Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Vol.18: Dvaita Vedanta Philosophy

Rs. 2,200.00
  • Book Name Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Vol.18: Dvaita Vedanta Philosophy
  • Author Karl H. Potter
  • Language, Pages English, 612 Pgs. (HB)
  • Last Updated 2023 / 05 / 31
  • ISBN 9788120836464, 8120836464

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Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Vol.18: Dvaita Vedanta Philosophy
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Madhva, the founding figure of the Dvaita system of philosophy, states the major tenets of his philosophical system in a nutshell in his Mahabharata-tatparyaniaya 1.70-71: "The flow of the world is real together with its five- fold difference:

(1) The difference between God and jivas (i.e., the individual selves);

(2) The mutual differences(s) among the jivas;

(3) The difference(s) between God and jada (i.e., inert) objects;

(4) The mutual differences(s) among the jada objects;

(5) The difference between the jada objects and the individual selves.

These differences are permanent and will continue forever. These differences will continue ever after liberation. The hierarchy of the jivas will also continue even after liberation.

"Madhva's is the first of those systems labeled "Vedanta" to espouse such a- sweeping set of distinct kinds of real entities. Notably, the Advaita system of Samkara denied any differences at all, labeling all such distinctions at best anirvacaniya, impossible to speak of consistently. Madhvas passage, quoted above, states his disagreement with such a position in as extreme terms as is possible. Besides forming an important school of thought in its own right, Madhva provided the backdrop to the "modern" period of Indian thought, in which even the importance of liberation and the basic assumptions concerning it came into question.


About the Author

Karl H. Potter

Karl H. Potter is Professor of philosophy and South Asian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle and is the General Edition of the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies Series containing 28 Volume.


The basic work for this Volume has already been accomplished by the late B.N.K. Sharma in his mammoth History of the Dvaita School of Vedanta and Its Literature (Two volumes; Bombay 1960; revised and enlarged in one Volume, Delhi 1981) the 1981 version is referred to in what follows as BNKS. Sharma did not change the substance of his analyses in this later edition, and there has been a fairly sizable literature since then on the texts of the system. In what follows we have reprinted large portions of Sharma's summaries and information, with updated references to subsequently-printed literature.

In particular, the writings of K.T. Pandurangi on Dvaita Vedanta are of great importance, and we shall make full use of them wherever possible, especially where they provide authoritative scholarly summaries of materials dealt with more succinctly than in Sharma's work.

The General Editor wishes also to extend his sincere thanks and appreciation for the help rendered by B. Sarvothaman of Bangalore and Chennai.


In this series of lectures I am to devote myself to the Dvaita systems of Vedanta promulgated in all its energy and fulness of form by the great Acarya, Sri Madhva or Ananda Tirtha.

Before attempting an exposition of the school in some detail in all its significant aspects, I take it that a general indication of the fundamental orientation of the system may be of value.

(a) One of the important designations of the system is 'tattva-vada' and the term is adopted by Madhva himself in his Maya-vada-khandana. The term needs a little explanation to be understood in the right manner. It stands as an antithesis to maya-vada and the latter propounds the view that the world we encounter in our empirical consciousness is a phenomenal or even illusory construction lacking substantiality of being. In opposition to this, the Dvaita philosophy argues for the reality of the world. In other words, what is normally described as the external world, the world or objects and situations, which the human mind faces in its experience, is real and objective according to tattva-vada. This tendency in philosophical thought is characterized as realism in recent European terminology. The point, therefore, is that Dvaita champions the realistic standpoint in philosophy. The historical significance of the position is immense. In Indian philosophy, two systems of thought, the Mahayana Buddhism in its Madhyamika and Yogacara phases and Advaita Vedanta, [seek to] refute realism on solid metaphysical and epistemological grounds. Madhva's philosophy is opposed to this antirealist stand in all possible thoroughness.

