4 Major Differences between Advaita and Vishistadvaita Views on Philosophy

Read this article to learn about the major differences between Advaita and Vishistadvaita views on Philosophy!

Non-dualism (Advaita) and qualified non-dualism (vishistadvaita) are two distinct schools of thought in Vedanta philosophy.

The proponents of the two were Samkaracharaya and Ramanuja respectively.

The most authoritative text of non- dualism is “Sariraka Bhasya” written by Samkara, while that on qualified monism is “Sri Bhasya” written by Ramanuja.

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As is evident from the differences between the two schools, they entertain differing views regarding the Ultimate Reality. According to non-dualism, the Ultimate Reality is non-dual and one. According to qualified non-dualism, on the other hand, the Ultimate Reality is of course, non-dual but there is scope for duality within this non-duality. It is for this reason that this view is called qualified non-dualism.

The distinction between the two views will be clear from the following exposition:

1. The Brahman:

Roughly speaking, the Ultimate Reality is studied in three forms—the self, world and God. According to the view held by the non-dualist school, Brahman is not possessed of any qualities or of any distinctions. According to the school of qualified non-dualism, Brahman possesses both qualities and distinctions.


In the former, Brahman is believed to be above God, as according to Samkara there is difference between Ishwara (God) and Brahman. Brahman is without attributes and the only reality, and hence, in the ultimate analysis, even Iswara is unreal. In the qualified non-dualism on the other hand, it is held that Brahman also possesses attributes, and hence, no distinction is made between Brahman and Ishwara. Ishwara is Brahman, or in other words, it is Brahman Himself who, in the form of Ishwara, creates the world.

2. The Self:

In the non-dualist school of thought, there are no distinctions between self and Brahman. Samkara has interpreted different authoritative senten­ces from the Upanishads to mean that they deny all differences between self and Brahman. In this way, self is nothing other than Brahman. Ignorance, according to Samkara, consists in considering the self to be distinct from Brahman, and it is the aim of Vedanta to remove this ignorance. On the other hand, Ramanuja has accepted non-duality of a qualified kind between self and Brahman.

In this, the Self is part of Brahman, but is not Brahman, because the part can never be the whole. According to Ramanuja, the statements from Upanishads interpreted by Samkara as negating the duality between self and Brahman imply not an identity between self and Brahman but the unbreakable relation between them. In their fundamental essence, self and Brahman but the unbreakable relation between them. In their fundamental essence, Self and Brahman are the same, just as the part and the whole are one, but by reason of this, part and whole cannot be said to be identical.

3. The Liberation:

Difference in opinion regarding |he relation between the self and Brahman leads to differing opinions on the subject of liberation. According to Samkara, the non-dualist self is eternally free because it is Brahman. To think of it as differing from Brahman is to display ignorance and liberation consists in getting rid of this ignorance, or, in other words, in realizing the identity of self and Brahman.


Brahman is bliss, hence, liberation is a state of bliss. On the other hand, in Ramanuja’s qualified non-dualism, the identity between self and Brahman is not postulated. Hence, Ramanuja accepts four kinds of liberation viz., Sayujya or becoming attached with God samipya or existing in the vicinity of God, sannidhya or existing in the proximity of God, and the one that should have been mentioned first instead of last, salokya or living in the land of God. In none of these states, does the self become God or Brahman.

4. The World:

Similarly, concerning the world the opinions of the non-dualist and the qualified non-dualist schools differ. According to Samkara, the world is Maya-, it is false or unreal and it has nothing to do with Brahman. According to Ramanuja, the world is the sport of God and is constituted as its part. Both the conscious and the unconscious elements are the self-distinctions of Brahman. The world therefore is not unreal. It is real because nothing created by Ishwara is unreal.

It depends upon one’s own choice as to which of the two, advaita or vishis­tadvaita is preferred or found more in consonance with one’s own viewpoint. One may, however, make a generalisation that the logically-minded persons will find the former viewpoint more agreeable, whereas those, in whose mental makeup it is emotion which is preponderant, will find the latter view more acceptable.

This is due to the fact that while the former school satisfies the intellect and mind of the aspirant, the latter view appeals more to the emotions and feelings. From the philosophic and purely logical standpoint, the more adequate view is that of Samkara, although, it has not paid sufficient regard to feelings. On the other hand, Ramanuja’s view satisfies the demands of religion, although from the point of view of logic, it is open to many objections.

Religion demands that the devotee should always enjoy the bliss of worship. The worshipper himself never desires to become God. He wants to live near God, to exist in His vicinity, to live in the land of God The view of Ramanuja concerning liberation satisfies this desire of the devotee. Similarly, from the religious viewpoint, Ramanuja’s conception of self and the Brahman is superior to that of Samakara.

It is not possible to worship that which is devoid of qualities. The dualism between the devotees and Ishwara is necessary for the purpose of love. Pringle Pattison has correctly written, “It requires two to love and to be loved, two to worship and to be worshipped…” It. is for this reason that the religious men tend to look upon the world as an act of God.

But there are many difficulties in regarding the world as the result of divine action. For example, in Ramanuja’s opinion, there is no place in such a view for mystic experience in which the devotee experiences an identity with the object of his devotion. The satisfaction can, however, be derived from Samkara’s philosophy.

Thus, it may be said that in the consideration of Ultimate Reality, Samkara’s philosophy offers satisfaction to the demands of logic and philosophy, while the view propounded by Ramanuja affords satisfaction to the demands of religion. Samkara’s view is not likely to satisfy the religious and emotional individual. On the other hand, Ramanuja’s concepts are not likely to satisfy the logical-minded men.

But there are very few individuals who may be classed as purely rational and intellectual or purely emotional. Most individuals possess both the emotional and the rational strain in them, and this is as it should be, because, otherwise the man will become one-sided. Philosophy and logic cannot replace religion, nor can religion replace them, in the final analysis, the philosophies of Advaita and Vishistadvaita are complementary. Together they satisfy the whole being of man.

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