Different [duality]

 

Different Schools of Vedanta Philoshophy

Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta is the oldest extant sub-school of Vedanta – an orthodox school of Hindu philosophy and religious practice. Advaita Darsana (philosophies, world views, teachings) is one of the classic Indian paths to spiritual realization.

The founder or chief exponent of this school (i.e philosophy) is ADI SHANKARACHARYA (8th century CE). Shankaracharya systematized and significantly developed the works of preceding philosophers into a cohesive philosophy. His commentaries to the unifying interpretation of the Prasthanatrayi, Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Brahma Sutras define the parameters of advaita thought. The name Sankaracharya has become a title for the heads of the numerous Advaita institutions in India today, because of the great respect and fame associated with it.

In its philosophical formulation, Advaita Vedanta interprets these texts in a non-dualistic manner for its theories of moksha. It postulates that the true Self – individual soul, Atman (Atman), shorn of avidya – is the same as the highest reality, Brahman. The phenomenal world is described as an illusory appearance that is other than the real as well as the unreal (sadasadvilakṣaṇa).

Advaitins, the followers of Advaita darsana, therefore, seek Jivanmukti – a liberation, release, or freedom that is achieved in this lifetime – by the realization (vidya) that Atman and Brahman are identical.

Advaita Vedanta is one of the most studied and most influential schools of classical Indian thought. While many scholars describe it as a form of monism, others describe the Advaita philosophy as non-dualistic. Advaita Vedanta texts espouse a spectrum of views from idealism, including illusionism, to realist or nearly realist positions expressed in the early works of Shankara.

 

Vishishtadvaita

Vishishtadvaita, the philosophy of the Sri Sampradaya, is one of the most popular schools of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. VishishtAdvaita (literally “Advaita with uniqueness; qualifications”) is a non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy. It is non-dualism of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone exists, but is characterized by multiplicity. It can be described as qualified monism or qualified non-dualism or attributive monism. It is a school of Vedanta philosophy which believes in all diversity subsuming to an underlying unity.

The Vishishtadvaitic thought is considered to have existed for a long time, and it is surmised that the earliest works are no longer available. The names of the earliest of these philosophers is only known through Ramanuja’s Veda artha Sangraha. In the line of the philosophers considered to have expounded the VisishtAdvaitic system, the prominent ones are Bodhayana, Dramida, Tanka, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Bharuci. Besides these philosophers, Ramanuja’s teacher Yamunacharya is credited with laying the foundation for what culminates as the Sri Bhasya. Bodhayana is considered to have written an extensive vritti (commentary) on the Purvaand Uttara Mimamsas. Tanka is attributed with having written commentaries on Chandogya Upanishad and Brahma Sutras. Nathamuni of the ninth century AD, the foremost Acharya of the Vaishnavas, collected the Tamil prabandhas, classified them, made the redaction, set the hymns to music and spread them everywhere. He is said to have received the divine hymns straight from Nammalvar, the foremost of the twelve Alvars, by yogic insight in the temple at Alwar Thirunagari, which is located near Tirunelveli in South India. Yamunacharya renounced kingship and spent his last days in the service of the Lord at Srirangam and in laying the fundamentals of the Vishishtadvaita philosophy by writing four basic works on the subject.

Ramanuja is the main proponent of Vishishtadvaita philosophy. The philosophy itself is considered to have existed long before Ramanuja’s time. Ramanuja continues along the line of thought of his predecessors while expounding the knowledge expressed in the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita. He contends that the Prasthanatrayi (“The three courses”), namely the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras are to be interpreted in a way that shows this unity in diversity, for any other way would violate their consistency.

There are three key principles of Vishishtadvaita:

  1. Tattva: The knowledge of the 3 real entities namely, jiva (living souls; the sentient); ajiva (the insentient) and Ishvara (Vishnu-Narayana or Parahbrahman, creator and controller of the world).
  2. Hita: The means of realization, as through bhakti (devotion) and prapatti (self-surrender).
  3. Purushartha: The goal to be attained, as moksha or liberation from bondage.

According to Vishishtadvaita, Brahman (Paramatma/Sriman Narayana) is the supreme and inner soul of universe as well as jivatma. Universe and Jivatma have body-soul (Sharira-Shariri) relationship with Brahman. Jivatma and Universe is the body and essential part of Brahman.

  • Universe is not unreal, it is the transformation of Brahman and Brahman (in its pure form) dwells inside it.
  • Jivatma (individual soul) and Brahman (supreme soul) are different and Brahman dwells inside Jivatma.
  • It is known as qualified on-dualism as it asserts the non-duality of Jivatma and Brahman in qualified way. (i.e Jivatma and Paramatma doesn’t exist differently – Paramatama always dwells inside Jivatma – both can’t exist separately. But Jivatma and Parmatma are (not same) different.
  • Vishishtadvaita emphasise/insist on Complete surrender (Sharanagati) to Vishnu.

