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Achintyabhedabheda Vedanta, Philosophy

Achintyabhedabheda Vedanta – The philosophical school of inconceivable oneness and difference


According to Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Chaitanya concluded that Shabda Pramana[1] is the ultimate proof for knowledge and hence acknowledged that Vedic literature is the ultimate source, in particular the Srimad Bhagavatam.

Though later scholars in the tradition wrote commentarial works to disseminate the Gaudiya position, Chaitanya had only written one work, composed of eight verses named the Sikshashtakam.


The Sikshashtakam is a devotional work composed by Chaitanya. Though it is potent with a devotional mood, it consists of no philosophical position but theologically concludes the supremacy of Sri Krsna, as the highest reality.

Commentarial works

Though the influence of Chaitanya was growing rapidly throughout India, they were not classified as an authority due to the lack of commentarial works in the tradition. Thus the task was taken upon by a later scholar named Baladeva Vidyabhushana, who wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita named Govinda Bhashya and Gita Bhushana respectively.

What is important to note is the Guadiya stance acknowledged the Srimad Bhagavatam as the true commentary on the Brahma Sutra as both were authored by Veda Vyasa and thus any other commentary is futile compared to that of Vyasa.

Another commentary though not on the full work is that on the Srimad Bhagavatam by Vishvanath Chakravarti named Sarartha Darshini.

Besides the above there are many other commentarial works within the tradition however the above are the most notable.


The Sat Sandarbha is a compilation of six books written by Jiva Gowami, the nephew of Rupa and Sanatan Goswami. The text originally written by Gopal Bhatta Goswami, completed and systemitised by Jiva, outlines the philosophical position of Chaitanya’s school. The six books outline and elucidate on six subjects: Tattva, Bhagavata, Paramatma, Krsna, Bhakti, Priti and Krama.

Supreme Divinity

According to Chaitanya, Brahman is equated to only Sri Krsna[2], who is the absolute and supreme reality. Chaitanya rejects the idea that the supreme reality is impersonal but rather asserts Sri Krsna to be the embodiment of all auspicious qualities[3]. The concept of Sri Krsna introduced by Chaitanya is not an incarnation of Lord Visnu, but the complete reality himself, with Visnu being a manifestation of Sri Krsna in administering creation.

The school further elaborates ‘The supreme soul is all pervading, untouched by the attributes of matter, and is independent’[4] and reveals his true personal form when pleased by the devotion of his devotees through his inconceivable potency[5].

Chaitanya relying on the authority of the Srimad Bhagavatam asserts the ultimate reality as Brahman, Paramatman and Bhagavana[6], though the capacity of which realisation depends on the aptitude of the individual. Thus moving from the incomplete to its complete and most perfect manifestation of God as Bhagavana, which is also named Para Brahman. To expand the idea of Bhagavan further the sect introduce the ideas of numerous shakti’s of Bhagavana, which three are of most importance, svarupa, jiva and maya shakti. Svarupa shakti, which is inseparable from Sri Krsna constitutes the very nature of Bhagavan, Sri Krsna utilises this shakti with its three aspects of Sandhini, Samvit and Hladini in manifesting himself as well as assuming a form in Goloka, his eternal residence.

Distinct from the Advaitic stance that Brahman is the ultimate reality, the Gaudiya philosophy designate it a secondary importance and claim it to be the effulgence of Sri Krsna, Brahma jyoti, which the Advaitins have misunderstood as the ultimate goal.

Individual Soul

Gaudiya Vaishnavism explains that the individual soul atomic in size is identical and different from Bhagavan.[7] As mentioned above that Bhagavana has three shaktis, the Jiva shakti, also known as Tatastha shakti is the energy of Sri Krsna from which the multitude of jivas emanate from. When the Jiva is in a bound state it remains subject to the influence of both the Svarupa and Maya shakti of God, thus the reason why the Jiva desires both spiritual and material pleasure. However when the Jiva realises it’s constitutional position and serves Bhagavana, through the process of devotional service, they become uncontaminated by the Maya shakti and realise the Svarupa shakti of God.

The reason for the population of Souls and therefore their binding to the material world is similar to that of Shankara, which concludes the fall of soul is due to beginningless karma with its roots placed in ignorance of their true nature[8].

