The philosophy of Shree Vallabhacharya is known as Suddhadvaita or pure non-dualism. In this system, he has propounded that the world is not false or momentary, but true. The world or cosmos is the form or manifestation of Brahman. It is the pure evolutes of the Brahman and is as much true and real as the Brahman. It is the effect of the God, the creation out of the Supreme Reality. God takes the form of the world through his Maya. Brahman is the material as well as the efficient cause of the world. This manifestation (world) is neither purely nature nor the products of atoms, nor mere illusion or appearance. It has been created neither from non-being nor from invisible nothing. It is the visible form of the invisible Brahman. Brahman is infinite and immanent. Everything in every form is verily the Brahman. The Brahman has created this finite and limited world of its own accord through Maya, because it is perfectly capable of assuming any form through its creative power of Maya. Maya is not an illusion. On the contrary, it is the omnipotent, all-creative power of God .
World and appearance (Samsara)
Some scholars have considered world and appearance as synonyms. However, this is not true. World or cosmos is the creation of Brahman, but the appearance or the series is the creation of the soul. Samsara or appearance comes into existence because of the nescience (Avidya). Knowledge (science) and ignorance (nescience) are the powers of God, originating from Maya. Both science and nescience are the powers of God originating, from Maya. Both science and nescience are concerned with soul or an individual, and not with anything else. In other words, these two sciences and nescience are the property of the soul and not of anything else. However, their origin and dissolution depend upon the will of God. Maya is the cause of the cosmos or world, and nescience that of Samsara or appearance. Nescience is the sole governor of all the conditions and characteristics arising out of ego and selfishness. It has five-fold aspects namely; superimposition of the body, superimposition of the of the senses, superimposition of the Prana or vital breath, superimposition of conscience, and the ignorance of the real self. On the account of ignorance, soul or Jiva forgets the real nature of its own self. It believes that all the objects of the world are its own, that they are means of enjoyment, and that all its achievements are the result of its own effort or efficiency. It considers itself the master, enjoyer, and the doer. In fact, the only master, enjoyer. Moreover, the creator of all is God. God has alone created this world for His own play, and at the same time, He has created different forms and different objects, possessing different qualities through his playful curiosity. This wondrous Divinity and many ness have been produced because of the play or Leela of God. Play or Leela is the spontaneous activity generated from curiosity. However, when the individual soul begins to believe that the enjoyable spices of the objects are the means of his own enjoyment and are his own creation, although in truth all these are the means of the play of God, then alone Samsara or appearance comes into existence. Therefore, the root of Samsara lies in the soul generated feelings of I, mine, and ego. When with the disappearance of ignorance and the recollection of true memory of the self, the soul recognizes that everything is created by God and is the means of His enjoyment, and then the existence of samsara is dissolved. Dissolution of samsara has been accepted. The world is not dissolved, but it is resolved and merged as a potentiality into an invisible form, in God. Samsara is created, whereas the world is actualized. In the state of unmanifested existence of the world, God is engaged in inner play; and in the actualized or manifested state, He is engaged in the external.
THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF BRAHM
The world is the effectual or manifested characteristic of Brahman. The characteristic effect alone is not capable of showing the complete nature of Brahman. So while explaining the characteristics of the essential nature of Brahman, Shri Vallabhacharya says that Brahman is invisible and infinite like space. It is omnipotent with activity and omniscient, as if its hands and feet’s and its eyes, head and face are spread all over. It is immanently established in everything. In spite of being invisible or formless, it is manifested in form because of its immanence of potentialities everywhere. Its various limbs, hand and feet are spread everywhere. They are not physical like the visible limbs, which are constituted by water, blood, flesh, fibers, and bones, but are replete with blissfulness. The hands, feet, faces, and bellies of Brahman are bliss alone. In other words, their manifested form is blissful. Brahman is beyond all attributes, because it is above all natural attributes. Brahman is also replete with attributes, because it is the repository of invisible transcendental characteristics. Brahman, on account of being the very ground of opposing characteristics, is both attribute less as well as full of all attributes. It is stable as well as moving, ground as well as grounded. This has been expressed in the Sutra, according to which it is said, “on the account of being the repository of the opposing qualities, it is like a coiled up serpent power.” The “Sruti” (revealed scriptures), while supporting this view, affirms that Brahman walks without feet, holds without hands. It is the smaller than the smallest atom and is at the same time immeasurable. The difference between the flowers, leaves, and fruits of a particular tree are called its internal differences, the mutual differences of several trees of same species are called heterogenic differences, but Brahman is free from all these three kinds of differences. Although apparently animate and inanimate beings are different, yet in reality they are the forms of the same Brahman. Brahman is free from dualism or differentiation.
