Vedanta is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy based on the Upanishads. Vedanta means the end of Vedas (ved-anta). Many spiritual masters and gurus have interpreted Upanishads in different forms across the infinite span of time. The philosophy that attempts to explain the text central to this philosophy is Brahma Sutras. It is the pursuit of knowledge into Brahman and Atman.
The most well-known schools of Vedanta are Advaita Vedanta (school of non-dualism), Visistha Vedanta (school of qualified non-dualism), and Dvaita Vedanta (school of dualism).
Dvaita Vedanta identifies Atman (soul) and Brahman as separate and non-interchangeable entities. Dvaita classifies everything in the universe into two realities,
- Brahman alone
- Paratantra, i.e., dependent realty (the souls and inanimate matter)
Propounded by Sri Madhvacharya, Dvaita Vedanta describes Brahman as superior to all souls and is perfect in aspects. The Brahman knows all past, present, and future and has all the knowledge in the universe, most powerful, compassionate, and wise. The only way to salvation (moksha) is to feel love and devotion toward the supreme. The supreme soul (Brahman) is independent, and all other souls are dependent on him.
The existence of God is demonstrable by logical proof, and the Upanishads are devoted to describing its nature. Sri Madhvacharya, in Dvaita Vedanta, identifies Brahman in the form of Lord Vishnu. However, here Vishnu is not considered part of Trimurti, but Brahman itself (Absolute reality).
Who is Brahman?
Dvaita Vedanta explains Brahman as supreme of everything in the universe, and this world/universe is not illusionary but is the actual creation of Brahman. Therefore, there is an eternal distinction between absolute reality and individual self-reality. Thus, the universe owes God for its creation. God knows every soul and all its actions. The soul’s actions are subject to God, but God has been kind enough to provide us freedom of will. We are free to make decisions and have our will and choices, but God has eyes and can influence our decisions.
Madhvacharya explains “Agyaana” as mistaken knowledge and can be corrected through devotion and salvation. Here one focuses on creating a special bond between God and the devotee. Devotion can be done in various ways; by reading scriptures, chanting mantras, and performing selflessness and kindness. The goal is not to reach a higher state but bhakti itself. The journey to achieve God is itself a goal.
The bonding of Jivas (souls) to the cycle of life and death results from their ignorance of God’s very true nature. That is why adoration of God is moksha or liberation. However, as per Madhava, the liberated soul does not become God but exists as a separate reality. The concept of spiritualism is less pronounced here. Most of the followers of Dvaita embraced Vaishnavism (worship of Vishnu as a supreme reality).
Other gods explained
If there is one and only supreme God, how come there be hundreds of gods in Hinduism? The answer to this is simpler than expected. The devas are the souls of people who God rewarded for their ultimate devotion and salvation. As Brahman is the only one whose form cannot be changed, forms of all other beings can be changed. Even gods other than Brahman can be promoted or demoted into higher and lower forms to speak in simple words. According to Madhvacharya, other gods are mortal too, changing their form after their death.
Five eternal differences in Dvaita School
Davita Vedanta differentiates God, other souls, and inanimate matter in the following points:
- The difference between individual souls (Jivatman) and God (Paramatma)
- Between matter (inanimate, insentient) and God
- Between individual souls
- Between matter and God
- Between various types of matter
Madhvacharya and Dvaita Vedanta
Sri Madhvacharya was a 13th-century philosopher based in south India. According to Madhava, there are two orders of reality:
- Svatantra – Independent reality, which consists of Brahman alone
- Paratanta – Dependent reality, which consists of Jivas (souls) and Jada (lifeless object).
Madhava and their followers call their system Tattvavada- the realist viewpoint. He actively opposed Advaita Vedanta, in which atman is identified as Brahman.
Gradation of reality
Though existence is reality, Madhvacharya recognizes that the highest expression of reality is the metaphysical independence of every other form in infinite reality regarding its powers and activity. Therefore, everything in finite reality is grounded in independent reality-brahman and needs it for its becoming and being. Existence is one aspect of reality; it does not exhaust it, nor is it the highest expression. God is above a mere being that is of primary significance to the religious consciousness.
Attributes of Brahman
Here, God has two aspects of divinity- the perfection of being (sarvagunapurnatavam) and freedom from all limitations (sarvadosagandhavuratam). God is the highest form of perfection conceivable by human intelligence. The perfection of the divine is to be understood in terms of an unlimited pervasion in time, space, and fullness of attributes. Only God can have these threefold perfections. Everything else in the universe lacks one or many attributes.
God is above all change and limitation. His nature remains the same at all times and places. His form consists of reality, absolute consciousness, and unlimited bliss and if we accept such a subtle power, abiding in God, only we can attain moksha (liberation).