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Philosophy, Shuddhadvaita Vedanta

Shuddhaadvaita Vedanta – The philosophical school of pure non-dualism

Literature

According to Pushti Margiya Vaishnavism, Vallabha although appreciated the vast corpus of Vedic literature he mainly derived his authority from the prasthana trayi[1] with a special emphasis on a fourth[2], the Srimad Bhagavatam, which he used to derive majority of his philosophy and authenticate his point.

Unlike previous schools, Vallabha did not conform to the tradition of writing commentarial works on the canonical trio altogether but rather wrote exhaustive texts outlining his position and the practical aspect of his idea of Pushti marg, the path of grace.

Vallabha’s literary achievement is a combination of eight-four works, some of which were left incomplete and some now unavailable.

Commentarial works

From the canonical trio, Vallabha exclusively wrote a commentary on the Brahma Sutra, known in the sect as the Anu Bhashya[3]. Here Vallabha lays the philosophical stance of his position and cites numerous quotes from a foray of scriptures to ascertain his position. However Vallabha did not finish the whole commentarial work[4], though it was later completed by his son Vithalnathji.

Tradition suggests that before authoring the Anu Bhashya, Vallabha did author a more extensive commentary on the Brahma Sutra named Brihad Bhashya, however this work is altogether lost over time.

Another commentarial work, which is considered central to the fellowship is that on the Srimad Bhagavatam named ‘Subodhini’. This work again not wholly available is an elucidation on the fundamental themes of the Bhagavata with much emphasis being played on the soteriology of the scripture. To summarise the Bhagavatam even further Vallabha wrote another short piece named Sukshma Tika.

In addition to the works above, Vallabha also wrote commentaries on the gayatri mantra and the mimamsa sutra of jaimini, though not wholly available.

Tatvartha Dipa Nibandha

The Tatvartha Dipa Nibandha popularly known in short as Nibandha, is an elucidation of Vallabha’s school and thoughts with evidence based from scriptures, which he classes are the supreme authority. The nibandha is written as a karika, a short terse verse format which for the lay man is difficult to understand, appreciating this fact, he again wrote a commentary on these verses named as prakasha, to shed light on the meaning of his writing.

The Nibandha is divided into three books:

Shastrath Prakarana – Deals exclusively with the doctrine of Shuddhadvaita Vedanta
Sarvanirnaya Prakarana –  deals with all the principle schools of Hindu philosophy
Bhagavatarth Prakarana – deals with a lucid explanation of the meaning of the Srimad Bhagavatam.

Shodash Granth

These are a collection of sixteen works authored by Vallabha dealing with the fundamental philosophical position of his philosophy and developing devotion towards Sri Krsna, the Supreme Being.

Other Works

In addition to the works above, Vallabha composed numerous other texts which deal with his philosophy and hymns in praise of Sri Krsna.

Supreme Divinity

According to Shuddhadvaita, Brahman is equated to only Sri Krsna[5], who is the absolute and supreme reality, Purushottama. Vallabha rejects the idea that Purushottama Brahman is impersonal but rather asserts Sri Krsna to be the embodiment of Sachidananda[6] whilst elaborating that everything in essence is a manifestation of Sri Krsna and any attempt to qualify Brahman to be attributeless in the scriptures is to establish that he has no material qualities.

However accepting the above, Vallabha does recognise another aspect of Brahman as Akshara Brahman. Here he admits that though lower in nature but consisting of Sachidananda it manifests itself according to the eligibility of the devotee as the abode of Purushottama Brahman, impersonal Brahman, the abodes of other demi-gods, whilst its primary role is to be the womb of creation and source for both individual souls and material creation. Thus concluding, Purushottama Brahman Sri Krsna is both the creator and the created.

Although Vallabha does quote sruti texts, to establish the superiority of Sri Krsna, he mainly relies on the inferred supremacy of the Srimad Bhagavat Purana to gain much of his inspiration, quoting verses which directly correlate to his belief system.

Individual Soul

Vallabha explains that the individual soul is identical with and an atomic entity of Brahman. He states that although the individual soul shares all three aspects of Purushottama[7], Sri Krsna however conceals the bliss aspect of the soul which in turn leads the soul to come into contact with ignorance thus binding the soul to the material world. Vallabha defines the soul being in one of three states.

Pure – when the jiva is separated from Brahman and though the attribute of bliss is concealed yet the jiva is not touched by ignorance

Bound – when the jiva is separated from Brahman with the attribute of bliss concealed and it being affected by ignorance

Liberated – when the jiva though separated from Brahman with the attribute of bliss concealed but now not affect by ignorance as the realisation of his true nature has been graced upon them.

