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NITAAI-Veda.nyf > All Scriptures By Acharyas > Six Philosophies > Four Sampradayas > Appendix I - Comparative Analysis

Appendix I - Comparative Analysis Of The

Vaishnava Schools 2


I. Relation Among God, World and the Souls


1) Differences between Vallabha’s Pure-Monism and Ramanuja’s Qualified Monism regarding the relation between God, souls and the world:

a) Ramanuja has accepted the individual soul and the world as forming the attributes or modes of God.

b) Vallabha says that the relation of individual self and the world to God is that of part to the whole. He does not regard individual soul and the world as inseparable from God in the sense of substance and attributes.

2) Differences between Vallabha’s Pure Monism and Madhva’s Dualism:

  While Vallabha regards the world and the souls as non-different from Brahman, to Madhva they are totally different.

3) Nimbarka’s view of bhedabheda is different from the vishishtadvaita of Ramanuja. The main point of distinction between them is that while according to Ramanuja difference is an attribute of unity, for Nimbarka both identity and difference have equal status in reality. Difference is not secondary in his view.

4) Nimbarka’s view is clearly different from Vallabha’s and there is no point of agreement between them. Vallabha is the advocate of pure-monism and difference is not real according to him.

5) Nimbarka’s assertion of two realities (independent and dependent) is not acceptable to Jiva Gosvami. He has rejected this distinction and accepted God as the non-dual Reality. He does not accept souls and world as dependent realities but as shaktis of God. He realizes the difficulty of reconciling the relation of both identity and difference between shakti and possessor of shakti but (instead of calling one independent and other dependent), He calls this relation ‘acintya’.

6) Madhva accepted three eternal and real entities - God, soul and matter. God is independent and soul and matter are dependent on Him. But if the souls and matter are eternal like God then how could Madhva say that God is the only Independent Reality? Dualism makes supremacy of God impossible.

7) Vallabha’s system of Pure-Monism also accepts the souls and matter as real and as the manifestations of God’s attributes. He has accepted God as the abode of contradictory attributes. This doctrine is established on the basis of shrutis but it is not conceivable by the limited human reason.

8) Nimbarka has accepted both identity and difference among the three entities. The soul and matter are dependent on God Who is the only Independent Reality.They are non-different from God since they are in the nature of God. They are different from Him because while God is independent, the world and souls are dependent on Him. He is the support of their dependent existence. The concept of dependence necessarily involves some difference.

9) Shri Chaitanya and His followers recognize the supralogical and inconceivable nature of the relation of bhedabheda by positing the category of ‘acintya’ which shows their sincerity and frankness. They have supported it on the basis of scriptural passages.


II. Efficient and Material Cause of the World


a) All Vaishnava thinkers except Madhva have accepted God as both the efficient and material cause of the world. Madhva considers the idea of Ramanuja (the world form the body of God and God is the material cause of the world) as injurious to the independent magesty of God. He has interpreted the shastras in accordance with his view which deny the material causality of God. God is the efficient cause and prakriti is the material cause of the world.

b) To Ramanuja God is both the eficient and material cause of the world. Matter exists in God in an unmanifest form in the state of dissolution and becomes manifest when creation take place. God Himself is transformed into the world as far as matter as an inseparable attribute of Him is concerned.

  Ramanuja admitted that the questions as to how unconscious matter can be part of God who is essentially non-material and how a real transformation of God (either of whole or part) can leave His integrality and immutability unnaffected, are not answerable by human logic.

c) Madhva strongly rejected the notion of material causality of God and the world as His real transformation. To him the idea of material causation necessarily involves transformation or modifications which implies change and it is not consistent with the Immutable nature of God. Material world cannot come out of God.

d) Vallabha accepts God both as material and efficient causes of the world. To him world is not a transformation of God but a manifestation of His “being” aspect. World has a separate existence even though it is manifested from God. It is neither an appearance nor an actual transformation but a limited manifestation of God.

e) Nimbarka holds that world is a transformation of God’s shakti and not of His essence. The relation between God an the world is not that of substance and attribute but a relation between independent and dependent.

f) Shri Chaitanya holds that the world is a modification of God’s maya-shakti which is an external power of God. Its transformation does not affect God’s essential nature. It stands in relation of unthinkable difference in non-difference to God. Although world is an effect of God through His maya-shakti essentially He remains transcendent and immutable.


1) Some inconsistencies and logical dificulties of the material causality of the world:


a) Ramanuja holds that the world is a real manifestation of God but somehow the immutable nature of God remains unaffected. But it is logically unintelligible to hold that mat. cause remains unchanged while giving rise to effect. And how can immutable and partless God transform Himself into the world? It it is the whole God that transforms then there is no God apart from the world, and if it is only a part, then it means that God is capable of being partitioned.

