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Though the philosophy of the Vedas were brought to its culmination

in the Upanishadic age, the phase between post-Upanishadic age
and pre-Buddhistic age had seen great religions and philosophical
upheaval in India which attracted severe criticisms. This was mainly
due to the religious dominations of the Brahmana priests. They
were given more to the externals of worship, relegating the
substance of them. As such rituals and sacrifices were elaborated to
such an extent by the Brahmins, that persons of rationalistic bent of
mind revolted and questioned the very efficacy of the sacrificial
religion. Dr. Radhakrishnan says ‘When attempts are made to
smother the intellectual curiosity of people, the mind of man rebels
against it, and the inevitable reaction shows itself in an impatience
of all formal authority and a wild outbreak of the emotional life long
repressed by the discipline of the ceremonial religion.’ [1]
The tidal wave of rationalism in its extreme form gave rise to such
schools of thought as the Charvakas, which are extremely
materialistic and anti-religious.
The destructive criticism of everything in the old system by the
Charvakas and the other schools of philosophy set the orthodox
section to organize their belief on a more rationalistic basis and
render it immune against all such criticism. This led to the
foundation of the six systems of orthodox Hindu philosophy, viz.,
Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purvamimansa, Uttaramimansa.

They are called orthodox in the sense that they accepted the
authority of the Vedas, while there were others who did not accept
this authority and therefore were known as heterodox, though
otherwise they too were the outcome of the Upanishadic thought.
The acceptance of the authority of the Vedas by these orthodox
schools, however, does not mean, that they accepted them in toto.
Their allegiance to the Vedas varied widely. While Purva Mimansa
and Vedanta directly accepted their allegiance to the Vedas, the
others indirectly accepted it.
These six orthodox systems of thought developed side by side at
different intellectual centers. However, with the passage of time,
differences cropped up even within each system and things became
so unwieldy that a regular systematization of each became a great
This lead to the sutra literature. Sutras means clues which
consisted in short aphorisms. Sutras of different philosophical
schools have cropped up. Brahman Sutra of Badarayana is one such
systematization of the thought contained in the Upanishads.
Besides Badarayana, there were other Sutrakaras even of Vedanta
schools, such as Jaimini, Asmarathya and others mentioned in the
Brahman Sutra itself. However it was Badarayana’s Brahman Sutra
which gained prominence and popularity. Great Acharyas have
commentaries on it. The reason for the advent of so many
commentaries on the Sutras of Badarayana may be ascribed to the
facts like the brevity of the Sutras, the sutras not being arranged
according to the chapters and sections, Badarayana’s silence about
his own decision with regard to the fundamental questions in the
Sutra, etc. However, the oldest of the extant commentaries is by


3.2.1 Life of Shankara:-

Shankara occupies a very prominent position in the domain of
Indian Philosophy. He combined in his personality a formidable
capacity of debating, a rare power of speculative thinking. With this
rare combination of the qualities of head and heart there should not
be any wonder that Shankara gave a new orientation to Indian
philosophy and Hinduism and influenced subsequent thinkers
When was this great son of India born? An answer to this question
cannot be given precisely. It has been generally accepted by many
modern Indologists that he lived between 788 and 820 A.D.
Shankara was born at Kaladi in the modern Kerala state, of a
Namboodari Brahmin family. He lost his father quite early. Naturally
therefore the work of looking after him was left to his mother. It is
said that Shankara felt the call of renunciation when he was in his
Shankara became a disciple of Govindapada. By the age of sixteen,
Shankara completed his studies. He went to Varanasi for the
expounding of his Vedantic mission and there he wrote many of his
famous commentaries. He toured almost the whole of India to
establish the supremacy of his thought and established the four
Shankara Mathas in the four directions of India viz. the Jyotir Matha
(Badrinath) in the North, the Sarda Matha (Puri) in the East, the
Sringeri Matha in the South, and the Govardhana Matha (Dwarka)
in the West.
Among the commentaries can be included Brahman Sutra Bhasya,
also known as Sariraka Bhasya, Gita Bhasya, and the Bhasyas on
the Upanishads –Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mundaukya,
Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya, Brhadaranyaka, Svetasvatara, and
Nrisimhataapini. Shankara also wrote panegyrics addressed to the

various deities. They are Ananda Lahari, Govindastaka,
Daksinamurti-stotram, Dasasloki, Carpata Panjarika, Dvadasa
Panjarika etc.

3.2.2 Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta:-

The philosophy propagated by Adi Shankara is known as ‘Advaita’ or
non-dualism. It is not that he was the first teacher of Advaita, the
other teachers before him being the sages like Yajnavalkya,
Uddalaka, Gaudapada, and many others. But Shankara’s intellectual
treatment made it more logical and systematic. Dr. Radhakrishnan
says ‘His philosophy stands forth complete, needing neither a before
nor an after….It expounds its own presuppositions, is ruled by its
own end, and holds all its elements in a stable, reasoned
Shankara, follows the monism imbedded in the Upanishads and
declare that Brahman is the only Ontological Reality, everything
else is just name and form. It is attributeless, indeterminate and
without a second. It can be only envisaged as Existence, Knowledge
and Bliss.
The world is only an appearance in the Brahman, like the snake in a
rope, and is not ultimately real.
There is no essential difference between individual soul or Jiva, and
Brahman. Jiva’s separate existence is through ‘Upadhi’ due to Maya
(ignorance or delusion). Once it realizes it’s true nature, it is
released from bondage of ignorance and attains salvation.
The main metaphysical tenets of Shankara’s Advaita are discussed
as under.

3.2.3 Atman:-
Man occupies a central position in Vedanta, for it is for the salvation
of man that Vedanta undertakes philosophical discussions. Even
‘Brahman Sutra’ is called ‘Sariraka Sutra’ because it is written for

man. But what is the real nature of man? Is he the body, the
senses, the mind , the intellect? Or is he a bundle of experiences?
It needs rational speculation to answer this question.
In an attempt to answer this question Shankara starts with
experience, for experience of a man cannot be denied. However, for
the next step he asks a more basic question, i.e., what pre-
supposes them all? In the introduction to the commentary on
Vedanta Sutra, he asks whether there is anything in experience
which may be regarded as foundational. The senses may deceive us
and our memory may be an illusion. The past and future may be
abstractions. All objects of knowledge may be matters of belief and
so open to doubt. However, there seems to be still something in
experience transcending it.
No one doubts one’s own existence. Everyone is conscious of his
own existence. The self is prior to stream of consciousness, prior to
truth and falsehood, prior to reality and illusion, good and evil. The
very existence of understanding and its functions presuppose an
intelligence known as the self, or Atman, which is different from
them, and which they subserve.
This Atman is self-established or self-proved, for it cannot be
proved through any proofs concerning the self. It cannot be proved,
since it is the basis of all proof and is established prior to all proof.
On the other hand it is the self that uses the various Pramanas like
perception etc. to prove the objects besides it . It cannot be known
by means of thought, since thought himself is a part of the ever-
changing not-self. It is known to exist on account of its immediate
Again, this self is not the empirical ‘me’ or self-consciousness or the
Ahankara. For empirical self is a creature of the natural world,
and there would not be any natural world, if there were not the
presupposition of the principle ‘I’.

Each function and faculty, the gross body and the vital breath, the
senses and the internal organ, the empirical ‘me’ appear only on the
basis of and in relation to Atman. They all serve an end beyond
themselves, and depend on some deeper ground of existence.
But, all these negative epithets do not prove self to be a non-entity,
for there is no consciousness or experience possible apart from it.
The Atman cannot be doubted or denied, for it is the essential
nature of him who denies it.
The Sunyavada denies the presence of any permanent Self. This
contradicts Shankara’s main position, that the Atman cannot be
denied, for the act of denying presupposes it.
The natural question that arises now is that What is the nature of
the self?
In Viveka-Cudamami he says:
‘An eternal somewhat, upon which the conviction
relating to the ego rests, exists as itself, being
different from the five sheaths and the witness of
the three conditions.’[3]
Being the presupposition of everything, even the ego, it is eternal
and self-existent. It is different from the five sheaths, viz.,
Annamaya (the physical), Pranamaya (the vital Pranas), Manomaya
(the mental), Vijnanamaya (the intellectual) and Anandamaya (the
blissful) and is covered by them. They are sheaths because, the Self
can very well alienate itself from them. Philosophically the true
criteria of reality is that which persists through all the states.
In ordinary parlance though we use the word ‘I’ which seems to
imply sometimes the body(e.g. ‘I am fat’), sometimes a sense (e.g.
‘I am blind), sometimes motor organ (e.g. ‘I am lame’), sometimes
a mental faculty(e.g. ‘I am dull’),sometimes consciousness (e.g. ‘I
know’). Yet that is the real ‘I’ which persists through all the physical
and mental states. Consequently what persists through the body,

senses, mind, etc. is the consciousness which is the essence of the
Self .
If again we compare the three states, namely of waking,
dreaming, and dreamless sleep, the self is that which abides by all
the three states and that is consciousness. In the waking state
there is the consciousness of the outside world, in the dream state
of the dream of the objects. In dreamless state no object
consciousness is there, but consciousness of some sort is still there,
for when we wake up we feel that we had a peaceful sleep. It may
be argued that the subsequent consciousness of a dreamless sleep
is due to the memory of the state before sleep and perception of
the state after the sleep. But we cannot infer a thing which is not
Shankara denies the Yogachara view that the soul is nothing more
than a series of mental states. For a principle of consciousness is
needed even for the connection of such series of mental
consciousness. If there is no abiding substance behind theses
feeling sensations then one cannot account for either memory or
The materialists identify the Self with the body and the senses. But
according to Shankara consciousness and matter represent different
kinds of reality and one cannot be reduced to the other. Nor can we
identify the self with the senses. For there will be as many selves as
the senses.
Thus the Self, whose nature is consciousness is the eternal subject,
which can never be an object. Metaphysically whatever is eternal
and immutable and complete is also self-existent, and the only real
or self-existent being is Brahman. Thus Atman is Brahman. As an
eternal subject it is distinguished from the object which includes not
only the outer world, and the physical body along with the senses,
but also with the organs of understanding.

Self is not an agent. The Nyaya school holds that agency is the very
nature of the soul. Shankara , following the Upanishads says that
agency is not the real nature of the Atman, it is super-imposed on
it. The soul is an agent only as long as it is connected with the
Upadhis, like mind, Buddhi etc. Just as a carpenter suffers when he
is busy working with his tools and happy when he leaves off work,
so does the Atman suffer when, through its connection with Buddhi
etc., is active, as in the waking and dream states, and is blissful
when it ceases to be an agent, as in deep sleep.[4]
Question may arise that if Atman is merely a witness and not an
agent itself, then how does it come to be connected with Buddhi
etc. In other words, what causes the body, mind, intellect to work
for the self ?
To this Shankara answers:
‘By reason of its proximity alone the body,
the organs, manas and buddhi apply themselves
to their proper objects as if applied (by someone else).’[5]

3.2.4 Brahman:-
Philosophy neither denies nor questions the worldly experience, but
goes beyond it to explain it. The universe is changeful by nature.
Nothing in it is permanent. On the other hand there is constant
effort on our side to transcend this finitude and transitoriness. This
gives the indication of some reality which transcends the
limitedness and mutations of this world.
Shankara agrees with the Buddhist view that all things change, but
he demands a supersensible reality which is not within the world of
change. Logically, to conceive of change we need the reality of
something which does not need the support or help of anything
else. Even an imagined object cannot float unsupported in mid air, if
there is no such reality.

From the Upanishads Shankara takes the concept of Brahman to be
the ultimate reality. But to say that Brahman is real is to imply that
it is different from phenomenal, the spatial, the temporal and the
sensible. The reality of Brahman is not of the same order as the
objects of experience, for the latter have existence in the spatio-
temporal world, but Brahman is real in the sense of being the
foundation of everything. It cannot be sensed as an object of this
world. An object of experience is known by its identity with the
similar objects, by differentiating it with the dissimilar objects. A
tree, for example, has the internal variety of leaves, flowers and
fruits, has the relation of likeness to other trees, and unlikeness to
objects other than trees, like stones etc. But Brahman has nothing
similar to it, nothing different from it, and no internal
differentiation, since all these are empirical distinctions.
Neither can we express its nature in words. For, whenever we
employ a word to denote a thing, we associate it either with some
genus of things, or some act, or quality, or mode of relation.
Brahman has no genus, possesses no qualities, does not act, and is
related to nothing else. Thus it is inexpressible by nature for, when
we say anything of it we make it into a particular thing.
Unable to describe it positively, we are compelled to denote it as
the negative of the positively known objects. We can at best say
what Brahman is not, and not what it is.
But an infinite is not merely the negation of the finite. It only shows
that Brahman is beyond speech or thought. Indescribability of
Brahman in positive terms does not render it to be a non-entity or
Sunya, for without Brahman we cannot Comprehend even this non-
In Viveka-Cudamani we find some positive epithets as well. It is
said of Brahman that,
‘….the supreme Brahman is the one reality, without a second,
it is pure wisdom , the stainless one, absolute peace

without beginning and without end, void of action
and the essence of ceaseless bliss.’[6]
Again, he says:
‘Brahman is the infinite, eternal, all-pervading light,
it can be neither taken hold of, nor abandoned,
inconceivable by the mind and inexpressible by speech,
immeasurable, without beginning, without end.’[7]
When Brahman is described as Nirguna, indeterminate or
attributeless, it only means that it is devoid of any mundane
attribute by which an object is distinguished from another. It cannot
be described as an object, i.e. as a quality of the world. But this
does not mean that it cannot be defined at all. It can be indicated.
If we notice the causal sequence in this world, we find that
particular things are produced from the more general ones. For
example pots are produced from clay and not vice versa. As
Brahman is the mere existence without any distinction, it can only
be the cause, and never the effect. Thus it can be indicated as the
supposed cause of the world. Thus, according to Shankara, the
second verse of Brahma Sutra defines Brahman as the cause of the
“Janmadasya yatah” (1.1.2)
‘that which is the cause of the world is Brahman’
Such words i.e., ‘Janmadi’(origin etc.) are not related to Brahman
as they are related to the empirical objects. But they can only
indicate Brahman. This kind of definition is termed as ‘Tatastha
Again, though devoid of mundane attributes, in perfect meditation
the nature of Brahman is realized as Pure Existence, Pure
Consciousness (Jnana Svarupa) and Pure Bliss. These are known to
be its essential nature or ‘Jnana lakshana’. However, Shankara
admits that even the definition of Brahman as Existence, Knowledge
and Bliss is imperfect though it expresses the Reality in the best

way possible. Atman is Brahman. The purely subjective is also the
purely objective. They have the same characteristics of being,
consciousness, all-pervadingness, and bliss.
In this regard it can be said that Shankara refutes the Sankhya
contention that Prakriti is the cause of the world. Prakriti being
unintelligent cannot account for the harmony and the immanent
teleology of the world. Though the world is material in nature and
Brahman is Pure Consciousness, this difference in nature is not an
impediment on their being cause and effect, for, the essential
condition of being cause and effect is that some qualities of the
cause must be found in the effect too. In this case, the essence of
Brahman, i.e., Existence, Knowledge and Bliss is found in the world
also. Everything in this world exists and is also illumined by
Sometimes names and forms are attributed to Brahman by the
scriptural texts. But Shankara says that these are meant for
Upasana (meditation)
In Taittiriya Upanishad, for example, Vrigu approaches Varuna to
know about Brahman, and the latter defines Brahman as the
“annam pranam caksuh srotram mano vacam-iti” (Taitt. Up. III-i-1)
‘Food, Prana, the eyes, the ears, the mind, and the speech—are
Shankara says that such a description only aims at Nirguna
Brahman. Thus they are definitions per accidents. Just as , when we
say that which is the snake is the rope, the snake indicates the rope
owing to the illusory connection between the two.[11]
Chandogya Upanishad says:
“This person that is seen in the eye is the self. This is immortal and
fearless; This is Brahman” (Chand. IV-xv-1).
Again, in the same Upanishad It is said:

“He is myself within the heart, smaller than a grain of rice, smaller
than a grain of barley” etc.(Chand. III-xiv-3.).
Shankara says that, these words of limitations are imaginary and
not real. They are used only for convenience of contemplation for
otherwise it is difficult to meditate on the all-pervading Brahman.[12]
Shankara excepts the Upanishadic distinction of Para and A-para
Brahman. While the indeterminate Brahman is the higher Brahman,
when it is conditioned by Maya and ascribed a personal aspect, he is
the lower Brahman. The higher Brahman is above the dualism of
name and form, but when the same reality, for the purpose of
worship is distinguished by differences or other, it is the lower
Brahman. In the highest realization where the subject is no longer
separate from the object, A-para Brahman does not fare. But in the
present conditions of knowledge Ishvara or lower Brahman is the
highest object of truth.

