Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):
Achintya Bhedabheda philosophy
Achintyabheda-bheda of Chaitanya:
Achintya Abheda-Bheda is translated as “inconceivable or incomprehensible oneness and difference.” The philosophy is given by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534). The subtle difference between jiv (atma) and God (Paramatma), according to this philosophy, is that quality wise jiv and God are identical but quantity wise jiv is infinitesimal whereas God is unlimited. This can only be experienced through Bhakti-yoga. In this respect, philosophically, it is almost similar to Nimbarkacharya’s Dvaitadvaita philosophy. Worshiping wise Chaitanya’s philosophy is more near to Madhavacharya’s philosophy. Thus, it can be said that, Chaitanya’s philosophy is the combination of Nimbarkacharya’s and Madhavacharya’s philosophy with the major difference in the way of worshiping. Chaitanya added Kirtan-bhakti and propounded Krishna, instead of Vishnu, as Purushottam (God) and the cause of all avatars.
Chaitanya was initiated in Madhavacharya tradition but after about 250 years he started his own tradition which is known as Gaudiya Vaishnav tradition. Gaudiya means “from the Gauda desh” – the Bang-bhumi or ancient Bengal part of India. Chaitanya accepted two important teachings of Madhavacharya: 1. complete rejection of Mayavadi (Kevala Advait) philosophy. 2. Worship and devotion to Shri Krishna, accepting Him as the personified God. According to this philosophy, God is simultaneously one with His creation and also different, rather distinct, from His creation. In Chaitanya’s philosophy Krishna is considered as the Supreme God who is also known as Ādipurush or Swayam (Svayam) Bhagwan. In Shankaracharya’s philosophy everything is considered Brahm – the whole creation is Brahm (including jivas or souls) and the Creator is Brahm. The object of worship (ishtadev) traditionally was Shiv especially for Brahmins. In Ramanujacharya’s philosophy, jiv and universe were two forms of Brahm, namely, Chit and Achit, and Ishwar (God) was separate entity from them. Meaning, Brahm and Ishwar were partly separated and partly unified. But, their separation or unification (ontological distinction) was not stressed considering it less important than bhakti or worship considering the strong hold of, then prevailing, Shankaracharya’s philosophy. People were skewed from bhakti or worshiping God towards just verbal knowledge of God. So, the devotion or bhakti was strongly proposed by Ramanujacharya. Ramanujacharya placed devotion to God at higher level than even Karma (deed) and Gnan (knowledge). He also added service to devotees. Devotees of God are equally valued. The object of worship was Vishnu as Sriman Narayan. In Nimbarkacharya’s tradition the object of worship was Vishnu as Shri Hari, Madhav, Gopal, or Krishna. He also had started worshiping Krishna with Radha. Madhavacharya also stressed devotion to God rather than any other means to please God. Madhavacharya worshiped Vishnu as Bala-Gopal-Krishna (young Krishna) – the present or the latest form. He worshiped Krishna with Arjun. In Madhavacharya’s philosophy, the object of worship was Krishna, but as an avatar or the form of Vishnu. Krishna was considered as the most recent and most powerful avatar of Bhagwan Vishnu or Vāsudev Himself. After about 250 years of Madhavacharya, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu started his new tradition that had combined features of both Nimbarkacharya’s tradition and Madhavacharya’s tradition. Chaitanya worshiped Krishna with Radha, suggesting Bhagwan should be worshiped by His best devotee (bhakta) like Radha. Still up to Madhavacharya’s period God was mainly worshiped alone. Shiv, Vishnu, Pārvati (Devi), and Lakshmi were worshiped alone or unaccompanied. Madhavacharya worshiped Krishna alone or with Arjun as his bhakta. In Chaitanya tradition that still maintained the dualistic (Dvait) philosophy with little different understanding, pure devotion (bhakti) with pure love to Krishna is given more stress rather than liberation from the cycle of birth and death (Sansar chakra), because the liberation automatically follows the purest love for God.