  The notion of material causality necessarily implies some change. Either the attributes of God are transformed into the effect or His substance is transformed. None of the two is consistent with God’s immutable nature. Moreover the material cause and its effect must have some similarity but God and world have entirely diferent characteristics. Thus the view of creation as a transformation of God is not consistent with His immutability.

b) Vallabha tries to meet the problem by rejecting Ramanuja’s view of creation as a transformation of God. He holds that the world is not a transformation of God but a manifestation or expression of God’s ‘being’ aspect. But this does not improve the situation. The origination of the world without any type of modification is beyond comprehention. If there is modification then how do we distinguish cause from effect. The effect coming out of cause without any change or modification is unintellegible. What does Vallabha men by saying that ther is no modification and the world shoots out of Go’s sat aspect. Does he mean that there is some internal division among the three atributes of God? But this is against the impartite nature of God which is the basic principle of Pure Monism. Vallabha has not been very successful in his attempt to reconcile the unchangeability of God with the notion of His mat. causality.

c) Nimbarka tries to solve the difficulty by holding that God’s shakti is transformed into the world. The creation of the world involves a real transformation of its material cause, but this transformation relates to God’s shakti and not His essence.

d) Madhva tries to meet the above difficulties by holding absolute difference between matter and God and considers God as the eficient cause alone and prakriti as the mat. cause. Madhvash theory is consistent with the concept of an immutable God but his position regarding prakriti as the material cause has its own difficulties.

 While others vaishnava thinkers have regarded matter as attribute or part of God, Madhva maintains absolute difference between God and matter. This view is defficient from religious point of view which holds the supremacy of God. Religious consciousness demands the dependence of everything on God also for its being. If God is Supreme then there must be no other real entity to limit Him from without. Dualism harms the idea of God’s supremacy.

e) Shri Chaitanya’s view seems to make a definite improvement on the views of other vaishnava thinkers. He regards the world as real transformation of God’s maya-shakti which is an external power of God and God’s essence is not affected by this. Shri Chaitanya has realized the logical inconceivability of the doctrine that Deity escapes change when His shakti undergoes transformation. He frankly admitted the unthinkability of the relation of God to the world. Reasoning cannot prove as to how does God remain immutable, though the world is an effect of God through His maya-shakti. This relation can be realized only in one’s own intuitive experience. Although the whole philosophy of Vaishnavism is rooted in faith other thinkers try to seek logical justifications for their doctrine in some way or other. But reasoning does not provide any final answer.

 Shri Chaitanya had the whole tradition behind Him and His doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda can be regarded as superior to others since He realized the limitations of logical thinking inthe realization of religious truths which have to be accepted on faith. Shri Chaitanya is more sincere to His religious consciousness in confessing the inability of logic to solve the mistery of the relation of God to the world.


III. Dependence of the souls and the world to God


a) While to Ramanuja the souls and the world are visheshana or attribute of God, Shri Chaitanya takes them as shaktis of God. Secondly while Ramanuja regards souls and the world as two different things, the Gaudiyas puts them under the single category of shaktis.

b) Madhva, as a firm advocate of Dualism, holds that although soul is dependent on God, it is quite different from God and has being outside Him. But the Gaudiyas say that the soul are the shaktis of Brahman and they are inseparable from Him.

c) As Vallabha it is accepted that the souls are monadic fragments of God, but absolute non-difference existing between them is not acceptable. The souls as shaktis cannot be absolutely identical with Him even in liberation.

d) Jiva Gosvami says that the relation of identity-in-difference between Brahman and the world, or between Brahman and jiva, cannot be proved by mens of the relation of cause and effect, for the cause and the effect can never ne one. The cause does not appear as effect in the state of cause and the effect does not appear as effect in the state of effect. Also the relation of part and the whole does not fit well. In the case of Brahman, the part actually is the whole and has the same qualities and powers as the whole.

e) Ramanuja holds that the relation of soul to God is that of ‘body to the soul’ or ‘attribute to substance’. The soul is inseparable from God in a causal as well as in a effect state.

  Madhva rejects this relation of body and soul, and to him souls are different from God.

f) To Vallabha, the relation of soul to God is that of part to the whole.

  Unlike Ramanuja he does not say that souls are inseparable from God. He holds that though the souls are manifestations of God, they have separate existences.

