M. Shri

The five philosophies of Vedanta

Given below is an elementary introduction to the five different philosophies of Vedanta [1].

Advaita (by Sri Adi Shankaracharya)

The individual soul and Brahman (God) are of the same material; the universe is unreal. The events of the physical universe are like waves rising from an ocean, symbolizing Brahman. Spiritual knowledge is usually defined as the realization of our oneness with God and causes liberation [2].

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Visistadvaita (by Sri Ramanujacharya)

The individual soul and Brahman (God) are of different material. God resides within each individual being as the antaryami {in-dweller). Spiritual knowledge refers to the realization that our soul is eternally dependent on God, who is the sole reason of our existence. Bhakti of God is the way to liberation.

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Dvaita (by Sri Madhavacharya)

The individual soul and Brahman (God) are of different material. Individual soul is dependent on God. Bhakti gives grace of God and liberation. To take an analogy, the soul and God are like sand and water; just like sand settles at the bottom of water, the individual soul reaches the lotus feet of God.

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Dvaitadvaita (by Sri Nimbarkacharya)

The individual soul and Brahman (God) are simultaneously different and not different. As Dr. S. Radhakrishnan explains in Indian Philosophy (Vol. 2), the individual souls are different from Brahman as their attributes are different; they are not different from Brahman as they are dependent on God.

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Shuddhadvaita (by Sri Vallabhacharya)

The individual soul and Brahman (God) are of the same material in reality. World appears as Brahman to the realized. Bhakti and grace of God are necessary for liberation.

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Notes

[1] Note that there exists a difference between the Vedantic schools and the Vedantic philosophies. When counting the different schools of Vedanta, many recent academic papers often ignore the Ramanandi Vaishnava school, which is the most impactful devotional school of North India. The Ramacharitamansa, written by Goswami Tulasidasa, a member of this school, involves an amalgation of Advaita-Dvaita-Visistadvaita, which I have already talked about in this post. As Saint Kabirdasa of this school puts it, devotion is about the four letters of love, not about philosophies and complex theories.

[2] You can read more about liberation in this blog post.

Connecting to Lord Rama

Chanting Ramanama, the name of Rama, is a very simple and effective method to connect to Lord Rama (God). Sometimes, chanting Ramanama for a few minutes (with a devotional feel) is better than chanting for half an hour. In the beginning, there is no need to aim for long periods of time. Once interest develops and if our health permits, the duration of worship can be increased.

Reading, listening to pravachan (discourses), and listening to bhajans (devotional songs) are also forms of bhakti and complement chanting and praying to God very well. As for which books to study, we have to be very careful. Some books by today’s authors may be very nicely written but may totally lack spiritual connectivity; they may, in fact, disconnect us from God. Reading books by saints or devotional writers is a safe bet. My top suggestions are the Ramacharitamanasa and the Hanuman Chalisa.

Lord Hanuman, the top devotee of Lord Rama, likes connecting jivas (individual beings) to Rama — the Supreme God. Accordingly, Hanuman is the ultimate guru and savior for all devotees of Rama. We can request Lord Hanuman directly to guide us towards Lord Rama. We can just talk to Lord Hanuman as we would talk to a guru. Lord Hanuman and Lord Rama always listen to us.

Learning about Hinduism: Avoiding modern-day obstacles

Because of the social-political changes within India over the last century, today’s Hindus have more choices than before. This is particularly true for the Hindus of India, the country where Hindu thought has mainly flourished over the ages. These choices — freedom to think and act — were not present for Hindus between 1200 and 1947, when most Hindus were under brute foreign-colonial rule. Also, Hinduism has become a global religion, and Hindus of non-Indian origin also have the freedom and responsibility to contribute to Hindu thought. Accordingly, decisions that today’s Hindus make are important and will have their own importance in history.

Though Hinduism’s democratic flavor and its dynamic knowledge base are among the strengths of the religion, these strengths can become dangers if they are misused. They can become dangerous if followers start dumping everything that comes to their mind to the domain of Hindu thought. We must understand that in the past, over millenniums, Hindu scriptures were developed by God-inspired and God-realized human beings, whom we revere as saints and sages. Today, even non-believers and non-seekers have freedom to express their views loudly through their writings and talks. In this situation, we will have to learn to be selective in what we absorb. We can sometimes ignore the non-devotional individuals, no matter how intellectual they appear to be, who tend to pull Hindu thought in the wrong direction — away from its God-centricity.

Lord Rama: Selected Interesting Facts

Given below are some interesting facts about Lord Rama, who has limitless divine qualities.

  1. Rama is the most ideal and accessible form of God — the Supreme God who also chose to live with us — on Earth. He is God as how God should be.
  2. It was Rama’s name that was chanted by saints like Sri Ramananda, St. Tulasidasa, St. Thyagaraja, St. Mirabai, St. Raidasa, St. Tukarama, and Samarth Guru Ramadas. These saints have had the highest impact, in recent times, on Hindu spirituality; the full list of his devotees is very big.
  3. In the Adhyatma Ramayana, at the beginning of his fourteen-year long exile, when Rama asked Rishi Valmiki where he could live in the forest, Valmiki replied, “You, the Lord of all, already live everywhere – in all beings.”
  4. Goswami Tulasidasa says that his Lord, Sri Rama, is beyond comparison and “Rama is only comparable to himself … If one compares the Sun to a billion fireflies, it is, in fact, a criticism of the Sun.” This implies that all metaphors and adjectives used for the glorification of Rama are trivial, but Rama accepts them out of his mercy on beings; they may get counted as prayers.
  5. Rama’s name is bigger than the words Paramatma, Para Brahman, and Paratpara Brahman — all of them combined.
  6. From a human perspective, Rama has the strongest astrological chart mathematically possible.
  7. During his divine plays on Earth, Rama was the disciple of Brahmarishi Vasistha — the topmost sage of Hinduism. Some of the questions he asked his guru are documented in the Yogavasistha.
  8. Rama’s ista devata is Lord Shiva. Rama is the ista devata of Lord Hanuman, the ultimate Vaishnava.
  9. Diwali, the top Hindu festival, also known as the festival of lights, celebrates Rama’s return to Ayodhya from exile.

Changes in my spiritual life

I am sharing my guest post from the White Hindu Blog at Patheos. The article is about my own spiritual life so far. Please check it out!

Changes in the spiritual life of a Hindu blogger

Workplace Spirituality: Selflessness

Most humans would like to select a career that fulfills their passion and also pays well. But what if you have a dream that does not align with big earnings? Should you still follow your dreams? Or should you select the job that pays more? To find out, please read my new article in the Speaking Tree section of the Economic Times (Mar 18, 2020).

You can right click on the image below and select “View Image” to read the article.

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