Dwaitadwaita Siddhanta (Bhedabheda Siddhanta)

Dwaitadwaita Siddhanta (Bhedabheda Siddhanta)

A Brief Overview

Of the four Vaishnava sects that are prominent and prevalent in India the Nimbarka sampradaya is considered the oldest one. Their philosophy and the guiding principles of the sampradaya are based on Vedanta. It teaches the Vedanta principles and the mode of worship leads to Moksha or Mukti, which is the goal of Vedanta. The celebrated Vedanta-Siddhanta known as Dwaitadwaita (द्वैताद्वैत) (dual-non dual) was postulated by Bhagwaan Nimbarkacharya. It is also known as Bhedabheda Siddhanta (भेदाभेद सिद्धांत). A strong feeling of Bhakti or divine love is the guiding principle of this philosophy. Bhagwaan Nimbarka was the reincarnation of the Sudarshana Chakra. He was born in a village called Vaiduryapattanam in Telangana. Brahmin by birth he lived in a village called Nimbgaon near Barsana. His father’s name was Arun and his mother’s, Jayanti. Sri Nimbarka composed the Vedanta-parijiita-saurabha, which is a short and concise commentary on the Brahman-Sutras. He also composed a small work, containing ten stanzas, of the name of Vedanta Kamdhenu, usually called Dashashloki from the number of the stanzas contained in it.

The Dwaitadwaita Siddhanta defines the relationship of the Jiva (individual soul), Jagat (the manifested universe), and Ishvara (the Lord of Jiva and Jagat) with the Para-Brahman. Vedanta or the Brahma-Sutras tell us of Brahman (Para-Brahman), the uncreated and first cause of this universe. The universe emanated from Para-Brahman, in Him it is established and in Him it will be dissolved. The Jiva (individual soul), Jagat (the manifest universe), and the Ishvara (The Lord of both Jagat and Jiva), are the three modes of His inherent Shakti. All three are inseparable from the Para-Brahman, they are not independent of Him, and yet, as the Immutable and the Eternal One (Akshara), He transcends all three. Para-Brahman is both Saguna (सगुण) and Nirguna (निर्गुण), He is both, the material and the efficient cause of the universe and yet, is not limited by the universe; He transcends the universe and exists beyond the manifest space-time reality. Para Brahman is, on the one hand, devoid of all distinguishing qualities, All-pervading, Complete, Non-dual, Unchangeable, Eternal, Transcendental and beyond senses. When Para-Brahma is described in these terms, He is called, Nirguna or attributeless, without form (निराकार), Eternal and Immutable (अक्षर). On the other hand Para-Brahman is also the source and wellspring of infinite power (Shakti). Shakti and Guna (Quality) are synonymous in the Srutis. It is for this reason that He is also Saguna (सगुण), which literally translates as – possessing good qualities.

However, Para-Brahman is conscious, sentient, and he is aware of His own self as Ananda. The Immutable Supreme Reality (Para-Brahman) is Sat (सत्, Existence Absolute), Chit, ( चित्, Knowledge Absolute) and Ananda, (आनन्द, Bliss Absolute). Srutis describe Brahman as Sacchchidanda, (Sat, Chit, Ananda). Unless Brahman is One and All-pervading, He cannot be Absolute Bliss. If there be a second thing, Brahman becomes separated, being limited by the second thing which is not pervaded by Him. In Sruti it is said:- यो वै भूमा तत्सुखं, नाल्पे सुखमस्ति। भूमैव सुखम्, “That which is Bhuma (Unlimited, Infinite), is Bliss; there is no Bliss in limitation, Bhuma is Bliss.” यो वै भूमा तदमृतम्। अथ यदल्पं तन्मर्त्यम्। “That which is Bhuma is Immortality, that which is limited is prone to death. Hence the Srutis point out that from the Blissfulness of Brahman is proved that He is (अद्वैत), one without a second and is All-pervading. Now, if we think carefully, we shall observe that Ananda (Bliss) cannot exist without knowledge. If a person cannot know something, then that object has no existence so far as he is concerned. Sugar cannot enjoy its own sweetness. Men enjoy it and call it sweet. So sweetness is an object of Knowledge. Had there been no perceiver, the sweetness of sugar could not have been known. But Brahman is second to none; hence He is Himself the knower of His own Bliss. Thus we know Him as possessed of Chit, (Knowledge) by which He enjoys the Ananda that is inherent in Him. Hence Brahman is called Sachchidananda; By describing Him thus it is not to be inferred that He is divisible into various parts. Rather, Para-Brahman is Non-Dual, Eternal, and Unchanging. He is both, the Knower and the Known, the Witness and the Manifest. Imagine a body made of Bliss, and which is aware of all the constituents of its existence as Bliss and only Bliss. In this instance, the knower is inseparable from the known. Similarly, Para-Brahman is Absolute and is aware of its existence as being Absolute Bliss.

