Advait, Dvait and Vishishtadvait

In previous articles we talked about different philosophies (darshan) of India:

Philosophies of India

Are Vedas mutually contradictory? (Bhed Abhed and Ghatak shutis)

Now, let’s discuss various schools of Vedant-darshan and how they differ; as well how Ramanuj brought Samanvay to produce the most complete philosophy of all time.


Advait Vedant was propounded by Adi Shankaracharya and it puts emphasis on Abhed-Shruti.

Dvaita (द्वैत) = Duality,
A + Dvaita (अ + द्वैत)=Advaita = not- duality

Advait describes that there is only one reality and one truth i.e. Brahman. All else is not real, not eternal and is of transient nature (Mithya, मिथ्या). Brahman is changeless, formless, indivisible, unchanging, immutable, beyond guna-s (attributes), beyond the reach of 5 senses, mind and beyond the realms of mAyA (माया).

मनसैवानुद्रष्टव्यं, नेह नानास्ति किंचन ।
मृत्योः स मृत्युमाप्नोति य इह नानेव पश्यति ॥ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.19||

manasaivānudraṣṭavyaṃ, neha nānāsti kiṃcana |
mṛtyoḥ sa mṛtyumāpnoti ya iha nāneva paśyati || 19 ||

Meaning: There is no difference, whatsoever in It. He goes from death to death, who sees difference, as it were, in It.

ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या जीवो ब्रहैव नापरः
brahma satyam jaganmithyA jIvo brahmaiva nAparah
Brahman (ब्रह्म, the Absolute) is alone real; this world is unreal; the Jiva or the individual soul is non-different from Brahman

  1. Brahman is attributeless i.e. bereft of any attributes. (Nirvishesh or Nirgun Brahm)
  2. Ishvar (SaguNa Brahman, सगुण ब्रह्म) is the product of maya.  Ishvara has 6 upAdhi-s (उपाधि, virtues) – overlordship, power, fame, riches, knowledge and freedom from being wanting (dispassion). UPAADHIS means limiting adjectives.
  3. The world is ‘vivart’ or apparently transformed through maya and is not real.
  4. Maya covers the real nature of Brahman (Aavaran-shakti) and make it appear as manifold (Vikshep-shakti).
  5. Jiva is all-prevading and identical with Brahman but it’s indivisualised with ‘upaadhi’ (a limiting adjunct) and reagards itself as ‘atomic’ and part of Brahman
  6. Knowledge is the only means for liberation. (वाक्यार्थ जनित ज्ञानं). Knowledge obtained from hearing, reasoning and meditating on texts likeतत्वमसि : That thou art -(Sama Veda, Chandogya Upanishad – 6.8.7)Meaning: That (Brahman) is you)
  7. Knowers of sagun Brahma goes through Brahma-loka (archiraadi maarg) from where they don’t return but attain Brahman at the end of cycle.
  8. The knowers of Nirgun Brahma attain it without having to go through the path of gods.
    1. In Advait, there are three levels of truth.  Three Levels of truths are – vyavahArika satya, prAtibhAsika satya and pAramArthika satya.
      VyavahArika Satya
      VyavahAra means day-to-day affairs. VyavahArika satya means that which is true or appears to be true in day-to-day life. In other words, it is practical reality.
      PrAtibhAsika Satya
      PrAtibhAsa means illusion or appearence. PrAtibhAsika satya is the truth which is only true in the dream state. This truth is within mind. During sleep, mind creates another world. Dream world is true for dreamer, but when one is awake, this world disappears without leaving any trace.
      PAramArthika Satya
      ParamArtha means absolute truth or highest truth. PAramArthika satya means that which remains truth in all states at all times. That which is present everywhere, without beginning or end. There is no abhAva or absence of pAramArthika satya. Hence it is called as absolute truth. Shruti says Brahman is absolute truth.
  9. In Vyavhaarik Satya; Bhed shrutis and Vedic texts describing attributes or gunas of Brahman are accepted; not in PAramArthika Satya.

E.g. Various phases of moon: Moon seems to be of different shapes each day but does it means that there are 15 different moons? At Vyavhaarika Satya level, 15 shapes of moon are there but at Parmarthik satya level, there is only one moon.

