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Re: [advaita & visishtadvaita]

From: M.S.HARI Madabhushi Sarangarajan Hari (
Date: Thu Nov 02 2000 - 10:54:27 PST

Dear Sri Badri Narayanan,
(A bit lengthy mail but not too lengthy)
Answer for your first question:
The term "VisishtAdvaita" has the form "visishtasya advaitam" and
"visishtayO: advaitam".
"Visistasya Advaitam" means - The Brahman qualified by all chit and achit
entities as his Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam (body/mode/attribute) is 
without a second entity meaning unparalleled and unsurpassed. This brings out
the ultimate supremacy of Shreeman Narayana Para Brahman who is Akila Heya
Pratyaneeka: and Ananta Kalyaana Gunaakara: 

(chit - jIvAthman; achit - matter)
(Akila heya pratyaneeka: being untouched by all impurities
Ananta kalyaana gunaakara: being attributed by infinite divine qualities)

"Visistayoho Advaitam" means - The Brahman having the subtle (sukshma) 
chit and   achit entities as his Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam
(body/mode/attribute) before creation is the same Brahman having the expanded
(stUla) chit and achit entities as his   Saareeram/Prakaaram/Viseshanam
(body/mode/attribute) after creation. This brings out the fact that Shreeman
Narayana Para Brahman is the only material cause and efficient cause of  the

Shreeman Nigamaantha Maha Desika defines the same as "Asesha Chit-Achit
Prakaaram Brahmaikameva Tatvam". This is the most precise definition of our
VisishtAdvaita Siddhaantham. 

On the other hand, the philosophy called Advaita is as follows:
Brahman is the only knowledge-self reality and is without any attributes.
There three types of differences namely difference in individuality,
difference in types and differences in its integral parts are not in Brahman.
Nothing other than this Brahman is reality. Though the Brahman is eternally
free and only knowledge self, it gets obstructed/covered by ignorance and
without realizing itself as Brahman (as told above) becomes to realize itself
wrongly as Jeevaatman and gets bound in the material universe which is not a
reality. This is what conveyed by the Veda through verses like "Tat Tvam Asi".
Except that Brahman, everything is illusion-falsehood. The God and the
sentient-living and insentient-matter which are controlled by God are only
illusion and has no reality. There is nothing called bound Jeevaatman and
liberated Jeevaatman as the Brahman and Jeevaatman are the same entity. Only
one body is with Jeevaatman, which is Brahman covered/obstructed by ignorance.
Other bodies are without Jeevaatman as they are just the illusion of the
Brahman covered by ignorance. It is not possible to point out which body has
that Jeevaatman. The experiences of Brahman during its illusion are also
false. The preceptor who imparts this knowledge about Brahman is unreal. The
disciple who listens to the preceptor is unreal. The Veda, which gives this
knowledge about the Brahman, is also unreal. The Brahman by the knowledge of
knowing that nothing other than itself (which is only knowledge-self reality
without any attributes) is real gets its ignorance cleared and realizes itself
as Brahman and this is liberation. Advaita thus declares everything is unreal
except the only knowledge-self Brahman, which is without any attributes using
the unreal(!) Saastra, which is Veda!

Hope the differences between Visishtadvaita and Advaita is clear. I will
write one more difference between the two: Advaita is personal opinion
of people like SrI Adi Sankara. On the other hand, Visishtadvaita is
the parama-vaidika-matham.

Answer for your second question:
There are four concepts
1. PramANam
2. PramEyam
3. PramAthA
4. PramA.

PramANam is authority/source of knowledge. It is 1.pratyaksham,
2.anumAnam and 3.sabdam. The God cannot be established through pratyaksham
and anumAnam. It is possible only through sabdam. To understand this,
one has to study philosophy with its accesories atleast upto a basic
level. When pramANam it is clearly understood, the pramAthA (he
who knows) will get the pramA (knowledge) that the pramEyam (object
which is known) is SrIman NArAyaNa. This is established logically
on the base of pramANam. There is only one Supreme Brahman and
he is SrIman NArAyaNa. It is difficult to realise this unless and
until a person gets to know clearly about pramANam first. 
Siva, BrahmA etc., are only jIvAthmAs like us and are different 
from the (God) ParamAthma SrIman NArAyaNa.

Let me just outline the importance of pramANa briefly. I showed a
real diamond and its certificate of authenticity to a layman. He
understood it as diamond because it is transparent, costly jewel
and glittering. There was no contradiction at this point. But I
told him that the diamond is nothing but carbon (C). He did not
accept my words because according to him carbon is black, cheap
fuel. I cannot make him to understand my point unless and until
I teach him chemistry, atomic theory etc, use advance pramANam
and anumAnam to prove my point that carbon is in allotropic form
as graphite and diamond. The layman has just used simple pratyksham.
It is not adequate to prove my point. Thus pramANam has different
levels. pratyaksham and anumAnam are not adequate to establish
God. The sabdam establishes God and the God is SrIman NArAyaNa.

>Doesn't Advaita seem to be logical in saying the there is only one >Supreme
being without Name ,form and qualities and Naryana ,siva are >merely
manifestations of that Brahman and so the question of who is >Supreme never
comes into play.please enlighten me.Pardon my ignorance.

Advaita is not aiming at telling this. Its aim is nirviSesha Chin
mAthram Brahma and Brahma satyam jagan mithyA. Advaita is sUnya-vAdam
in polished way. 

All these things can be learnt in two ways:
1. Emmotional 
2. Knowledge

The first method is suitable for those who already know the
pramANam. Otherwise, the pramA got through this method is likely
to be shaken by another powerful emmotional way. 
The second method is suitable for those who want to know the
tatva-hita-purushArthas clearly along with critical study of
all exisiting philosophies based on sabdam and not having base on
sabdam. This way leads to unshakable pramA. This is my opinion.
The second method requires 100% rational thinking. If suppose I
write openly "Advaita is not rational", few will take it personally
and argue emmotionally. Such things are not suitable in knowledge
way. If a person has basic understanding that advaita philosophy
is taken for critical study and not the author of the philosophy,
then he is the most suitable person for the second way.

Thanks & Regards
M.S.HARI RAmAnuja DAsan.

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