brahman, SOUL, and world
Sat, chit and Anand (existence, consciousness, and bliss) are those characteristics of Brahman the expansion of which has led to the origin of the world. The inanimate or non-living has arisen from the sat or existence, the animate or living or the conscious beings have risen from Chit or consciousness, and the immanent spirit has risen from Anand or bliss. The living beings or all the souls sprouted forth from the Chit aspect of Brahman like the flames arising from fire. Soul is a part of Brahman, but only as an atom. The moment is becomes conscious of its Brahmanic from it attains omnipresence or immanence. The soul is essentially conscious. This conscious aspect of the soul is replete in the whole body like the immanence of fragrance. According to Shankracharya, soul is not a part of Barman, but Brahman itself. This illusionary reflection of Brahman is god or ishwara and the reflection under the influence of Avidya ignorance is called soul or jive. Thus according to Sankaracharya’s view, soul is mere appearance of Brahman. But, according Shri Vallabhacharya, soul is a part of Brahman. The entire cosmos is replete with Brahman; therefore, there is no place in cosmos, which is so devoid of Brahman that it may be just an appearance. Hence, there cannot be any individual which is covered, superimposed, and a mere reflection of something. Therefore, the argument which asserts that soul is a mere reflection is itself illusionary. With the unmanifestedness of the bliss aspect of Brahman, soul appears as a soul. However, when this very bliss aspect of the soul becomes manifest, the soul becomes Brahman-like. In fact, though after entering into samsara created by its ignorance, the bliss aspect being the part of Brahman is present in him in hidden form. Just as the “sexual potency” of man is unmanifested in childhood and the same potency manifests itself completely in adulthood, similarly the potentiality of the bliss become fully manifested in the case if the soul. By constant service of Lord, this bliss element spontaneously sprouts forth in the soul because of the grace of God. In this state soul is called Brahman-like. This is the real meaning of the Upanishadic statement, “That Thou art."
The Dissolution of Samsara (Appearance)
Shri Vallabhacharya says that God-realization is not attainable through action or knowledge. God is known only through devotion. There is no doubt that knowledge is superior to action. But with the support of devotion this very knowledge becomes excellent. In the words of Shri Vallabhacharya, “If a jñanin (man of real knowledge) lovingly repeats the name of Shri Krishna, none can surpass his excellence” Shri Shankracharya regards knowledge as the only means for the attainment of Moksha. But Shri Vallabhacharya regards mere knowledge as worthless. According to him, mere knowledge may lead to the characteristics of omniscience, unique power, etc, which no doubt expel ignorance, but it is not possible of leading to the realization of Brahman. The stability of Brahman or God-consciousness is impossible without the total destruction of ego. Complete freedom from the ego is beginning of the ultimate well-being of humanity. Knowledge is just a form of Maya. Maya causes ignorance. Thus knowledge (being a part of Maya) cannot be trusted, as far as the eradication of ego is concerned. As long as Maya is not completely rooted out, the freedom from egotism is impossible. Even after the attainment of liberation through the knowledge based on the scriptures, there is a possibility of appearance of ignorance under the influence of Maya. The complete eradication of Maya through devotion only leads to the spontaneous freedom from the horrors of egotism.