Vi chu

Meaning: As, when a jar is broken, the space enclosed by it becomes palpably the limitless space, so when the apparent limitations are destroyed, the knower of Brahman verily becomes Brahman Itself.

As milk poured into milk, oil into oil, and water into water, becomes united and
one with it, so the sage who has realised the Atman becomes one in the Atman.


Dvait vedant was propounded by Sri Madhavacharya. Dvait Vedant is based on Bhed-shrutis.

Basic tenets of Acharya Madhwa’s teachings

shrI vyaasa thirtha has beautifully captured the essence of shrI MadhvAchArya’s philosophy in this verse
shrIman Madhva Mate harih paratarah Satyam Jagat Tattvato
bhinno jeeva ganaah, hareh anucharAh, nichochha bhavam
gatAh Muktih Naija sukhAnubhUtiramalA bhaktishcha tat
saadhanam Hi Aksyaadi tritayam pramaanam akhilam Amnaayaika
vedyo harih

  1. Vishnusarvottamativa – Supremacy of Lord Vishnu
  2. Vayujeevottamatva – Supremacy of Vayu among Jeevas
  3. The World is REAL (satya) and not illusory
  4. Panchabheda – Five fold distinction
  5. Bhakti (Devotion to God) is the sure route to God

 As per Dvait of Madhava, everything is completely different from each other. Tattvavâda follows the doctrine of pancha bheda


— difference between

  1. God and the Souls,
  2. between the Souls,
  3. between God and Inert Matter,
  4. between the Souls and Inert Matter and
  5. between Inert Matter items themselves —

(Paramâtma-Jîva, Jîva-Jîva, Paramâtma and Jada, Jîva and Jada, and Jada and Jada.)

Mahâbhârata Tâtparya Nirnaya of Achârya Madhva (Chapter 1, Sarva Shâstrârtha Sangraha, shloka 71):

paJNchabhedA ime nityAH sarvavasthAsu sarvashaH | muktAnAM cha na hIyante tAratamyaM cha sarvadA ||

Gradation of aatmas, devtaas and Gradation of Aanandam

There is a gradual gradation among different souls called Taratamya. Every aatma is not eligible for mukti but only sattvika aatma or devas are. For them, Putana and Shishupal didn’t attain liberation and were sent to naraka or hell.

He divides souls into three classes. One class of souls, mukti-yogyas, qualifies for liberation, another, the nitya-samsarins, subject to eternal rebirth or eternal transmigration and a third class, tamo-yogyas, who are condemned to eternal hell (andhatamasa).[11]

Following is the hierarchy of Taratamya Devataas:

  1. Paramathma, Hari Vishnu (Sarvottama; Purusha)
  2. Rama Devi, Mahalakshmi (Avyaka Tatva; Mula prakruti)
  3. Brahma and Vayu (mahatatva)
  4. Saraswathi or Brahma Pathni and Bharathi or Vayu Pathni (Mahadavyaktha)
  5. Garuda, Shesha and Rudra (Ahankara Tatva)
  6. Krishna’s shanmahishi’s: Nila, Bhadra, Mitra Ninda, Kalandi, Lakshna, Jambavathi, tulasi
  7. Swuparni or Garuda Pathni, Varuni or Shesha Pathni and Parvathi or Rudra Pathni
  8. Indra and Kama (manaswathva)
  9. Ahamkarika Prana (Tyjasahamkara, Tvagindriya)
  10. Daksha (Panindriya), Anirudda and Kamaputra, Rathi and Kamapathni, Swayumbhuva Manu (Upastheindriya) Bruhaspathi (shabda), shachi and Indra pathni
  11. Pravahavayu (Vayutatva, Bhutavayu)
  12. Surya (Chakshurindriya), Shataroopa or Swayambhuva Manupathni, Chandra (Shotendriya) and Yama
  13. Varuna (Aaptatva, Rasanendriya)
  14. Narada
  15. Prasoothadevi, Bhrugu and Pradhnagni (Vagindriya, Tejotatva)
  16. Sapta Rishi’s, Prahlada and Vyvaswathamanu
  17. Mitra, Pravahidevi and Tara : Bruhaspathi’s wives and NiR^ti who is Rakshadinatha
  18. Vishyaksena, Ashwini Devataas (Pranenindriya), Ganapathi(Akasha Tatva) Kubera and Shata Devataas.

