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Re:advaitha and visishtaadvaitha

From: bindinganavale suresh (
Date: Fri Nov 03 2000 - 06:04:06 PST

Dear Friend,
        You wrote :-

1)What does visishtadvaita exactly mean and what are
some of the basic differences between advaita and
visishtadvaita.I have read a lot of articles on 
this regard form the previous bhakthi mails but  I
cannot understand what exactly is meant by the terms  
  "duality" , "non-duality" etc.Can anybody explian
them in simpler terms.

 2) I have always felt that there is only one supreme
God and it is just that people of diffrent religions
call him by different names.For example we call him 	 
  Narayna,Muslims call him Allah etc.
	    I think even according to Hinduism there is only
One Supreme Brahman and Narayana,Siva ,Brahma are only
manifestations of thatbrahman.Then why does
Vaishnavism says that only Naryana is Supreme?.Why are
 we  expected to worship god only in the form of
Naraynan if Narayana is only a name by which we call
that one Supreme being. 

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.

The answer follows :-

Advaitha literally means "Not two or Non dual" and
Visishtaadvaitha literally means"Not two or Non dual
but having visheshanas(qualities or attributes)".So
the    former term is taken to mean Non duality
without qualities. 

Differences between advaitha and visishtaadvaitha:-

Adv = Advaitha.
Visadv = visishtadvaitha.

Adv :- Brahman alone is the only reality which is
attributeless or having no visheshanas.All else i.e   
 Isvara(God), Jiva atma(finite self) and the
prakriti(matter) are ultimatley mere imaginary 
concepts or misapprehensions of Brahman,which are felt
to be real as long as the Non-dual Brahman is realized
through intution. 

Visadv :- Brahman alone is the only reality,but it is
same as the God or Isvara of Religion and is Qualified
by infinite auspicious attributes,with the Jiva atma
and prakriti forming the attributes or modes of

Adv :- Jiva atman is Brahman identified with Body,mind
and intellect and in essence both are identical.

Visadv:- Jiva atman is an eternal part of Brahman as
its attribute or mode and different from Brahman
inseperable and lives and moves in Brahman.So Jiva
atman and Brahman are forever inseperable but not
identical.It is this Jiva atman that is subject to the
   adventure of knowledge called as samsara and not

Adv :- Isvara is the saguna Brahman or Brahman with
qualities having maya as upadhi or Brahman identified
as contoller of the world having maya under his
control.He is the resort of jivas having theistic
minds,who are yet to mature to a state wherein they
can intuit the Nirguna Brahman,who is the non-dual
brahman by sublating the unreal version(i.e saguna
brahman)of the same.

Visadv :- Isvara the controller and owner of maya in
the form of prakriti is the very Brahman himself.He
has    infinite kalyana gunas and remains so
forever.He is Nirguna in the sense that he is
untainted by the imperfections of both prakriti and
Jiva in which he is always immanent and not that he is
characterless in himself.

Adv :- The means to moksha is meditation on the
meaning of advaitha vakyas found in upanishads such as
"Aham Brahmaasmi" etc. Meditation on an Ishta devatha
or on a God of one's personal liking should be done to
the end of purifying one's mind so that it is ready
for recieving the higher knowledge i.e nirguna

Visadv :- The means for Moksha is Bhakti or
prappati.Bhakti is a state of mind achieved through
the process of karma yoga and/or gnana yoga,wherein
the mind naturally flows to God and is delighted only
in thought of God.Prappati is a state of mind in	   
which the jiva appeals to God to save it from its
attachment and consequent pains felt with respect to
prakriti after realising its shortcomings in prakriti
thus allowing God himself to be the means for reaching

Adv :- Liberation of a Jiva is not something which is
attained at some point of time,but is the true state
which is always liberated that has to be "realised".  
Bondage is only a make believe due to ignorance,which
is neither real or unreal.Liberation is possible even
in embodied state.

Visadv :- Bondage and Liberation are facts wherein the
attributive consciousness of jiva is subject to
modifications leading to ignorance at various
levels.Ignorance is real and its effect is the career
of material attraction and enjoyment on the part of
the Jiva. Liberation is a cosmic event wherein the
jiva     confounded in prakriti is elevated to the
status of Brahma gnani after the jiva gives up both
the gross and subtle body it is linked to.
The above are some of the important differences that i
can think of writing in this mail,but surely there are
lot more which you can get from Books related to the

Now as far as duality and non-duality are
concerned,Duality means more than one reality and
non-duality means only one reality.

It should be noted that in vishistaadvaitha,from the
point of view of totality,Brahman alone exists with
qualities.But in himself there is a difference between
him and his attributes jiva and prakriti and also
between the latter two attributes.So,both the terms
can apply to Brahman from the above points of view.

As far as the second question is concerned,It is
agreeable that there is only one supreme God and just
as there are different approaches to him so are there
different names to him.With this philosophy,if one
sincerely approaches god attached to a particular  
form of his,then there is no problem as God himself
will reveal himself to a true devotee. 
	   It is not a mistake if the supreme God is called
as Narayana by vaishnavas or Shiva by shaivates or
Allah by muslims,but it will be a mistake if the
qualities of the supreme God which the names refer to
are used for a finite self or Jiva or if religion is  
used for political gains or sense gratification.
	   But,the advaitha concept of Ishta devatha or God
of one's personal choice is not applied in the same
sense nor is it a solution for the problem of
universal God because according to advaitha any God
will do as long as the mind is purified to grasp the
higher knowledge of Nirguna brahman in which the so
called   supreme God or saguna brahman himself is
sublated.So God here is looked upon only from an
utiliterian point of view which no sincere devotee of
a supreme God will accept because God for him is his
goal and not just a means.

Hope the above answers your doubts.comments are

Sri Krishnaarpanamasthu
Suresh B.N.

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