The Shakti by which he experiences this Bliss is known as Chit. When this Chit experiences its inherent Ananda as a whole it is called Iswara. On the other hand, when this Chit Shakti experiences its own Ananda in a limited and differentiated form, it is called Jiva. Jiva experiences this Ananda through the prism of Maya, which is another Shakti of Para-Brahman. Just as white light is seen in seven different colours (VIBGYOR) after it passes though a prism; If you remove the prism, white light reverts back to its original form and the all the different colours are absorbed back into the white light, So does the Jiva experience Ananda through the prism of Maya. The different parts of Ananda which manifest themselves in the consciousness of the Jiva is called Jagat, which is the universe itself. Here, the knower (Jiva) and the known (Ananda) have been separated by the prism of Maya. When the prism of Maya no longer obstructs the knowledge or vision of the Jiva, he experiences Ananda in its Absolute form and becomes Bliss Himself.

Ananda is the material cause of the manifest universe, Chit Shakti is the efficient cause of the universe, and the Ishvara is the Omniscient, Omnipotent, the Creator, Protector and Destroyer of the Universe, manifested in diverse forms. Thus, Para-Brahman is endowed with both, immanence and transcendence. He manifests Himself as the Universe from His own Self, and yet, He is not confined or limited by it, rather he transcends it. As the earth in this world is transformed into trees, creepers, plants, fruits, flowers, flesh, bone, and various other forms, and these trees, plants, creepers, fruits and flowers, etc., falling on the ground, in due time, take the form of earth, dissolving the differences in them, so also this universe with various names and forms originates from Brahman with whom it will remain in Oneness after the Dissolution, devoid of all distinctiveness.

Anandarupi Brahman (Bliss Absolute) is possessed of a power named Maya, inherent in Himself. This Maya is also eternal Prakriti (प्रकृति), the Primordial Unmanifested Nature) is another name for it. Though Brahman is One, indivisible, and always Unchangeable, this Maya causes the Ananda (Bliss) inherent, in Brahman to seem like it has endless distinct forms, i.e., Ananda (Bliss Absolute) comes to be the object (Vishaya) of Knowledge Absolute (Chit-Shakti ). Ananda, due to the effect of Maya, manifests as the universe consisting of infinite forms. Due to the effect of Maya the Jiva believes that he exists separately from Brahman, and is not vested in Him. In other words, the Bliss which is inherent in Brahman is possessed of a quality by which it seems that Brahman, although it is an indivisible whole, has manifested Himself into diverse, distinct and infinite forms (i.e., the Bliss will be perceived-seen and experienced in endless forms by His own Chit Shakti or Knowledge. ) This power or Maya (मीयते अनया इति माया), which limits the Infinite and Immutable Para-Brahman, and causes it to appear as consisting of diverse and distinct forms, is a power inherent in Him. The endless forms that are the manifestations of Para-Brahman are collectively known as the Universe. It is an object of cognition through His knowledge. The name Iswara (the Ordainer) is attributed to this “power of perception” which knows all the objects and events of the past, present and the future at all times. The Universe also is without beginning and everlasting in the sense that all the forms, that were manifested in the past, are manifested in the present or will be manifested in the future, lie in the knowledge of Iswara. So Iswara is Omniscient.

When the Chit Shakti experiences the Ananda through the Prism of Maya it is known as Jiva (the individual self). There is a succession of knowledge in the experience of the Jiva due to which He perceives the Ananda in the form of cause-effect of events and objects. The knowledge of the Jiva is limited by time, and sees events in a succession, as if unfolding one after another. So Jiva is limited in its perception, not being a seer in full. Iswara and Jiva both are, in different aspects, the manifestations of the Knowledge Absolute (Chit) which is embodied in Brahman. These are both eternal.

