Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):
Dvaita philosophy (contd.)
Shuddha Dvait philosophy of Madhavacharya (contd.):
Madhavacharya categorizes unreleased or non-liberated souls into three more or less fixed categories (intrinsic or inherent gradation called “jiva-traividhya”) depending upon their knowledge, power, and bliss. They are: Mukti-yogya (qualified for liberation), Nitya-sansāri (not qualified for the liberation and forever remain in the cycle of rebirth), and Tamo-yogya (condemned to Hell and never get liberated). The idea was to explain plurality of souls and the co-existence of good and evil living entities in the world. Madhavacharya describes the same kinds of intrinsic differences among the liberated souls also, namely, devas (sarva-prakāsh), rishis (antah-prakāsh), and naras (bahir-prakāsh). This kind of ideology (swarup-tāratamya) was unique and not fully supported by the basic Vedic Hindu philosophy of Prasthan Trayi.
It was different than the special titles assigned to some souls by Ramanujacharya, and was not accepted by traditional Hindu philosophers. All souls deserve salvation or liberation limited to their knowledge, behavior, and efforts. Another understanding of Dvaita philosophy which did not get wide acceptance in the mainstream Hinduism was ill-defined or poorly understood “Tāratamya” or “devatā-tārātamya”, meaning, hierarchy among subordinate or minor gods (devatās). According to Madhavacharya’s philosophy, as it is in Ramanujacharya’s philosophy, Vishnu is considered as the Supreme God and Laxmi (the female deity) as His eternal consort. Vishnu is considered as the cause of all Avatars or incarnations of God. Thus, Vaishnavism is also continued in Madhavacharya’s philosophy. In Madhavacharya’s philosophy, Vishnu and Laxmi are placed at the higher level than the level of Brahmā, Shiv, and Vayu god but, with that, other demigods, such as, Surya, Chandra, Indra, Varun, etc. were also placed at different hierarchically lower levels. This was also less acceptable for the Hinduism of that period. According to Madhavacharya all souls, although ontologically identical, are different in potential. Demigods or devas are not of God category so they are of jiv category but according to devata-taratamya they are of different hierarchical levels – higher than ordinary souls of all living beings. One important concept introduced by Madhavacharya was, to maintain the supremacy of God and to maintain the hierarchy; Vishnu was paced at the highest level being completely divine having no worldly body. Vishnu as Shri Hari is considered as sarvottama (the Supreme Being). Laxmi was placed at just a little lower level categorizing her as akshar (imperishable) having indestructible (aprākrut) body as against the mundane (prākrut) bodies of other entities like Brahmā, demigods or devas, and jivas that are destructible or kshar (perishable). This was the indirect or unintentional beginning of separation of Akshar, the penultimate element from God, the ultimate element, but no one could realize it at that time.
Basically, except some minor differences, Madhavacharya accepts the basic understanding of Vaishnava philosophy of Ramanujacharya and also stresses more on Bhakti (devotion) or worshiping. The followers of Ramanujacharya worship Vishnu as Narayan, Sriman Narayan, or Shri Lakshmi-Narayan (it is a one word used for Narayan Himself only, with Lakshmi residing in His heart), whereas the followers of Madhavacharya worship Vishnu as Krishna, Bāla-Gopāla (young Krishna), Bāl-Gopāl-Krishna, Venugopala Krishna or Radha-Krishna (it is also a one word used for Krishna Himself only, with Radha residing in His heart). Until Madhavacharya’s period God was worshiped alone. Shiv, Vishnu, Pārvati (Devi), and Lakshmi were worshiped by themselves alone. Madhavacharya started worshiping Krishna alone and later on worshiping Krishna with his choicest bhakta Arjun was started. Initially, during the Madhavacharya’s period conjugal love (premlakshanā bhakti) in worshiping Krishna with Radha was not fully developed, it was added later on and by the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu it had reached to a higher level. Thus, Vishnu’s worship as a young innocent Krishna was turned into fully Krishna’s worship with Radha by a devotee showing an utmost love that only spouse can show towards her partner by Chaitanya’s period.
In Madhavacharya’s period Karmis (those who believe more in Karmas), Gnānis (those who just believe more in tattva-gnan or just philosophy), and Māyāvādis (those who believed in impersonal God) were all freely respected along with truly devotees who as well believe in utmost devotion (bhakti). In Hinduism, devotion (bhakti) is always placed higher than the philosophical knowledge only. Knowing philosophy only without having the devotion attached to it has no value. Also merely blind devotion without knowing whom one worships is also of no value. Hinduism believes in both, the philosophical knowledge of the Truth and the utmost devotion (bhakti) to the Supreme God. Madhavacharya’s period also marks the beginning of worshiping Krishna (the latest and greatest form or incarnation of Purushottam – God) as the principal object of worship from worshiping Vishnu (Narayan) as the principal object of worship in Ramanujacharya’s period.
Madhavacharya maintains that Brahm referred to God (Vishnu) by saying “Brahmashabdashcha vaishnaveva”, thus identifying Brahm with God. That period was unifying Brahm with God or unifying Shaivism with Vaishnavism or rather tending towards replacing Brahm with God. One can see that in the story of Lord “Ananteshwara.” Lord Vishnu, during the period of incarnation as Parashurāma, stayed and enshrined in the Shivalinga and being known as Ananteshwara. The place is known as Shivarupya or Shivalli (Udupi). Although Madhavacharya’s philosophy (Dvaita) was strongly against or exactly opposite of Shankaracharya’s philosophy (Advaita), he himself worshiped Shivalinga as Vishnu in the form of Ananteshwara. Also he respected or rather highly regarded Brāhmins irrespective of their worship to Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu. At the same time, Madhavacharya goes one step further in separating Vishnu from other deities, establishing further the monotheistic nature of Hinduism. According to him Vishnu is the Supreme God and the primary object of worship, whereas, other deities are subordinate to him. Thus, he translates Hinduism from polytheism to monotheism and adds one more distinction between deities (Devas) or so-called demigods and God proper reestablishing or revitalizing the supremacy of God. The important contribution of Dvaita philosophy of Madhavacharya to Hinduism is that Atma and Brahm (also known as Vishnu or God) are eternally and ontologically two different realities, one is subordinate to the supreme other, respectively – a big and daring separation, at that time, from the Advaita philosophy of Shankaracharya and still maintain unity between Shaivism and Vaishnavism. This is the beauty of Hinduism. Brahm and Parabrahm (God) were still considered a one and the same reality in that period. Brahm was tried to be concealed away by promoting Parabrahm (God). In essence, according to Dvaita philosophy of Madhavacharya, there exist three clear-cut fundamental eternal realities, soul, Nature (universe), and God quite distinct from each other and not the part and parcel (ansh-anshi) of each other. The distinction between God and Brahm was still left-off for the future. Both were used synonymously.