3.2.5 Maya:-
Shankara’s conception of Brahman entails the conception of Maya.
If Brahman alone is the sole reality, unchangeable, uncontradictable
and infinite, then whence arises this many which we experience
through the senses. Truth cannot contradict experience. Shankara
has to explain the apparent contradiction between the truth and our
everyday experience. He does it with the concept of Maya.
Shankara says that the world is the creation of Maya. This means
that there is no ultimate reality of the world. It disappears when the
knowledge of the true nature of Brahman is realized.
But the question remains what is this Maya which creates the
In short it can be said that Maya is the name of the dividing
principle or the limiting principle, that attempts to measure the
immeasurable and thus, creates forms in the formless. This
principle cannot be something different from Brahman, for the latter

is non-dual. To give Maya an independent status is to accept
dualism. Again to say Maya to be identical with Brahman would be
to miss the essential nature of Brahman, which is Consciousness.
Logically the relation of Brahman and Maya cannot be established.
For if Maya exists. It will constitute a limit to Brahman, if it does not
exist, the appearance of the world cannot be accounted for. It is
neither real as the Brahman nor unreal as the flower of the sky.
This indescribable nature of Maya is emphasized by Shankara, in
his Viveka-Cudamani, the translation of which runs as follows:
‘This Maya is neither noumenal nor phenomenal nor is it
essentially both; it is neither differentiated nor is it undifferentiated
nor is it essentially both; it is neither particled nor is it unparticled
nor is it essentially both; it is of the most wonderful an
indescribable form.’[13]
Maya is neither real nor unreal nor both
(sannapyasannapyubhayatmika no). It is not real, for it has no
existence apart from Brahman and is removed by right knowledge,
it is not unreal for it is true as long as it lasts. It cannot be said to
be both real and unreal for it is a self-contradictory conception. It is
neither identical nor different from Brahman nor both. It is not
identical because it is material and unconscious in nature whereas
Brahman is pure consciousness, again it is not different because it is
coeval and indistinguishable from Him. The relation of Maya and
Brahman is unique and is called Tadatmya
But when we try to conceive Brahman through Maya, He appears to
us as Ishvara, and Maya appears as His power or Sakti to create
this world of the manifold, but by which he Himself remains
Describing Maya, Shankara, in his Viveka-Cudamani says :
‘avyakta namni paramesa saktih anadi-avidya trigunatmika para
Karyanumeya sudhiya-eva maya yaya jagat sarvamidam prasuyate’

‘The supreme maya out of which all this universe is born, which is
Paramesasakti (the power of the supreme Lord ) called avyakta
(unmanifested) and which is the beginningless Avidya (ignorance)
having the three Gunas(qualities), is to be inferred through its
effects by our intelligence.’[14]
If we analyze this verse, we will find that Maya is described as
“Paramesha Sakti’ or the power of God to conjure up the world
show. This power is material in nature and is described as
‘Trigunatmika’ or possessed of the three Gunas , i.e., Sattva , rajas,
and Tamas. If Sattva is the power of enlightenment, rajas is the
power of distortion, and Tamas is the power of concealment.
This power is also called ‘Avyakta’. Here ‘Avyakta’ does not mean
the ‘Prakriti’ of Sankhya. It only means ‘out of which this universe is
born’, i.e., the subtle cause, origin or source of Prakriti. However,
though it is power to God, to one who takes this world show to be
the real it is Anadi-avidya or beginningless ignorance.
Beginningless, in the sense no one knows the beginning of this
This implies that Maya, as ignorance (Avidya )or (Ajnana) has two-
fold function, concealment (Avarana) and projection or distortion
(Viksepa) of it. Merely concealment of the real nature of the rope
does not give rise to the illusion, but together with it the positive
distortion or projection of the rope as something else has created
the illusion. Similarly, when Brahman is mistaken for the world, it is
not only the concealment of Brahman but also the projection of the
world act as the illusion. This is known as Adhyas or
superimposition. Superimposition, according to Shankara, is the
apparent presentation to consciousness, by way of remembrance, of
something previously observed in some other thing. It is an
apparent presentation because it is subsequently falsified.[15] As the
world is only a mental modification or superimposition, Brahman is

not affected by it, just as a rope is not affected by snake which is
assumed to exist in it.
Confusion may arise regarding the two words ‘Maya’ and ‘Avidya’,
for both of them are used to denote the same thing. But it is said
that Maya and Avidya are one and the same thing just as Brahman
and Atman are one. When we look at it from the objective side, we
speak of Maya, and when from the subjective side, we speak of
Avidya. They are subjective and objective sides of the one
fundamental fact of experience. But it should be kept in mind that
the word subjective does not indicate any individual ignorance. It is
an impersonal force which imparts itself to our individual
consciousnesses, though it transcends them. Avidya is the limitation
of our mind to know objects within the categories of space time and
causation. But this limitation is not of one or two minds It is said to
be ‘subjective’ because it is dissolvable by knowledge.
Maya is objective in the sense that it is co-eternal with God. Though
it is not the essential character of God, yet it is coeval with Him.
The wise who can see through the manifold cannot be deceived by
it. Even God Himself is not affected by this ignorance, He is not
touched by this power just like a magician is not touched by his
magic and the colourless sky is not affected by the dark colour
attributed to it.
Shankara anticipated that this method of explaining the
phenomenal world would raise a protest from the various other
schools of his time. It is for this reason at different places he raises
objections to refute them.
In Shariraka Bhasya Shankar raises the objection that how can
unreal Maya cause the real Brahman to appear as the phenomenal
world and how, again, can false personalities through false means
reach true end?
Shankara’s reply is that a person entangled in mud can get out of it
through the help of mud alone, that a thorn pricked in the body can

be taken out with the help of another thorn. Moreover, there are
many instances in this life which show that even unreal things
appear to cause real things, e.g., a reflection in a mirror is unreal
but it can correctly represent the reflected object; the roaring of a
tiger in a dream is unreal but it can make the dreamer tremble.
With fear and may awake him. Again, the objection loses its force
when it is remembered that the manifold world is taken to be real
as long as the essential unity of the Jiva with the Brahman is not
realized. As long as this knowledge does not dawn, all secular and
religious practices are taken to be real.[16]

3.2.6 World:-
From the above context it is now certain that the world is the
product of Maya.
But it does not mean that the world is merely nothing. One thing
should be remembered that when Shankara says that the world is
false, he does not mean that it is absolutely nothing. The world has
a relative existence. It is true for the time being but disappears
when true knowledge dawns. It is just like the illusion of snake in a
rope. The illusion of snake in the rope is due to our ignorance of the
substratum (Adhisthana)i.e., the rope. So long knowledge does not
dawn it is real and serves our purpose. But It is not real from the
absolute stand-point. Thus we can see that Shankara envisages
three levels of existence viz. Pratibhasika, Vyavaharika, and
Paramarthika. He distinguishes an illusory existent thing e.g. an
object of dream from an object of our waking experience, which is
only a temporal reality, and the latter is, again, compared with the
metaphysical or transcendental reality. The dream is proved to be
unreal for it is sublated by our waking up. Similarly, the realization
of Brahman sublates our experience of the waking state. And what
is sublated cannot be real.[17]

Thus, Shankara repudiates the Sunyavada doctrine which says that
the world is merely nothing. He also repudiates the
Kshanabhangavada, which says that nothing exists more than a
moment. He even refutes the Buddhist theory of Vijnanavada,
which states that nothing exists except in our minds. The world has
existence in our minds as our ideas. According to Shankara the
existence of the world is not dependent on our mental modes.
Avidya, according to Shankara, is not a mere subjective force, but
has an objective reality. It is the cause of the material world which
is common to all.
If the world, were merely nothing, or if it were absolutely different
from Brahman, then one could not reach Brahman by repudiating it.
If the Atman were absolutely different from the states of waking,
dreaming and sleeping then the repudiation of the three states
could not lead us to the attainment of truth. The illusory snake does
not spring out of nothing, nor does it pass into nothing when the
illusion is corrected. It is the rope which appears as the snake, and
when the illusion is over, the snake returns to the rope. Similarly,
Brahman appears as the world, it is the basis of the world of
appearance, and right knowledge drives away this appearance. Dr.
Radhakrishnan says, ‘If we are able to penetrate to the real through
this world, it is because the world of appearance bears within it
traces of eternal. If the two were opposed, it will be difficult to
regard them even in the relation of the real and the apparent.’[18]
But then it is difficult to explain the relation of Brahman and the
world, for ‘relation’ is a relative term used for the spatial and
temporal objects.
According to Shankara, the question ‘What is the relation between
the real Brahman and the unreal world?’ is not only baffling
question but also an illegitimate one, and so it is impossible of
answer. It is impossible to explain through logical categories the
relation of Brahman and the world. For in the logical sense the real

is never known to have any relation with the unreal. They cannot be
said to be related as the whole and the part, just like the clay and
the pot, or the tree and its branches. Brahman is not the sum-total
of things of the world. They cannot be related as the cause and the
effect, since such a relation has meaning only in relation to the
finite modes of being where there is succession. Again, we cannot
apply the analogy of seed manifesting itself as the tree, since
organic growth and development are temporal processes. To apply
temporal categories to the eternal is to reduce it to the level of an
empirical object. Thus the word ‘relation’ is inadmissible in this
The only way to explain Brahman and the world is to say that they
are ‘non-different’. Non-difference does not mean identity, for this is
impossible between the world and Brahman. It only means that the
effect has no existence apart from the cause. Though Brahman and
the world have different orders of reality, the latter have no
existence apart from Brahman. Thus, Shankara believes in
Satkaryavada, i.e., the effect is inherent in the cause, Brahman is
both the material and the efficient cause of the universe. But unlike
the Sankhyas, he says that the effect is not a real creation
(Parinama)of Brahman but only an appearance or illusory
modification (Vivarta) of Brahman. Brahman appears as the world,
even as rope appears as the snake. When we see the rope as it is,
the snake becomes unreal. The appearance of rope as the snake is
due to our defective senses, the snake does not affect the rope as
such. The moon is not duplicated simply because those of defective
vision see two moons. The stars do not actually twinkle, though
they appear to do so. The light they project is quite steady, though
the disturbances in the earth’s atmosphere through which the light
passes so affect our vision as to give them a constantly flickering
appearance. Similarly the mutations of the world is not subject to

But if the world is an appearance of Brahman, then how to account
for Upanishadic concept of evolution? It can be said in the line of
Shankara that though there is no real creation, and the world is a
Vivarta or appearance of Brahman, as phenomena it has creation,
transformation, and dissolution.
Creation of this world is for the actions of the individual souls,
realization of their desires and suffering of fruits of their past
karma, on this material world, which is called Ksetra.
Shankara accepts the Upanishadic concept of evolution and also its
order. From Prakriti, i.e., the origin of the material world, first of all
the subtle elements arise, these then get mixed up in specific ways,
known as ‘Panchikaran’ to form the gross elements. The subtle
elements are relatively more permanent than there modifications,
and they are figuratively called immortal, imperishable. The first
product which arises is Akasa, which according to Shankara, is not a
negative entity, as the Buddhists hold, but is an infinite, inert, all-
pervasive element of the same order as the elements of air, fire,
water and earth. From Akasa other subtle elements
(Suksmabhutas) of air, fire water, and earth arise in an ascending
order. Again, it is the properties that give rise to the particular
element. For instance sound being the quality of Akasa, the
Sabdatanmatra, or the sound essence, gives rise to Akasa. Similarly
air has the quality of impact and pressure, light of luminosity and
heat, water of taste and earth of smell. Since all the elements
seem to be contained in the Akasa Tanmatra, the whole world takes
its rise from Akasa or sound.
The gross matter of the world (Mahabhutas) is made up of the
varying combinations of these subtle elements (Suksmabhutas),
and things of these world are the different modifications of these
gross elements. However, it has to be admitted that all these
elements are non-intelligent (Acetana), cannot of themselves bring

about their development, change and modifications. For this the
immanence of a Conscious Principle, God, has to be assumed.
The organic realm, which consists of plants, animals, men, etc., is
also composed of these physical elements though they are endued
with a living soul.[19]
Thus Shankara’s position is better explained when it is said that
both Brahman and Maya are the cause of the world, Brahman
through Vivarta, and Maya through Parinama. Though the world is
the Vivarta of Brahman, it is the Parinama of Maya.
According to Shankara the qualities of both are found in the effect
of this world. We can understand this from our cognition of a pot. A
pot can be said to ‘exist’, again it is also ‘inert’. Whereas the
existence of the pot is a quality identical with Brahman, which is
existence itself, as inert it is identical with Maya, which is inert.
Everything in this world has five elements in its make-up, viz., Asti,
Bhati, Priya, Nama, and Rupa, the former three have Brahman for
its material cause corresponding to the three factors, Existence,
Knowledge and Bliss, and the last two consists of Maya and are
unreal.[20] At the time of cosmic absorption or dissolution all the
qualities of the effect that are through Parinama dissolves just as
when a pot is absorbed into the cause, the clay, its name and form
stop to exist. Whereas the factors of existence, knowledge and
bliss, that are through Brahman, is not affected by it.

