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Dvaita (Sanskrit: द्वैत) (also known as Bheda-vāda, Tattva-vāda and Bimba-pratibimba-vāda) is a school of Vedanta founded by Shri Madhvacharya (c. 1238-1317 CE) who was also known as Purna Prajna and Ananda Tirtha. Dvaita stresses a strict distinction between God— the Supreme-Soul (paramātmā (परमात्मा)) and the individual souls (jiivatma (जीवात्मा)). According to Madhvacharya, the individual souls of beings are not 'created' by God but do, nonetheless, depend on Him for their existence.
Dvaita Vedanta (dualistic conclusions of the Vedas) espouses dualism by theorizing the existence of two separate realities. The first and the more important reality is that of Vishnu or Brahman. Vishnu is the supreme Self, God, the absolute truth of the universe, the independent reality. The second reality is that of dependent but equally real universe that exists with its own separate essence. Everything that is composed of the second reality, such as individual soul (Jiva), matter, etc. exist with their own separate reality. The distinguishing factor of this philosophy as opposed to Advaita Vedanta (monistic conclusion of Vedas) is that God takes on a personal role and is seen as a real eternal entity that governs and controls the universe.
Like Ramanuja, Madhvacharya also embraced Vaishnava theology which understood God as being personal and endowed with attributes. To Madhvacharya, Brahman of the Vedanta was same as Vishnu. He stated "brahmashabdashcha vishhnaveva" or that Brahman can only refer to Vishnu. To him, Vishnu was not just any other deity, but rather the singularly all-important Supreme One. Vishnu was the primary object of worship, while the demigods were regarded as subordinate to Him. The demigods and other sentient beings were graded, with Vayu, the god of life, being the highest, and Vishnu being eternally above them.
Dvaita Vedanta is not similar to Western dualism which posits the existence of two independent realities or principles. Madhva's Dualism also acknowledges two principles, however, it holds one of them (the sentient) as being rigorously and eternally dependent on the other (Vishnu/Brahman). Because the existence of individuals is grounded in the divine, they are depicted as reflections, images or even shadows of the divine, but never in any way identical with the divine. Liberation therefore is described as the realization that all finite reality is essentially dependent on the Supreme.
Five fundamental, eternal and real differences are described in this system—
- Between the individual soul (or jīvatma) and God (Brahmatma īshvara or Vishnu).
- Between matter (inanimate, insentient) and God.
- Among individual souls (jīvatma)
- Between matter and jīva.
- Among various types of matter.
These five differences are said to make up the universe. The universe is aptly called "prapancha" for this reason.
Madhva differed significantly from traditional Hindu beliefs, owing to his concept of eternal damnation. For example, he divides souls into three classes. One class of souls, which qualify for liberation (Mukti-yogyas), another subject to eternal rebirth or eternal transmigration (Nitya-samsarins) and a third class that is eventually condemned to eternal hell or andhatamas (Tamo-yogyas). No other Hindu philosopher or school of Hinduism holds such beliefs. In contrast, most Hindus believe in universal salvation; that all souls will eventually obtain moksha, even if after millions of rebirths.
Vyasatirtha (one of system's eminent disciples) is said to have succinctly captured the basic tenets (nine prameyas) of Madhva's system in a pithy prameya sloka - "SrimanMadhvamate Harih paratarah...", that is, Sri Hari is supreme, a grasp of which may be deemed a fair and accurate understanding of the fundamental position of this system.
Tharathamya or hierarchy among gods
Vishnu is the Supreme Lord and Lakshmi is His eternal consort. Brahma and Vayu occupy the same next level. Their wives (Saraswati and Bharathi respectively) occupy the next level. Garuda-Sesha-Shiva, Indra-Kamadeva, Surya-Chandra, Varuna, Agni, Ganesha-Kubera and others successively occupy the lower rungs in this hierarchy.
Madhva propounds that life in the world can be divided into two groups, kshara and akshara. Kshara refers to life with destructible bodies, while akshara refers to indestructible bodies. Laxmi is akshara, while others from Brahma and lower are ksharas or jīvas. Vishnu is exempt from this classification, as his body is transcendental.
