Philosophy

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.

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.

Our tiny decisions can make someone happy

About two decades ago, I was teaching Indian Percussion to a kid over the weekend. Unexpectedly, the kid asked if I could teach him a piece of music of his choice — which he had heard somewhere but was not a part of the curriculum I had developed for these classes. While teaching music, I used to expect my students to follow the curriculum I had set, which involved lessons in their natural sequence. But now I had a choice: to teach what he wanted or refuse. I opted to teach him his preferred piece of music. My slight flexibility worked like a gift for the kid and resulted in a smile on his face.

In this interaction, I also learned a couple of lessons. When the universe gives us a choice, our tiniest decisions can make someone else happy. Moreover, such decisions, if towards goodness, can consequently connect us with happiness, even if momentarily.

Another lesson was that while teaching, the teaching paradigm that had worked for one student may not work for another student. Because the universe changes continuously and every human is different, I would have to go forward with a dynamic teaching approach.

In life, even our trivial interactions with people have a say in forming our disposition, which defines our behaviour for the next moment — and how we approach bigger problems. And they affect the people around us as well.

Sacred symbols in Hindu spirituality

What do the sacred symbols of the swan, lotus, turtle, and peepal tree signify in Hindu spirituality? To find out, please read my new article from the Speaking Tree section of the Times of India (Jan 27, 2020).

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

Learning, detachment and sacred symbols

Connecting to the source of happiness

Whenever we do something for God, our effort becomes a means of bringing us closer to God — the source of all happiness. In other words, we can gain happiness from our simplest efforts by offering them to God.

Efforts that convert to fame and money may have their importance in the real world but are considered perishables in spirituality. On the other hand, if we read a prayer to God or light a candle in front an image of God, it may bring more permanent results in terms of happiness. Why? Because God, who dwells in every heart and is the real witness of all our karma, gives the fruits of every action according to his own wish. If we have done something that should attract happiness, God will eventually give it to us.

Even career-conscious human beings can gain permanent happiness by forming a relationship with God. One approach of connecting to happiness on the workplace is by forming a harmony with karma yoga. To trigger this yoga, we have to make sure that we trust God. By remembering God at times and by surrendering our actions to God, we can remain unmoved by success and failure. As we move forward, we will see that our trust on God makes God’s grace the source of our happiness, not material success.

Knowledge from scriptures and self-realized individuals has its importance in guiding us towards happiness. In fact, scriptures supposedly provide us with viewpoints of human beings, generally saints, who have already realized God.  Because God may directly guide a human being towards himself through inspirations and other means, personal experiences are equally important in spirituality. Personal spiritual experiences can range from chanting a name of God and listening to discourses to having a face-to-face meeting with God (darshan), where applicable. In our professional endeavours or our spiritual journey, whenever in doubt, we can always request God to guide us rather than making concrete assumptions about how the universe works or what our favourite scripture actually says.

God is our real guru

Given below is my article on God being our real guru from the Inner Voice column of the Hindustan Times (November 23, 2019).

God starts guiding us personally as soon as we start looking up to him

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