The Vedanta School of Philosophy

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

The Vedanta School of Philosophy was also known as the Uttara Mimamsa school, concentrated on the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads rather than on the ritualistic injunctions of the Brahmanas.

With the traditional Vedic karma kanda being continued to be practiced as meditative and propitiatory rites, more knowledge centered understanding began to emerge. It focused on meditation, self-discipline and spiritual connectivity more than on the practical aspects of religion such as rituals and rites. Its thoughts were drawn on Vedic cosmology, hymns and philosophy.

The way in which the Vedanta sutras are presented provides for a multitude of interpretations leading to a proliferation of Vedanta schools in six sub schools. Each of these sub schools has produced its own series of sub-commentaries with interpretations in its own way with each claiming to be faithful to the original.

The six sub schools of Vedanta School of philosophy are as follows.

Advaita - The Advaita philosophy is probably the best-known of all Vedanta schools. It means "not two" referring to as a monistic or non-dualistic system, emphasizing on oneness. Sri Adi Shankaracharya preached this philosophy through exposing the relative nature of the world by analyzing the three states of experience of the waking, the dreaming and the deep sleeping. It emphasizes on the non-dual reality of Brahman in which atman or the individual soul and the brahman or the ultimate reality expressed in the Trimurti are identified to be the same.
VisishtAdvaita - The VisishtAdvaita philosophy was propounded by Ramanujacharya who was the foremost proponent of Saguna Brahman, the concept of Brahman, the ultimate power, having a definite form, name, and attributes. He saw Sriman Narayana as the supreme Brahman. According to him, the Ultimate reality had three aspects such as Ishvara (Vishnu), chit (soul), and achit (matter). He also said that Vishnu is the only independent reality, while souls and matter are dependent on God for their existence.
Dvaita - The Dvaita philosophy was founded by Sri Madhvacharya who identified God with Vishnu but his view of reality was purely pluralistic. It was supposed to be Tattvavada or pluralism instead of Dvaita or dualism. In this philosophy, there are three ultimate realities which are Ishvara (god), jiva (soul), jada (matter). Souls are not created, but are dependent on Ishavara and are supported by his will. There are five distinctions made in this philosophy. They are god is distinct from a soul, god is distinct from a matter, a soul is distinct from a matter, a soul is distinct from another soul, and a matter is distinct from another matter.
Dvaitadvaita (Bhedabheda) - The Dvaitadvaita philosophy proposed by Nimbarka who was a 13th Century Vaishnava Philosopher hailing from Andhra Region. According to this philosophy, the three important categories of existence are Chit, Achit, and Isvara. Chit and achit are different from Isvara, as they have attributes (Guna) and capacities (Swabhaava), which are different from those of Isvara. Isvara is independent, but chit and achit have existence dependent on Him, but are not different from Isvara, as they cannot exist independently of Him. Nimbarka had the highest object of worship as Krishna and his consort Radha, attended by thousands of gopis, or cowherdesses, of the celestial Vrindavana.
Suddhadvaita - The Suddhadvaita was proposed by Vallabhacharya who belonged to Andhra region but eventually settled in Gujarat.
Achintya Bheda Abheda - The Achintya Bheda Abheda was proposed by Chaitanya who was a great devotee of Krishna. He proposed a synthesis between the monist and dualist philosophies by stating that the soul is equally distinct (bheda) and non-distinct (abheda) from God. He identified Krishna as god. ISKCON which is also called as the Hare Krishna movement was started by Chaitanya.


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