 

Dvaita

Dvaita is a Sanskrit word that means “duality, dualism”. The term refers to any premise, particularly in theology on the temporal and the divine, where two principles (truths) or realities are posited to exist simultaneously and independently. Dvaita is a sub-school in Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy and is alternatively known as Bhedavada, Tattvavada and Bimbapratibimbavada.

The Dvaita Vedanta school believes that God (Vishnu, supreme soul) and the individual souls (jīvātman) exist as independent realities, and these are distinct. The Dvaita school contrasts with the other two major sub-schools of Vedanta, the Advaita Vedanta of Adi Shankara which posits nondualism – that ultimate reality (Brahman) and human soul are identical and all reality is interconnected oneness, and Vishishtadvaita of Ramanuja which posits qualified nondualism – that ultimate reality (Brahman) and human soul are different but with the potential to be identical.

Dvaita Vedanta sub-school was founded by the 13th-century scholar MADHVACHARYA. Like Ramanuja, Madhvacharya also embraced Vaishnavism. Madhvacharya posits God as being personal and saguna, that is endowed with attributes and qualities. To Madhvacharya, the metaphysical concept of Brahman in the Vedas was Vishnu. He stated “brahmaśabdaśca Viṣṇaveva”, that Brahman can only refer to Vishnu. This is because according to him, Vishnu was not just any other deva, but rather the one and only Supreme Being. Madhvacharya differed significantly from traditional Hindu beliefs owing to his concept of eternal damnation. For example, he divides souls into three classes. One class of souls, mukti-yogyas, qualifies for liberation, another, the nitya-samsarins, subject to eternal rebirth or eternal transmigration and a third class, tamo-yogyas, who are condemned to eternal hell(andhatamasa). No other Hindu philosopher or school of Hinduism holds such beliefs. In contrast, most Hindus believe in universal salvation, that all souls will eventually obtain moksha, even if after millions of rebirths.

Dvaita Vedanta acknowledges two principles; however, it holds one of them (the sentient) as being eternally dependent on the other. The individual souls are depicted as reflections, images or shadows of the divine, but never in any way identical with the divine. Moksha (liberation) therefore is described as the realization that all finite reality is essentially dependent on the Supreme.

Five fundamental, eternal and real differences are described in Dvaita school :

  1. Between the individual souls (or jīvātman) and God (Brahmātmeśvara or Vishnu).
  2. Between matter (inanimate, insentient) and God.
  3. Between individual souls (jīvātman)
  4. Between matter and jīvatman.
  5. Between various types of matter.

These five differences are said to nature of the universe. The world is called prapañca(pañca : “five”) by the Dvaita school for this reason.

The distinguishing factor of this philosophy, as opposed to monistic Advaita Vedanta, is that God takes on a personal role and is seen as a real eternal entity that governs and controls the universe.

 

Shuddadvaita

Shuddadvaita (meaning : “pure non-dualism”) is the “purely non-dual” philosophy. According to Suddhadvaita, Brahman without maya is the cause for Universe. Maya is not unreal but it is shakti (energy) of Brahman. Apparent manifestation or dvaita prapanch is not due to maya or unreal but it is the wish of Brahman/Krishna instead.

Jagat (universe/world) and Samsara (metempsychosis) are different. Jagat is manifestation (without relation with maya) of Brahman and is real. Samsara is due to ignorance/nescience of real nature and is unreal. samsar has Uttpatti origination and Lay destruction; whereas jagat has only Avirbhav manifestation and Tirobhav disappearance.

Jiva is not different from Brahman as it is a portion/part of Brahman (not reflation). The relation between Brahman and Jiva is like fire and spark. Jiva and world emanate from Brahman and conceal/absorb in Brahman. Jiva is not Brahman as it is in later condition (separation from Brahman).

It was propounded by Vallabhacharya (1479-1531 CE), the founding philosopher and guru of the Vallabha sampradaya (“tradition of Vallabh”) or Pustimarg (“The path of grace”), a Hindu Vaishnava tradition focused on the worship of Krishna. Vallabhacharya’s pure form (nondualist) philosophy is different from Advaita. Vallabhacharya was a devotional philosopher, who founded the Pushti sect in India. He won the title of ‘acharya’ by traveling and debating Advaita scholars from a young age. In 1493-94, Vallabhacharya is said to have identified an image of Krishna at the Govardhan hill at Braj. This image, now called Shrinathji and located at Nathdwara in Rajasthan, and compositions of eight poets (astachap), including Surdas, are central to the worship by the followers of the sect. According to Vallabha tradition, one night in 1494, Vallabhacharya received the Brahmasambandha mantra (the mantra that binds one with Brahman, or Krishna) from Krishna himself (hence the name, mukhavatara) at Gokula. The eight-syllable mantra, ‘śri kṛṣṇaḥ śaraṇaṃ mama’ (Lord Krishna is my refuge), is passed onto new initiates in Vallabh sampradaya, and the divine name is said to rid the recipient of all impurities of the soul (doshas) .