This viewpoint has been propounded in the Anubhashya (The Atomic Commentary) of Shri Vallabhacharya, according to which Vidya (knowledge) and Avidya are merely the two states like those of waking-consciousness and dreamless sleep (Sushupti). They overpower each other because of their mutually opposed qualities, and in this way continue to be manifested and unmanifested repeatedly. So the adoption of knowledge is abstraction is a meaningless effort. Spontaneous devotion and unifying liberation are attainable only through the service of God. The path of knowledge mentions many methods for dissolution of Samsara. But these methods cannot bring about such dissolution. Their utility lies in then attainment of mental peace, but not that of freedom from Samsara. The total dissolution of Samsara is possible only through the service of God. Through the constant service of God, the senses no longer appear as the means of service to body but the means of service to God. In other words, since the senses engaged in the service of God are no longer useful for the enjoyment of ones own body, but are useful only in serving the Lord, so the dissolution of samsara takes place automatically. Therefore, according to Shri Vallabhacharya’s views, the dissolution of samsara is possible through devotion only.
THE PUSHTI PATH IS DIFFERENT FROM THE VEDIC PART
Dharma (duty) and jñana (knowledge) are the two aspects of the Vedas. Dharma has been explained in the school of Purva Mimamsa and jñana in Uttar Mimamsa. The combination of these two is known as the Vedic part. Shri Vallabhacharya considers the Pushti path propounded by him to be superior to this type of Vedic path. In his words, “the Pushti path is freer than the current stereotyped Vedic path.” That is why Shri Vallabhacharya has called his school of devotion the free path of devotion. It is a psychological truth that rules and regulations do not limit love, and Shri Vallabhacharya said, “Between regulation and love, the latter is more powerful.” The Vedic dharma is subject to dos and don’ts (rules and regulations) and aims at their being applied to practical life. However, God can never be subject to practical application in this sense, because he is pure, unmanifested, and beyond all descriptions. Hence, he is also not subject to knowledge and thus beyond gunas. That is why he is not attainable by the mere repetition of name, which is the characteristic of the body. The attainment of the benefits in the Vedic path implies gunas because the desired objects are subject to Gunas. For example one longs for food because of the characteristic Guna of hunger, wants to be loved on the account of the Guna of sex urge, and longs for sensuous objects on account of the Guna of the senses. Therefore, the Lord has said in the Bhagvata, “I am attainable not by actions but by love. It is so because the entire world of living beings related to me, spontaneously attains love.” Therefore, in the Pushti path there is no place for the path of action regulated by the dos and the don’ts, nor of already accomplished devotion generated out of knowledge.
In brief, the Vedic path of dharma or duty and the Pushti path of love are different. The Vedic theory of creation and the Pushti theory of creation are also different. Similarly the Pushti path of devotion different from the other paths of devotion. According to Shri Vallabhacharya, the path of knowledge is the cause of confusion. Ritualistic duty is bound by rules and regulations. The general path of devotion is instrumental for attainment, and hence needs effort. Self-knowledge no doubt leads to peace of mind, but not to supreme bliss. In the words of Shri Vallabhacharya, “even is self knowledge there is peace and not supreme bliss.” Ritualistic duty no doubt brings heavenly enjoyment etc., but ultimately these enjoyments end. In the Bhagvata Gita it has been stated, “when the meritorious deeds are exhausted, the enjoyers take birth in the mortal world.” scriptural devotion is not superior to enlighten the devotion. The Pushti devotion is superior to knowledge, action, and to all kinds of paths of devotion including enlightened devotion. It is so, because in the path of Pushti, God, who is the giver of all the fruits, is himself attained as an end.
Shri Vallabhacharya has divided souls into three classes based on their worthiness to follow the Pushti path, similar to the classification of the Vedic path. These classes are:
- the Pushti Jivas or souls
- the traditionally bound or disciplined Jivas or souls
- the current Jivas or souls subject Karmas
Those Jivas whose bodies are replete with the dust of the feet of the Lord and those who have been chosen by the Lord himself are the Pushti Jivas. God does all their actions. They attain the fruit of the Pushti, i.e.; the compassion of God. The disciplined or traditionally bound Jivas are subject to divine sources or Gods. Their bodies being replete with the Vedic ritual activities are pure. All their activities are according to the ethical principles of Vedas. They attain the fruit of the bliss f the heaven or indestructible Absolute or Akshara Brahman, either through knowledge or through duty. The current Jivas are those who are completely immersed in worldly life, devoid of divine dispositions and are completely attached.
According to the school of Shri Vallabhacharya, these gradations of Jivas are due to the difference in the modes of their creation. The current Jivas have originated from the mind of the supreme Brahman, who is replete with existence, consciousness, and bliss, the disciplined Jivas from His speech and the Pushti Jivas from his body. According to this viewpoint, the existence element (sat) predominates the current, the conscious element the disciplined, and the bliss (Anand) element predominates the Pushti Jivas. As a result, the Pushti Jivas are completely different from the current ant the disciplined Jivas in their body, action, and origin. In the words of Shri Vallabhacharya, “thus according to the Pushti path Jivas are undoubtedly different”
The purest Pushti Jivas play and participate actually in the play dance with lord Krishna. The body (of the Pushti Jivas), being worthy of the divine play, is pure, eternal and blissful. They take birth in those families where there is a congenial atmosphere of the loving remembrance of the Lord. Their bodies mark divine marks like the flag, lotus, divine Charkars etc. they possess Divine beauty like the Lord and are of the same age as He Himself. These pure Pushti Jivas having been born from the blissful limbs of the lord, namely his hands, feet, face, belly etc., have been recognized as permanent and blissful like the God. The scriptures say, “I am one, let me be one.” And at another place it is said,” He does not play alone, He desired alone, He himself became both husband and wife.” This refers to the existence of those Pushti souls who have been created only for the divine play of the lord.
A Pushti soul is verily liberated, pure, and rooted in the playful creation of the Lord. The Pushti souls are called “united” because, firstly, they are blessed by the general compassion of the Lord, and then, gradually they are granted His special grace. Such souls possess the qualities of omniscience, etc, like saga Narada, devotee Prahalada, and others. Those souls who are current and follow the path of Pushti engage themselves in the divine duties and continue to go on pilgrimages; such souls have been considered possessed of the Divine qualities of knowledge, and they are disciplined. The pure Pushti souls are full of love and continuously merged into devotion, without being engaged in any other activity. They are very rare to find. The lord rewards the pure Pushti souls by appearing to them in His blissful form. The lord on the account on his qualities of Divine power etc; appears in that very form in the heart of the devotee, which the devotee desires earnestly. Te Lord appears in the form of a person who is worthy to be served in the family of the devotee. Sometimes he makes the Pushti Jivas pass through a curse, when he is affected by egotism. However, the end of the Pushti Jiva is not destruction.The84 and 252 Vaishnavas are mostly such type of souls who became the followers of Shri Vallabhacharya and his son Shri vitthaleshvara. Such souls have absolute conviction in the Lord and indifference toward the Vedic rituals. Vaishnavism is a natural for such souls and worldliness unnatural. According to Shri Vallabhacharya, the Pushti path has this uniqueness and is different from other traditions as such.
The Integration of the philosophical and ethical Aspects
In order to understand the Pushti philosophy as taught by Shri Vallabhacharya, it is very important to grasp the explanation of this unique presentation of his philosophical principles, his fundamentals of bhakti, and the above-mentioned classification of the Pushti current and disciplined Jivas. It is so, because the unheard of the highest idealism of the school of Shri Vallabhacharya is that, in his traditions, the practico-ethical aspect of philosophy is available in its pure form in the ethical life of the vallabha Vaishnavas, who are engaged in the devotional service. So in order to have a clear understanding of the ethical aspect of this tradition, the technique of Brahman relationship, the importance of the character of the founder and his successors, their worthiness of being worshipped with great reverence, their being served by the followers, the way of the service, the nature of the image of the Deity which is the object of devotional service, both for preceptor and the disciple, the type of the temple and the tradition, customs and the ethical ideas of the school. It is very important to have full knowledge of the theoretical aspect of Vallabhacharya’s philosophy.