I S S U E 4 • D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1
05 EPICS AND PURANAS
15 SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
SPECIAL FEATURES OF VEDANTA
By: Siddharth Kumar R.
Having had a glimpse into the background of the schools that shape Vedanta, it is necessary to understand some striking features of Vedanta. Existence of trans-empirical entities such as God, soul, unseen merit, demerit, heaven, hell, liberation, etc., are not accepted based on personal experience or inference (reasoning)
unsupported by a valid source of knowledge. All such entities are accepted only on the basis of Vedas and ancillary scriptures. The ancillary scriptures are also accepted in so far as they do not contradict Vedas; similarly, any spiritual personal experience must also conform to the Vedas to be worthy of acceptance. Traditionally, it is accepted that the soul undertakes several births to attain liberation. The spiritual aspirant must, therefore, undertake his spiritual activities sincerely to achieve the same. Vedic knowledge has been passed on from Purvaacharya-s to modern-day guru-s. It is the understanding of every school of Vedanta that the Purvaacharya-s have represented their school faithfully. Therefore, in the event of doubt concerning any
aspect of the philosophy, the words of the Purvaacharya-s are to be consulted and deemed final. Some examples of Dvaita Purvaacharya-s include Madhva, JayaTirtha, Vyasaraja Tirtha, etc. The students of Vedanta are encouraged to critique doctrines of other faiths to help determine the right path to liberation. Mutual respect must be accorded to the opponent (by not indulging in ad hominem), and the doctrines alone must be criticized.
DVAITA: OTHER NOMENCLATURE
Dvaita, or Bheda, represents distinction. The term ‘Dvaita’, popularly applied to the school, refers to an eternal difference between the Supreme Lord and the individual soul. The doctrine has been translated as ‘Rigorous Dualism’. Furthermore, the school is referred to by various titles. Some of these are as follows:
Dvaita/Dvaita vada: This school is best known by this name. Dvaita implies difference, and this (title) is differentiated from (those of) other schools on the basis of relationship between Brahman (Lord) and Jiva (individual soul). Dvaita implies eternal distinction between the Lord and individual soul, and, since this
distinction is eternal, it is never transcended. In the west, it is common to understand the term ‘dualism’ to mean two irreducible and independent entities. In Dvaita, while the two entities in consideration, viz., the Lord and the soul, are indeed irreducible, the Lord alone can be said to be independent. The soul depends on the Lord for its existence, consciousness, knowledge, and activity. Other references include Dvaita to imply distinction between the Lord and matter.
Tattvavada: In terms of popularity in naming of this school, Tattvavada ranks second, finishing inferior only to Dvaita. This name was propounded in contrast to Mayavada, better known as Advaita, which recognised only one reality, i.e., Brahman. Tattva means real, and Dvaita propounds that are other real entities apart from Brahman such as soul, matter, space, time, etc.; moreover, differences amongst these entities are also real.
Bheda vada: The term ‘Bheda’ also implies difference and is, therefore, a synonymn of Dvaita. Bimba-Pratibimba vada: Bimba and Pratibimba mean object and reflection respectively. It is natural that reflection depends on an object. This is the relationship between Lord and soul. Just as the reflection is dependent on the object, the soul, too, is dependent on the Lord.
Furthermore, a reflection is destroyed owing to any one of the following reasons: one, if the object is destroyed; two, if the reflecting medium is destroyed; three, if the object is moved away from the reflection. Since the Lord is the object (the Lord being indestructible), the object cannot be destroyed; since the soul is itself the medium, the reflecting medium cannot be destroyed; since the Lord is all-pervading, the object can
never be moved away from the reflecting medium. Therefore, this relationship between object and reflection is said to be eternal.