Shad Darshan – Vedanta philosophies (contd.):
Shuddhadvait philosophy of Vallabhacharya:
Pure non-dualism or Suddha Advait (Shuddhadvait) philosophy is given by the 15th century scholar of Hinduism Shri Vallabhacharya (1479-1531). As one may think, the pure non-dualism may mean Advaita or Monism, but it is not. Advaita philosophy of Shankaracharya and Monism of the Western world are different than pure non-dualism. About the relationship between two realities, namely, the world and God, Vallabhacharya believes that God (Brahm) is pure and non-dualistic, but at the same time, unlike Shankaracharya, he strongly believes that the souls and Nature (universe) are not illusion but real. His philosophy is known as Shuddhadvait Brahmvād. This is opposite of Kevala Advait philosophy of Shankaracharya, in which, the world and souls are all considered as one with Brahm. The difference between Advait philosophy of Shankaracharya and the Advait philosophy of Vallabhacharya is that, in Shankaracharya’s philosophy the soul, Nature (universe) and everything else is Brahm but look different because of the illusion created by the ignorance (avidyā) and veil of maya. In Vallabhacharya’s philosophy the soul, Nature (universe) and everything else is real but appears distinct from Brahm until one is totally engrossed in the bhakti of Krishna (God), at that time everything is realized as God, just as Gopis used to see and realized everything as Krishna and nothing but Krishna. Foe example, when they were selling butter they used to see Krishna instead of butter.
Surprisingly, in the non-dualistic philosophy the general belief that God is unparalleled, the one and only is still maintained. Vallabhacharya strongly believed that Brahm means personal God – the Supreme Being and he could not accept the nirgun and nirakar nature of Brahm. He firmly believed that God is in the personal form only so as to accept his devotion and services (seva bhakti). The difference in Vallabhacharya’s tradition and other Vaishnav Acharya’s traditions is in the style of worship or devotion and in the use of specific terminologies. In Vallabhacharya’s tradition, also known as Pushti marg, the initiation to the tradition means “brahmsambandh.” The word “pushti” literary means “the grace of God” and “brahmsambandh,” literary, means the relationship (sambandh) or union of the soul with Brahm (the supreme entity or God). Brahmsambandh is needed to transform the ordinary jiv (soul) to Pushti jiv (pure or graced soul). “Pushti marg” means the path of spiritual nourishment and of the grace of God. The one who is admitted to the Pushti marg gets the kind of purity of one’s soul, which is needed to be eligible to pursue bhakti (meaning, the daily worshiping or services called sevā of the murti (as if it is living deity) which is known as Pushti Swaroop) and relationship with God (Brahm). The pure love for God (Shri Krishna in His child manifestation) is shown through seva (services to God) and smaran (remembering God). In Pushti marg the exclusive rights to grant brahmsambandh are only given to the descendants of Shri Vallabhacharya. In Pushti marg, the enjoyment of God’s bliss and God’s grace are considered as the primary goals of the devotee, seeking the liberation is secondary to it. Achieving the knowledge (gnan) – brahmgnan or atmagnan is not considered as important as the personal services (seva) to God for the liberation.
Vallabhacharya was a contemporary of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Just as Chaitanya’s tradition is known by the Kirtan Bhakti of adult Krishna, Vallabhacharya’s tradition is known by the Seva Bhakti of child Krishna (Lālji). Philosophy wise both traditions – the tradition of Vallabhacharya and the tradition of Chaitanya are almost similar except some minor differences in worshiping. Vallabhacharya’s tradition is known as the path of grace of God or “Pushti Marg.”
According to Vallabhacharya’s philosophy, as with other Vaishnav philosophy, there are also three basic realities: soul, universe, and God. Soul is characteristically not much different than God. However, God or the Supreme Being is believed to be the whole (purna), whereas, individual soul is a part (ansh) of it. Soul, itself, is Brahm with one attribute bliss or happiness (Ānand). It is considered both doer (kartr) and enjoyer (bhoktr). Maya is not regarded as unreal but as real and the power of Ishwar. Ishwar is both the creator and the creation (which includes universe and souls) itself. Brahm desired to become many so He became individual souls and the universe. It is the pure Brahm that is the effect (kārya) and cause (kāran) of this world. According to this philosophy, though the knowledge (gnan) of God is needed, it is the devotion to God or bhakti which is considered as the means of liberation. The philosophy stresses utmost love, devotion (bhakti), activities related to personified God and complete servitude to God rather than aiming the goal for the liberation called “Mukti”. Liberation automatically follows the total surrenderance and devotion. Vallabhacharya’s philosophy considers Brahm as Purushottam (God). Everything that was created from brahm that ultimately ends in the Brahm after dissolution by the time. Souls or living objects are considered as part of Brahm and non-living objects are considered as modifications of Brahm. After death and destruction or dissolution, Soul (jiv) and universe, both mixes with the Brahm. The object of worshiping in this philosophy is Krishna who is considered as Narayan or God himself (Svayam Bhagavan). Krishna is considered as the cause of all avatars including Vishnu. His “Satchitanand” (also called Sachchidananda) form is considered as the Absolute Brahm. His abode is called “Golok” (Goloka) which is consider beyond Vaikunth or Vaikuntha (the abode of Vishnu), Satyalok or Satyaloka (the abode of Brahmā the Creator), and Kailash or Kailas (the abode of Shiv). Thus, God and His abode are considered two separate things. The reason for the creation is considered, according to this philosophy, as no other than the sport (leelā) of Shri Krishna, and is unlike illusion (maya) of Vedanta. The liberation of jiv occurs by God’s grace only, as a result or reward of giving-up of oneself solely with the heart, mind, and body called “Atma-nivedana” and nine kinds of worship called “Navadhā or Nava Vidha Bhakti.”