In the utmost sense all names point to Him. Brahman, Vishnu, Narayana etc are some of his important names.

Their philosophy of aanand-tartamya i.e. gradation of Aanandam in mukta-state doesn’t find support from Scriptures.


Vishistadvait (विशिष्टाद्वैत)= Vishisht (Qualified)+ Advait (विशिष्ट +अद्वैत).

What’s ‘Vishist’ in Vishishtadvait?

Ans: (Guna, Vigrah, vibhuti )

vishistadvait and advaitvishishtadvaitvishisht Brahman

  1. Brahman is not attributeless but essentially personal God and possessing infinite personal attributes.
  2. ‘Mithya doctrine’ is not accepted. World is real and produced by Brahman
  3. Jiva is really atomic and produced by Brahman
  4. There is no distinction between Ishwar (sagun Brahm) and Nirgun Brahm (devoid of bad-attributes); since there is no any higher knowledge or lower knowledge of Brahman
  5. Bhakti is the chief means to liberation.
  6. The world and the aatmas are inseparable attribute of Brahman – aprithak Siddhi Visheshan
  7. The world, aatma one hand and Brahman on another hand can be integrated into Organic whole. i.e. Brahman is qualified or Vishisht by (world and jeevatmas). Thus there is only one tattva i.e. Vishisht-Brahman (Brahman qualified by chit and achit). Thus this philosophy is called Vishist-advait.

What the Advaitins say about these seemingly contradictory Vedic passages:

Only those passages that propound the identicalness of the Supreme Soul and Individual Soul are to be considered as prominent”. The reasons:

  1. The concept of Vidhi (Purovada)
  2. The concept of Anuvada
  3. Anuvada sentences having less prominence than the Purovada sentences
  4. Hence the prominence of passages that propound the identicalness of the Supreme Soul and Individual Soul

Purv Mimansha 6.5.54

Bteween two contradictory expiatory injunctions, a later one is of greater force and sublates the earlier one.

What the Dvaitins say about these seemingly contradictory Vedic passages

Only those passages that propound the distinction of the Supreme Soul and Individual Soul are to be considered as prominent”. The reasons:

  1. Even the Vedas will not say something that is totally contradictory to popular cognition.
  2. Two totally different  entities cannot become one under any circumstances
  3. Those passages that propound the non-distinction of the Supreme Soul and Individual Soul are to be considered as ‘Gauna’ – the implied meaning is to be taken into account rather than the literal meaning.
  4. Hence the prominence of passages that propound the distinction of the Supreme Soul and Individual Soul

How Sri Ramanujacharya reconciled these apparently contradictory Vedic Passages and arrived at a Universal philosophy:

  1. Ramanujacharya felt, “we should not give our own solutions to resolve these apparent differences. We should look into the Upanishads themselves and find out an authentic solution”
  2. Each and every verse of Vedas are equally sacred. No any verse is greater or lesser than another verse. There is no contradictions in Vedas.
  3. Evolving the concept of ‘Ghataka shruti’ evolved by Sri Ramanujacharya
  4. The manner in which the ‘Ghataka shruti-s’ resolve the contradictions in an amicable manner without sacrificing the authenticity or sanctity of the Upanishadic passages.


Satyam Gyanam Ananatam Brahm (tat.3.1)

As per Advait, Existence, knowledge and bliss itself is Brahman. Brahman is not any personal being. If knowledge and bliss is to taken as attributes than there would be lot of contradictory attributes and thus more than one Brahman.


One object is qualified by different attributes. Tattriya Upanishad (3.1) doesn’t define Brahman to be attribute-less. The three terms are in co-ordination and denotes three attributes of Brahman.

neelah ghatah

Nirgun Brahm meaning

यत्तदद्रेश्यमग्राह्यमगोत्रमवर्णमचक्षुःश्रोत्रं तदपाणिपादम् ।
नित्यं विभुं सर्वगतं सुसूक्ष्मं तदव्ययं यद्भूतयोनिं परिपश्यन्ति धीराः ॥ Mundak Upanishad 1.1.6

yattadadreśyamagrāhyamagotramavarṇamacakṣuḥśrotraṃ tadapāṇipādam |
nityaṃ vibhuṃ sarvagataṃ susūkṣmaṃ tadavyayaṃ yadbhūtayoniṃ paripaśyanti dhīrāḥ || 6 ||

Meaning: That which is not perceived, not grasped, without origin, colourless, without eyes or ears, or hand or feets. That which is eternal, yet of manifold expressions, all-prevading, extremly subtle and undecaying. He is the source of all creation. Wise behold everywhere.

