Dvaita Vedanta (; Sanskrit: द्वैत वेदान्त) is a sub-school in the Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy. Alternatively known as Bhedavāda, Tattvavāda and Bimbapratibimbavāda, Dvaita Vedanta sub-school was founded by the 13th-century scholar Madhvacharya. The Dvaita Vedanta school believes that God (Vishnu, supreme soul) and the individual souls (jīvātman) exist as independent realities, and these are distinct. The Dvaita school contrasts with the other two major sub-schools of Vedanta, the Advaita Vedanta of Adi Shankara which posits nondualism – that ultimate reality (Brahman) and human soul are identical and all reality is interconnected oneness, and Vishishtadvaita of Ramanuja which posits qualified nondualism – that ultimate reality (Brahman) and human soul are different but with the potential to be identical.
Dvaita (द्वैत) is a Sanskrit word that means "duality, dualism". The term refers to any premise, particularly in theology on the temporal and the divine, where two principles (truths) or realities are posited to exist simultaneously and independently.
Dvaita Vedanta is a dualistic interpretation of the Vedas, espouses dualism by theorizing the existence of two separate realities. The first and the only independent reality (svatantra-tattva), states the Dvaita school, is that of Vishnu as Brahman. Vishnu is the supreme Self, in a manner similar to monotheistic God in other major religions. The second reality is that of dependent (asvatantra-tattva) but equally real universe that exists with its own separate essence. Everything that is composed of the second reality, such as individual soul, matter, and the like exist with their own separate reality. The distinguishing factor of this philosophy, as opposed to monistic Advaita Vedanta, is that God takes on a personal role and is seen as a real eternal entity that governs and controls the universe.
Like Ramanuja, Madhvacharya also embraced Vaishnavism. Madhvacharya posits God as being personal and saguna, that is endowed with attributes and qualities. To Madhvacharya, the metaphysical concept of Brahman in the Vedas was Vishnu. He stated "brahmaśabdaśca Viṣṇaveva", that Brahman can only refer to Vishnu. To him, Vishnu was not just any other deva, but rather the one and only Supreme Being.
Dvaita Vedanta acknowledges two principles; however, it holds one of them (the sentient) as being eternally dependent on the other. The individual souls are depicted as reflections, images or shadows of the divine, but never in any way identical with the divine. Moksha (liberation) therefore is described as the realization that all finite reality is essentially dependent on the Supreme.
Five fundamental, eternal and real differences are described in Dvaita school:
- Between the individual souls (or jīvātman) and God (Brahmātmeśvara or Vishnu).
- Between matter (inanimate, insentient) and God.
- Between individual souls (jīvātman)
- Between matter and jīvatman.
- Between various types of matter.
These five differences are said to explain the nature of the universe. The world is called prapañca (pañca "five") by the Dvaita school for this reason.
Madhva differed significantly from traditional Hindu beliefs owing to his concept of eternal damnation. For example, he divides souls into three classes. One class of souls, mukti-yogyas, qualifies for liberation, another, the nitya-samsarins, subject to eternal rebirth or eternal transmigration and a third class, tamo-yogyas, who are condemned to eternal hell (andhatamasa). No other Hindu philosopher or school of Hinduism holds such beliefs. In contrast, most Hindus believe in universal salvation, that all souls will eventually obtain moksha, even if after millions of rebirths.
- Dvaita Vedanta and Madhvacharya's historical influence in Hinduism, state Kulandran and Kraemer, has been salutary, but not extensive.
- According to Sharma, the influence of Dvaita Vedanta ideas have been most prominent on the Chaitanya school of Bengal Vaishnavism, and in Assam.
- Madhva's theology influenced later scholars such as Nimbarka, Vallabha Acharya and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. B.N.K. Sharma notes that Nimbarka's theology is a loose réchauffé of Madhva's in its most essential aspects.
- Dvaita Vedanta's discussion of the eternal differences and the gradation between the concept of God, human beings and the observed nature led some early colonial-era Indologists such as George Abraham Grierson to suggest that its founder, the 13th-century Madhva was influenced by Christianity, but later scholars rejected this theory.
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