Siddhant is teaching that brings us to perfection. Siddhant is true philosophy. It is siddha, perfection, at the anta or end. Shri Vallabhacharya’s siddhant is strictly for the attainment of Shri Krishna and is full of devotional, inspirational and practical advice for his followers. His words are replete with wisdom and love and are essential bhakti empowerments.
The Blessed Master’s teachings nurture the delicate inner seed of devotion and guard it from the confusion and false identification that can cloud our vision and make us forget our true blissful nature. This seed of devotion begins as a subtle notion and can mature into a wishing tree that provides the blessed one with the priceless fruit of bhakti, the supreme unconditional devotion. In that blessed state the Beloved appears in the heart and throughout creation, filling us with His own joy.
Between the 12 th century and the 16 th century, during the "bhakti renassiance”, five great schools of Vaishnavism arose. They were founded by Shri Ramanuja, Shri Madhva, Shri Nimbarka, Shri Chaitanya and Shri Vallabhacharya. Shri Vallabhacharya’s Path of Grace is followed today by tens of millions of people, mostly from North and West India. This school is unique in Vaishnavism for its philosophy of suddhadvaita, "pure non-dualism." Shri Vallabhacharya’s suddhadvaita affirms the existence of the world, holding it to be good, pure and joyful, indeed not separate from the Divine. However, this non-dualism is distinct from the teachings of Adi Shankara, which denies the world's true existence .
With a devotional objective, let us now look at the siddhant, the teachings of Shri Vallabhacharya.
FIRST FIND THE RIGHT SOURCE
In spiritual life there must not only be a clear understanding of why a practice is undertaken, but an intense desire to attain the desired object. It is always better to look toward the words of those who have already figured it out rather than trying to formulate one’s own conclusion about the sublime nature of Brahman. Shri Vallabhacharya tells us to absorb the teachings and wisdom of others who have come before us in God-realization. Shri Vallabhacharya composed a remarkable body of spiritual teachings in Sanskrit based on the Vedas, Brahma Sutras, Upanisads, Gita, as well as the Shrimad Bhagavatam. His teachings aid those on the Path of Grace. His siddhant is referred to as Brahmavada, the reasoned doctrine that explains to us that all is Brahman and nothing but Brahman. This pure non-dualist view of threading the mind into Shri Krishna supports the devotional view and practice.
The whole of creation is Shri Krishna’s divine play. It is His lila. We souls have manifested into it like sparks from a fire and are His various actors appearing upon the authentic stage of this world. This inspiring view of oneness allows for diversity without animosity. According to Shri Vallabhacharya, the world is not an illusion. It is Brahman’s perfect conclusion, His own modification and Shri Vallabhacharya inspires us toward this understanding by purifying our cognition through his teachings.
Shri Vallabhacharya is a pure monist and does not accept any duality between the soul, the world and Brahman. Brahman’s bliss form is Krishna Who is perfectly full of truth, consciousness and mostly joy. With the intention of expanding His own experience in order to taste the joy of His own Being, Brahman manifested creation. The creation is another aspect of Brahman’s formless, timeless, endless, full being. The Master of Speech explains that the world only appears as an illusion when vision is tainted with maya. When the confusion is removed, the world is seen as it is; made purely of God.
Brahman stands at the beginning, middle and end of all things. He is existence, its cause, its support and end. He is the rays of the moon and the light of the sun. His forms are varied and His face is hidden everywhere. Concealment and manifestation are Brahman’s two powers whereby He brings forth this dance of creation. Shri Vallabhacharya’s teachings inspire us to discover this Ultimate Reality within the world of beings.
For Shri Vallabhacharya, philosophy is not merely intellectual, metaphysical, or a feat of refined logic. It endeavours to comprehend the nature of reality, for the aspirant must know the nature of God before she can feel Him. When knowledge arises along with unconditional love, the soul joyfully experiences creation’s blissful form. When it is celebrated within, there is an experience of all-encompassing love in the heart.
KRISHNA’S DIVINE NATURE
Shri Krishna is totally devoid of all material attributes, yet He is also personal and replete with divinity. Shri Krishna is able to respond to a wide variety of religious experiences. His multi-dimensional aspect is clearly demonstrated when He walked into Kamsa’s wrestling stadium. When He entered the arena, His parents looked upon Him as their son while the women in the stands saw Him as Love Incarnate. The yogis observed Him as the absolute unblemished Brahman, while the cowherd lads saw Krishna as their friend. The wrestlers saw Him as a mighty foe while King Kamsa viewed the divine cowlad as death personified. They all became liberated by their personal view.
THE ILLUSIONS OF MAYA
Brahman’s attributes appear in every object in the world. He is the clay as well as the various forms of clay-like pots and plates. Maya is simply a power of the Lord which is deluding and therefore creates false cognition. A person sees a white cloth as a yellow cloth because he is wearing yellow-tinted sunglasses. If one can discern that the white cloth is real and that the yellowness is a product of maya, then one should remove maya from one’s perception without discarding the real world.
The Path of Grace sees everything as Krishna and nothing but Krishna. Since illusion, or maya, is a subject of perception, all objects in the world and the world itself are flawless. It is the pure non-dualist path that embraces a positive and devotional worldview where creation is seen as a perfect manifestation of God. The blessed devotee is not obsessed with liberation or any other form of yoga besides the pleasing service to Shri Krishna.
DIVINITY IN THE WORLD
Those who realize Brahman perceive the world as Brahman’s form which is absolutely pure. Those who have knowledge but lack love, view the world as a mixture of Maya and God. The ignorant ones cannot find God anywhere.
Although all things are equally Brahman, for Shri Vallabhacharya, the Yamuna and Ganges rivers, as well as sacred items, places and people are set apart from the rest of the world, for they have helped people realize God. If one is confused and sees the body as the soul, then that is a condition of false identification. At that moment Brahman is not recognized as the Self of all things and the individual has forgotten his or her true joyful nature.
THE UNCONTRIVED PATH
Devotees on the Path of Grace celebrated the nectar of Shri Krishna's presence with their various refined sensitivities. This path is the uncontrived spiritual route, and Shri Vallabhacharya has taught that the means and the reward should be seen as one. Each level of realization is a part of the divine lila and Shri Krishna is the master of ceremonies. Therefore, the result is always perfect.
In the Gita Shri Krishna proclaims, “In the world of beings, souls are my very parts.” The soul is either pure, bound or liberated. Before the soul manifests into the world, it is a pure part of God. At the time it appears in this world of matter however, most souls become bound and their bliss is concealed. When souls are able to remove their false identifications with their body, senses, life-force, and faculty of cognition, they are able to become re-established with Brahman and they become blissful again.
When the Lord desired to sport, He became many different souls that can achieve liberation while in the body or after death. Blessed souls are divine in nature and perform Shri Krishna’s loving seva. Souls who follow the laws of scriptures are eligible for liberation while mundane souls receive worldly rewards.
The soul is atomic in nature and pervasive in effect, just as sandal-paste cools the entire body when it is applied to the forehead. The soul lives in the heart and as the Brahma Sutra states, “permeates consciousness throughout the body.”
The five knots of ignorance keep the soul in bondage, says Shri Vallabhacharya in his Shastrarth Prakarana, “The five knots of ignorance are the body, senses, life-force, inner cognitive faculties as well as your spiritual being when they are not recognized as being connected to God.”
When the soul becomes liberated through either wisdom or devotion, it no longer revolves in the karmic wheel and is free from rebirth. Liberation can occur while living in the body or it can be attained after leaving the body. Grace-filled souls enter into Shri Krishna’s eternal lila. The law-abiding souls merge with God, while worldly souls continue to take birth here in the world.