Furthermore Chaitanya states though the soul is in essence divine; it belongs to one of two categories: nitya mukta, eternally liberated and nitya baddha, eternally bound.[9] Later scholars of the tradition have elaborated on this further presenting their own ideas on the categorisation of souls.[10]


Chaitanya asserts that all material creation manifests itself from Bhagavana’s Maya Shakti. Also known as Bahiranga shakti, this power is inextricably linked to Sri Krsna, though he transcends and remains unaffected by it’s influence. In contrast to Svarupa shakti which influences the Jiva towards Godhead, Maya shakti’s primary role is to attract the Jiva towards materialism and thus continue to bind the soul in the circle of birth and death.

Jiva Goswami further elaborates in his Bhagavata Sandarbha that though it seems that Maya is an independent reality from Brahman, in reality the energy is supported by Sri Krsna, and thus remains eternally dependent on it.

Furthermore, Baladeva 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. Baladeva further clarifies that all sentient and insentient matter have none other than Brahman as their cause and each particular situation of the Jiva is not due to partiality of Bhagavan but rather the results of their previous karma.[11]


According to Chaitanya, liberation is not the merging of ones self into that of Brahman but rather entering into the eternal abode of Sri Krsna in Goloka dham manifested by his Svarupa Shakti, serving him and witnessing his past times described in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Thus rejecting the idea of oneness with Brahman claimed by Shankara, as this permanently destroys the transcendental loving service to Krsna[12]

For Chaitanya, the only means of emancipation is the path of Bhakti, devotion, towards Sri Krsna. He outlines and quotes from the Srimad Bhagavatam that glorifying the name of Sri Krsna, is the greatest medicine for achieving the supreme state and conferring the mercy of Sri Krsna.

Rupa Goswami in his Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, a text elucidating on the idea of devotion, speaks of three stages of Bhakti, with each being a graded stage of realisation.

Sadhana Bhakti: Performing the obligatory devotional practises instructed by the tradition, and listening and singing the pastimes of the Lord Sri Krsna

Bhava Bhakti: Whilst performing Sadhana Bhakti the aspirant develops certain qualities which elevate the individual whilst exhibiting maturity in his devotion, the most notable is that of complete attachment to Sri Krsna.

Prema Bhakti: Also known as Priti Bhakti culminates the final stage where the devotee has complete unflinching love for Sri Krsna which is now unbreakable and consequently now untainted by the clutches of Maya Shakti.

Jiva Goswami in his Priti Sandarbha further elaborates the concept of Mukti of five types:

Salokya: The devotee resides in Goloka and eternally worships him
Sarshti: The devotee possesses attributes like that of Sri Krsna
Sarupya: The devotee has the spiritual form like that of Sri Krsna
Samipya: The devotee is able to stay close to Sri Krsna
Sayujya: The devotee merges into Sri Krsna form

Though the above have been discussed by Jiva, the philosophy stresses that regardless of the idea of Mukti, total emancipation is only by developing Prema bhakti for Sri Krsna. Only through the love for Krsna with the desire to serve him exclusively leads to complete fulfilment, thus concluding Prema for Gaudiya Vaishnavism is the means and the end itself.

[1] Verbal testimony – one of the six forms of proof according to Indian philosophy
[2] Sikshastam Verse 8
[3] Govinda Bhashya 3.2.22
[4] Govinda Bhashya 3.2.20
[5] Govinda Bhashya 3.2.27
[6] Chaitanya Charitamrit Adi 2.7, Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.11
[7] Bhaktivinoda Thakur – Sri Dasamula Niryas Verse 1
[8] Govinda Bhashya – 2.1.35, Chaitanya Charitamrit Madhya 20.117-118
[9] Chaitanya Charitamrit Madhya 22.10-13
[10] Baladeva Vidyabhushana: Nitya Mukta, Baddha Mukta, Baddha. Govinda Bhashya 3.19.265
[11] Govinda Bhashya 2.1.33-34
[12] Chaitanya Charitamrit Adi 1.90,92,94

The copyright of the article Achintyabhedabheda Vedanta – The philosophical school of inconceivable oneness and difference 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


One thought on “Achintyabhedabheda Vedanta – The philosophical school of inconceivable oneness and difference

  1. Hare Krishna,

    Excellent blog articles.

    Looking forward for your future posts.

    Hari Bol.

    Posted by Acyuta-āśrayaḥ | October 8, 2012, 9:17 am

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