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Dvaita, also known as Bhedavāda, Tattvavāda and Bimbapratibimbavāda, is a school of Vedanta founded by Madhvacharya (c. 1238-1317) who was also known as Pūrṇaprājña and Ānandatīrtha. Dvaita stresses a strict distinction between God—the Brahman (Paramātman)—and the individual souls (jīvātman). According to Madhvacharya, the individual souls of beings are not created by God but do, nonetheless, depend on Him for their existence.
Dvaita Vedanta, a dualistic understanding 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, matter, and the like exist with their own separate reality. The distinguishing factor of this philosophy, as opposed to Advaita Vedanta, a monistic understanding of the 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 Vaishnavism, which understands God as being personal and endowed with attributes. To Madhvacharya, the Vedantin Brahman was Vishnu. He stated "brahmaśabdaśca Viṣṇaveva", that Brahman can only refer to Vishnu. To him, Vishnu was not just any other deva, but rather the singularly all-important Supreme Being. 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 acknowledges two principles; however, it holds one of them (the sentient) as being rigorously and eternally dependent on the other. 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. Moksha (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 jīvātman) and God (Brahmātmeśvara or Vishnu).
- Between matter (inanimate, insentient) and God.
- Among individual souls (jīvātman)
- Between matter and jīva.
- Among various types of matter.
These five differences are said to make up the universe. The world is called prapañca (pañca "five") 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, mukti-yogyas, qualifies for liberation, another, the nitya-samsarins, subject to eternal rebirth or eternal transmigration and a third class, tamo-yogyas, that is condemned to eternal hell (andhatamasa). 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.
Impact of Dvaita movement
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- Madhva's Dvaita view, along with Adi Shankara's Advaita Vedanta (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, for example Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa, were strong proponents of the Dvaita tradition. Raghavendra Swami, a famous sant, was a leading figure in the Dvaita tradition.
- Madhva's theology heavily influenced those of later scholars such as Nimbarka, Vallabha Acharya 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 Sarvashāstrārthasangraha. The followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 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 Sutras, 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 Mīmāṃsā tradition of Vedic exegesis and by the Nyāya 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.
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 and the ātman (soul) are eternally different, with God always the superior.
- Etter, Christopher (2006). A Study of Qualitative Non-Pluralism. iUniverse. ISBN 978-0-595-39312-1.
- Fowler, Jeaneane D. (2002). Perspectives of Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Hinduism. Sussex Academic Press. ISBN 978-1-898723-93-6.
- 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.
- 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.
- vyasapeetham.com A dedicated website on Madhwa Philosophy, Articles, books and detailed discourses on Dvaita Philosophy by Sri Vishnudasa Nagendracharya