But Jiva, (being distinct in nature from Iswara), has a limited vision, seeing one after another the things that ever lie in the knowledge of Iswara. Hence the objects and events of the world enter the knowledge of Jiva one after another and appear as born, living and dead. So, in the knowledge of Jiva, the world is ever-changing, with objects and events being the manifestation of the cause-effect principle, and the objects in the universe transform constantly. The forms that are seen by Jiva always undergo changes, so they appear to be changeable. However, the Chit Shakti is ever Unchangeable. Jiva’s and Iswara’s nature as Knowledge (Chit) never undergoes a change, so they are both eternal and immutable. But the forms in the world being without number, the seers of these forms are also numberless. Iswara and Jiva are immutable and transcendent. Both are of the nature of Chit (Knowledge) and are seers (द्रष्टा). But the Chit termed as Iswara, being All-pervading, is Bhuma (Vast, Infinite) in nature, while Jiva, is like an atom in comparison, who, while remaining unchanging, is inherent as the dweller in every distinct form, and experiences it as an object of perception. However, Jiva’s knowledge never surpasses that which lies in the knowledge of Iswara, the Omniscient. That which is not known to Iswara can never appear in the knowledge of Jiva. Hence Jiva is ever dependent on Iswara, the Ordainer of all of his activities. It is as if the Iswara is the sun and the Jiva is the ray of the sun. Both the sun and its rays possess similar qualities however, the lights up the whole world while the individual ray is limited in its power to give light. Just as the tiny flame of a lamp brings the places near and far within the reach of its illumining power, so does the Jiva, though atomic in size, perceives objects near and far. Unlike Iswara, Jiva cannot comprehend the whole universe at the same moment.

Akshara Brahman – which is the fourth aspect of the Supreme Reality, is ever transcendent, ever unchangeable. Jiva, Jagat and Iswara are vested in Him as his Shaktis and are inseparable from Him. Singling out this fourth aspect, Sruti has termed Him as Akshara (the Immutable). The conclusion arrived at from the above exposition is that the universe is a part of Brahman. In the knowledge of Jiva, it is ever changing and is manifest with infinite forms. Jiva (Chit Shakti) also is a part of Brahman, is immutable (Akshara), and atomic in size and there are infinite Jivas. Jivas and the universe both are dependent on Iswara (also Chit Shakti but infinite). The universe lies in the knowledge of 1swara, who is ever Omniscient, the Sustainer and Protector of it. He is also the Ordainer of Jivas. Being only a seer in nature, He is without form and beyond the universe of forms, is eternal and self-existent. As eternal and Immutable, Akshara Brahman is beyond everything, is All-Bliss, and All-Knowledge, in entirety, without a form and there is no differentiation of any distinct form in Him; truly, He is called Para-Brahman. But Iswara, Jiva and Jagat (the universe) lie in Him-are His manifestations.

Thus, according to the Dwaitadwaita-Siddhanta, Para-Brahman is fully described as having four constituents or parts. They are being described as follows:-

(1) Jagat (जगत) – The manifest universe, the object of knower (Drishyashaniya Jagat)

(2) Jiva (जीव) – The individual self, the chit shakti which experiences the inherent Ananda of Para-Brahman in a limited manner, through the prism of Maya. (Drasta Jiva-Samuho ),

(3) Iswara (ईश्वर) – The Chit Shakti which experiences the Jiva and Jagat as being One with itself. However, He experiences them as Ananda, which is inseparable from His own Self. As Iswara is Omniscient, He is beyond time or he transcends time (कालातीत) and there is no law of succession in His Knowledge. It is from that the Jagat and Jiva manifest themselves, He sustains it, and in the end everything, dissolves into Him. The scriptures give the example of a spider. The spider creates the web out of the material of its own body, and when the purpose is accomplished, it absorbs the web into its own self. The spider is both, the material and efficient cause of the web. So is the Iswara, the material and the efficient cause of this universe. ( Niyanta Iswara-God, the Ordainer)

(4) Akshara Brahman (अक्षर ब्रह्म) – The Immutable Supreme Reality which is without form or name (Sachchidananda Brahman or Akshara Brahman). He is Eternal, Unchangeable substratum in which, Jiva, Jagat and Iswara, are vested as inseparable Shaktis of Para-Brahman. As Akshara Brahman, He is beyond senses, beyond imagination and beyond all knowledge. The only description which can be given is that, “He exists.”

In summation the Dwaitadwaita or Bhedabheda can be described as follows –

Sri Nimbarka’s Dwaitadwaita Siddhanta says that Para-Brahman, the Supreme Reality, is one without a second. The Jagat, Jiva and Iswara are manifestations of His Power (Shakti). Jiva and Brahman are self-conscious. Jiva is limited. Brahman is infinite. Jiva and Jagat are dependent realities. Jiva is the enjoyer (Bhokta). The Jagat is the enjoyed (Bhogya). Iswara is the Supreme Controller (Niyanta). As Akshara Brahman, He is the Immutable, Undifferentiated, Infinite repository of the Jiva, Jagat and Iswara and transcends all three.

