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3. What Is Siddhanta?
Each Vedantist school is known for its siddhanta, or "essential conclusion" about the relationships between God and the soul, the soul and matter, matter and matter, matter and God, and the soul and souls. Shankara's siddhanta is advaita, "nondifference" (everything is one; therefore these five relationships are unreal). All the other siddhantas support the reality of these relationships from various points of view. Ramanuja's siddhanta is visistadvaita, "qualified nondifference." Madhva's siddhanta is dvaita, "difference." Vishnusvami's siddhanta is suddhadvaita, "purified nondifference." And Nimbarka's siddhanta is dvaita-advaita, "difference and identity."
The Bengali branch of Madhva's sampradaya is known as the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Sampradaya, or the Chaitanya Sampradaya. In the 1700s this school presented Indian philosophers with a commentary on Vedanta-sutra written by Baladeva Vidyabhushana that argued yet another siddhanta. It is called acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which means "simultaneous, inconceivable oneness and difference." In recent years this siddhanta has become known to people all over the world due to the popularity of the books of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Acintya-bhedabheda philosophy maintains the same standpoint of "difference" as Madhva's siddhanta on the fivefold relationship of God to soul, soul to matter, matter to matter, matter to God, and soul to soul. But acintya-bhedabheda-tattva further teaches the doctrine of shaktiparinamavada (the transformation of the Lord's shakti), in which the origin of this fivefold differentiation is traced to the Lord's play with His shakti, or energy. Because the souls and matter emanate from the Lord, they are one in Him as His energy yet simultaneously distinct from Him and one another. The oneness and difference of this fivefold relationship is called acintya, or inconceivable, because, as Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport to Bhagavad-gita 18.78, "Nothing is different from the Supreme, but the Supreme is always different from everything." As the transcendental origin and coordinator of His energies, God is ever the inconceivable factor.