[Advaita-l] Understanding Srimad Bhagavad Gita from the perspectives of Visishtadvaita and Advaita - an exposition

Raghav Kumar Dwivedula raghavkumar00 at gmail.com
Thu Jan 25 01:35:29 EST 2024

Namaste Vikram ji

>  "The intent is to demonstrate that Advaita does not stand in
> conflict with Visishtadvaita teachings and these two spiritual paths are
> available to seekers purely based on their temperaments.

We could look to two aspects
1. Praxis of Devotion to Narayana
2. Philosophical/doctrinal aspects

When it comes to the praxis of Bhakti towards Srimannarayana, it is
*already included* in the Advaita sAmpradAya as a valid traditional way.
Advaita sAmpradAya is not just the mahAvAkya analysis but also validates
devotion to Narayana etc.

In other words, there are two attitudes of bhakti which are mutually
1. Bhakti and upAsanA of Srimannarayana as taught by the Advaita acharyas -
this is not exclusivist and shows equal empathy towards worship of Shiva or
Devi etc. The idea of ishTa devatA validates and brings under the ambit of
the Advaita sAmpradAya *all* devotion to Srimannarayana which is not
exclusivist or theologically sectarian. This type of devotion to Narayana
is part of the Advaita tradition.

2. Bhakti and upAsanA of Srimannarayana as explained by Sri Ramanuja which
insists on the superiority of devotion to Srimannarayana over devotion to
Shiva or Devi. (As per my understanding).

Thus from a praxis point of view - Devotion to Narayana minus sectarianism
is already available and accepted and revered as part of Advaita tradition.
Consider the examples of Sri Thyagaraja, Sri Madhusudana Saraswati etc. I
would suggest that the Alvars starting with Nammalvar are in that sense
part of the Advaita tradition since they don't make any fuss over the
superiority of devotion to Narayana over devotion to Shiva in the entire
nAlAyira prabandham afaik. And they don't build up and argue polemically
for any doctrines opposed to Advaita. They are utterly in love with their
Ishta devata, Srimannarayana which is very well part of Advaita.

So there is *no choice* (based on one's temperament) for an intelligent
devotee of Narayana but to reject the exclusivist theological claims of
vishiShTAdvaita. The devotion gets fully preserved in Advaita but the
exclusivist theology goes away.

Now on the second point viz - doctrinal differences...yes they do exist as
your extensive study clearly demonstrates. Although, upon closer scrutiny
of both Advaita and vishiShTAdvaita, I am not sure there is again any real
"choice" possible based on temperament. Just as a person who believes in a
geocentric solar system upon being enlightened about gravity etc would
adopt the modern (kind of "heliocentric") understanding. He may still
transact in his daily life as before since the former may be more
convenient (using terms like sun rises etc.), but his understanding is
permanently changed for the better.

Similarly -
Advaita accepts krama-samuccaya (ie karma/upAsanA is very well accepted as
the important phase/step to come to a point where jnAna can arise by
pramANa) and points out (using yukti) the *logical* contradictions present
in sama-samyccaya (combination of  "jnana" and upAsanA as essential
requirement for mokSha). If these yuktis of Shankara bhAShya are
appreciated, there is no choice but to see the logicality of krama
samuccaya, even while the advaitic student may be well be practicing
intense upAsanA of Narayana along with doing shravana, manana of Shankara
bhAShya etc., in his life.


> Kindle requesting the learned members to review and please share your
> feedback on the directions and accuracy of the thought process:
> https://archive.org/details/sbg-visishtadvaita-and-advaita/
> To provide more context, I am born a SriVaishnava and belong to
> Visishtadvaita sampradhayam. However philosophically I am aligned with
> Advaita.  With a deeper understanding of both the perspectives, I believe
> the teachings of the great acharyas are actually quite aligned (except for
> the criticisms which are figuratively apples versus oranges). In a local
> setting, we just started an initiative to discuss Srimad Bhagavad Gita
> based on both perspectives - Swami Ramanujacharya's bhashya and Swami
> Sankaracharya's bhashya. It is my strong conviction that without a clear
> understanding of the fundamentals of both sampradayam, a comparative or
> relative study will end up creating more confusion than illumining clear
> directions. This is because of root-level differences regarding the nature
> of bondage, ignorance, knowledge and liberation. When explained within the
> right context, there is definite self-consistency and cohesiveness of both
> philosophies. The attempt of this article is also to provide these
> minimalistic fundamentals that will enable a clearer understanding of SBG
> in different perspectives.
> Based on your review and feedback I will share this with our group as an
> introduction.
> Thank you!
> On a quick side note: a couple of weeks back I had shared another brief
> write up on my reflections on Avidya (
> https://archive.org/details/reflections-on-avidya). Earnestly soliciting
> critical review and feedback on my understanding of this too.
> with humble prostrations,
> Vikram
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