3.2.7 Ishvara:-
Shankara is the propounder of monism. According to him there is
only one reality, which is indeterminate, and non-dual. He takes the
stand on the Upanishadic view that ‘All is Brahman’ (sarvam khalu
idam Brahman).
But this non-dual Absolute, being indeterminate, indescribable,
beyond speech and mind is beyond the grasp of ordinary mind. Only
by going beyond mind and speech one can realize this

indeterminate Brahman. The finite minds can never reach the
heights of it. The moment we try to bring this Brahman within the
categories of intellect, we try to make this ultimate subject an
object of our thought, and thus miss its essential nature. It then no
longer remains the unconditioned, indeterminate Brahman, but
becomes conditioned by space time and causality. Brahman
conditioned by Maya is called Ishvara or God. This is the highest
conception of the Absolute that we, finite men, can have.
Thus to reconcile his absolute monism with the practical standpoint,
Shankara accepts the Upanishadic distinction of Para Brahman and
Apara Brahman. Para Brahman or Higher Brahman is the
unconditioned, indeterminate and attributeless Absolute(Nirguna
Brahman), while Isvara or God is the Apara Brahman or lower
Brahman, which is also called determinate Brahman or Saguna
Brahman. Saguna, because, we ascribe human qualities and
attributes to Him and make him a Personal God for our own
purpose. As Saguna Brahman He is the Concrete Universal. He is
the object of worship and devotion, inspirer of moral life and is the
final heaven of everything. He is the Lord of Maya. While Para
Brahman is knowledge itself, God is a knower, for, he is confronted
with an object to be known. Again, while Brahman is beyond activity
and inactivity Ishvara cannot be changeless and inactive. Being
empirically real, he must be ever acting. He is the Creator,
Sustainer and Destroyer of this universe. God creates the universe
out of Himself, and at dissolution draws the entire universe towards
Himself. He is the controller of both soul and matter. But here it
should be kept in mind that though God goes out as the universe
and return to himself, the alterations belong to his body alone and
not to His essential nature. Ishvara’s oneness is not impaired by self
expression in the many. Thus God is both in the world and beyond it
This way Shankara has explained both the immanence and
transcendence of God mentioned in the Upanishads. As the

immanent inner ruler He rules from within, for He is the soul of
souls. Again He also transcends the universe as the creator,
preserver and destroyer of this universe.
But, though, from the practical standpoint Ishvara or God is the
highest point of reverence, the description of God as creator etc.,
rest on our ignorance or Avidya. Thought can never overleap the
distinction of subject and object. Brahman, as indeterminate is
devoid of all kinds of distinctions, external as well as internal
(sajatiya, vijatiya and svagata). When viewed through Maya or
Avidya, Brahman which is essentially a non-dual Reality appears as
Isvara (Personal God), Jiva (the individual soul) and Jagat (the
According to Shankara, the essence of Brahman is Existence,
Knowledge and Bliss. These are His essential characteristics, or
Svarupa laksana, whereas description of Him as the Creator,
Preserver and Destroyer, are merely accidental description or
Tatastha laksana. If a shepherd plays the role of a king, then he is
the king so long he remains on the stage. Similarly, the description
of God as the creator of the world is true only from the practical
point of view, so long as the world-appearance is regarded as real.
Creatorship of the world does not touch his essence, just as loss or
gain of a kingdom does not affect the actor who is playing the king
on the stage, or just as a rope is not affected by the illusory
character of the snake.
However, the concept of Saguna Brahman is also necessary for it
has its own importance. It is necessary to explain the changeful
universe. Brahman is immutable. But we come across changes in
the universe. This changing universe cannot be traced to Prakriti,
which is unintelligent. By itself the unintelligent Prakriti cannot
cause anything without the aid of an intelligent Spirit. It is only
through the power of an intelligent subject, God, the object or
Prakriti, develops the whole world. Not only that, to posit Prakriti by

the side of Brahman as an ultimate category would be to limit the
nature of Brahman, which is without a second. The only way is to
posit a ‘Saguna Brahman’, an Ishvara who combines within himself
the nature of both being and becoming, the unattached Brahman
and unconscious Prakriti. Ishvara combines the two principles of
Brahman and Prakriti.
In this regard we find that he refutes those arguments which regard
other principles to be the cause of the world. When the Sankhya
system tries to establish the unintelligent Prakriti to be the cause of
the world, Shankara criticizes thus how can immanent teleology of
nature be explained by the unintelligent Prakriti? Intelligent
Brahman associated with its power of Maya can only be the cause
of the world. In our experience we see that stones, bricks, mortars,
etc. cannot fashion themselves into well-designed buildings without
the help of intelligent workmen. Even if we grant activity to
Pradhana, then also it can be said that unintelligent Prakriti can
have no purpose to design this world.[21]
Purva Mimamsa says that the principle of Apurva, and not God,
accounts for the ordered way in which men reap the fruits of their
deeds. Shankara criticizes that Apurva is unspiritual and cannot
operate unless it is moved by something spiritual.
The Nyaya-Vaisesika God is an extra-cosmic God, not the material
cause of the world. This position is untenable because being only
the efficient cause of the world, God, cannot be the ruler of matter
and souls without being connected with them, and their cannot be
no connections. It cannot be conjunction, since God, matter and
souls all are infinite and without parts. It cannot be inherence since
it is difficult to decide which is the abode and which is the abiding
So God is both the material and efficient cause of the world.
Shankara has anticipated, in this regard, many other arguments
against his position and answered them accordingly.

Though Ishvara is said to be both material and efficient cause of the
world, in our experience we do not find the material cause to be
conscious enough to be the efficient cause, it does not posses
knowledge. Shankara says that it is not necessary that it should be
here the same as in experience; for this subject is known by
revelation and not inference. When we rely on scriptural statements
it is not necessary for us to conform to experience.[22]
Again it may be objected that Ishvara cannot be the cause of the
world since there is a difference of nature between cause and effect.
A piece of gold cannot be the cause of a vessel of clay; so Ishvara a
pure and spiritual cannot be the cause of the world, which is impure
and unspiritual. Shankara argues that unconscious objects
frequently take their rise from conscious beings, such us hairs and
nails from men. From inanimate dung, the animate dung beetle
comes forth. If it is argued that in these cases in spite of apparent
diversity, there is fundamental identity, since both of these spring
from the earth Shankara replies that Ishvara and the world have
the common characteristic of being, or Satta.[23]
Whatever it may be, the existence of God cannot be proved by
reason. He has shown the futility of several arguments such as
cosmological, moral, and logical.
In the cosmological arguments an attempt is made to prove the
existence of God by considering Him as the ‘First Cause’ or the
‘Uncaused cause’. But such a cause must be of the same order as
the other as the other causes of the world. It must belong to the
same order as the other empirical objects, since the latter are said
to be connected with it. The causal chain proceeding from the
phenomenal world must end in this phenomenal world. We cannot
admit within this world of phenomena an uncaused cause. But, in
that case, Ishvara would be an empirical phenomena, limited to the
space-time framework, and a finite God is no God.

An ontological argument may proceed from the systematic
harmony of the world which is endorsed both by science and
common sense. Existence of a systematic harmony in the world
naturally points to a hypothesis of a divine being which consciously
conducts everything. But such an argument may stand erect if it
can be proved that our human experience can know reality in its
entirety. As a matter of fact, our capability of knowledge is limited,
and there is much in the world which never directly enters our
experience. Dr. Radhakrishnan says sarcastically ‘If the universe is
small enough for little minds to explore, if we can tell whence it
comes and whither it goes, can understand its origin, nature and
destiny, then we are not finite and we do not demand an infinite’.[24]
Moral argument may try to prove God as a benevolent adjudicator
of values. But then, he has to take the responsibilities of both good
and evil of the world. ‘if, to relieve him of the authorship of evil, we
accept something like the mythology of Persia and make Satan
responsible for it, then the oneness of God disappears and we
reinstate a dualism between God and Satan.’[25]
Thus we can see that the existence of God cannot be proved
logically. Such an attempt only belongs to the phenomenal world,
having no connection with Reality as such. But this does not mean
that God does not exist. Sruti is the basis of His existence. We can
be ascertained of the existence of God by the spiritual insights of
the seers as recorded in the scriptures. The proofs only tell us that
God is a possibility. The reality of God transcends our rational
powers. We must accept the statement of the scriptures that
Ishvara is the cause of the world.

3.2.8 Jiva:-
As has been already discussed earlier, ‘Atman’ of Shankara is the
self-proved eternal consciousness as the background of all our
empirical consciousness. But the empirical self which partakes of

the worldly activities cannot be denied. Thus Shankara carefully
distinguishes between the self that is implied in all experiences and
the self which is active and the enjoying individual.
While Atman is the pure self, Jiva is the subject-object complex.
While atman is the metaphysical ‘I’ and is purely cognitive, Jiva is
the psychological subject, and is the observed fact of introspection.
Atman is free from all change, while the empirical self is subject to
change. Dr. Radhakrishnan calls it to be a system of memories and
association, desires and dislikes, of preferences and purposes.[26]
The Jiva is said to be in essence one with the Atman. Atman alone
is real, when this Atman is clothed in the Upadhis (limiting
adjuncts) like mind, body, intellect, etc., It appears as the individual
soul (Jiva). The individual soul, thus, consists of the gross organic
body, made up of the gross elements, the life organs (Pranas) and
the subtle body. The subtle body consists of the seventeen
elements, viz., five organs of perception, five of action, five vital
forms, mind and intellect. While the gross body is cast off at death,
the subtle body does not perish even at death but migrates with the
soul to the next gross body. These gross and the subtle body is
called the Upadhis. The Atman clothed in the Upadhis is the Jiva,
which acts and as such enjoys and suffers. The distinctive
characteristic of the individual soul is its connection with Buddhi or
understanding, which endures as long as the state of Samsara is
not terminated by perfect knowledge. Shankara does not assign any
size to this Jiva. It is not of atomic size since in that case it could
not experience the sensations extending over the whole body. If the
scriptures assign any size to Jiva, it is only to emphasize its
However according to Advaita Vedanta this difference of Atman and
jiva is only imaginary and not real. Owing to Ajnana or ignorance
the infinite soul associates itself with body, mind, the senses, the
intellect etc., and thus behaves like a finite. On the removal of this

ignorance, when the full import of the text “Thou art that” is
realized, the two becomes identical. The king is the king so long he
posses his kingdom, and the warrior, his arms. When both the
kingdom and the arms are removed, there is neither the king nor
the warrior. Similarly the difference between the Atman and the Jiva
is on account of the Upadhis.[27] What comes and goes, takes birth,
grows and dies is the Upadhi or the adjunct. It is the Upadhi which
acts and thus enjoys the merits and demerits of action. Enjoyment,
sorrowness, wickedness, goodness etc., affect the Upadhi, and not
the Soul, which is pure intelligence, and is untouched by all these.
These Upadhis, or adjuncts, gross and subtle, are not destroyed
even in the state of deep sleep.
It should be mentioned here that, Isvara or God is also the limiting
adjunct of Brahman, but this limiting adjunct is the superior limiting
adjunct, or Maya, which does not conceal his true nature. Whereas
in the case of Jiva the limiting adjunct is the inferior limiting
adjunct, Avidya, which deludes him of his true nature. Maya is the
power dependent on Isvara, and Jiva is ruled by Avidya. Thus while
Ishvara is Omniscient, All-powerful, All-pervading, the Jiva is
ignorant, small and weak.
Similarly, the activities of Ishvara such as creation, preservation,
and destruction do not render Him an agent, for he has no selfish
desire to create this world. The all-pervading nature of Ishvara and
Its connections with all the individual souls does not make it subject
to pleasure and pain. Whereas, Jiva is tinged with the false notions
of ‘I’ and the ‘mine’ and thus considers itself an agent, the doer of
good and bad deeds, and consequently experiences pleasure and
pain. But this agency of Jiva lasts so long as its connection with the
Upadhi lasts. Even as an agent, the agency is ultimately dependent
on the Lord who makes the soul act according to its own past

Here it can be asked, if the Atman is eternal freedom and pure
Consciousness, and wants nothing and does nothing, then how can
it be affected by ignorance at all? How does unchanging atman
appears as limited?
This can be answered by the theory of limitation. Atman as such is
not affected by the Upadhis, just as space is not affected by form or
odour. It acts like a screen on which the mental acts play. Space is
one, ubiquitous entity. The limitations caused by the jar and the like
are not real, in the sense that in the destruction of the jar, the
limited space contained in it merges in the Cosmic space. Similarly
when the limitations of space, time and causality are removed, the
Jivas become one with the Absolute Self.
Again, the space enclosed in a jar may be polluted with dust and
smoke, but this will not affect the space outside. Similarly when
one Jiva is affected by pleasure and pain , the others may not be
affected by them.
Here it should be maintained that Jiva limited by Avidya is not one.
For, had it been so, the first case of liberation would have liberated
all the souls, which is not the case. Brahman, limited by the
different inner organs born of Avidya, becomes divided, into many
individual souls.
Another theory explaining the distinction between Atman and Jiva is
the reflection theory, which says that the individual soul is not the
limited intelligence, but the reflected intelligence, which is
inseparably connected with the reflector, i.e., mind. ‘As the
appearance of sun and moon in water is a mere reflection and
nothing real, or the appearance of red colour in a white crystal is a
mere reflection of the red flower and nothing real, since on
removing the water, sun and moon only remain, and on removing
the red flower the whiteness of the crystal remains unchanged,
even so the elements and the individual souls are reflections of the
one reality in Avidya and nothing real. On the abolition of Avidya,

the reflections cease to exist and only the real remains. The
Absolute is the original (Bimba) and the world is the reflection
Several criticisms have arose against this reflection theory. One of
them may be stated thus, a thing devoid of form cannot cast any
reflection, much less in a formless reflector. Pure intelligence and
Avidya are both formless. Not only that, if the individual is a
reflection, then that which is reflected, must lie outside the
reflector, and the reality which is the original must lie beyond the
cosmos or the sum total of created objects. This is opposed to the
‘immanence’ view of the system. Moreover, this reflection theory
will also hamper the non-dualism of Brahman.
Whatever may be the rational outcome, the main purport of
Shankara should be understood, i.e., Jiva is the unchanging
Brahman itself, though ignorant of its true nature.

3.2.9 Liberation and Means of Liberation:-

Shankara believes in unqualified monism, where any distinction is
ultimately unreal. In this light there is no difference between jiva
and Brahman. They are identical.
The question remains that if the Soul is free from all limiting
adjuncts and is infinite, all-blissful, all-knowing, one without a
second, and so on, then how does it come to be bound, and thus
what is the need of liberation.
In his Viveka-Cudamani, Shankara says:
‘…., bondage and liberation, are created by Maya (illusion)
and they do not exist in the atman. How can (anything) be
attributed to supreme truth which, like space, is indivisible,
actionless, calm, blameless, stainless and without a second?’[28]
Again, he says:
‘Bondage and liberation created by Maya (illusion)
do not exist in reality in the atman; just as