ब्रह्मशब्देन च स्वभावतः निरस्तनिखिलदोषः अनधिकाशय असंख्येयकल्याणगुणगणः पुरुषोत्तमो अभिधीयते (श्रीभाष्य)।

First half denies all evil qualities in Brahman and in latter half ascribes to it all the auspicious qualities. It doesn’t depend upon organs for knowledge and actions. 

sagun brahmsagun brahm2


That Brahman is a knowing subject is known from the texts

(Chhandogya 6.3.2): seyaṃ devatemāstisro devatā anenaiva

It thought…

(Aittriya 1.1.1)

आत्मा वा इदमेक एवाग्र आसीत्। नान्यत् किंचन मिषत्। स ईक्षत लोकान्नु सृजा इति।।1.1.1।।

Meaning: In the beginning (all) this was verily the Atman alone. There was nothing else active. It willed, let me project the world.

(Shvetaswar 6.8).

न तस्य कार्यं करणं च विद्यते न तत्समश्चाभ्यधिकश्च दृश्यते।
परास्य शक्तिर्विविधैव श्रूयते स्वाभाविकी ज्ञानबलक्रिया च।।

Meaning: His high power is revealed as manifold, forming his essential nature which is knowledge, strength and action.

tattriya Upanishad 2.9 

यतो वाचो निवर्तन्ते। अप्राप्य मनसा सह। आनन्दं ब्रह्मणो विद्वान्। न बिभेति कुतश्चनेति

Meaning: “One who knows the bliss of the Brahman, from which all mind and speech turns away without reaching it”

In Bhagwat Gita, 7.6-7; 9.4-5; 10.3; 10.42; 15.17-18

In Vishnu Puran: 1.2.10-14; 1.12.53; 6.5.82-87; 6.7.69-71

Means of salvation:

upaasana stepsupaasana steps2upaasana

This kind of constant remembrance is called Bhakti i.e. devout worship.

स्नेहपूर्वं अवधारयेत भक्ति

Loving meditation or Remembrace of the object meditated upon like a continuous stream of oil, tipping into a container.dhyan.JPG

Aatma is both Knowledge personified as well as Knower

aatman is knowledge itself by nature called DHARMI GYAAN. Aatman possess knowledge as well which helps it to understand the surrounding and realize it’s essential nature i.e. Knowledge (Gyanam). The attributive knowldge is called DHARM GYAAN.

dharmbhut gyaanam.JPG


  1. Sribhasyam class and ppt
  2. Sribhasya translation by Swami Vireswaranand

Author: ramanujramprapnna

studying Ramanuj school of Vishishtadvait vedant

6 thoughts on “Advait, Dvait and Vishishtadvait”

  1. Can you explain this alittle more clear…
    Their philosophy of aanand-tartamya i.e. gradation of Aanandam in mukta-state doesn’t find support from Scriptures.
    And did Madhvacharyas philosophy say that there is no way out for some souls in this sansara?Wont they become eligable after many life times


    1. Tamoguni aatmas have hatred for God in his swarupa or nature. Thus, they never attain mukti.
      They have a verse from Ishopanishad and another from Bhagwat Gita to support this view.

      Sattvik jeevatma performs upasana and attains liberation.


  2. Does Ramaunjacarya see Sri Adi Shankaracarya as a hidden Vaishnava or a Mayavadi??? I am asking this because Sri Shankaracarya has written many hymns for Lord Visnu like Sri Visnu Bhunjagam,Achyuta Astakam, Jagannath Astakam, Bhajo Govindam, Krishna Astakam, Ranganatha Astakam and many more.🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼


    1. You are mixing two things. Mayavaad is philosophy I.e. creation is maaya kaaryam.

      Vaishnava is faith. Having faith in supremacy of Vishnu. And, why does he need to hide his faith?

      He was not hidden Vaishnava. He was a pure Vaishnava.


      1. Isn’t Sriman Madhvacarya’s Tattvavada and Sriman Ramanujacarya’s Visistaadvaita 70-80% apart from some Philosphical differences??


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: