THREE INDIAN SYSTEMS OF PHILOSOPHY: A SIMPLE EXPLANATION
Sruthi means that which is heard – Cosmic vibrations which are inaudible and invisible, were heard by the meditating Sages as sound. There are three kinds of Sruthis in the Vedas – bheda sruthi, abheda sruthi and ghataka sruthi. He is different, this is different, He is not like this; He has qualities different from this – these are examples of bheda sruthi. ‘All these came out of Him; He alone is the cause for all these’ – these statements, of themselves, show the division that He is different, this is different.
The Chandogya Upanishad declares: ‘All these are Brahman itself’, namely, tat tvam asi. Tvam – you; tatu – That (Brahman); asi – are. You consider yourself as ‘I’. That is not correct. You are Brahman itself. The distinctive appearance ‘I’ has arisen out of illusion. In his treatises on advaita philosophy, Sri Sankara has offered excellent explanation of this. Firstly, due to the effect of mirage, water appears to flow on the sands of the desert. Deer thirsting for water in the heat of the desert search the mirage in vain for water and finally, die of unsatisfied thirst. Second example – in the dusk if a garland of flower is lying on the ground, it may appear as a snake to the passer-by. The garland and the apparent snake are one and the same. When the garland is recognized, the apparent snake will go. Thus, for the appearance of the snake, the garland was the basis. Just as the garland is mistaken for the snake, the unintelligent persons, due to delusion, see the different universe in the place of the single Brahman (supreme God). In fact Brahman (supreme God) is the basis for the entire universe. What is the meaning of the statement in the Geeta ’I am in all things. All things are in me’. In the illustration of the garland-snake, garland is the substrate; the snake is what is super-imposed. For the terrified person, the garland has disappeared into the snake. At that stage snake is the basis of his view. If his ignorance is removed and he realizes that it is only a garland, the garland has hidden the snake into itself. Then the garland becomes the base. The unintelligent person looks on the universe as the Truth; but in reality, God is the basis and support for the universe. For practical purpose, we may refer to that person, this person (different persons) etc. This inflated feeling of difference (between the universe and us) appears on account of the mixture of the five fundamental elements such as water, air etc. This differentiation or dual appearance (of the world and the individual) is not true. Only Brahman is true. If He is known by whom all these appearances will disappear, then as in the garland-snake example, the delusion (snake) will go and the garland, namely Supreme God will be perceived.
Maya, Avidya are two mirrors. Maya is spotless. Avidya is quite dirty. If we stand before the dirty mirror, then our reflection in the mirror too appears dirty. When God comes before that mirror, the differences referred to earlier appear similarly. These are not at all true. The distinctive appearance as many entities is not true. While He appears before the spotless mirror, no difference is seen between the original and the mirror-reflection. Only Brahman is the truth. All the rest are illusory, mere appearances.
Avidya (lack of true knowledge) is a mirror. That mirror is quite dirty. God comes before the mirror. If we stand before the dirty mirror, then our reflection in the mirror too appears dirty. The differences referred to earlier appear similarly. These are not at all true. The distinctive appearance as many entities is not true. Only Brahman is the truth. All the rest are illusory, mere appearances.
If a genuine pearl and the shoe-flower (japapuspa) are placed side by side, the pearl appears to have the same colour as the flower. In reality the pearl does not have any colour at all. Above appearances will also happen between a crystal and a flower. Similarly none of the material in the universe is truth; only Brahman is truth – this is the declaration of the statement ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ and 'Aham Brahmaasmi'- These declarations that all are Brahman is the abheda sruthi and is the essence of Advaita philosophy.
The third, ghataka sruthi, synchronises or attempts to reconcile the variations between the other two sruthis. It states that it is the Atman (Brahman) that indwells all the worlds and all the beings. He resides in them and controls them whereas they know him not. He is the eternal witness (sakshi), the listener (srotra), the thinker (mantri) and the knower (jnatra). However, he is not the object of cognition for any of the senses. He is the immortal Atman (Brahman). All else is perishable. (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad – Antaryami-brahmana). In his Brahma Sutra Bhashya, Sri Ramanuja reconciles the bheda, abheda sruthis.
The Dwaita philosophy enunciates the dual nature. It states that jeeva (the individual soul) and brahman are different from one another (Sri Madhva).
Tat Tvam Asi – You who are the jeeva (the individual soul), are that Brahman – Sri Sankara. There are no two; there is only one – this is Advaita: the self-awareness that I am the Brahman. After one recognizes the Truth, all the others will disappear – This is the Advaita theory.