(the idea of a) serpent and the opposite do not exist in a rope
on knowing it (to be rope and not serpent).[29]
It is clear from the above context that Atman by itself is pure and
absolute happiness which is never shackled in bondage and neither
does it stand in need of liberation. Bondage and liberation, then is
the product of Avidya or ignorance. Owing to ignorance the soul
erroneously associates itself with the body, gross and subtle. This
leads to its bondage. For in this state it forgets its true nature,
which is Absolute Bliss. It behaves like a finite, limited, miserable
being, and runs after transitory worldly objects. The instrument for
the production of bondage of conditioned existence is the ‘Manas’. It
is the Manas which produces attachment of the soul to the body and
all other objects just like an animal is bound by a rope. This gives
rise to the ego. Having clouded over the Atman, which is without
any attachment, it is the Manas, which acquires the notion of ‘I’ and
the ‘mine’, creates the objects of desire, and enjoys the fruits of
action. Thus sometimes it is said that Manas is the cause of
bondage and Manas is the cause of liberation. When the Manas is
stained by passion, it is the cause of bondage, and when through
discrimination and dispassion it attains purity and produces aversion
towards these objects, Manas becomes the cause of liberation. It is
like the wind which collects the cloud and also disperses it. The
removal of the misconception of this limited ‘I’ is what is known as
liberation. Thus, liberation from bondage consists in the realization
of the identity between the self and Brahman .
Moksha or liberation is nothing new that is acquired by the Jiva, it is
a matter of direct realization of something which is existent from
eternity, though it is hidden from our view. When the limitations are
removed, the soul is liberated.
By liberation Shankara does not mean a heaven which is a
different order of experience apart from earth, but which is all the
time here, though we could not see it. ‘It remains where it is, what

it is and eternally was,……It is the peace that the world can never
give, nor take away, the supreme and only blessedness.’
Freedom is not the relinquishment of the body, or any of its
belongings. It is untying of ignorance in the heart. It is not the
abolition of self, but the realization of its infinity. Neither is it the
dissolution of the whole world. Liberation is only the disappearance
of a false outlook. Nothing happens to the world as such. The
unending process of the world will go on through its ups and downs.
Only our views of it alters. The world exists as it is with its plurality,
but when our sense of plurality is over, our attachment to it is over.
Liberation is an insight which changes the face of the world and
makes all things new. It does not consist in merely knowing the
Vedic texts, its incantation and intonation. It consists in the direct
perception of the identity of the individual with the universal self
(Brahmatmaikabodhena moksa).[31]
Maya as concealment has no power of the liberated soul. When the
certainty of the oneness of Brahman and Atman is reached by
Anubhava, the tie which binds us to forms is cut. They may remain
and will remain, so long as the senses are alive and intellect
operates, but they do not bind any more, just as when the
illusoriness of the illusion is discovered, it ceases to be an illusion.
When the illusion of the mirage is dissipated by scientific
knowledge, though the illusory appearance remains, it no longer
deceives us.
Describing such a soul, Shankara says:
‘though doing, he is not the doer; though enjoying
the effects, he is not the enjoyer; though embodied,
he is bodiless; though confined (in the body), he is all
Shankara admits both Jivanmukti and Videhamukti. Realization of
truth in this life is termed as Jivanmukti, which does not necessarily
entail physical death. When a person attains knowledge, all his past

sins are destroyed and future sins do not cling to him, for he who
has no idea of agency is not affected, even, by the good deeds, and
thus goes beyond vice and virtue. Such a state is known as
Jivanmukti. However, only the Samcita works are destroyed by
knowledge, but not the Prarabdha, which are destroyed only by
working out. Thus he carries on in this world as the potter’s wheel
continues for a time to revolve even after the vessel has been
So long as the momentum of these works lasts, the knower of
Brahman has to be in the body. When they are exhausted, the body
falls off and he attains perfection. This is known as Videhamukti.
One must endeavour to free oneself from the bondage of
conditioned existence. Hidden treasures do not come out at the
utterance of the word ‘out’ and a king does not become a king by
the mere words ‘I am a king’. Trustworthy information and digging
is necessary for the revelation of the treasure, and the conquest of
enemies is needed to become a king.
Shankara denies that action can lead to liberation. Liberation is the
result of the advent of true knowledge of the Self. He specifically
mentions this in his Viveka-Cudamani at several places. He says,
‘this bondage is incapable of being severed
by weapons of offence or defence, by wind or by fire
or by tens of millions of acts, but only the
great sword of discriminative knowledge,
sharp and shining, through the favour of Yoga.’[33]
Again, he says,
‘He may study the scriptures, propitiate the gods (by
sacrifices), perform religious ceremonies or offer devotion to
the gods, yet he will not attain salvation even during the
succession of a hundred Brahma-yugas except by the
knowledge of union with the spirit.’

The reason also is given by him. Actions are for the
purification of the heart, not for the attainment of real substance.
Not only that anything attained through any objective condition is
liable to end. The result of action is either creation, modification,
purification or attainment, none of which is applicable to the
knowledge of Brahman, which is the same thing as Liberation. If
Liberation were created or modified, it would not be permanent.
After relinquishing karma one should head for the practice of right
discrimination from a true and great teacher and accept his
teaching with an unshaken soul. It is only the knowledge of the rope
that can remove the fear and sorrow produced from the illusive idea
that it is a serpent. When the recognition of the oneness of
Brahman and Atman arises, it causes to disappear the distinctions
of souls, things and Ishvar in our experience.
Shankara accepts the Upanishadic view that Sravana, Manana,
Nididhyasana leads to the discriminative knowledge of Brahman. He
‘….the wise student (should devote himself) daily without
Intermission to the study of the scriptures, to reflection and
meditation on the truths therein contained; then (finally) having
got rid of ignorance the wise man enjoys the bliss of Nirvana
even while on this earth.’[35]
Meditation on the Saguna Brahman does not lead to immediate
liberation. It can at best lead to gradual liberation (Karma-mukti). It
is the knowledge of the Nirguna Brahman that leads to immediate
But for the discriminative knowledge one must be a true Adhikari or
deserver or a true aspirant. For the attainment of an object
principally depends upon the qualification of the aspirant. An
aspirant must have strong intellect, and be unattached to the
worldly objects. In Viveka-Chudamani Shankara has mentioned four
kinds of preparatory training(Sadhana catustaya) which are

necessary for an aspirant of true knowledge. These four means are
(1) a tendency of discrimination between the eternal and perishable
things; (Nityanityavastuviveka). (2)Renunciation of the enjoyment
of temporal and heavenly objects (Ihamutraphalabhogaviragah), (3)
six possessions beginning with Sama, (Samadamadisatsampatti )
and (4)finally a desire to obtain liberation (Mumuksatvam).
(Aspiration for emancipation).[36]
Explanation of each of them is also given by Shankara.
Discrimination between the transitory and the eternal consists of
the conclusion that Brahman alone is true, the transitory world is a
delusion. Again renunciation of desire consists in giving up of the
pleasures of sight, hearing, etc. It also means the giving up of all
the pleasures derivable from all the transitory objects of enjoyment
from the physical body up to Brahma, the creator, after repeatedly
pondering over their defects and shortcomings. The six possessions
of the mind are Sama, Dama, Uparati, Titiksa, Sraddha and
Samadhan. Sama is the undisturbed concentration of mind upon the
object of perception. Dama is said to be the confinement of a sense
organ within its own sphere, having turned them back from the
objects of sense. Uparati is not depending on the external world.
Titiksa is said to be the true endurance of all pain and sorrow
without the thought of retaliation, dejection or lamentation.
Sraddha is the fixed meditation upon the teachings of Sastra and
guru with a belief in the same by means of which the object of
thought is realized. Samadhan is the constant fixing of the mind on
the pure Spirit without being deluded by worldly objects.[37] Finally,
Mumuksutva is the aspiration to be liberated from all created bonds,
which even includes one’s own identification with the physical
Though it is true that until one obtain knowledge of
Brahman there can be no Moksha, it is also true that Moksha is not
reached as long as there is knowledge. It is admitted that there is

no knowledge in the ultimate state. Scriptures say that to know
Brahman is to become Brahman. The abolition of the highest
knowledge itself is brought out by a number of similes. As a drop of
water thrown on a red-hot iron ball takes away a part of its heat
and itself disappears, as fire after burning a heap of grass is
extinguished of itself, so knowledge of Brahman destroys our
ignorance and is itself destroyed.
According to Shankara who having attained manhood does not
labour for emancipation is destroying himself in trying to attain
illusive objects.

3.2.10 Karma and Rebirth:-

The Upanishadic concept of Karma and Rebirth has been accepted
by Shankara. Law of Karma says that the work we do returns to us.
The kind of world into which we are born is due to the work in our
previous lives. Karma is due to Avidya. Man is impulsive by nature.
Driven by impulses he runs after his own likes and dislikes. This
begets karma. At death the physical body is annihilated, but the
soul, which is independent of the body, accompanied by the subtle
body survives and passes on. Karma is the seed, for the atonement
of which it has to take on other births. The nature of the future life
depends on the moral quality of the past life. Only the knowledge
and character which is gained in the previous life passes on to the
other lives. The moral and the pious rises in the scale, while the
immoral and impious sink. Sometimes, the karma of the previous
birth is not fully atoned in a single birth and thus succeeding future
births are the results. But at the exhaustion of the past karma,
fresh new karmas accumulate. This process goes on for ever. But as
Dr. Radhakrishnan says ‘The history of man is not a puppet show. It
is a creative evolution’[40] Man is more than a bundle of impulses.
He is the infinite Atman. When perfect knowledge is gained, the
seed of karma is consumed, it makes rebirth impossible.

3.2.11 Concluding Remark:-
Shankara’s interpretation has added an extra feather on the cap of
Advaita, for he has not only accepted unqualified non-dualism, but
also logically and systematically followed it to describe all the other
aspects of it, like, Jiva, Maya, Mukti, etc. Thus whatever passes,
nowadays, as Advaita Vedanta is the non-dualism of the Shankara
school. Not only that Shankara’s profuse using of reasoning has also
appealed to the common masses. Though it is true that Truth can
be realized only through intuition and revelation, that does not
mean the relegation of ordinary intellect. Shankara establishes the
highest truth with the help of reasoning and philosophizing.


3.3.1 Life of Ramanuja:-

The next great Acharya of Vedanta was Ramanuja of 11th century.
While discussing the life of Ramanuja it seems relevant to discuss
the socio-religious background prevalent then in the southern part
of India.
In the middle of the 7th century Buddhism began to decline and the
Bhakti cult which consisted of the Vaisnavaite and the Saivaite
saints started to gain ground in South India. The school of
Vaishnava mystics and saints who used to compose Tamil hymns
full of intense devotional love of Vishnu were known as the Alvars,
whereas, Nayannars constituted the Saiva saints. The pursuits of
both these sects were, mainly, devotional in nature.
In due course of time, the Alvars were succeeded by the Acaryas or
the theologians, whose main objective was to establish a
philosophical basis for the worship of a personal God. Nathamuni,
Yamunacharya, and others belonged to this group. While

Nathamuna had arranged the hymns of the Alvars, Yamunacharya
attempted to show that the Vaishnava Agamas have the same
purport as the Vedas. Ramanuja belonged to these group of
Acharyas, and was succeeded by Nathamuni and Yamunacharya.
Ramanuja was born in 1027 A.D. at Sriperumbudur near the
modern city of Madras in India.[41] His father is Asurikesavacarya
and mother Kantimati. After the death of his father he left his native
village for Kanchi.
His spiritual quest seems to have been a checkered one. His first
Guru was Yadava Prakasha of Kanchi. However his spiritual venture
under him was not a pleasant one. At that time Yamunacharya was
a great Vaishnava scholar of Srirangam. Impressed by Ramanuja’s
learning he wanted him to work for the propagation of the
devotional cult. Towards the end of his life he wanted to meet
Ramanuja, but it happened that when Ramanuja actually turned up,
Yamunacarya was no more. The story goes on that the former
found three fingers of the Acarya folded, which his disciples
interpreted as his three unfulfilled wishes. The chief one among
them was to write an easy commentary on Brahma-Sutra.
Later on, he was initiated in the mysteries of Vedanta by
Perianambi .
However he embraced asceticism as a consequence of some family
misunderstandings. His first disciples were Dasarathi and Kuresh –
his sisters sons. Yadavaprakasha too being impressed by his deep
learning and purity of heart became his disciple and was renamed
as Govindadasa. With the help of Kuresh’s wonderful memory he
composed “Sribhasya” on the line of Bodhayanavritti. He also wrote
Vedanta-dipa, Vedanta-Sara, Vedartha Sangraha, Gadya-traya,
Gita-Bhasya etc.
Ramanuja lived more than one hundred years and all through his
life, he struggled hard to establish Vaishnava faith in India on a firm

and philosophical ground. Followers of Ramanuja were Sudarsana
Suri, Venkatanatha, Meghanadari, Lokacarya, and so on.

3.3.2 Ramanuja’s Vishistadvaita:-

Both Samkara and Ramanuja are monists, believing in one
Absolute, Independent Reality. But whereas for Shankara, the
Absolute is Nirguna or indeterminate, for Ramanuja it is qualified by
parts. For Shankara the nature of this Reality is Eternal and infinite
consciousness, matter being only an appearance, for Ramanuja
matter and finite spirits are the two Reals as the Absolute itself, but
they form the two integral parts of this Absolute. Though Brahman
is the Supreme spirit, it subsists in the plurality of forms as souls
and matter. The relationship between Cit(soul) and Acit(matter),on
the one hand, and Brahman on the other, is one of body and soul.
They are reals, but are subservient to Brahman.
Thus, monism or non-dualism of Ramanuja is known as
Vishistadvaita, meaning, the Absolute or Advaita as qualified
(Vishista) by real parts (conscious and unconscious).
The concept of Vishistadvaita was present even before Ramanuja,
for he himself tells us that he is carrying on the Vishistadvaita
tradition of the ancient writers like Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida,
Guhadeva, Kapardi and Bharuchi. However, Ramanuja was the
greatest spokesman of Vishistadvaita, for the piety of the Alvars
and the training of the Acharyas have helped him to develop
elements of the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutra. He systematized
Vaisnavism and wrote a learned and exhaustive commentary on the
Brahamn Sutra called Shri Bhasya, formulating a metaphysical

3.3.3 Self and Consciousness:-

According to Shankara the one undifferentiated Brahman as Pure
Consciousness is the only reality. The distinction of subject and

object is only on the relative plane. Ramanuja refutes this view.
According to him there is nothing like pure consciousness. All
knowledge involves discrimination and it is impossible to know an
undifferentiated object. Even if there is such an undifferentiated
being, our mode of knowing would render it as an object, and thus
involve it in the sphere of the perishable. Knowledge is always in
and through difference. Thus undifferentiated Brahman is an
abstraction like a sky-flower.
Ramanuja agrees with Shankara in maintaining that the self is an
eternal self-conscious subject and that knowledge is its essence.
But he differs from Shankara in refusing to identify the self with
pure consciousness. Consciousness can never subsist by itself. It
always belongs to a subject and points to an object. The self is a
self-luminous substance to which belongs and from which proceeds
consciousness. Self is like the lamp and knowledge or consciousness
is like the light. The light constitutes the essence of the lamp, and
cannot be separated from it. Knowledge is unique adjunct of the self
and is eternally associated with it. The Self, being a substance, is
incapable of contraction and expansion, while knowledge being an
attribute is capable of contraction and expansion due to the
influence of karma.
Even in deep sleep it cannot be said that knowledge existed as pure
consciousness, i.e. without any object. For a person rising from a
deep sleep never says ‘I was pure consciousness’ he says ‘I slept
well’. This shows that ‘I’, the knowing subject or the self, remained
even in the deep sleep, though as self-consciousness along with the
knowledge which was not functioning at the moment. Thus, self is
not self-luminous knowledge, but only the subject of it. We do not
say ‘I am consciousness’ but only ‘I am conscious’. Self is the
eternal substratum of consciousness.
Shankara’s contention that consciousness is never an object is also
refuted by Ramanuja. Our common observation shows that the

consciousness of one person becomes the object of the cognition of
Again Consciousness or knowledge is both a substance and an
attribute. It is a substance because it has the qualities of expansion
and contraction. Owing to the influence of karma it becomes
contracted. It is an attribute because it belongs to a self or to God.
Analogy may be drawn of the light which is an attribute in relation
to the lamp, but it is a substance in relation to its rays.

3.3.4 God:-
The Absolute of Ramanuja is identical with God, but this Absolute is
Savishesa or determinate.
With Shankara, Ramanuja agrees in saying that Brahman is eternal
and uncreated, material as well as efficient cause of the world, but
it cannot be attributeless or a bare identity, matter and soul being
its body. Nirguna Brahman contradicts our experience, since all our
experiences are of qualified objects. An object is distinguished from
others by the presence of its invariable characteristic. If the
sources of knowledge are relative, they cannot tell us something
which transcends our experience. If anything cannot be known by
any means of knowledge, i.e., perception, inference or scripture,
then it is a mere abstraction. Moreover, we cannot deny the
existence of the plurality and the finite objects in the universe. In
order to explain their existence and their reciprocal relations, there
must be a common bond of unity inhering in them, and that,
according to Ramanuja, consists in a religious principle. This kind of
religious principle cannot be a bare identity. Thus in the ultimate
reality or God of Ramanuja, determination, limitation, difference,
etc., are dissolved, contained and gathered together in the one.
Srutis say that “He thought ‘I shall be many’”, or ‘By the knowledge
of one everything will be known’. This is possible only when
Brahman is regarded both as the cause and also as the effect.

