Dvaita, Advaita and Visishtadvaita

By Dr. K S Radhakrishnan on 20-06-2017

Since change always leads to something that is not changing, then the question arises is whether the changing and the not changing are different entities or not. The answers to this question can be classified into three categories. The first category believes that the changing and the non-changing are entirely different entities and there is nothing common in between them. The second category propagates that there is no difference between the changing and the non-changing and all such differences are only peripheral and absolute identity between the two can be experienced at every level. The third category explains that there are certain changing entities amidst something that never changes. It also believes that identity and differences are equally important and cannot be avoided.  The first category of philosophical understandings paved the way for the emergence of a heap of philosophical systems. Such systems in Indian philosophy have been classified into a philosophical stream named ‘dvaita’ (duality). On the contrarory, the second category believes in diversity but everything that appears in diversified manner is nothing but the manifestation of one and the same reality. This system of thought is quite unique to Indian ‘darsana’ (nearest meaning ‘sight’, in the sense seeing from the root – duly explained later) and it is technically known as ‘advaita’. The third category of thought has been systemized by Aristotle the Greek philosopher and it has been manifested in various forms in Europe as well as in the Indian Systems. In India, that category of thought has been classified as ‘visishtadvaita’ (nearest meaning – special non-duality). These three positions are the result of the basic approaches to the understanding of the reality in and around us. A fourth category is not practically and logically possible. That is why these categories of thoughts in Indian Systems are known as Vedanta which means, the beginning and the end of our experiences. That is, human experiences begin with duality and develop into proliferation of thoughts and streams that culminate into the logic of identity in differences, ultimately ending up in the experience of absolute identity. That is why the Indian Systems of thoughts divide categories of understanding of reality into dvaita (dualism), visishtadvaita (nondualism and dualism together) and advaita (non-dualism – absolute identity).

About The Author

Dr. K S Radhakrishnan

Dr. K S Radhakrishnan (formerly Vice-Chancellor of Sri Sankaracharya University and Chairman, Kerala Public Service Commission) is a learned scholar who has been earnestly trying to revive the ancient knowledge in Indian culture. He worked as a lecturer early in his life and now lives an eloquent advocate of social and cultural causes.