Impact of Dvaita movement
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- Madhva's Dualistic view, along with Shankara's Advaita (Nondualism) and Ramanuja's Vishishtadvaita (Attributive Nondualism), form some of the core Indian beliefs on the nature of reality.
- Madhva is considered one of the influential theologians in Hindu history. He revitalized a Hindu monotheism despite attacks, theological and physical, by outsiders. Great leaders of the Vaishnava Bhakti movement in Karnataka, Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa for example, were strong proponents of the Dvaita tradition. The famous Hindu saint, Raghavendra Swami, was a leading figure in the Dvaita tradition.
- Madhva's theology heavily influenced those of later scholars such as Nimbarka, Vallabha and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. B.N.K. Sharma notes that Nimbarka's theology is a loose réchauffé of Madhva's in its most essential aspects. Vallabha even "borrowed without acknowledgement" a verse from Madhva's sarva-shāstrārtha-sangraha. The followers of Caitanya claim a link to Madhva.
- Madhva's singular contribution was to offer a new insight and analysis of the classical Vedantic texts, the Vedas, Upanishads, Brahma Sutra, Mahabharata, Pancharatra and Puranas, and place uncompromising Dvaita thought, which had been ravaged by attacks from Advaita, on a firm footing. Before Madhva, nondualism was rejected by others, such as the Mimamsa tradition of Vedic exegesis, and by the Nyaya tradition of classical logic. However, it was only he who built a cogent, alternative system of Vedantic interpretation that could take on Advaita in full measure.
Shiva is understood to be a demigod (deva) by followers of Dvaita. This understanding reveals a strong monotheistic understanding that God is personal, unlike Advaita, for which the identity of God does not matter as it is Nirguna or without attributes.
Historically, Dvaita scholars have been involved in vigorous debates against other schools of thought, especially Advaita. Whereas Advaita preaches that Atman and Brahman are one and the same, which is not evident to the atman till it comes out of a so-called illusion, Madhvacharya puts forth that Brahman (Vishnu/God) and Atman (soul) are eternally different, with God always the Superior one. It is the same point that Madhvacharya reinforces in one of his doctrines, "Yadi Namaparo Na bhavet Shri Hari, khathamasya vashet Jagatedabhoot. Yadi Namanatasya Vashe Sakalam, Khathamevath nitya sukham Na Bhaveth"
"If you feel there is no God, how do you explain as to why you cannot free yourself from the limitations on Earth? If you feel YOU are the one in control of everything (as Advaita preaches that Soul and God are one and the same), then how come you don't enjoy happiness always and are also subject to sorrow and pain (as God is supposed to be an eternity of happiness)? "
- Etter, Christopher. A Study of Qualitative Non-Pluralism. iUniverse Inc. P. 59-60. ISBN 0-595-39312-8.
- Fowler, Jeaneane D. Perspectives of Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Hinduism. Sussex Academic Press. P. 340-344. ISBN 1-898723-93-1.
- Tapasyananda, Swami. Bhakti Schools of Vedanta pg. 177.
- "Dvaita Resources". Retrieved 2011-03-18.
- Deepak Sarma, "An Introduction to Madhva Vedanta," Ashgate, 2003.
- B.N.K. Sharma, `The History of the Dvaita School of Vedanta and Its Literature', 3rd ed., Motilal Banarsidass, 2000.
- B.N.K. Sharma, `The Philosophy of Madhvacharya', Motilal Banarsidass, 1986.
- B.N.K. Sharma, `The Brahma Sutras and Their Principal Commentaries', 3 vols., Munshiram Manoharlal, 1986.
- A dedicated website on Madhwa Philosophy
- Bhakti Schools of Vedanta, by Swami Tapasyananda, available at Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai. available at India web site: http://www.sriramakrishnamath.org and US site: http://www.vedanta.com and http://www.sanskrit.org/Madhva/madhvateachings.html .
- Madhva's differences with Sankara and Ramanuja.