Though the tradition originated near Vrindavana in the current Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, in modern times followers of Shuddadvaita are concentrated in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Shuddhadvaita emphasis/insist on Bhakti and the path is called Pushtimarg. Vallabhacharya says Bhakti is the means of salvation, though Jnana is also useful. Karmas precede knowledge of the Supreme, and are present even when this knowledge is gained. The liberated perform all karmas. The highest goal is not Mukti or liberation, but rather eternal service of Krishna and participation along with His activities in His Divine abode of Vrindavana. Vallabha distinguishes the transcendent consciousness of Brahman as Purushottama. Vallabha lays a great stress on a life of unqualified love and devotion towards God.

 

Achintya-Bheda-Abheda

Achintya-Bheda-Abheda is a school of Vedanta representing the philosophy of inconceivable one-ness and difference. In Sanskrit achintya means ‘inconceivable’, bheda translates as ‘difference’, and abheda translates as ‘non-difference’. The theological tenet of achintya-bheda-abheda tattva reconciles the mystery that God is simultaneously “one with and different from His creation”. However, at the same time, creation (or what is termed in Vaishnava theology as the ‘cosmic manifestation’) is never separated from God. He always exercises supreme control over his creation. Sometimes directly, but most of the time indirectly through his different potencies or energies (Prakrti).

The Gaudiya Vaishnava religious tradition employs the term in relation to the relationship of creation and creator (Krishna, Svayam Bhagavan), between God and his energies. It is believed that this philosophy was taught by the movement’s theological founder Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 – 1534) and differentiates the Gaudiya tradition from the other Vaishnava Sampradayas. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu emphasis/insist on Bhakti (like of Radha) to Krishna and attaining the devotion of Krishna leads to Moksha. It can be understood as an integration of the strict dualist (dvaita) theology of Madhvacharya and the qualified monism (vishishtadvaita) of Ramanuja, rejecting the absolute non-dualism (advaita) of Adi Shankara which contradicts Vyasadeva’s siddhanta.

“One who knows God knows that the impersonal conception and personal conception are simultaneously present in everything and that there is no contradiction. Therefore Lord Caitanya established His sublime doctrine : acintya bheda-and-abheda-tattva — simultaneous oneness and difference.” (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)

Therefore, the nature of relationship between Jiva and Brahman is inconceivable to human mind). According to Achintya-Bheda-Abheda, Brahman is simultaneously one with and different from his creation.

  • Brahman/Krishna (in his pure form) is separate from his creation – simultaneously creation is never separated from Brahman. It is explained something like “As the spider sends forth and draws in its thread, as plants grow on the earth, as hair grows on the head and the body of a living man—so does everything in the universe arise from the Imperishable” Mundaka Upanishad 1.1.7
  • The relationship between Brahman and Jivatman is like Sun and Sunshine. Qualitatively the Sun and the Sunshine are not different, but as quantities they are very different. Similarly Jivatman and Brahman/Krishna is are of similar quality but there is a vast difference in quantity.

 

Dvaitadvaita

Dvaitadvaita was proposed by Nimbarka, a Vaishnava philosopher coming from Andhra Region. Nimbarka’s philosophical position is known as Dvaitadvaita (Bhedabheda vada). According to Dvaitadvaita, Brahman is the highest reality and nothing is superior to Brahman.Brahman is material and efficient cause (creator-maintainer-destroyer) of universe. Jiva and Brahman can be considered different and non-different.

The categories of existence, according to Nimbarka, are three, i.e., Cit, Acit, and Isvara. Cit and Acit are different from Isvara, in the sense that they have attributes (Guna) and capacities (Swabhaava), which are different from those of Isvara. Isvara is independent and exists by Himself, while ‘cit’ and ‘acit’ have existence dependent upon Him. So, at the same time ‘cit’ and ‘acit’ are not different from Isvara, because they cannot exist independently of Him. Here, difference means a kind of existence which is separate but dependent, (para-tantra-satta-bhava) while non-difference means impossibility of separate existence (svatantra-satta-bhava).

According to Nimbarka’s Dvaitadvaita philosophy of differential monism :

  • There is Dharmin-Dharma nature-relation between Jiva and jnana. Just like sun is both light and source of light, Jiva is knower, can be knowledge and the processor of knowledge at the same time. Jiva is Knower, the doer and the experiencer. Ishwar is Controller, filler and witness.
  • Jagat is of three different kinds viz. prakrta, aprakrta, and kala. Prakrat forms Prakriti/Jagat, Aprakrut forms the body of Brahman.
  • Jiva and world are part of Brahman. Brahman transforms (as of just his nature) into chit (sentient) and achit (insentient) world and also remains in his true nature or nirvikar. Thus universe and Jiva are karya(work/effect) of Brahman. they are different and also identical to their karan(cause) Brahman.
  • Dvaitadvaita emphasis/insist on Bhakti as well as Jnana.
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