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From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_best.com)
Date: Thu May 07 1998 - 15:24:09 PDT
Here is something I wrote about this topic a couple of years back. On Mar 12, 1:57pm, Shakthi@aol.com wrote: > Subject: dvaita vs advaita > I have a very basic question to this very learned group. could someone please > tell us what exactly does dvaita and advaitha mean. kanaka One of the central questions concerning Vedanta philosophers is the relationship of the individual self to the Absolute or Supreme Self. The sole purpose for this question is to determine the nature of contemplative meditation and to determine whether moksha, the state of release, is something worth seeking. The Dvaita school, inaugurated by Madhvacharya (Ananda Tirtha), argues that there is an inherent and absolute five-fold difference in Reality -- between one soul and another, between the soul and God, between God and matter, between the soul and matter, and between matter and matter. These differences are not only individuations, but also inherent qualitative differences, i.e., in its essentially pure state, one individual self is _not_ equal to another in status, but only in genus. Therefore, there are inherently female jIvas, inherently male jIvas, brahmin jIvas, non-brahmin jIvas, and this differentiation exists even in liberation. Consequently, any sort of unity, whether it be mystical or ontological, between the individual self and God is impossible in Dvaita. Hence the term ``Dvaita'' or ``dualism''. Liberation consists of experiencing one's essential nature in parama padam as a reflection of God's glory. Such liberation is achieved through bhakti or loving devotion. The Advaita school, represented in its classical and most powerful form by Sankaracharya, argues that only the Absolute Self exists, _and_ all else is false. The universe and our existence as individuals is not _unreal_, mind you, but a false imposition on a real substrate, the non-dual, undifferentiated principle of consciousness. This is a very important distinction. Liberation in Advaita Vedanta consists of the realization that individuality is false, and that one's very essence is the Absolute Self, pure undifferentiated consciousness, one without a second. Such a realization, which according to Advaita can happen long before death, is achieved after a long period of introspection on Vedic teachings. At some point, the unity of the non-dual Self reveals itself, upon which all doubts are shattered and liberation is achieved. In this system, since there is only one, and ultimately nothing else, the system is called Advaita, or ``non-dualism''. To distinguish it from other forms of Advaita, it is also called nirvisesha Advaita, or ``non-duality of the Absolute without qualities.'' Visishtadvaita is also an Advaita, since only God the Absolute, omnipresent Self exists. However, our concept of God refers to that Supreme Entity which contains all within itself; the entire universe, including all living beings, are fundamentally real and internally distinguishable from one another. However, there is only one total reality, as God includes all existence within Its very being. The individual selfs and the universe exist as God's attributes, since God pervades absolutely everything and gifts these substances with their reality. In other words, God is the indwelling Self of all, and this ``all'' is real as they are included in His body. Therefore, Visishtadvaita literally means non-duality of the qualified, since God is qualified by innumerable glorious attributes, including individual selves and matter. Liberation is eternal communion and service of God, the supreme, infinite, blissful Absolute. Ramanuja writes that such liberation is achieved by constant meditation on God's supreme perfections -- His omnipresence, His splendorous forms, His actions in His various manifestations, His existence in the hearts of all creatures, His nature as the First Cause of All. Such meditation, when practiced with a pure heart and mind and filled with extreme love, will yield a better and better conception of God in the mind of devotee over time, eventually leading to recollection of God so vivid it is like sight itself. Such a vision, when practiced to the point of being unbroken, is the liberating knoweldge spoken of in the Vedas, a result of God's love of His beloved devotee. Notice the difference in approach of Advaita and Visishtadvaita. The former's conception of the Absolute has no attributes -- hence the discipline of meditation there does not in the end rely on bhakti. The latter has as its centerpiece a supreme being full of perfections and attributes, so the aspirant has no choice but to revel in these kalyANa-guNas. From this basic difference in approach we can derive all the other differences between these schools of Vedanta. Mani P.S. All individual selfs are fundamentally equal and alike in Visishtadvaita. Ramanuja is emphatic about this.