During creation the world becomes manifest, i.e., insentient beings
attain a gross state with names and forms. This is known as the
Karyavastha. Again, during Pralaya the creation is received back by
the Brahman and thus become unmanifest. This is known as the
causal state or Karanavastha. But even in the latter condition the
attributes of souls and matter exist, though subtly. In the causal
state they are so subtle that they cannot be designated otherwise
than as Brahman Itself.
From the above discussion it follows that the real cannot be a bare
identity. Brahman or God is a synthetic whole, with souls and
matter in it. The Absolute is non-Dual in the sense that it is free
from any homogeneous difference (Svajatiya Bheda) and
heterogeneous difference (Vijatiya Bheda) but has internal
difference (Svagata bheda). This view of Ramanuja is known as
Vishistadvaita, which means non-dualism qualified by difference.
Shankara interprets the famous text ‘Tat tvam asi’ as the
metaphysical identity between Brahman and individual soul but
according to Ramanuja the judgment ‘that thou art’ brings out the
complex nature of the ultimate reality, which has individual souls
inhering in it.[42]
Thus there are three reals (Tatva-traya) in Ramanuja’s Philosophy;
God (Ishvar), matter (Achit), and souls(Chit). But what is the
relation between them? Though all are Reals and eternal, Ramanuja
has attributed finitude to matter and souls for they are not external
to God. They form the body of God and thus inseparable and utterly
dependent on God, while the latter is the soul of matter and soul.
The relation also is of whole and parts, God being the whole and
matter and soul constituting its parts. However, according to
Ramanuja body has only derivative being, since the movement of
the body are subject to the will of the soul, and it decays when the
soul departs.

Again, the relation of body and soul to God is said to be that of
Prakara and Prakari or attributes and substance. Substance and its
attributes do not exist separately. The relation between a substance
and its attributes is that of inner-inseparability or Aprithakasiddhi
and not inherence, which is an external relation. Again, if souls and
matter are attributes of God, it does not mean that they are not in
themselves substances possessing attributes, with their own distinct
modes, energies and activities. Isvara is not only the possessor of
matter and soul but also the controller(Niyanta), or internal ruler of
them. He alone is uncaused while the rest are caused.
Brahman has for its body the sentient and the insentient beings
both in the causal and the effected states. Here one question may
be asked, if matter and spirits are parts of the God then does not
God undergo modifications with the change of matter?
It is seen that, when a child grows up to be a youth, there is no
change in the person but only in the body.[43] Similarly, during the
Karyavastha it is the body of Brahman, which constitutes matter
and soul, undergoes change, the soul, i.e., Ishvar, being their
unmoved Mover. At creation the insentient part of its body which
was in a fine condition before creation manifests in a gross form
assuming names and forms, and produce objects of enjoyment,
while the souls attain expansion of intelligence as a result of taking
to a gross body, which makes them fit for the enjoyment of these
objects as a result of the fruit of their karma.[44]
Question, again, may arise whether Brahman is polluted by
imperfections due to its having for its body the sentient and the
insentient world. (text 1-10).
But Ramanuja says, Brahman is not sullied in the least by the
imperfections of the sentient and non-sentient beings in which It
abides, for God is not only immanent in the matter and soul, He is
also transcendental. He is the perfect personality. As the sun
reflected in a sheet of water or in a mirror is no way contaminated

by the imperfections of the water, so Brahman is not affected by the
imperfections of the various places like earth etc.[45] According to
Ramanuja, Brahman is free from imperfections and possessing all
blessed qualities like, omnipotence, omniscience, benevolence,
immortality, knowledge, power, mercy, love etc. He possesses all
merits and is devoid of all demerits. Brahman is ‘One without a
second’ and is unique without the like of It in possessing excellent
auspicious qualities. Evil qualities like sinfulness, aging, death, grief
etc. do not affect Him. God is the support and Adhara of these
qualities, as well as the attributes of matter and souls.
Moreover, the imperfections of the soul is not due to its having a
body but due to its karma(past work). Brahman is not subject to
karma. He is the Lord of Karma, and as such free from
God of Ramanuja is an embodied being, but the body is not the
stuff of Prakriti.
Ramanuja admits that there are Nirguna texts or texts which deny
all predicates to Brahman, in the scriptures but contends that they
only deny finite and false attributes, and not all attributes
whatsoever. When the scriptural texts delineate Brahman to be
attributeless they only deny the evil qualities in it. When it is said
that we cannot comprehend the nature of Brahman, it only means
that the glory of Brahman is so vast that it eludes the grasp of the
finite mind. There are texts which deny plurality to Brahman, but
this only means that there is no real existence of things apart from
Brahman. The supreme spirit subsists in all forms as the soul of all.
So there is no conflict between the Saguna and the Nirguna Texts
as such.[46]
Sat, Chit, Anand, or Existence , Knowledge, Bliss” according to
Samkara, are not the attributes but constitute the very essence of
the Absolute. They have oneness of meaning and are the very
nature of Brahman. According to Ramanuja if they had the oneness

of meaning, then only one term could have sufficed to apprehend
the nature of Brahman. But they denote three attributes in the
same substratum, i.e. is Brahman. So when Brahman is defined as
“Existence, Knowledge, and Infinity” by the scriptures it does not
mean that Brahman as free from all attributes. This only means
that these three are qualities of Brahman which distinguish It from
others. According to Ramanuja, these qualities of Brahman makes
him a perfect personality, and makes him dependent on nothing
Thus Ramanuja’s God is not an absolute who is inert to the feelings
of the common people but who joins us in the experiences of our
life. The Supreme Spirit is identified with Vishnu by Ramanuja, who
lives with His consort in Vaikuntha made of pure Sattva. Though He
is non-dual He manifests Himself in various forms. He is the
Antaryami, He is the transcendent Lord, again He descends on earth
as various incarnations or avatars. He even takes the form of holy
idols in the recognized temples for the devotees to serve Him

3.3.5 Jiva:-
Both for Samkara and Ramanuja, soul is eternal, beyond creation
and destruction, but while for Shankara, Jiva is essentially identical
with Brahman, the appearance of Jiva being due to its Upadhis,
according to Ramanuja, Jiva or soul is the mode or attribute of
Brahman. It forms the part of the body of the Absolute. Though it is
absolutely real, yet it is not independent, since it is utterly
dependent on God, supported and controlled by Him.
Being the part of Brahman, the soul cannot be infinite. But having
denied infinitude to the soul Ramanuja has to hold that that it is
infinitely small or atomic in nature. For if the soul is neither of these
two then it must be composed of parts which would be liable to
destruction. Moreover, the Sruti texts say such things as soul

passing out of the body, going to heaven, returning from there etc.
These can be possible when the soul is atomic in size. As an atomic
point of spiritual light it is imperceptible, eternal and changeless.
The scriptures also declare that the soul has a particular abode in
the body, viz., the heart. Question may arise that if the soul be
atomic in nature and occupy a particular abode in the body, how
does it experience sensations all over the body? Ramanuja says
that as a light is placed in one corner of a room lights the whole
room, so the consciousness of the soul, though atomic and seated
in the heart pervades the whole body and thus experiences pleasure
and pain throughout the body.[47] It can apprehend objects far away
in space and remote in time.
The soul, though a mode of the supreme, is also a substance in
itself, for it has knowledge for its quality. Knowledge or
Dharmabhuta Jnana is not only its quality, but also its very essence.
The characteristic essence of the Jiva is the consciousness of the
self (Ahambuddhi) Even in deep sleep knowledge belongs to the
self, though then it does not function. Knowledge is essentially
infinite and all pervasive, though the self is finite.
Jiva, in its pure state, is eternal, i.e., beyond creation and
destruction, and enjoys infinite knowledge and also bliss. Its
embodied state is due to its karma. The body serves as a vehicle
(Vahana) to the Jiva, even as a horse does to the rider. This
bondage to the body prevents the soul from recognizing its kinship
with God, obstructing the vision of the eternal.
It is because of karma that during creation, the self becomes
embodied and descend to the mundane life to reap the fruits of its
past life. Again during dissolution, it becomes disembodied.
However in the state of dissolution too it may be tinged with
karmas, so that in the next cycle of creation it has to descend to the
mundane life and to become embodied in order to reap the fruits of
its karmas. It is only in the state of liberation that the soul shines in

its pristine purity untouched by karma and therefore can never
descend to the mundane existence any more. In liberation, it enjoys
infinite knowledge and everlasting bliss.
The Jiva is the knower(Jnata), the agent (Karta), and the enjoyer
The individual soul is essentially a knower, and is neither mere
knowledge nor inert. Scriptures which declare it to be mere
knowledge only show that knowledge is its chief characteristics, by
which its nature is known or defined.[48] Like knowledge, the self
also is self-manifested; and for that reason also it is well designated
as knowledge.[49]
Again, the individual self is an agent for, an intelligent self alone can
have desires and not inert Prakriti, and the scriptural injunctions
can influence only a sentient being to action and not inert
Again, it is an agent who enjoys the results of his actions. If the
soul be a non-agent, and Prakrti be the agent, than the results of
actions would be enjoyed by Prakrti and not by the soul. So there
will be an inversion of the power of enjoyment.[51] Moreover,
Samadhi would be impossible if prakriti be the agent, for, in
Samadhi the meditating person realizes his difference from Prakrti.
This experience would be impossible for the internal organ,
inasmuch as it is a product of Prakrti. So we have to accept that the
soul is an agent.[52]
Here it may be mentioned that, though the Jiva is the agent his
mere effort is not enough for action. The co-operation of the
supreme spirit is also necessary. The individual soul’s agency is,
ultimately, dependent on the highest Lord. The Lord makes the soul
act by granting it permission. Action is not possible for the soul
without this permission of the Lord. Thus here two positions are
created. One is that the Jiva reaps the fruit of its past actions, and
another one is that co-operation of the Supreme Spirit is necessary

for the rendering of his actions. Ramanuja has to reconcile these
two positions. He does this by saying that law of karma expresses
the will of God. The order of karma is set up by God who is the ruler
of karma. Though action is not possible without the permission of
lord, yet the responsibility for the initial volition is of the soul.[53]
Ramanuja, explains it thus, God declares what is good and what is
bad, supplies souls with bodies, gives them power to employ them,
and is also the cause in an ultimate sense of the freedom and
bondage of the souls. But he does not deprive the Jiva of its
autonomy of will. The souls have freedom of choice. Thus
injunctions and prohibitions etc., have a scope. If the world has in it
so much suffering and misery, it is not God that is not responsible
for it, but man who has the power to work for good or evil.
The relation of the soul to God often gives rise to confusion,
because Ramanuja uses a number of epithets to describe it.
Sometimes he calls the soul as a part of God, sometimes the body
of God, sometimes a mode of God, sometimes a an attribute or
qualification of God and sometimes an absolutely dependent on,
and controlled, supported and utilized by God. It should be
understood properly.
Individual soul is a part of Brahman. By part, however, is meant
that which constitutes one aspect (Desa) of a substance. Just as a
distinguishing quality is a part of the substance, like the luster of
the gems, the generic character of a cow in cows, or the body of an
embodied being, so the soul is the part of Brahman. The above
qualities, though they distinguish the substance from others, can be
experienced as different from the substance but cannot exist
without the substance, they are non-different from it. Similarly the
soul, which is the body of Brahman, can be known as different from
Brahman, but cannot exist without Brahman, that is it is non-
different from Brahman.[54]

An objection is raised that, if the soul is a part of Brahman, then it
would be affected by the defects of the soul. In answer it may be
said that, just as a distinguishing quality of a substance is a part of
it, yet also is different from it (viz. light of an object), so also
though the soul is a part of Brahman as Its body, still the essential
nature and characteristics of the two are not one. Thus Brahman is
not affected by the pleasure and pain experienced by the soul.[55]
Thus, though as a mode it is different from God, for the soul is
atomic in mode, yet it is organically related to the Absolute. The
soul form the body of God and have no independent existence apart
from Him. This kind of relation has been termed by Ramanuja as
‘Aprithakasiddhi’ which is translated as ‘inseparable dependence’.[56]
Ramanuja advocates innumerable individual souls. They are
essentially alike, like the monads of Leibnitz or the Jivas of the
Jainas, and they differ only in number. Thus he advocates
qualitative monism and quantitative pluralism of souls.
Ramanuja also describes three classes of souls. To the first belong
the ever-free (Nitya mukta) souls which were never bound. They
are ever free from karma and Prakriti and live in Vaikuntha in
constant service of the Lord. To the second belong the Released or
Liberated (Mukta) souls, who were once bound but who obtained
liberation through their action, knowledge and devotion. To the
third belongs the Bound (Baddha) souls who are wandering in
Samsara on account of ignorance and bad karmas. These can be
further divided into four classes: superhuman, human, animal and

3.3.6 Matter:-
Ramanuja speaks of three kinds of Reals or Tattva-traya— Chit,
Achit, and Ishvara. Here we shall discuss with Achit or the
unconscious substance.

It is of three kinds: Shuddha Sattva or Nitya-Vibhuti, which is pure
matter, Prakriti or Mishrasattva, which is ordinary matter, and Kala
i.e., time, or Sattva-shunya. But curiously enough Ramanuja
assigns an immaterial status to Shuddhasattva and calls it Ajada. It
is a state between matter and soul, while both Prakriti and Kala are
Jada or material.
Suddhasattva or Nityavibhuti is made up of pure Sattva. It is matter
without mutability. It is a fit means to the fulfillment of the divine
The ideal world, and the bodies of god and the eternal and
liberated souls are made up of this stuff. Vaikuntha, the city of God
and also the holy idols in sacred places like Shrirangam are said to
be made up of this stuff. Even, Dharmabhutajnana is also made up
of this immaterial stuff.
Mishrasattva or Prakriti is ordinary matter which makes samsara.
The existence of Prakriti is not an object of perception or inference.
It is accepted on the authority of the scriptures. It has three
qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. These qualities manifest
themselves in the world creation and remains in extremely subtle
condition during Pralaya. At that state it is devoid of any name and
form and is called Tamas. While Suddhasattva is a means of divine
fulfillment, Prakriti is an object of enjoyment (Bhogya) and suffers
change. It is completely dependent on God than souls who have
freedom of will. at the time of creation, the process of world-
evolution starts from Prakriti. Here it should be distinguished from
the Prakriti of Sankhya. The latter is an independent real, but for
Ramanuja Prakriti is absolutely dependent on God and controlled by
Him. However the order of evolution is same as that of Sankhya.
At creation, from the Tamas, Mahat appears; from Mahat,
Ahamkara or Bhutadi. From Sattvika Ahamkara arises the eleven
senses, from the Tamas, the five Tanmatras, or five subtle
elements, and rajas Ahamkara helps both these processes. The

subtle elements also follow an order. From the qualities we infer the
substances. From Ahamkara comes the subtle element of sound and
then Akasa; from Akasa comes the subtle element of touch, and
then air and so on for other elements also.
Again, while space is identified with Akasa which is an evolute of
Prakriti, there being no free space independent of Akasa, time or
Kala is given a separate status independent of Prakriti.
All these non-conscious entities work in obedience to the will of
God. They are not in themselves good or bad, but happen to please
or pain the individuals according to their karma. Matter is more
completely dependent on Brahman than the souls, which have
freedom of choice.