God, Jiva and the world are not absolutely distinct. If the Supreme Being is absolutely distinct from the individual soul and the world, it cannot be omnipresent. It will be as limited as the individual soul or the world. It cannot, then, be regarded as their Governor. Sri Nimbarka says that both difference and non-difference are real. They are not different, as they cannot exist by themselves and as they depend absolutely on Brahman. Such a relation exists between the sun and its rays, the fire and its sparks. The souls and matter are not distinct from God, but appear distinct and separate because of the effect of Maya. Maya is the prism through which Jiva looks at the Para-Brahman, and due to the effect of Maya, Jiva thinks of himself and the Jagat as being distinct from Para-Brahman. However, the scriptures say that they are closely connected with Him – as waves with water, or coils of a rope with the rope itself. They are both distinct and non-distinct from Brahman.

Brahman is regarded as both the efficient and the material cause of the world. Brahman is both Nirguna and Saguna, as it is not exhausted or limited by the creation but also transcends it.

The Ultimate Reality exists in four forms. In Its primary form, It is the unconditioned, immutable, Supreme Para-Brahman, also known as Akshara Brahman. In Its second form, It is Iswara, the Lord of the Universe. In the third form, It is called Jiva or the individual soul. In Its fourth form, It is manifested as the universe of names and forms. The phenomenal universe is a part of Brahman. It has no existence separate from, and independent of Brahman. The relation between the world and Brahman is also one of Bhedabheda. The universe is not distinct or separate from Brahman, it is a manifestation of its Shakti and yet, since Para-Brahman transcends the Universe, it is also distinct when it is experienced by the Jiva.

The individual soul is a part of the Supreme Soul. It is also identical with, or the same as, the Supreme Soul. Just as a wave is both different from the ocean (being only a part of the ocean), and identical with it (both being water), so also is the individual soul both different from (being a part of the Supreme Soul), and identical with (both being of the nature of Chaitanya or Consciousness), the Supreme Soul. The relation between the individual soul or Jiva and the Supreme Soul or Brahman is one of formal difference and essential identity. There is no difference between Jiva and Brahman in kind. The difference is only in degree.

The Jagat (Universe) is not unreal or illusory, but is a true manifestation of Brahman. It may, however, be said to be unreal only in the sense that the present state of its existence is not self-sufficient and it has no separate existence from Brahman. The world is identical with as well as different from Brahman, just as a wave or bubble is one with, and at the same time different from, water.

Brahman is the material and the efficient cause of the universe. His powers of Chit and Achit in their subtle forms manifest themselves as the universe. Hence He is the material cause. He causes the union of the individual souls with their respective Karmas and their fruits. He provides them the proper instruments for their experience. Hence He is the efficient cause. Just as a spider spins a cobweb out of itself, so also Brahman has evolved the universe out of Himself. This is the declaration of the Upanishads. In thus evolving the universe, Brahman is both its material and the efficient cause. As Brahman is all-powerful, it is perfectly within His power to be so evolved, and at the same time, to remain beyond such evolution. This is supported by the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras. Brahman has transformed Himself into this world, without His noumenal aspect being affected. This is due to the inscrutable creative power inherent in the nature of Brahman.

Souls are infinite in number and are atomic in size. The Jiva is minute (Anu). It is of the form of knowledge (Jnanasvarupa). The Jiva is knowledge and it is the possessor of knowledge also, just as the sun is light and the source of light also. The relation of the soul to its attribute is like that of the Dharmin (the qualified) to the Dharma (the attribute). It is one of difference and non-difference (Bhedabheda).

Salvation is attained by real knowledge (Jnana) and true devotion (Bhakti). Real knowledge reveals the true nature of the all-pervading Brahman. True devotion leads to total self-surrender to the Lord. The individual soul retains its individuality with reference to divine enjoyment (Bhoga-samyatvam), but its will is subservient to that of Brahman. The individuality of the soul is not dissolved even in the state of Moksha or the final emancipation. Even in the state of release, the individual soul is different from, as well as identical with, Brahman. This is identity with difference, Bheda-abheda.

Brahman is revealed to the liberated soul in it’s pristine glory, but not in the form of a deity. The soul realises itself now as an inseparable part of Brahman. It no longer feels that it is a separate or distinct individual, as it felt in bondage. It is released from its previous state of bondage. It abides now in the glory of its own true Self which is Brahman Itself. It is in full awareness or consciousness of being one with the Lord. It will not return to the world. It is freed from the round of births and deaths. As it is in union with Brahman, it attains the same status as that of Brahman, but it has no power over creation, preservation and dissolution of the world.

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