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Re: advaita & visishtadvaita

From: Mohan Sagar (
Date: Thu Nov 02 2000 - 05:03:04 PST

Dear Sri Badri Narayanan,

The complexity of your questions makes it rather difficult to try
and summarize everything into one single posting, so it probably
would be best to check the locations referred to by Sri Mani.
However, I would like to try and provide you with a simple
example in an effort to enhance your interest in the subject.
Please note that this is only a rough example, my very crude
attempt to try and describe in 100 words or less what took an
AchAryan several hours to describe.  I ask the forgiveness of you
and others for all the errors that are due solely to my own

The best analogy offered to me to describe the differences
between advaita and visistadvaita was started by showing me a
mango, and asking "what is this?".  The most simple response is
that "this is a mango."   Can it be defined as anything else to
be complete?  We can sat that it is a fruit, that it is a
tropical fruit and so on, but the all these terms would only look
at aspects of it, and not see it in its totality.  Is it complete
to say that this is what it is?  Yes.  So, in totality what we
have is a mango.

Similarly we can say the same thing about Brahman.  Look around
and see what it is that is the totality of everything around you,
the consciousness that seems to be at the heart of everything
there is.  This is Brahman, and that is all there is.  This is
the experience of advaita, Wholeness, Oneness, non-duality.

Since we are dealing with totality here, we are not concerned
with who God is, or what we call Him, or what our relationship is
to Him, because looking at it from a wholistic perspective, there
is nothing other than Him. Even what it is that makes each one of
us individuals is irrelevant because all that we are concerned
about from this perspective is the One, the Whole, the All.

But, there is something missing in this equation.  What have we
overlooked by just saying that this is a mango?  What about its
texture, its color, its aroma, its flavor, its size, its shape,
etc.??  Without these things, a mango really is no different than
any other object, what makes it unique is its qualities.
Similarly, the uniqueness of Brahman lies in His myriad of
wonderful  qualities that are easily revealed to us in the beauty
of this world, the diversity of living things that fill it, and
the vast ocean of ideas, thoughts, and complex emotions that make
each one of us unique in the universe.  Consequently, it is these
uncountable wondrous qualities of God, His ananta kalyAna guNas
that make Him who He is.  The qualities cannot exist without Him,
and He cannot be who He is without them.  This is Visistadvaita,
a recognition of Wholeness without discounting of the qualities
that make it up.

Knowing then, that there is a uniqueness to God, it naturally
follows that God would also have a unique name and a unique form.
According to all Vedas, Upanishads, itihAsas, and purAnas, that
unique name and form is just one, Sriman Narayana.   While names
like Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, and others can also be used to
describe Him, they do not even begin to reveal HIm in His
totality, radiating with all His AnantakalyAna guNas, looking at
each and every sole with utmost Compassion.  Consequently, from
the perspective of SriVaishnavam, there is no need for multiple
forms of God, because just the one is defines it all.

I hope this helps as a start....

Ramanuja Dasan

           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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