3.3.7 Creation:-
Ramanuja believes in Tattva-traya, i.e., three Reals, Chit, Achit, and
Ishwara. Both matter and souls are different from each other and
different from God. Matter and souls are attribute of God and thus
dependent on Him. In order to be real anything need not be
independent. Both of them are neither created nor destroyed. They
are co-eternal with Him.
Then what does creation means? As in Sankhya, creation according
to Ramanuja is explicit manifestation of the effect which was
already implicitly contained in the cause. Thus Ramanuja believes in
Satkaryavada. But, while for Shankara change from cause to effect
is not a real change, but only apparent, according to Ramanuja the
cause really changes into the effect, just as milk changes into curds.
According to Shankara the world is only an appearance on
Brahman, and thus his view of creation is known as Brahma-vivarta
vada. For Ramanuja creation is real, which means that the entire
universe including the material world and the individual souls is a
real modification of Brahman. Thus it is known as Brahman-
Parinamavada. Ramanuja, like Shankara, believes that Brahman

and the world, though of different natures, can be related as the
cause and the effect, for it is not necessary that all the qualities of
the cause which distinguish it from others must be in the effect.
Brahman has for its body the sentient and the insentient beings
both in the causal and effected states. Causal state of Brahman
means the souls and matter are in a subtle condition and thus
designated as one with Brahman. Before creation matter and soul
exist in their subtle conditions in the Brahman. They are so subtle
that they cannot be designated otherwise than as Brahman Itself.
This is known as their Karanavastha. Scriptural texts sometimes say
that Brahman alone was existent in the beginning, Chandogya
Upanishad says ‘Sat alone was this at the beginning’ (Cha. VI. ii. 8).
Ramanuja interprets it as the Karanavastha of both matter and
But at the time of creation both these sentient and insentient
beings attain a gross state with names and forms, and Brahman is
said to be in the effected state. The subtle matter evolves into a
gross elements, which are the objects of enjoyment, and the
immaterialized souls become housed in gross bodies according to
their karmas. The subtle soul attains expansion of intelligence as a
result of their taking to a gross body, which makes them fit for the
enjoyment of the gross objects according to the fruit of their karma.
But it should be remembered that when Brahman undergoes this
change from the causal to the effected state, imperfections and
sufferings are limited to the souls, and change to matter, i.e., it’s
body undergoes a change, while Brahman continues to be the self
and inner Ruler and as such is not affected by the imperfections
etc., even as childhood, youth etc., do not affect a person but are
restricted to his body.
If it is asked why at all creation takes place, it is said that the law of
karma necessitates creation. The process of creation starts in order
to enable the souls to reap the fruits of their past deeds and this

process is said to be without a beginning. But Ramanuja also says
that creation and dissolution of the world are due to the sweet will
of God, which is termed as Lila or sport. The world comes into
existence when Brahman in its causal state desires to be many and
thus evolves names and forms. Thus the two positions are
reconciled by maintaining that the will of God is not averse to the
Law of Karma. The latter is the expression of His will itself.
Here, it should be mentioned that Ramanuja vehemently attacks
Shankara’s concept of Maya. He levels seven important charges
(Anupapatti) against the theory of Maya.
In one such charges he questions the locus or seat of Maya. It
cannot exist in Brahman, for then the unqualified monism of
Brahman would break down. Moreover, Brahman is said to be pure
self luminous Consciousness or Knowledge and Avidya means
ignorance. Then how can ignorance exist in knowledge? Again,
Avidya cannot reside in the individual self, for the individuality of
the self is said to be the creation of Avidya. How can the cause
depend on the effect? Hence Avidya cannot exist either in Brahman
or in Jiva. It is a figment of imagination of the Advaitin.
In another charge Ramanuja questions the concealing nature of
Avidya. If Brahman be the self-luminous pure consciousness, then
how come can it be concealed by Avidya.
In yet another, he objects to the nature of Avidya. Is it positive or
negative or both or neither? It cannot be positive since Avidya
means ignorance, which implies absence of knowledge. It cannot be
negative either because a negative entity cannot give rise to the
world-illusion of Brahman. Again to say Avidya is both positive and
negative is to embrace self contradiction.
Again, the Advaitin describes Maya or Avidya as ‘indescribable’ or
‘indefinable’. This means that it cannot be described as either real
or unreal. But this again leads to self-contradiction. A thing must be

either real or unreal, there is no third alternative. To accept such a
description is to defy the cannons of logic.
Another charge against Avidya is that it cannot be cognized by any
Pramana or means of valid knowledge. Avidya cannot be perceived,
for perception can give us either an entity or a non-entity. It cannot
be inferred for inference proceeds through a valid mark or middle
term which Avidya lacks. Nor can it be maintained on the authority
of the scriptures for they declare Maya to be a real wonderful power
for creating this wonderful world which really belongs to God.
Even if we are convinced of such an Avidya, then also the problem
remains because it cannot be removed. The Advaitins are of the
views that knowledge of unqualified attributeless Brahman can
remove such Avidya. But according to Ramanuja such a knowledge
is not possible. Knowledge is always of the differentiated. Brahman
as Nirguna cannot be known. As such Avidya cannot be removed.
Moreover, Avidya is said to be positive in nature. How can a positive
thing be removed?
Thus, through all these arguments Ramanuja purports to establish
that Maya or Avidya cannot be proved. It may be said that some of
the Upanishads mention God as a wielder of Maya. The
Svetaswetara Upanishad says ‘The Lord, the Mayin, creates through
Maya this world and the souls are bound in it by this Maya’ (Sve.IV-
9). However, Ramanuja says that here the word ‘Maya’ refers to
Prakriti which is the cause of this wonderful creation. The Lord is
called ‘Mayi’ because He possesses the power and not because of
Nescience on His part. Again, when Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says
‘The Lord becomes many by His Maya’, it means God’s power of
creating manifold objects. When Gita says ‘My Maya is hard to
cross’ here ‘Maya’ is referred to Prakriti consisting of three
Gunas. Thus neither Sruti, nor Smriti, nor even the Puranas teach
Maya to be nescience.[59]

3.3.8 Liberation and Means of Liberation:-
The essential nature of Jiva or individual soul is intelligence and
bliss. But this nature is obscured by Avidya and karma. Thus the
bondage of the souls is due to their ignorance and karma. Due to its
karmas, the soul becomes associated with particular body, senses,
mind and life. The question ‘how or why does the pure soul come to
be at all tinged with karma ?’ is answered by Ramanuja in the same
fashion as the Jainas, i.e., the relation is beginningless.
What, then, is liberation ? if bondage of self is due to the dross of
Avidya or ignorance, then the state of its release is purging of
ignorance which facilitates its unhindered manifestation of
intelligence and bliss. It becomes omniscient and intuitive of God,
and being free of karma, cherishes no desire to return to this
Yet it can be said that the liberated souls do not become identical
with Brahman but only similar to Brahman, i.e., attain the nature of
God. In the released condition the souls have all the perfections of
the Supreme spirit except in two points. First of all the soul is
atomic in size, i.e., it is finite, whereas God is all pervading and
infinite. Again, the soul has no power over the creative movements
of the world, which belong exclusively to Brahman.
Liberation, according to Ramanuja, is not the merging of the
individual soul into the Absolute, but only the direct intuitive
realization by the individual soul of its own essential nature as a
mode of God.
The attainment of liberation must be sought through work and
knowledge. Ramanuja advocates the harmonious combination of
action and knowledge (Jnanakarmasamuchya) as the purificatory
means of the dross and dust of karma, that has surrounded it. By
work he means the different obligatory rituals enjoined in the
Vedas. Disinterested performance of such duties destroys the
accumulated effects of the past deeds. Thus the study of the

Purvamimansha is a necessary pre-requisite to the study of
Vedanta. For, by the study of the Purvamimansha and the
performance of the duties in its light, one comes to realize that the
sacrificial rites cannot lead to any permanent good and cannot help
man to attain salvation. This persuades him to study Vedanta. But
the real knowledge of Vedanta is not the verbal knowledge of the
scriptures. Real knowledge is the steady constant remembrance of
God, or meditation (Upasana). Only this real knowledge which is
equal to the highest Bhakti or devotion, is the immediate cause of
liberation, which is immediate knowledge of God.
Ramanuja speaks of three words ‘Prapatti’, ‘Upasana’ and ‘Bhakti’.
‘Prapatti’ means complete surrender on the absolute mercy of God,
and ‘Upasana’ means constant contemplation of God. Enjoined
actions and ordinary knowledge are means to realize this Prapatti
and Upasana. But above all what is needed is God’s grace. It is only
by the grace of God that the complete surrender and constant
meditation matures into the real Bhakti or Jnana. Here it should be
noted that Ramanuja distinguishes between Prapatti and Bhakti.
While Prapatti is only the emotional love and passion for God Bhakti
is unmixed with emotion. It is the highest knowledge, i.e., intuitive
knowledge of God.
Such a liberation cannot be attained while being in the physical
state. One can attain fellowship with God after exhausting all karma
and throwing off the physical body. so long as the karmas persist
the soul cannot acquire its innate purity. Thus Ramanuja does not
believe in Jivanmukti.
According to Ramanuja in the state of release the souls are all of
the same type, i.e., there are no distinctions of gods, men, animals,
and plants. Yet, again, he distinguishes between two classes of
released: one class consists of those who are intent on service to
God here and in heaven. Heaven is the sphere where all the
redeemed souls dwell, and is an extension of the earthly

experience, only with greater perfection, more comfort, ease and
beauty. The other class consists of those who have realized their
souls by constantly meditating on God.
But there are yet others known as mystics who not only want to lay
off their bodies but also their individualities, and intent to merge
into the Supreme. Ramanuja’s philosophy finds no place for them.
Thus Dr. Radhakrishnan says ‘Ramanuja does not do justice to the
mystics, who thus hunger for becoming one with the supreme

3.3.9 Concluding Remark:-

If a system of thought cannot satisfy the fundamental human
instincts, it is not accepted by the people at large. Shankara’s
Nirguna Brahman, though intellectually the most gracious blossom
of the Upanishads, was not efficacious to this effect. It could not
solace the stress and sufferings of the people, neither could it
satisfy the instinct of love and devotion. Personal values did not
have any meaning to this bloodless Absolute. People needed a
personal god to whom to appeal to, who would stand by their side
to overcome the period of crisis.
Besides Shankara’s Advaita, the ritualism of the Mimansakas led to
the same end. Even Buddhism and Jainism lost their popularity
because they preached no Gods.
Ramanuja has tried to strike a compromise between the intellectual
attainment of Advaita Vedanta and the philosophical outpourings of
the Alvars. His chief aim was to proclaim the doctrine of salvation
through Bhakti, and show it to be the chief teachings of the

3.4 MADHVA:-

3.4.1 Life of Madhva:-

After Ramanuja, Sri Madhvacarya flourished in the 12th century
A.D. and propounded a school called Dvaitam, meaning dualism,
which is one of the three principal schools of Vedanta.
The 12th century, which saw the birth of Madhva, was a period of
grave cultural unrest and political turmoil in Indian history. The
Hindu Kingdoms and the people were passing through a
catastrophic period. Disunity was rampant among the Hindu
kingdoms. They were torn by internecine wars. Destruction of
temples and monasteries and forcible conversions to an invading
faith were going on. Mayavada could not give the people the
dynamic urge to unite to resist external aggression. A-cosmism and
indulgence in hair-splitting logic of Anirvacaniyata was not the need
of the time. The Hindu community had to be roused to a sense of
reality of the world and the stability of Dharma, which were at
stake. The people had to be awakened against the world-negating
philosophy which in one form or other was devitalizing the society.
At this juncture of philosophical unrest, Madhva emerged as a
champion of dualism. He was born in 1199 A.D. in a village near
Udipi, of the South Canara district and lived for seventy nine years.
He became very proficient in Vedic learning and spent several years
in study and discussion, prayer and meditation. While yet in his
teens, the call of the spirit took him to Acyutapreksha, who was an
adherent of Shankara’s school. He received initiation from him as a
Sannyasi. However, he did not feel satisfied with their interpretation
of Indian Philosophy with particular reference to its basic texts and
traditions and wanted to propound a new system of his own.
He toured all over India several times and visited Badrikasrama,
Bengal, Bihar and Benaras in the north and many centers of

learning on the Godavari and important places like Goa, Srirangam
and Kanyakumari, in the south.
Madhva appeared on the Indian philosophical scene after the
systems of Shankara and Ramanuja had been well established. In
spite of the Theistic revolt against Shankara led by Ramanuja,
Madhva could not agree with him on many points of Theistic
doctrine. So he called upon to give a new lead in thought, to his
Madhva has left thirty seven works in all. They include Dasa-
Prakaranas, where he discussed many philosophical and other
themes; commentaries on the ten Upanishads; commentary on the
Gita and the Brahmansutras; miscellaneous works comprising
Stotras, poems, and works, on worship and ritual. His epitome of
the Mahabharata called Bharatatparyanirnya and gloss on
Bhagavata Purana help to elucidate his philosophy. He also wrote a
commentary on the first forty hymns of the Rig-Veda. His greatest
work is the Anu-Vyakhyan, a critical exposition of the philosophy of
the Bramhasutras.

3.4.2 Madhva’s Dvaita:-

Madhva’s dualistic philosophy is a reaction against Shankara’s non-
dualism. While Shankara stands for unqualified monism, Madhva
stands for unqualified dualism. Madhva accuses Shankara of
teaching the doctrines of Shunyavada Buddhism under the cloak of
Vedanta. ‘Bheda’ or difference is the central point for his system. He
advocates the reality of five fold differences. They are between (1)
God and soul, (2) soul and soul, (3) soul and matter, (4) God and
matter, (5) matter and matter. Even after the state of liberation the
released souls posses different degrees of knowledge and bliss.
Thus his philosophy can also be called as realistic pluralism, since it
believes in the reality of the external world and also admits the
reality of plurals in it.

There was the tradition of dualism even prior to Madhva, but the
need of the situation, his own hatred towards Advaita, and his
works in favour of dualism makes him the prominent spokesman of
Dvaita Vedanta of his age.