 To Vallabha the atomic nature of the soul becomes pervasive when God’s bliss becomes manifest in it. Both Ramanuja and Madhva reject this view and they hold that anutva of soul remains unaltered in both states.

g) Nimbarka and Shri Chaitanya both accept bedhabheda but while Nimbarka puts the soul under the category of ‘dependent’ reality, Shri Chaitanya explains it as the manifestation of God’s shakti. Both of them reject Ramanuja’s view of modification, Vallabha’s view of essential identity, and Madhva’s view of pure dualism between soul and God.


IV. Some difficulties


a) Ramanuja has employed the analogy of body and soul to explain the relation between soul and God. He says that just as the soul is not affected by the defects of body in the same way God is not affected by the defects of individual soul. But we find that the soul which is the only conscious principle in the body suffers when the body is hurt.

  Ramanuja has regarded souls as an attribute of God, and a substance in itself. But it is not conceivable as to how one and same thing can be both attribute and substance.

  These difficulties were bound to come in Ramanuja’s system because while on the one hand he maintains difference between God and soul on the other hand he calls the soul inseparable from God to show its dependence on God.

b) Madhva being Realist denounced Ramanuja’s attempt to reconcile Absolutism and Pluralism and maintained the absolute difference between God and souls. But he too has to face some difficulties.

  It might be urged that if soul is eternal like God Himself and entirely different from Him, how can we say that God alone is supreme and soul is dependent on Him. The notion of God’s supremacy is logically inconsistent if there is some second entity which is existentially independent and real as God Himself.

c) Vallabha tried to avoid the difficulties of Ramanuja and Madhva is his system of Pure-Monism. He holds that the souls are essentially the same as God, and holds the relation of whole and part between the two. In ordinary sense the parts make th whole, and whole is dependent on parts.

  But in Vallabha’s system, the souls which are regarded as parts, depend on God who is the whole. He says that just as the sparks are part of fire and depend on fire in the same way souls are parts of God and are dependent on Him.

  Vallabha says that God is not affectd by the defects os the soul just as light is not affected by the objects it illuminates. But this analogy does not carry sense because objects are not parts of light.

  It cannot be said that soul and God are not only with the bliss aspect obscured: though the two are similar, some differnce must be maintained between them. If they are essentially the same then there is no problem of relation between them.

d) Nimbarka classifies Reality into two, Independent and dependent. He maintains the relation of both bheda and abheda between God and souls. But the view of bhedabheda sounds contradictory to our logical understanding.

e) Shri Chaitanya made an improvement on the views of other thinkers by holding that souls and matter are the shaktis of God and are inseparable from Him.

  He realized the practical unthinkability of the doctrine of bhedabheda and did not indulge in reasoning to show that one and the same thing can be both different and non-different from the identical thing and considereing this dificulty He regards the relation as acintya.


V. God, karma


a) Madhva holds that God cannot be regarded to be guilty of partiality or cruelty in His treatment of persons because He rewards or punishes them according to the moral law of shruti. The chains of karma has no recognizable beginning and the present of the persons is determined by the karmas of early stage. The question of inequality at the first stage does not arise, the chain of karma is anadi.

b) Vallabha has attributed the presence of evil to God’s will. It is a part of Divine Lila; an expression of His joyous activity. Both good and evil are necessary in the world play to suit His purpose. Thus unlike other vaishnavas who attribute evil to karma, etc. Vallabha regards it an integral part of His divine lila.


VI. karma, jnana and bhakti


a) Vallabha and Ramanuja also hold that although bhakti is the most effective means of mukti, the usefulness of knowledge cannot be denounced.

  Madhva says that devotion which involves love for God is the result of the knowledge of God and the knowledge of the inanimate and animate things.

  But the Gaudiyas say that bhakti is not in need of jnana and karma.

b) Thus bhakti is said to be the direct pathway to perfection and karma and jnana are regarded as auxiliaries to bhakti. But the degree of importance attached to karma and jnana is different according to each thinker.

  Ramanuja has regarded karma and jnana as equally important. To him the two are independent. Desinterested performance of duty is a necessary precondition for the realization of atma.

  But Madhva regarded karma as less important than jnana. To him, although it is necessary for human beings to work through karma , it should be regarded only as an accessory to spiritual realization.

c) Vallabha regards both karma and jnana as necessary for spiritual progression and as auxilliary to each other.

d) Nimbarka holds that karma is subordinate to jnana - for the attainment of jnana one must perform actions. The effects of karmas are destroyed through knowledge.

e) Shri Chaitanya’s views is different. He holds that bhakti is independent to karma and jnana. Unlike karma and jnana, bhakti is capable of leading to the right goal independently.

f) Vallabha and Shri Chaitanya have considered bhakti both a means and an end in itself.