Tenets of Suddhadvaita
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE VALLABHA SCHOOL OF VEDANTA: K. Narain; Published by Indological Research Centre, B 34/115, Sukulpura, Durga Kund, Varanasi-221010.
THIS BOOK deals with the philosophy of Vallabhacarya, (1479-1531) whose system is known as Suddhadvaita or pure monism. It is a philosophical and religious school of Vaishnavism, popular in Central and Western India and has developed the concept of Pushti-bhakti, which treats devotion not only as a means but also as an end in itself. It is by God's grace (pushti) alone that man attains release. The book examines the philosophy of Vallabha from the epistemological, metaphysical and ethical standpoints in 13 well-argued chapters.
The Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutra, which constitute the Prasthanatraya, allow hermeneutical interpretations by Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhva, Vallabha, Nimbarka, Baladeva and others. This gave rise to the emergence of the major systems of Vedanta. Each system claims that it represents a faithful and authentic exposition of the teachings of the scriptures.
There are four sects of Vaishnavism: Sri, Brahma, Hamsa and Rudra, representing the four schools, namely, Visishtadvaita, Dvaita, Dvaitadvaita (Nimbarka) and Suddhadvaita (pure monism of Vallabha).
There are some differences among these schools with regard to concepts like nature of the Reality, creation, soul and Bhakti. The author explains how Suddhadvaita differs from the other three schools. Here Bhakti is considered superior to the state of release and is recognised as the fifth Purusharatha. Two major contributions of this school are Brahmavada or Suddadvaita and Pustimarga.
Chapter three and four discuss the nature of Brahman. There is also a thorough study of the three means of knowledge, namely perception, inference and testimony in the next chapter. One of the important problems of Indian philosophy is the relation between identity and difference.
The Vallabha school takes the middle position by saying that the difference is only a manifestation caused by Brahman's inscrutable will. Pure monism is not one of absolute identity but of an identity that is tolerant of difference. The relation between identity and difference is according to this system to that of the whole to its parts.
Chapter nine explains Vallabha's understanding of the atomic dimension of the individual soul. But the Advaitins would argue that this is only with regard to the empirical status conditioned by intellect, and hence the atomic character should be taken only in the figurative sense.
The Vallabha Vedanta answers this by saying that the dimension of the jiva is neither all-pervasive nor of medium dimension but is atomic in nature. It is said here that the identity passages interpreted by the Advaitins are all against them.
According to the author the Vallabha followers claim that the Advaitins were much influenced by the spell of Buddhist logic that they not only lost the real meaning of the Upanishadic texts but even worked hard to misrepresent them. This point is a debatable one since all the preceptors have interpreted the texts by applying the rules of interpretation.
Only if there is a hermeneutical violation, then only a particular interpretation can be incorrect. By the hermeneutical interpretation, it can be said that all the interpretations are correct within a particular framework.
The book makes comparison with other systems of Indian philosophy wherever necessary. It is well argued how Vallabha's contribution is unique and novel. The author deserves praise for his excellent study on the subject. This book will serve as a resource material for those who are interested in the philosophy of Vallabhacarya.
Source: The Hindu, Tueday, March 29, 2005.