Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Basic Doctrine of Dvaita Vedanta

Sriman Madhva has hypothesized (based on Vedic texts and Yukti) that souls are eternal and not created ex nihilo by God, as in the Semitic religions. Souls depend on God for their very “being” and “becoming.” Sriman Madhva has compared this relationship of God with souls to the relationship between a source (Bimba) and its reflection (Pratibimba).

Additionally, Srman Madhva differed significantly from traditional Hindu beliefs in his concept of eternal damnation. For example, he divides souls into three classes, one class which qualify for liberation, Mukti-yogyas, another subject to eternal rebirth or eternally transmigrating due to samsara, Nitya-samsarins, and significantly, a class that is eventually condemned to eternal hell or Andhatamas, known as Tamo-yogyas.

Sriman Madhva followers cite authorities such as Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, verses 2. “There are three types of inclination, which are the self-same natures of the souls, these being satvika, rajasa, and tamasa,” 
Chapter 16, verses 19-20, “These cruel haters, worst among men in the world, I hurl these evil-doers into the wombs of demons only. Entering into demoniacal wombs and deluded, birth after birth, not attaining me, they thus fall, Oh Arjuna, into a condition still lower than that,” for their concept of eternal damnation. 

Sriman Madhva was the second after Srimad Ramanuja in the recent years who revived the timeless Vaishnava tradition. There were 21 different Bashayas (commentaries) before Sriman Madhva. He was the first to establish the facts of trio-patriate classification of souls. By contrast, most Hindus believe that souls will eventually obtain moksha, even after millions of rebirths.

The Supreme Being is Vishnu or Narayana. He is the personal first cause. He is the Intelligent Governor of the world. He lives in Vaikuntha along with Lakshmi, His consort. He and His consort Lakshmi are real. Brahma and Vayu are two of His sons. One can know His nature through the study of the Vedas. He manifests Himself through various Vyuhas or group-forms, and through Avataras (divine incarnations). He is present in the sacred images. He is also the Antaryamin or the Inner Controller of all souls. He creates, maintains and destroys the world.

God is free from Doshas or faults. He is endowed with all auspicious qualities. He is omnipresent or all-pervading and independent. He is beyond time and space. He is greater than Lakshmi. There is no other who is greater than Lakshmi. She is the foremost of the dependents. Lakshmi is the Lord’s Sakti or energy. She is the personification of His power or creative energy. Lakshmi can put on various forms without a material body. She is co-eternal with Vishnu and all-pervading. She beholds the glory of Her Lord through eternity. She is Nitya-Mukta, i.e., eternally free from Samsara. She is not affected by sorrow and pain. She is intelligent.

Sriman Madhva espoused a Vaishnava theology that understands Brahman to be endowed with attributes and a personal God, Vishnu. By Brahman, he referred to Vishnu, as per his statement “brahmashabdashcha vishhnaveva” that Brahman can only refer to Vishnu. Sriman Madhva states that Vishnu is not just any other deity, but is rather the singular, all-important and supreme one. Vishnu is always the primary object of worship, and all others are regarded as subordinate to Him. The deities and other sentient beings are graded among themselves, with Vayu, the god of life, being the highest, and Vishnu is eternally above them.

While each thing is unique, Dvaita philosophy notes five categories of difference (Bheda):

Between the Lord (Isvara) and the self (Jivatman)
Between innumerable selves
Between the Lord and matter (Prakriti)
Between the self and matter
Between phenomena within matter
Despite these differences, there exists a clear and distinct relationship:

Under Dwaita Vedanta (Tattvavada), the soul upon liberation does not lose his distinct identity, which is different from Vishnu, nor does he become equal to Him in any respect. While the mukta does become free of all suffering, his enjoyment is not of the same caliber as His, nor does said mukta become independent of Him.

The mukta experiences the joy which is his own nature, in mukti; whereas in daily life, joy derives from the contact of senses with sense-objects and is therefore transitory and mixed with suffering (which is also caused by the contact of senses with sense-objects), joy in mukti is due to the jiva’s own immutable nature. And because such joy is the jiva’s own nature, it does not fluctuate or end, and it is not mixed with pain. Since the nature of the jiva is different from that of Ishvara, his joy is also of a different nature than His, even upon mukti. Even the joy which is intrinsic to the nature of the jiva can only be realised due to the grace of the Supreme being.

Because a mukta, or liberated person, should not even be physically present in the material universe, unlike the un-liberated. A person who is living in the world cannot be said to be free of sorrow born of material contact, and also cannot be said to experience the joy of his own nature at all times. The very act of living in a gross material body entails things such as eating, sleeping, pleasure and pain, etc., which cannot be accepted in a mukta.

The Advaitic concept of a j├«vanmukta is also absurd because a person who has surmounted the realm of perception and realized the Absolute (as Advaita holds of a mukta) should not continue to exist within and interact with the realm of perception that he has realized as being not-Real—no one continues to perceive a snake after realizing that the object of his perception is actually a rope. The suggestion that such bondage to the world of perception continues for a while after the occurrence of Realization, because of past attachments, is not tenable—such attachments themselves are artifacts of the perceived world that has supposedly been sublated, and should not continue to besiege the consciousness of the Realized. If they do, then we have to either reject the Realization that is said to have occurred, or else reject the notion that the world of perception, as manifesting through the attachments on a supposedly Realized person, can be sublated. In either instance, the notion of j├«vanmukti is not meaningful.

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