Dvaita Vedanta

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Madhvacharya (1238-1317 CE), the main proponent of Dvaita Vedanta

Dvaita Vedanta (originally known as Tattvavāda) (/ˈdvtə vɪˈdɑːntə/), is a sub-school in the Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy. Alternatively known as Bhedavāda, Bimbapratibimbavāda, Pūrnabrahmavāda and Svatantra-Advitiya-Brahmavāda, the Dvaita Vedanta sub-school was founded by the 13th-century scholar Madhvacharya.[1] The Dvaita Vedanta school believes that God and the individual souls (jīvātman) exist as independent realities, and these are distinct, being said that Vishnu (Narayana) is independent, and souls are dependent on him. The Dvaita school contrasts with the other two major sub-schools of Vedanta, the Advaita Vedanta of Adi Shankara which posits nondualism – that ultimate reality (Brahman) and human soul (Ātman) are identical and all reality is interconnected oneness, and Vishishtadvaita of Ramanuja which posits qualified nondualism – that ultimate reality (Brahman) and human soul are different but with the potential to be identical.[2][3] Sanyasi's of Dvaita Vedanta order belongs ēkadaṇḍi tradition.[4]


Dvaita (द्वैत) is a Sanskrit word that means "duality, dualism".[5] The term refers to any premise, particularly in theology on the material and the divine, where two principles (truths) or realities are posited to exist simultaneously and independently.[5][1] Indologist B. N. Krishnamurti Sharma says, "The English term 'Dualism' is inadequate to express the full content and depth of meaning that Madhva has put into term "Dvaita", as it is to be implied to his system. Even the Sanskrit word "Dvaita" is not literally capable of expressing more than the fundamental principles accepted. [6][7] B. N. K. Sharma suggested the term Svatantra-Advitiya-Brahmavāda as an alternative term to Madhva's system. Sharma says, Satyadhyana Tirtha of Uttaradi Math approved this. B. N. K. Sharma says, "the term Svatantra-Advitiya-Brahmavāda is capable of conveying directly rather than by implication or defination, the highest reach of its thought and its metaphysical ideology do often stressed by Madhva and so well expounded by Jayatirtha". It may be seen that such a term would do justice to both the aspects of reality - the finite and the infinite". Quoting the term "Advitīyatva", Sharma also says, "the term 'Advitīyatva' has been interpreted by Madhva, in the Chandogya Bhashya, in terms of 'absence of peer and superior' to 'Brahman', conceding by implication, the existence, the reality of 'lesser reals' like matter and souls under the aegis of God. The first part of the text has been taken to emphasize the unity of God-head by excluding internal distinctions of substance and attributes in Brahman in conformity with text like नेह नानास्ति किंचना which are understood as nagating some internal distinctions (nānātva) alone in Brahman. The only internal distinctions that are logically conceivable in Brahman, are those of attributes. This is negated by the way of significant negation. The adjunct 'Svatantra' would thus serve to emphasize the transcendence of the supreme over the other reals and its immanence in them and show how the conception of Brahman, here, differs from the 'Nirviśeṣādvaita' of Samkara. Quoting the term 'Svatantra-Advitiya-Brahmavāda', Sharma also says, "It would also stand terminologically balanced with the distinctions of other Vēdantic systems like 'Nirviśeṣādvaita', 'śuddhādvaita', and 'Viśiṣṭādvaita'. It would also lay direct emphasis on the primacy of the supreme as the 'Para-Siddhanta' of the Madhva's thought, and put the teachings about the finite in their proper place as constituting the 'Apara-Siddhānta' (subsidiary truths)".[6]

Aluru Venkata Rao opines that the term Dvaita is not suitable for Madhva's philosophy, hence it should not be used.[8] Instead he suggests the name "Pūrnabrahmavāda".[9]


Dvaita Vedanta is a dualistic interpretation of the Vedas which espouses dualism by theorizing the existence of two separate realities. The first and the only independent reality (svatantra-tattva), states the Dvaita school, is that of Vishnu as Brahman.[10] Vishnu is the supreme Self, in a manner similar to the monotheistic God in other major religions.[11] He is believed to be almighty, eternal,[12] always existing, everlasting, all-knowing, and compassionate.[13] The second reality is that of dependent (asvatantra-tattva) but equally real universe that exists with its own separate essence. Everything that is composed of the second reality, such as individual soul, matter, and the like exist with their own separate reality. The distinguishing factor of this philosophy, as opposed to monistic Advaita Vedanta, is that God takes on a personal role and is seen as a real eternal entity that governs and controls the universe.[14]

Like Ramanuja, Madhvacharya also embraced Vaishnavism. Madhvacharya posits God as being personal and saguna, that is endowed with attributes and qualities (in human terms, which are not believed to be able to fully describe God).[15] To Madhvacharya, the metaphysical concept of Brahman in the Vedas was Vishnu. He stated "brahmaśabdaśca Viṣṇaveva", that Brahman can only refer to Vishnu. Scriptures which say different are declared as non-authoritative by him.[16] To him, Vishnu was not just any other deva, but rather the one and only Supreme Being.[17][18] According to him, the devas are souls of deceased persons who were rewarded for good deeds by being reincarnated into the heavenly worlds and becoming following organs of God's will,[19] which would also be the case with Vayu and Lakshmi.[20] He also believes that they are mortal, and that some of them could sink into lower stages of existence after death.[19] Therefore, he believes that only God shall be worshipped through them, and that worshipping them on their own behalf is an apostasy which emerged during Treta Yuga, and did not yet exist during Satya Yuga.[21] According to him, this must also be noticed regarding murtis.[22]

Dvaita Vedanta acknowledges two principles; however, it holds one of them (the sentient) as being eternally dependent on the other. The individual souls are depicted as reflections, images or shadows of the divine, but never in any way identical with the divine. Moksha (liberation) therefore is described as the realization that all finite reality is essentially dependent on the Supreme.[10] God is believed to have shown the way to attain moksha through several avatars.[12]

Five fundamental, eternal and real differences are described in Dvaita school:[10][18][23]

  1. Between the individual souls (or jīvātman) and God (paramathma or Vishnu).
  2. Between matter (inanimate, insentient) and God.
  3. Between individual souls (jīvātman).
  4. Between matter and jīvātman.
  5. Between various types of matter.

