Sunday, April 4, 2010

Vishistadvaita: What does “knowledge” mean?

Sri Ramanujacharya has had a permanent and arguably the strongest impact on the Hindu mind when it comes to contemporary Bhakti Yoga. Though the differences in the philosophical models of Advaita and Vishistadvaita may not be so obvious and relevant in everyday worship of our favorite form of God, they are useful if we wish to examine the diversity of the Vedantic traditions.

In Advaita, our soul (jivatma) and the Supreme Soul (paramatma) are identical in essence. And jnana (spiritual knowledge) is usually defined as the realization of our oneness with the Supreme Soul. However, in vishistadvaita, our soul is the body of Bhagavan. This difference makes God our antaryami, the divine being who resides within our heart and controls the universe but still remains unknown to the soul because of his maya. Accordingly, for this devotional school, jnana refers to the realization that our soul is eternally dependent on Bhagavan and that God is the sole reason of our existence. And in place of saying, “Everything is Brahman,” devotees of this school reflect a feel of surrender, “Bhagavan is everything for us.”

When discussing Hinduism, it is important to note that there are many schools in this liberal “way of life.” And for perfect harmony, it may not be fair to impose the basic principles of our favorite school on the followers of the neighboring school.

Reference: Gita Bhashya by Sri Ramanujacharya

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