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5. Differences Among the Four Vaishnava Sampradayas
The four Vaishnava sampradayas all agree that Vishnu is the cause, but they explain His relationship with His creation differently. In visistadvaita, the material world is said to be the body of Vishnu, the Supreme Soul. But the dvaita school does not agree that matter is connected to Vishnu as body is to soul, because Vishnu, God, is transcendental to matter. The world of matter is full of misery, but since Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12 defines God as anandamaya (abundantly blissful), how can nonblissful matter be His body? The truth, according to the dvaita school is that matter is ever separate from Vishnu but yet is eternally dependent upon Vishnu; by God's will, says the dvaita school, matter becomes the ingredient cause of the world. The suddhadvaita school cannot agree with the dvaita school that matter is the ingredient cause, because matter has no independent origin apart from God. Matter is actually not different from God in the same way an effect is not different from its cause, although there is an appearance of difference. The example of the ocean and its waves is given by suddhadvaita philosophers to illustrate their argument that the cause (the ocean) is the same as the effect (the waves). The dvaitadvaita school agrees that God is both the cause and effect but is dissatisfied with the suddhadvaita school's standpoint that there is really no difference between God and the world. The dvaitadvaita school says that God is neither one with nor different from the world -- He is both. A snake, the dvaitadvaita school argues, can neither be said to have a coiled form nor a straight form. It has both forms. Similarly, God's "coiled form" is His transcendental nonmaterial aspect, and His "straight form" is His mundane aspect. But this explanation is not without problems. If God's personal nature is eternity, knowledge, and bliss, how can the material world, which is temporary, full of ignorance, and miserable, be said to be just another form of God?