These five differences are said to explain the nature of the universe. The world is called prapañca (pañca "five") by the Dvaita school for this reason.

Madhva differed significantly from traditional Hindu beliefs owing to his concept of eternal damnation. According to him, there are three different classes of souls: One class, Mukti-yogyas, which would qualify for liberation, another, the Nitya-samsarins, which would be subject to eternal rebirth or eternal transmigration and a third class, Tamo-yogyas, which would be condemned to eternal hell (Andhatamisra).[24] No other Hindu philosopher or school of Hinduism holds such beliefs. In contrast, most Hindus believe in universal salvation, that all souls will eventually obtain moksha, even if after millions of rebirths.[citation needed]


  • Dvaita Vedanta and Madhvacharya's historical influence in Hinduism, state Kulandran and Kraemer, has been salutary, but not extensive.[25]
  • According to Sharma, the influence of Dvaita Vedanta ideas have been most prominent on the Chaitanya school of Bengal Vaishnavism,[26] and in Assam.[27]
  • Madhva's theology influenced later scholars such as Nimbarka, Vallabha and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. B.N.K. Sharma notes that Nimbarka's theology is a loose réchauffé of Madhva's in its most essential aspects.
  • Dvaita Vedanta's discussion of the eternal differences and the gradation between the concept of God, human beings and the observed nature led some early colonial-era Indologists such as George Abraham Grierson to suggest that its founder, the 13th-century Madhva was influenced by Christianity,[25] but later scholars rejected this theory.[28][29]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Jeaneane D. Fowler (2002). Perspectives of Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Hinduism. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 340–343. ISBN 978-1-898723-94-3.
  2. Jeaneane D. Fowler (2002). Perspectives of Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Hinduism. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 238–243, 288–293, 340–343. ISBN 978-1-898723-94-3.
  3. James Lochtefeld (2002), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Volume 1 & 2, Rosen Publishing, ISBN 0-8239-2287-1, pages 12-13, 213-214, 758-759
  4. Sharma 2000, p. 525.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Sir Monier Monier-Williams, Dvaita, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages, Oxford University Press (Reprinted: Motilal Banarsidass), ISBN 978-8120831056, page 507
  6. 6.0 6.1 Sharma 2000, p. 5.
  7. Chang 1991, p. 36.
  8. Shivnarayan Joshi Shivji (1 January 1992). A Critique of Indian Dualism. Scientific Publishers. ISBN 9788172330224. Alur Venkat Rao opines that the term Dvaita is not suitable for Madhva's philosophy, hence it should not be used.
  9. Chen-chi Chang (1991). A Treasury of Mahāyāna Sūtras: Selections from the Mahāratnakūṭa Sūtra. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 36. ISBN 978-8120809369. Alur Venkatarao of Dharwar gave Madhva's philosophy the name "Pūrnabrahmavāda".
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Fowler 2002, pp. 340-344.
  11. Michael Myers (2000), Brahman: A Comparative Theology, Routledge, ISBN 978-0700712571, pages 124-127
  12. 12.0 12.1 Helmuth von Glasenapp: Madhva's Philosophie des Vishnu-Glaubens, Geistesströmungen des Ostens vol. 2, Bonn 1923, Einleitung (p. *1-2).
  13. Glasenapp: Madhva's Philosophie des Vishnu-Glaubens, p. 32.
  14. Etter 2006, pp. 59-60.
  15. Glasenapp: Madhva's Philosophie des Vishnu-Glaubens, p. 30–31.
  16. Glasenapp: Madhva's Philosophie des Vishnu-Glaubens, p. 28–29.
  17. Bryant, Edwin (2007). Krishna : A Sourcebook (Chapter 15 by Deepak Sarma). Oxford University Press. p. 358. ISBN 978-0195148923.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Stoker, Valerie (2011). "Madhva (1238-1317)". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  19. 19.0 19.1 Glasenapp: Madhva's Philosophie des Vishnu-Glaubens, p. 67–68.
  20. Glasenapp: Madhva's Philosophie des Vishnu-Glaubens, p. 75.
  21. Glasenapp: Madhva's Philosophie des Vishnu-Glaubens, p. 71.
  22. Glasenapp: Madhva's Philosophie des Vishnu-Glaubens, p. 85.
  23. James Lochtefeld (2002), Madhva, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A–M, Rosen Publishing. ISBN 978-0823931798, page 396
  24. Tapasyananda, Swami. Bhakti Schools of Vedanta pg. 177.
  25. 25.0 25.1 Sabapathy Kulandran and Hendrik Kraemer (2004), Grace in Christianity and Hinduism, James Clarke, ISBN 978-0227172360, pages 177-179
  26. Sharma 1962, pp. 22-23.
  27. Sharma 2000, pp. xxxii-xxxiii, 514-516.
  28. Jones & Ryan 2006, p. 266.
  29. Sarma 2000, pp. 19-21.


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