Some general considerations utilized in this connection may be indicated. Madhva holds that realism taking the waking world as real has the backing of common sense and hence its proofs for the reality of the world may not seek any special strength in that direction. But a philosophy that repudiates the world is in need of the most rigorous argument in its support. Unfortunately, such support is not to be found in the idealistic schools in question. Realism is the natural bent of the human mind and it has been appropriated by all schools that speak of the intrinsic validity of human understanding in the notion of svatah. pramanya. As such, its refutation must be invulnerable. Realism with regard to the external world has an empirical basis. Our perceptual consciousness and all the super-structure of thought built on that basis present the world as real. Mere dialectic, epistemological or otherwise, cannot demolish the world. A perceptual error can be eliminated or corrected only by a perception or perceptions of a wider range and deeper level and never by mere ratiocination. Madhva works out this position through a close analysis of some perceptual errors and their correction. The implication of this position is that empirical errors can be transcended only in a larger and profounder empiricism. Hence a total repudiation of empiricism and its realistic affirmations is impossible in essence. One may recall a parallel pronouncement of Bosanquet that 'transcendence of immediacy is not transcendence of experience'. G. E. Moore in his famous essay on 'The Defence of Commonsense' rightly points out the self-contradiction involved in the rejection of common-sense about the world, without admitting the world which alone can make commonsense a possibility. One cannot administer a kick to the earth without placing himself on the earth.

(b) The next dominant constituent of Dvaita is its pluralism. It is this that is signified by the more common reference to the system as Dvaita. This term, like the other one, tattvavada, requires a historical elucidation. Advaita asserting the total oneness of the individual self and the absolute Self is naturally described as Advaita or non-dualism. As [our] school rejects categorically that identification of non-dualism, its description derived from that antagonism has given rise to its name, "Dvaita". This is not a dualism such as that of Jainism and Samkhya or even the initial position of Descartes. It stands just for the recognition of the distinction between the finite self and the Supreme Being. The extension of this principle is the assertion of a similar distinction between the finite self and nature on the one hand and that between nature and the Supreme Being on the other. Similarly the selves are to be distinguished among themselves, and objects constitutive of nature are to be considered a plurality. This five-fold difference named panca-bheda is a fundamental verity, and it is held to be the meaning of the term 'prapanca' signifying the universe as a whole. Inalienable uniqueness is a basic characteristic of all that exists in the realm of nature and the realm of spirits. This is the pluralism of Madhva. No wonder it is opposed to all forms of monism. How far the pluralism gets integrated into a coherent philosophy we will see in the sequel. In the meanwhile, its dialectical core has to be discerned.

Advaita, in the hands of Mandana Misra and all the other writers coming after him, has built up a powerful case against the very concept of 'difference' (bheda), and has thus endeavored to knock the bottom out of all types of pluralism. Madhva, therefore, enters into this polemics and seeks to demonstrate the [failure of] the refutation of difference. With that end accomplished, pluralism stands secure and established. Some idea of this argument and counter-argument is necessary for understanding the radical position of our system. Mandana has a two-fold attack, epistemological and ontological. Epistemologically, as pluralism rests on empiricism, it has to be pointed out how difference gets apprehended in perceptual cognition. All difference is of some entity or substance that differs from others. This entity must be apprehended prior to the apprehension of its difference from all that it differs from. This is a simple enough matter. The positive fundament has to furnish the ground for subsequent differentiation from the connected correlatives. But the initial apprehension is alone perceptual and the subsequent acts of thought are just retrospective constructions or imaginations. Thus perception in its purest initial step grasps what is difference-less, and all the difference read into the initial datum is non-perceptual and hence a falsifying addition. This is the epistemological aspect of the dialectic. In the ontological sphere, we have to decide whether difference is the substantive essence, dharmi-svarupa,or the entity or its dharma, property or quality. It cannot be the first, for the essence is non-relational and has, in fact, to supply the base for subsequent relational thought, while the difference is fundamentally a relational characteristic. It functions between entities; and independent of correlatives it has no meaning whatever. So dharmi-svarupa is not bheda. Can it be a dharma? This is an equally impossible alternative, for it requires the admission of a difference between the substantive and its properties, and thus leads to an infinite regress. For difference to be a property only, there must be a difference between the substance and this property of difference. The whole dialectic has to be repeated with regard to the newly admitted difference. There is no end to this process of positing differences to support differences. This is roughly the Advaitic polemics as initiated by Mandana Misra.

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