3.4.3 Reality:-
Madhva defines reality as ‘what is unsuperimposed’ (anaropitam).
This means that appearance is not reality. According to Madhva
existence is the test of reality. Again, existence does not
necessarily mean existence for all time and throughout space.
Actual existence at some time and space is sufficient to distinguish
the real from the unreal, which cannot be said to really exist at the
time and place of its appearance save in our distorted imagination.
The unreal has no actual existence in time or space though it may
appear to have it. Such an appearance is indeed the characteristic
mark of unreality. Even the critical philosopher like Kant, seems to
have recognized objective experience as a reality when he holds
that the thing-in-itself cannot be objectively known.[61]
The second test of reality, recognized by Madhva is practical
efficiency. One cannot make vessels out of illusory silver in the
Madhva’s conception of reality is thus the midway between the
extreme momentariness (Ksanikavada) of the Buddhists and the
eternalism of the Advaitins.
According to Madhvacharya “There are two orders of reality—the
independent and the dependent”. ‘Svatantramasvatantram ca
prameyam dvividham matam’, (tattvaviveka 1)[62] and the aim of
philosophy, is to realize the distinction between the ‘independent
reality’ and the ‘dependent realities’.
The richness and diversity of the universe is a fact of experience.
We are confronted with the diversity in the world around us. The
presence of other selves like us is also borne in upon us. We

apprehend reality not as ‘one’ but as ‘many’. So far as our
convictions, tests and reasoning go, they remain as real as
ourselves. But the Reals constituting this universe are not in a
chaotic mess. There is order, regulation, mutual adjustment and
harmony in life. This shows that there is no unrestricted
independence to all to act as they please. But the very principle of
dependence presupposes an Independent central principle which
explains, controls and interrelates the dependents into a universe.
This is sufficient reason, says Madhva, for recognizing the existence
of a ‘Svatantra-tattva’, called God or Brahman, for want of a better
name, in religion and philosophy. His dichotomization of reality is
logical. The dependent Reals, by their very nature, can have no
absolute and unlimited sway or jurisdiction over one another. If
they should have such sway, it would lead to their trying to overrule
one another and that would lead to unending strife and disorder in
the world. It is thus, very necessary, in the interest of the rational
philosophy, to dichotomize reality as a whole, into ‘Svatantra’ and
‘Paratantra’. There is a great difference between Jiva, Jagat and
Brahman. Though Vishnu, the Jivatma or the individual soul and
Prakrti are considered eternal, Prakrti and Atman are not considered
equal to Vishnu (God)J
In Madhvas ontological scheme Brahman is the only independent
real. Dependent reality consists of Chetana and Achetana. The
subdivisions of the Chetanavarga, are, to some extent, theological
in character. A special place is given to the Sritattva which ranks
next to the Supreme Being as the Paratantra and has a cosmic sway
over the destinies of the souls and the modifications of matter. The
rest of the Chetana-varga, is subject to the bondage of Prakriti and
is further divided into released and unreleased. Here, too, there is a
gradation. Among the released Hiranyagarbha occupies a
priviledged position as Jivottama, Devas are the Sarvaprakasha or
fit to realize god as pervasive, the sages are Antahprakasha and the

rest Bahihprakasa. Among the non-released there are salvable
(Muktiyogya), ever-transmigrating (Nityasamsarin) and damnable
(Tamoyogya). The Achetana section falls into two groups of positive
(bhava)and negative (Abhava). Three kinds of negation are
accepted, antecedent negation (Pragabhava), subsequent negation
(Pradhvamsabhava), and absolute negation (Atyantabhava). In the
domain of the positive Reals, there are both eternal and the non-
eternal. Space, time, the Vedas, the subtle aspects of the elements,
senses, Ahamkarika prana, Mahat, Ahamkara and the qualities of
the Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are deemed eternal. The grosser
developments of these are non-eternal.

3.4.4 Ishvara:-
Madhva’s philosophy can be better understood when it is compared
to that of Shankara. Whereas for Shankara only one reality exists,
that is Brahman, according to Madhva there are three Reals existing
from eternity. They are God, Soul, and matter, God being the only
independent reality among them. When the Srutis say ‘Ekam
evadvityiam Brahman’ or ‘Brahman is one without a second’ it only
means that Brahman is unsurpassed in excellence and without an
As to the relation between Cit, Acit and God, in the line of Madhva,
it can be said that, though all the three are real and eternal, the
former two are subordinate to God and thus dependent on him. Cit
and Acit are dependent on God since they are of limited powers and
not all-knowing. God is the One who controls the Cit and Acit
(sentient and insentient Reals) which are of a different nature from
Him. Ishvara is the supreme being and is the creator and sustainer
of this universe. Madhvacharya defines God as follows:
‘the Supreme Being should be accepted as the Creator, sustainer
etc. of this vast universe of stupendous organization.’[63] It is god
who enters into Prakrti to energize and transform it in many ways.

God enters into matter to render possible its modification at every
Similarly, the souls, being dependent, cannot obviously control one
another without one ultimate and independent principle connecting
all of them. There would be an endless regress if one finite self
(real) were accepted as endowed with an intrinsic right to control
another. For, that again would be similarly liable to control by
another finite being and so on. So long as both are finite, such
control would be inconceivable. The difficulty can only be overcome
by positing an Ishvara to regulate the inter-relations of the Jivas.
He is the controller of the many Purushas and superior to them in
so many ways. Thus Prakrti, Purusas, Kaala, etc. is dependent on
one independent principle, viz God or Brahman.
This position is akin to that of Ramanuja. But whereas for Ramanuja
God is both the material and efficient cause of the universe, matter
and soul being the body of god, for Madhva God is the efficient
cause but not the material cause of the universe. God rules the
souls and matter, though he does not create them from nothing, or
reduce them to nothing.
Regarding the nature of this Independent Being or God, Madhva
says that His nature is not indefinable. When the Supreme is said to
be indefinable, all that is meant is that a complete knowledge of
Him is difficult to acquire.
He is infinite in His attributes, for, an independent being cannot
possibly be finite and limited in any case. He is possessed of all
adequate and unrestricted powers and is all-knowing.
The cosmic powers of the Supreme are eight in number: creation,
preservation, dissolution, control, enlightenment, obscuration,
bondage, and release.[64]
Madhva’s conception of God emphasizes two aspects of Divinity—
the perfection of being (sarvagunapuratvam) and freedom from all
limitations (sarvadosagandhavidhuratvam). These two aspects

cover and exhaust all that is great and good. This perfection of the
divine means unlimited pervasion in time, space and fullness of
God cannot be attributeless. So long we have philosophical enquiry
in our minds, god must posses attributes, for no enquiry can lie
about anything that is essentially Nirvishesa. Thus as a necessary
precondition of philosophical inquiry, It must be agreed that god or
Brahman is Savishesa. Even the distinction from all empirical
attributes (Neti-neti) is also a form of characterization.
Not only that, the Srutis themselves speak of many attributes which
characterize Brahman. ‘He who knows all, who is free from wants,
whose effort is the essence of wisdom. From Him this four faced
Brahma, name, form and anna proceed.’ etc. versions of the Srutis
also endorse that god is Savisesa. According to Madhva their cannot
possibly be anything that is utterly attributeless.[65]
However the attributes and actions of Brahman are the same as
itself. They are not different.
Brahman is Formless, in the sense it has no empirical form.
Whatever forms we conceive is either Prakritic or Bhautika.
Brahman is above the influence of Prakrti, because It transcends
Prakrti and others and controls them all. But when we say ‘formless’
it signifies that its form is trans-empirical. When the Srutis speak of
the forms of Brahaman, they speak of the trans-empirical form of
Brahman as the very essence of bliss, reality, knowledge etc. we
use common parlance to have a faint and inadequate idea of the
trans-empirical forms, for there is no other way in which we can
form any conception of the infinite.
God’s form is nothing more than that of reality, consciousness and
bliss unlimited.
Reason cannot prove the existence of God though it can help
us to form idea of God in our minds. We can conceive of an
ascending order of power, goodness, knowledge, beauty, etc. and

the being in which highest perfection is realized is god. We can
know his nature through the study of the Vedas.
Madhva identifies Brahman with Vishnu who manifests himself in
various forms, in various incarnations, and also present in the
various sacred images. Lakshmi is the personification of his creative

3.4.5 Jiva:-
The universe is a vast expansion of animated nature with every
atom of space filled up with Jivas.
According to Shankara Brahman and Jiva are in essence identical in
nature. But for Madhva the distinction between Brahman and Jiva is
real, since two different things cannot at the same time become
non-different and different from each other. Jiva is atomic in size,
where is Brahman is all-pervading.
In this regard Madhva comes in conflict with many scriptural
passages. The great text ‘tat tvam asi’(that thou art), according to
Madhva does not declare any identity between God and soul. It only
states that the soul has for its essence qualities similar to those of
God. Regarding the text ‘ayam atma brahma’ he says that atman is
said to be Brahman, since it grows or since it penetrates everything.
Even at release the Jiva is not non-different from Brahman. Here
again Shankara’s position is contradicted who says that at the time
of liberation there is no difference between Brahman and Jiva.
Jiva is a permanent entity and is by nature blissful, though it is
subject to pain and suffering on account of its connection with
material bodies with regard to its past karma. The qualities like bliss
become manifest at the time of release.
Thus Madhvacarya defines Jiva in his Vishnu Tattva Nirnaya, the
translation of which is as follows:

‘he who enjoys the happiness and suffers the ills of life, who is
eligible for bondage and release, is the Jiva. He is indeed in
apposition to know himself, in all his states as I am.’[66]
Jiva is an agent and has responsibilities to bear. However it is not
an absolute agent, for its limited power. He is circumscribed by
factors like the physical body, the sensory apparatus etc. which are
the gifts of God. It depends on the guidance of God for its actions.
God, according to their previous conduct impels him to action.
Though the Jiva pursues of his free will a course of action that is
determined mostly by his own deep-rooted nature inclinations and
past karma, yet even this is possible because God has given him
the power to do things in conformity with his own innate goodness
or its reverse. As if he works with his own hands and tools; but
looks up to the architect for direction. God dose not interfere with
the Jiva’s decision in any way. He sustains but never constrains.
Unlike the Advaita view of Shankara, Madhvacarya says that
there is not one but many souls in the world. One of the reasons for
the acceptance of Jiva-bahutva-vada can be the uniqueness of each
individual experience. This experience of an individual is
incommunicable. We cannot have others experiences as our own.
We may describe our experiences to another, in speech or writing,
but we cannot transmit to or share the identical experience with
another. Even with regard to the ultimate state of deliverance there
is no unanimity with regard to the mystics.
The difference among Jivas cannot even be said to be conditioned
or ‘Aupadhika’. For if the difference is merely due to Upadhi or
conditioning factors, i.e. if there were no real difference, then all the
Jivas would have identical experiences. ‘But while it might be
possible for us to sympathize with others’ sorrows and feel happy in
their happiness, it is impossible for any of us, yogis and Mystics not
excepting, to enter into intimate personal relation into them as our
own immediate experiences’

Again, the plurality of selves cannot be based on the accidents of
psychophysical embodiment or differences of karma. Karma itself is
the result of the distinctive nature of each soul. The present merit of
a Jiva can be the result of an unseen merit of the past life, but that
again must presuppose a similar merit in the still previous life. The
series would lead to infinite regress. If it breaks down in any
particular instance then the principle of unseen merit should be
dispensed with. If it holds good in all cases then it should be
admitted that unseen merit is ingrained in the nature of individuals.
Thus, the theory of karma will be powerless to explain the cause of
such inequalities without recourse to the hypothesis of an intrinsic
peculiarity that is uncaused (Anadivisesa).
Similarly, moral worth, knowledge, works, experience, heredity,
opportunities, culture, -- none of these can account for the diversity
of the Jivas. The final solution could only be found in the inherent
nature of beings. The basis of the doctrine of plurality of selves is in
the intrinsic diversity of their essences.
Madhvacharya even extends this to the souls in the released state.
According to him plurality of souls in the released state is also not
illogical, for there is disparity of Sadhnas practiced by different
orders of beings.
Madhva’s doctrine of the soul insists not only upon the
distinctiveness of each soul but also upon an intrinsic gradation
among them based on varying degrees of knowledge, power and
bliss. As it is mentioned above, the souls are of three kinds. 1.
those who are eternally free(Nityamukta) like Lakshmi, 2. those
who have attained freedom from Samsara, like Devas, sages, and
fathers, 3. the bound (Baddha). The last category is again divided
into three types.
They are (1) Muktiyogya (salvable or eligible for release.) (2) Nitya-
Samsarin (ever-transmigrating, those who are bound to the circuit
of Samsara ) and (3) Tamoyoyogya (damnable, those who are

intended for hell). This is known as tripartite classification of souls.
Madhva’s love of difference is so great that he goes on to find
difference even in the released souls regarding their possession of
knowledge and enjoyment of bliss.

3.4.6 World:-
The world is real not illusory. The material universe, according to
Madhva, is neither the Parinama of Brahman nor the Vivarta of
Brahman but an actualization of what is in the womb of matter and
souls by the action of Brahman. Madhva’s theory of constitution of
matter and the evolution of the world is based on the Sankhya
metaphysics, the Epics and Puranas. He accepts a primordial stuff
called Prakriti which undergoes various modifications and develops
by a process of evolution and involution of parts. The existence of
Prakriti is not logically established by Madhva. Prakriti is an
insentient, dependent, material cause of the world. It is the direct
material cause of the development of time and the three qualities of
Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and indirectly of Mahat, Ahamkara, etc.
The twenty four principles which are evolved from Prakriti are
Mahat, Ahamkara, Buddhi, Manas, ten sensory organs, five sense
objects and five great elements. These twenty four evolutes of
Prakriti are the constituents of the microcosm and the macrocosm
of the entire Brahmanda.
The reality of the world follows from the doctrine of self-validity of
knowledge. The knowledge produced by the senses is normally valid
and true, under requisite conditions of knowledge and proper types
of contacts of the sensory apparatus and this knowledge is
ordinarily contradicted . It is accepted in all schools of Vedanta that
knowledge carries with it its own validity which is intrinsic to it.
Thus validity implies the factual reality of the object of knowledge
with reference to a given spatio-temporal setting.[68]

The material world is the field or environment provided for the
spiritual evolution, of souls. God cannot possibly have given us an
illusory environment to develop in. Madhva has given us some
reasons in favour of this. Some of them are as under.
First of all, according to Madhva there is enough evidence in the
scriptures that God perceives us and the world in which we live as
factual realities. His position is not like a magician. A magician does
not perceive his own magical creation. God perceives the world
always. What is thus perceived by a cosmic mind cannot be illusory.
Secondly, Not only that, if this universe is to be regarded, as a
delusion (as the illusory snake in the rope), it require the
acceptance of a real universe (as the prototype of the imagined
one) and a real substratum (i.e. to say two Reals). No theory of
illusions can be demonstrated without at least two Reals: a
substratum (Adhisthana) of the illusion and a prototype (Pradhana)
of the superimposed object (Aaropya). In the absence of such a
prototype world existing and having been experienced, no illusion
could arise.
Thirdly, if the world-appearance were due to the transformation of
the nescience (Ajnana) that conceals the true nature of the atman,
(the world) would not be perceived as different from the atman. No
one sees the substratum and the superimposed object separately,
in an illusion. We do not perceive ourselves as the world of objects.
On the contrary, we perceive the world as something other than
and outside of us. This shows that there is no truth in the
contention that the self is superimposed on the not-self and vice-
The world is a system of five-fold distinction and is designated as
Prapanca. The fivefold difference is the difference that exists as
between Jivas, Jadas, and Brahman on the one hand and mutually
among the Jivas and the Jadas on the other.

3.4.7 Maya:-
According to Madhva it is not necessary to repudiate the reality of
the many in order to maintain the oneness of Brahman. The reality
of the many is no way incompatible with the reality of the one. The
ultimate object of philosophy is to be able to realize the true status
of the metaphysical dependence of all finite reality comprising the
Cetana and Acetana world upon the One Infinite Independent
Reality known as God.
Madhva is not in favour of adopting the method of Shankara viz., of
maintaining the reality of the One at the expense of the many—i.e.,
by dismissing the finite, in the last philosophical analysis, as
‘Mithya’ or unreal. There is no need to explain away the finite reality
as an appearance. For, the theory of appearances is able to cut both
ways. It might reduce everything including ourselves, to an
appearance—landing us in a blank nihilism. An appearance at least
presupposes a perceiver, otherwise it will be beyond the logic of
Not only that an appearance presupposes or requires, besides a
perceiving self, a substratum on which appearances could be
superimposed, and a prototype of the thing so superimposed.
Without these three prerequisites no sound theory of appearances
should be demonstrated. There is no point in summoning to aid a
series of endless superimpositions stretching back to eternity to
account for the theory of appearance. Thus it is better to abandon
the theory of appearance and accept the reality of the external
According to Madhva the Upanishadic Brahman should not be
interpreted as one in the numerical sense, but should have a deeper
meaning. It should be interpreted as the source of the multiplicity of
the finite reality and the sustaining principle behind it. In Madhvas
philosophy the finites are not banished in the realm of illusory. It

lives moves and has its being in the infinite. The relation between
the Svatantra and Paratantra is a real and a true relation.