Visishtaadvaita (Sri Ramanuja) – Visishta advaita (specialized advaita): Chit, Achit, Iswara; with discerning power, without discerning power, Iswara. All these are true but are liable to be destroyed. All material/matter (chetana, achetana) are God’s body. He is the in-dweller of all as their inner being (antaraathma). ‘Jagat sarvam sareeranthe’ – The whole universe is the body of God. This is known as pradhana prathithantram. This principle is mentioned in Visishtaadvaita alone. Take the example of cloth. If we say that a piece of cloth is white, we cannot separate the white-ness from the cloth. That quality co-exists with that piece of cloth. So also, all chit, achit exist along with God.
The sentence ‘All are Vaasudeva’ is an example of advaita sentence. In Visishtaadvaita, the sentence will read ‘There is no entity without Vaasudeva’. This means that He alone appears as all entities. This reiterates the existence of entities. All these contain Vaasudeva.
Three philosophies – one states the bheda principle; another elaborates the abheda theory. The third refers to the indweller (antaryami) in all beings.
Thus the declarations in the three sruthis have been used in the supporting arguments of the three systems of philosophy. Matha means idea/opinion. The three Acharyas (Gurus or gifted teachers) enunciated the statements in the Upanishads as their own considered opinions and they then used those portions of the Upanishads supporting their theories.
Pramana sloka on dwaita philosophy
SrimanMadhvaMateh Harihi Parataraha Satyam Jagat Tattvato
Bhedo Jeevaganaha Hareranucharaaha Neechochabhaavam gataaha
Mukthihi Naijasukhaanubhuthihi, Amalaabhaktischa Tatsaadhanam
Hyakshaaditritayam Pramanam Akhilaamnayaikavedhyo Harihi
According to the Dwaita system of philosophy established by Sri Madhvacharya, there is difference in the Ananda (bliss) enjoyed by the various entities. There is difference in the experience of Moksha (liberation). The Visishtadvaitha system of Sri Ramanuja, on the other hand, states that there is no such difference in the enjoyment of Ananda (bliss). The Advaitha system founded by Sri Sankara avers that there could be no greater blss if a jeeva (individual soul) attains the awareness that it is the Brahman (Supreme God) itself.
Sri Hari (Sri Narayana) is the Supreme God. Sri Mahalakshmi is junior to Him. The different classes of jeevas (selves or animate beings) are dependents of Sri Narayana. And they have higher or lower grades among themselves. For attaining Sri Narayana (Mukti or salvation), Vedas are like eyes to us. Salvation is only achieved through Bhakti (flawless intense devotion) to the Supreme God. Correct knowledge of Sri Narayna can be acquired through all the Holy Scriptures and only through them.
According to Sri Madhvacharya, there are four states or types of God’s grace (Chaturmargam). These are:
Salokya: Living in the same station/locality where one’s (Ishta Devata) preferred deity’s temple is situated.
Sameepya: Serving in the premises of the above-stated temple.
Saroopya: Serving as a priest in the sanctum sanctorum of the same temple.
Sayujyam : Offering whole-hearted worship inside the above sanctum sanctorum.
There are differences in the bliss arising out of the enjoyment of God’s grace. Sri Madhvacharya has established that the above differences arise depending on the gradation (higher or lower) of the concerned jeevas. He has based his conclusion on the basis of the declarations in the Taittiriya Upanishad.
Visitadvaita lays down that the jeeva (individual soul) gets the full enjoyment equivalent to that of the Supreme God. The soul is blessed with the same enjoyment and the same all-perfect knowledge as God Himself and attains full awareness of Brahman (Supreme God). In this awareness/bliss, there is no ranking or gradation at all.
Advaita says Aham Brahmaasmi. There could be no greater bliss if jeeva (individual soul) attains the awareness that it is the Brahman (Supreme God/Soul) itself.
கல்லிடைப் பிறந்து, போந்து, கடலிடைக் கலந்த நீத்தம்,
’எல்லை இல் மறைகளாலும் இயம்ப அரும் பொருள் ஈது’ என்னத்
தொல்லையில் ஒன்றே ஆகி, துறைதொறும், பரந்த சூழ்ச்சிப்
பல் பெருஞ் சமயம் சொல்லும் பொருளும்போல், பரந்தது அன்றே
(கம்ப ராமாயணம் ௧.௧.௧௯)
The waters of the river sarayu are the sources of all the water-holds in Ayodhya. Yet based on the shapes of these holds, the waters go by the various names of lake water, tank water, well water etc. Likewise the one Brahman is described differently by the Acharyas in the three philosophies but based on the root sentence tat tvam asi.
Thus the declarations in the Holy Scriptures have been used in the supporting arguments of the three systems of philosophy. Matha means idea/opinion. The three Acharyas (Gurus or highly revered teachers) enunciated statements in the Upanishads as their own considered opinions and they then used those portions of the Upanishads supporting their theories.