Vallabha defines ignorance as the individual misidentifying his true nature with the body, the internal and external organs, the vital breath, the faculty of cognition and the complete ignorance of his true nature.[8]

He further elaborates that as the soul in essence is a particle of Brahman, the particle is dependent on the supreme, and hence in reality the nature and role of the soul is that of a servant to his master, thus providing the explanation that the individual soul should server Brahman ceaselessly.

Furthermore he states the soul though divine, belongs to a certain nature, of which it is predetermined and in a category of three:

Pushti jivas – The souls of grace – These souls according to Vallabha are the exalted souls who are blessed by Sri Krsna and have been conferred his grace. These souls neither care for the Vedic injunctions ordained in Vedic literature as they have already been given the grace which the scriptures promote as the fruit. These souls again by the grace of Sri Krsna have been revealed their true nature of bliss which exists in their inherent nature. Vallabha further clarifies two categories within Pushti souls, those that are pure pushti souls and those that are mixed with other natures.

Maryada jivas – The souls of Vedic injunctions – These souls bound by the limited world follow the path ordained in the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures. They share pure qualities as described in the scriptures whilst following the path of knowledge, action and devotion to God, here the soul does eventually reach liberation but not given the pure grace of God as the pushti jivas.

Pravaha jivas – The souls of worldly flow – These souls are bound in the circle of birth and death whilst disregarding the scriptural injunctions. Their outlook is purely materialistic with no desire for spiritual life.

Additional to the categories above, Vallabh does say however that each category can show characteristics of another however this is temporal whilst their true nature remains ever the same.

Reality

Vallabha asserts that both sentient and insentient entities are fundamentally Brahman, hence real in nature and only a modification of Brahman rather than a product of Brahman. His logic is based on scriptural evidence which state that ‘he is all this’[9] and in the beginning only Brahman existed.

Furthermore, Vallabha goes on to explain that creation and dissolution of the multitude of beings and the material worlds is by the mere sport and will of Sri Krsna. Vallabha clarifies that as all sentient and insentient matter is none other than Brahman in reality, Brahman uses the facilities of concealment and revelation[10] for objects to appear as they are. Similar to the individual soul which has the attribute of bliss concealed, insentient matter fundamentally having the attributes of Brahman has the attributes of consciousness and bliss concealed, thus only revealing the attribute of truth.

Liberation

According to Vallabha, liberation has a two pronged approach, both though inspired in the culmination of devotion[11]. As Pushti marg recognises the path of maryada, the instruction of following Vedic injunctions, they do appreciate that the followers of those respective paths do attain liberation. Nonetheless the clause is such that they do not enter the higher realm which is designated to the souls of Pushti.

In Pushti marg the means is the end itself, for Pushti marg devotees, to attend and serve the Lord with the initiation of brahma sambandha is the pivotal point of where the devotee does not desire liberation but rather the grace of God to keep serving Sri Krsna with the instruction described by Vallabhacharya and his son Vithalnathji, popularly known as Gosainji.

However the pushti philosophy makes a marked difference regarding after death liberation compared to that of the maryada path. Unlike maryada souls, Pushti souls receive the privilege with the grace of Sri Krsna to enter Goloka Dham, the abode of Sri Krsna. Here the soul, dependent on the individual’s actions and the type of pushti jiva, they recieve the grace of either being an attendant of Sri Krsna, union with Sri Krsna or a conscious object in the abode of Goloka witnessing the past times of Sri Krsna.


[1] Upanishads, Brahma Sutra and Bhagavad Gita
[2] Tatvarth Nibandha
[3] Not to be confused with the Any Bhashya of Madhavacharya, the propend of the dualistic philosophy
[4] Stopping on sutra 2.2.33
[5] Vallabhacharya, Sidhantamuktavli verse 3
[6] Truth, consciousness, bliss
[7] Sat – truth, Chit – consciousness, Ananda – bliss
[8] Shastrarth Prakarana
[9] Chandogya Upanishad 7.25.2
[10] Avirbhava and Tirobhava respectively
[11] Bhakti can be of two types.  The maryada bhakti, which is performed according to rules and is of nine types beginning, from hearing, chanting and remembering.  The Pushti Bhakti is spontaneous and needs no regulation for one acts under the constant inspiration of divine love.

The copyright of the article Shuddhaadvaita Vedanta – The philosophical school of pure non-dualism is owned by the Jigyasa Team. Permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

About Makwana

A student of Sanatan Vedic Dharma

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