Vedanta (Vedānta) or Uttara Mīmāṃsā is one of the six schools of Sanatana Darsana. Vedanta literally means “end of Vedas” bouquet of Prayatksa Pramana based on Sadhanas undertaken by Rishis and Mahrshis. Vedanta has never been a single doctrine of one Rishi and Mahrshi, rather it has been doctrines reverberating around one fundamental concept comprising of Param Brahmatma, Atma/Jivatma and Prakriti. Param Brahmatma is the Supreme Absolute, Atma/Jivatma emanate from Param Brahmatma and merge into Him while Prakriti is the gross empirical aspect available to Atma/Jivatma as a means to strive and merge into Param Brahmatma. Several doctrines woven around the three, are all restricted to expound inter-relationships among these three entities. Seers discovered it to be impossible to describe Param Brahmatma or Atma as narrations thereof are accessible only in the absolute state of Chetana but then no Jnanendriya or Karmendriya is able to function from that supreme state of existence. Out of several, only three are prominent ones around which all deliberations and arguments revolve.
Enunciated by Jagadguru Adi Sankaracharya, Advaita Vedānta espouses monism i.e. non-dualism. Param Brahmatma is regarded to be the absolute, immutable metaphysical reality and abode of Atmas. Maya is the cosmic dance of Prakriti, entirely empirical and eternally mutable, exists within the Being of Param Brahmatma alone. To summarise, whatever exists in the name of existence, is the Supreme Entity i.e. Param Brahmatma Himself alone. It is the ultimate state of Chetana after which nothing else is left to be realised. Advaita Vedanta beholds, every other entity is in reality, Param Brahmatma Himself.
Propounded by Maharshi Madhavacharya, Dvaita is the stream of Vedanta Darsana that espouses the doctrine of dualism. Herein Param Brahmatma and Atma are assumed to be eternally different and individually identifiable. While Param Brahmatma is perfect in all respects and immutable, it is Atma that must strive to attain perfection and strive to remain perfect eternally, then entirely dedicate itself unto Param Brahmatma for ultimate emancipation from Maya of Prakriti i.e. Moksa. This complete dedication unto Him is the institution of Bhakti. It is only by grace and benediction of Param Brahmatma that one attains Bhakti and Moksa thereafter. In other words, Bhakti leads to Moksa i.e. devotee superimposes Supreme Chetana of Param Brahmatma upon his own Chetana to be a Bhakta. While remaining different from Param Brahmatma, Bhakta continues to exist within Him eternally. The erudite Seer maintained both qualitative and quantitative pluralism of Atmas in the doctrine of Dvaita albeit the Seer always referred to it as Tattvavada i.e. Darsana of Reality.
Expounded by Maharshi Ramanujacharya, Visistadvaita is essentially a modified version of the Darsana of Advaita with unique manifests. Herein, Param Brahmatma has attributes albeit illusory, transient albeit all attributes converge into Param Brahmatma i.e. The Absolute One. Even Saguna Brahma is vested in Nirguna Brahma being one of attributes. Visistadvaita concurs with Samkhya doctrine when it comes to relationship of Param Brahmatma with Prakriti. Like Param Brahmatma, Prakriti and its modifications too are eternal and real endowed with a sense of absoluteness in constancy of modifications. Prakriti and its Maya may be regarded as body of Param Brahmatma analogous to Jivatma. Bhakti of Saguna Brahma is the path for a Jivatma to be ultimately emancipated from shackles of Maya and Prakriti. Through Visistadvaita, the great Seer consecrated qualitative monism and quantitative pluralism of Atmas while in Dvaita, it is qualitative and quantitative pluralism of Atmas that are sacrosanct.
Narrated by Maharshi Vallabhacharya, doctrine of Suddhadvaita resolves, entire universe is real in the manifest of Sri Krishna. Even Prakriti is yet another manifestation of Param Brahmatma i.e. Sri Krishna. Only path to Sri Krishna is unqualified, seamless Bhakti as a potent measure of dissolution of Ahamkara.
What we behold among these doctrines is that these revolve around Bhedabheda i.e. difference and absence of it. Bhagirathi of Vedanta continued surging ahead and influenced streams of Vaisnavism, Saivism and Saktism too. Upanishads constitute centrality of the wisdom of Vedanta which is also known as Uttara Mimamsa with Purva Mimamsa being narration of Karmakanda. Later, Brahma Sutras and Srimad Bhagvad Gita too were included into the core of Vedanta. Brahma-Sutra Darsana journeyed through infinity of time to be regarded as the main text of Vedanta though it does not propose or expose either Advaita/Visistadvaita or even Dvaita.
Advaita and Visitadvaita differ only in one aspect, beholding the Reality from two ends of the same telescope !! Advaita asserts, it is One and One alone irrespective of any attribute or manifest whatsoever while Visistadvaita asserts, whatever attributes and manifests exist, are again, already included in the One and One alone. Contrarian view of Advaita is that the Absolute Truth is binary in structure and one is means to attain the other albeit both are independent entities and eternal. Doctrine of Dvaita provides definition of religion with exactitude of the highest order i.e. all activities directed towards attainment of Param Brahmatma with the means / instrumentality of Jada, is in fact, religion. Other than these, may be dubbed merely as life-styles.
Question likely to agonise a Mumuksu i.e. seeker is, which doctrine out of these may be regarded as stating the truth and upto what extent. In reality, the complex issue cannot afford an absolute state of position with respect to doctrines of Dvaita, Advaita and Visistadvaita or even Suddhadvaita for that matter. All these doctrines are deeply interconnected, intensely intertwined and inseparably discernible. Analogy with a vibrant ocean very well drives home the rigmarole to it’s logical conclusion. If Param Brahmatma is like an ocean holding infinite quantum of Cetana, He is absolutely serene and tranquil at the core while on surface, turbulent with attributes and manifests. All these attributes and manifests merge and emerge eternally with respect to the infinite cosmic ocean of Cetana like waves and surfs on surface of an ocean and seashore. Now whether He appears as the Absolute One or Absolute One with attributes and manifests, is a matter of wisdom, cognition or conjecture of the beholder aspiring to dive into it to attain the core of serene absoluteness transcending turbulence on surface. And with both possibilities, beholder of the cosmic phenomenon shall be precisely accurate as with an ocean replete with acric water. Now a proponent of Dvaita would dive into the cosmic ocean of Cetana to arrive at the core of Supreme Absoluteness adorned with accou’tremont bare enough to survive and achieve the goal. Thus we conclude, all streams of Vedanta Darsana are inseparably intertwined, mutually inclusive and all encompassing.
Those three Rishis Adi Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya and Madhavacharya are among the greatest Seers in world history. Together they were analogous to three tines of Bhagavan Shiva’s trishula (trident) converging into Shiva, The Absolute One.