3.4.8 Bondage:-
The nature of a soul is unalloyed bliss and pure intelligence. It is
essentially free from any kind of misery and pain. Madhva contends
that even though the Jiva is self-luminous being, still, it is not
inconceivable that he should be subject to ignorance of its own true
nature and of the nature of God, and of his true relation to Him, as
he is a dependent and finite being.
Bondage is due to ignorance. Though the atman’s nature is one of
knowledge (Jnanasvabhava), this ignorance is able to obscure a
portion of that knowledge. But this ignorance is not essential to the
nature of Jiva. It is somehow extrinsic or foreign to the core of its
being, like the rust on copper. The question arises if ignorance is
external to the nature of Jiva how does it come to obscure his
Svarupa. Madhva, here, introduces the will of god or his instructable
power. According to Madhva, Prakriti is the principle of obscuration,
but it is god who actuates the latent power of Prakriti which is
known as Maya or Avidya in the scriptures. Prakriti and its powers
are insentient (Jada) and therefore incapable of independent
movement (Asvatantra). So the intervention of god is necessary for
its functioning as a principle of obscuration. Again, obscuration
cannot be due to the Kama, Karma etc. for they themselves are
dependent principles and are the effects of the earlier causes. Thus
bondage is explained by the will of god.
Though the bondage and impurities of souls are extrinsic yet they
are real and not imaginary and termination of this bondage is
possible through proper means.

3.4.9 Mukti:-
Mukti is merely the shaking off of what is extrinsic to one’s nature
and reposing in one’s own intrinsic nature and direct perception of
God (Aparoksadarsana). This knowledge of god is not a mere
intellectual realization of the deity. It is more a feeling of deep
attraction and attachment arising from the knowledge of Bimba-
pratibimba bhava between God and soul and sustained by a sense
of spontaneous affection flowing from it. In the act of meditation
the soul can by divine grace arrive at the direct intuitive realization
of God. when the soul has a steady vision of God, his fetters fall off.
This alone is the proximate cause of release from Samsara. Mukti
consists in the realization that all finite reality is essentially
dependent on the supreme. Finite realities, again, can be both
eternal and non-eternal. It is not to be supposed that only non-
eternals are dependent on the Supreme Being. Dependence is a
metaphysical relation which is applicable to both eternal and non-
eternal substances among the finite. In Indian philosophical
tradition, certain substances are accepted as eternal. Among these
may be mentioned time, space, matter, and souls. These are
viewed as uncreated, as it is difficult to conceive of their creation.
Madhva brings these eternal and uncreated substances also under
the power of supreme being.
But over and above the pure knowledge it is God’s grace that plays
the most decisive role in the deliverance of the souls. Since the
souls bondage is, in the last analysis, to be referred to the divine
will, its removal also is ascribed to the divine will. Even the power of
knowledge is futile without the grace of god.
‘Release from Samsara is possible only through gods grace. It is
bestowed on those who have had a direct vision of God. Such vision
is vouchsafed to those who have constantly meditated on Him in
loving devotion, after going through the discipline of sincere study
of Shastras and cogitation, termed “Jijnasa”, which sets one’s

doubts at rest, and clears the ground for meditation.’[69] Thus, it is
clear from the above context that God’s choice is not arbitrary,
unconditioned and groundless. The grace of God is proportioned to
the faith and intensity of our devotion. Bhakti, the highest form of
devotion moves god to shower his grace on the individuals.
Moksha is attainable only after death. According to Madhva absolute
liberation and embodied life are not compatible. The soul may
continue with the bodily existence so long as its Prarabdha karma is
operative, but when it departs from the body, it is freed absolutely.
But it should not be thought that natural death is itself the
termination of bondage, for in ordinary death there is no complete
severance of the self from the elements. However, he lays great
stress on the survival of every individual personality, as such, in
release. This is the corollary of his belief in the distinctiveness of the
Svarupa of each Jiva.
However, Moksha is not a purely negative state. It is essentially a
state of positive blissfulness of self-hood which at the same time
incommunicable to others. Sankhyas, Naiyayikas and others
maintain that Moksha is devoid of any blissful experience as such
and that it is only a purely negative state of cessation of all misery.
According to Madhva, however, cessation of all misery is not an
adequate motive to attain Moksha. It is marked by a complete
absence of all traces of pain, evil and suffering, coupled with a
positive enjoyment of inherent spiritual bliss. Even the Srutis also
endorse the same view. We cannot judge the state of Moksha from
our own limited range and conclude that no kind of bliss is possible
to the Muktas.
However, the released souls are not independent of god and cannot
carry on the cosmic functions of the Supreme Being, such as
creation, preservation etc.
There is also gradations in the nature, range, quality, intensity etc.
of the innate bliss enjoyed by the released souls according to their

capacities and intrinsic fitness (Svarupayogyata). Each released
souls rests fully satisfied in the enjoyment of his own Svarupananda
but the fullness of bliss attained through Sadhnas is to be
understood with the reference to their varying capacities. Just as
vessels of different sizes, the rivers and the ocean are all full of
water according to their respective capacities. In the same way the
bliss of the Jivas, from the ordinary human beings to
Brahmandeva are different. This theory of Ananda-tartamya in
Moksha is a logical deduction from the theory of Svarupa-bheda
and Taratamya (gradation among souls) accepted by Madhva.

3.4.10 Sadhana Vichara:-

The first question which arises in our mind is that is there a
necessity of Sadhana-vichara?
the Jiva, according to Madhva is a real doer (Karta). It is man
himself and not God that is responsible for the evil and suffering in
the world. In the Advaita school of Shankara the self is not really an
agent. All activity is due to the play of Avidya or ignorance and is
essentially the result of a superimposition on the Atma. Since
Moksha, in this school, is understood in terms of identity with
Brahman, it is not something to be achieved afresh. But is the
essence of the atman himself, though seemingly obscured and
hidden. Madhva is unable to accept such a position which reduces
all activity on the part of the self, be it spiritual, hedonistic, secular,
ethical, etc. to be mere pretence. For him it is necessary to ascribe
real activity to the self. Madhva, in his Brahma-sutra-bhasya writes
‘The jiva indeed must be a real doer otherwise the sastra which is
addressed to those who want to achieve certain objectives by
certain specified means and to avoid certain undesirable
contingencies by not doing certain undesirable contingencies by not
doing certain things, would have no scope.’[70]

The means of realization of Brahman such as Sravana, Manana,
Nididhyasana, Samadhi etc. recommended in the Sastras clearly
imply that they are to be carried out by a real agent.
Not only is he a real doer, his bondage to this Samsara is also real.
It is a real bondage which has been continuing from the time
immemorial. It should not be thought that natural death is itself the
termination of bondage. For, in (ordinary) death there is no
complete severance of the self from the elements. So there is need
for Sadhanas. The eternal and intimate relation in which individual
souls stand to the Paramatma is conceived by Madhva as a peculiar
metaphysical relation of constant dependence of Jivas on Brahman.
It is difficult to express it in terms of any other relation within our
empirical grasp. The term ‘Bimbapratibimbabhava’ (original and
reflection) which has been suggested for it by Madhva is the nearest
parallel to it in our experience. Though the Jivas resemble to god as
his Pratibimba and his essential nature of consciousness, bliss, etc,
are all intrinsic to him, they are not fully manifested. It becomes
manifested only in release. Bondage of the Samsara is itself due to
its relation being missed by the Jiva and becoming obscured by a
false sense of independence. So Sadhana is needed. Madhva gives
a unique place to Aparoksha-jnana or direct vision of God.
3.4.10(a) Vairagya:-
Among the Sadhanas, Vairagya or non-attachment to the body and
bodily pleasures and cravings has always been recognized as the
first step in Sadhana. This comes by realizing the utter dependence
of every thing on god. the different births of a Jiva is to create
aversion in the mind towards the earthly pleasure.
3.4.10(b) Karma:-
However, according to Madhva karma alone is not sufficient for
Moksha. But for that reason he does not accept
Jnanakarmasamucaya either to be the Sadhana for Moksha. The
Srutis clearly say that there is no other way to attain Moksha than

by Jnana. Madhva makes a vigorous plea for enlightened spiritual
activity which cannot be binding in its consequences. There can be
no true wisdom without such activity, and true karma without
enlightenment and devotion to god.
‘it should not be supposed that karma alone is a sufficient means of
Moksha. For the Srutis clearly say that there is no other (final) way
to attain Moksha than by jnana’[71]
Karma should be performed with Bhakti, Jnana, and Vairagya.
Madhva speaks of two different types of Adhikaris or orders of
beings in the world. Some are Jnananisthah who pursue the path of
knowledge to the exclusion of all karma, and the others, though
highly enlightened, have been commissioned by the divine will to
follow the path of active karma. But this karma is not to be viewed
in the hedonistic and ritualistic sense of the Mimansakas. Rather it
is the active performance in a spirit of devotion and dispassion.
However, even this karma is to be pursued for acquiring the
necessary mental purification, and thus is nothing more than an
accessory to spiritual realization. Disinterested activity performed in
a spirit of devotion to god is a pathway to knowledge, which alone is
the highest means to release.[72]
3.4.10(c) Bhakti :-
In ‘Mahabharata tatparya Nirnaya’ Madhvacarya defines bhakti as
“ that firm and unshakable love of God, which rises above all other
ties of love and affection based upon an adequate knowledge and
conviction of His great majesty, is called ‘Bhakti’. That alone is the
means of moksha”.[73]
The exposition of this definition has been given by Madhva’s
commentator Jayatirtha as follows:
‘Devotion to the Lord is that ceaseless flow of love of God,
unimpeded by a thousand obstacles, exceeding beyond measure the
love and attachment which one usually cherishes for ones own self

for one’s earthly belongings and fortified by a deep knowledge and
conviction of the Lord being the abode of infinite and illimitable
auspicious attributes of a spotless nature.’[74] Dr. B. N. K. Sharma
has defined bhakti as follows:
“Bhakti is, thus, the study and continuous flow of deep attachment
to God, impregnable by any amount of impediments and transcend
in the love of our own selves, our kith and kin, cherished belongings
etc. and fortified by a firm conviction of the transcendent majesty
and greatness of God as the abode of all perfections and free from
all blemish and by an unshakable conviction of the complete
metaphysical dependence of everything else upon Him.”[75]
Bhakti is, thus, the steady and continuous flow of deep attachment
to God (nirantarapremavaahah). Such a Bhakti always precedes
and follows the attainment of knowledge which is nothing other
than vivid perception of the supreme Reality as Sat-Chit-Ananda.
In Madhva’s philosophy Bhakti is not only a means to an end but
also an end in itself. The light of Bhakti not only persists before a
person attains Moksha, but also after he attains Moksha. The
relation between the individual and the Supreme Being is not
something that is destroyed by release.
3.4.10(d) Upasana :-
Another means of the realization of God is Upasana. Upasana is a
mental process of absorbed thought in unbroken continuity and with
deep attachment to the subject. When turned towards the God it
becomes a potent Sadhana for Aparoksha or direct vision
(Saksatkara).[76] Among the various forms of Upasana, the
meditation on the Bimba-aspect of the lord has been said by
Madhva as an essential condition.
Inasmuch as God is essentially incomprehensible (Avyakta) in the
fullness of His majesty, He cannot be visualized save by His favour.
Again, the grace of god, which is the ultimate means of realizing
Him, can only be obtained by prolonged contemplation

(Nididhyasana) of his perfections, with steadiness and devotion, to
the best of one’s capacity. Such contemplation of the Divine
presupposes a preliminary study of the scriptures(Sravana). Which
has then to be supplemented by deep thinking or reflection
(Manana), in order to clear the mind of all uncertainty and
misconceptions that may be lurking their from time immemorial.[77]
The combination of Sravana, Manana and Nididhyasana is termed
Jijnasa or a systematic philosophical inquiry and logical
ascertainment of truth.
Thus it can be seen that Madhva has assigned a special place of
honour to the scriptural studies, of course as interpreted by him, as
a means to realization. Sometimes he says it to be the preparatory
stage for Dhyana. The term Dhyana here stands for and includes all
the other stages of self discipline leading to Samadhi.
Madhva , however, has mentioned three orders of Upasana:
internal, outward, and all-pervasive. These different Upasanas are
in accordance with the different (intrinsic) capacities of
individuals.[78] Those who worship through rituals and images
worship god outwardly. The Rishis meditate upon Him as the
Antaryamin in the heart, and still higher Adhikaries, as the all
pervasive one. Accordingly the nature of realization also differs.
Madhva, however, condemns Pratikopasana, for such meditation
may enhance the status of the Pratika but it would lower the status
of Brahman. In meditating on Brahman, the devotee may
concentrate on one or more attributes of divinity according to his
spiritual fitness and capacity.

3.4.11 Concluding Remark:-

As a concluding remark, we can speak of some differences in
Madhva and Ramanuja’s philosophy. Madhva, being an out and out
dualist, did not believe in qualified absolutism. He does not regard

the universe of matter and souls as the body of God. They are
different from each other and also from God.
Ramanuja advocates qualitative monism and quantitative pluralism
of souls. But Madhva advocates both quantitative and qualitative
pluralism of souls.
Again, according to Shankara, a liberated soul is identical with
Brahman. The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman itself.
Ramanuja says a liberated soul is similar to God, though is differed
in certain respects, for he does not posses the power of creation,
preservation, and dissolution of this world, and the power of being
the inner ruler of the universe. According to Madhva, there is
difference of liberated soul from God. It does not enjoy the full bliss
of God.


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39. Viveka-Chudamani-4.
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42. ‘Indian Philosophy’ Vol-II, by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Second Edition, P 643.
43. Brahma-Sutras. Sri Bhasya. With text, English rendering,comments
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44. Ibid. pp 282-283.
45. Ibid. pp 341-343.
46. Ibid. P 52.
47. Ibid. P 287.
48. Ibid. P 247.
49. Ibid. P 289.
50. Ibid. P 292.
51. Ibid. P 293.
52. Ibid. P 294.
53. Ibid. P 295.
54. Ibid. P 298.
55. Ibid. P 299.
56. A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. By Chandradhar Sharma. P 354.
57. Brahma-Sutras. Sri Bhasya. With text, English rendering,comments
According to Sri Bhasya of Ramanuja, and index. By Swami Vireswarananda
and swami Adidevananda. P 283.
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Chapter Scheme.

4.1 Introduction.
4.2 Life Of Sri Ramakrishna.
4.3 Teachings Of Sri Ramakrishna.
4.3.1 Reality Is One.
4.3.2 God And The World.
4.3.3 Maya.
4.3.4 Jiva
4.3.5 Problem Of Evil.
4.3.6 Free Will.
4.3.7 Bondage Is Due To Ignorance.
4.3.8 Doctrine of Karma and Rebirth.
4.3.9 Liberation.
4.3.10 Means of liberation.
4.3.10 (a) Karmayoga.
4.3.10 (b) Jnanayoga.
4.3.10 (c) Tantrika Sadhana.
4.3.10 (d) Bhaktiyoga.
4.3.11 For The Householders.
4.4 Concluding Remark.