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Hindu philosophy
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Samkhya · Yoga
Nyaya · Vaisheshika
Purva Mimamsa · Vedanta
Schools of Vedanta
Advaita · Vishishtadvaita
Dvaita · Shuddhadvaita
Dvaitadvaita · Achintya Bheda Abheda
Ancient figures
Kapila · Patañjali
Gotama · Kanada
Jaimini · Vyasa
Medieval figures
Adi Shankara · Ramanuja
Madhva · Madhusudana
Tukaram · Namadeva
Vedanta Desika · Jayatirtha
Vallabha · Nimbarka
Modern figures
Ramakrishna · Ramana Maharshi
Vivekananda · Narayana Guru
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
N.C. Yati · Coomaraswamy
Aurobindo ·Sivananda
Satyananda · Chinmayananda

Dvaita (Devanagari:द्बैत, Kannada:ದ್ವೈತ) is a dualist school of Vedanta Hindu philosophy.[1] The Sanskrit word dvaita means "dualism".[2] This school was established as a new development in the Vedanta exegetical tradition in the thirteenth century C.E. with the south Indian Vaishnava theologian Madhva, who wrote commentaries on a number of Hindu scriptures.[3]

Madhva’s Dvaita school is decidedly realist in the same category as other Indian philosophical schools such as Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika and Purva mimamsa. Madhava explained that the universe is not fundamentally illusory, but is instead a real creation of Brahman. In contrast with the advaita (non-dualist) philosophy expounded by Shankara, Madhva (who is also known as Madhvacharya) maintained that there is an eternal distinction between the individual self and the absolute.[4] Difference is not regarded as an attribute, but as the very nature of an existence which makes it unique. Dvaita posited an anthropomorphic personal and independent God, Vishnu, who rules over the separate and dependent entities of soul and matter ("Prakriti").

Souls are in bondage to the earthly cycle of life and death because they are ignorant of the true nature of God. Liberation cannot be achieved through knowledge and performance of ritual duties alone, but requires the grace of God, which can only be acquired through bhakti (devotion). The liberated soul does not become one with God but exists separately in bliss. Unlike other systems of Hinduism, Madhva taught that souls achieve different levels of liberation, and one category of souls is destined for eternal damnation.


Dvaita is one of the three most influential branches in the orthodox Hindu philosophical system of Vedanta, along with the schools of Advaita (non-dualism) and Visistadvaita (qualified non-dualism). Its founder was Madhva, also called Anandatirtha or Pūrnaprajňa (c. 1199–1278), who came from the modern Karnataka state. Madhva openly proclaimed himself to be divine in many of his writings, claiming to represent the third avatar of Vayu, the Vedic wind god, following Hanuman. Even during his lifetime, his followers revered him as an incarnation of the wind god Vayu, who had been sent to earth by the lord Vishnu to save the good, after the powers of evil had sent the philosopher Sankara, an important proponent of the Advaita (“Nondualist”) school. Madhva’s opposition to Advaita was so great that he referred to the Advaitans as “deceitful demons, who play in the darkness of Ignorance and who must run away now that the omniscient Lord (the Sun of Dualism) is coming to destroy their darkness of arguments and false interpretations of the scriptures.”[5]

Madhva wrote thirty-seven works, including a commentary on the Brahma Sutras called Madhva-bhasya. In addition to his writings, Madhva founded the Madhva sampradaya (community) in Udipi, where it is said he discovered an idol of Krishna encased in mud. He placed this statue in the Udipi temple. He also ordained eight monks in eight different monasteries (astamathas) who propagated his teachings both during his life and afterward. His eight original monasteries of Udupi have continued under an uninterrupted series of abbots and are still in existence today; the main icon of Krishna, which he allegedly recovered from the mud still stands in the temple there.

Madhva is considered to be a very influential Hindu theologian due to his revitalization of monotheism in the face of the powerful doctrines of monism and polytheism introduced by foreign invaders. His influence was particularly evident in Karnataka, where great leaders of the Vaishnava Bhakti movement such as Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa adhered to the Dvaita traditions. Jayatirtha (c. 1365 – c. 1388),[6] Vyasatirtha (1460 – 1539), Ramacharya, Sripadaraya, Vadirajatirtha, Vijaya Dasa and the famous Hindu saint, Raghavendra Swami (1591 – 1671), were dedicated followers of Madhva's tradition. The poet Narayana Panditacharya, son of a disciple of Madhva, wrote an epic poem, "Sumadhva Vijaya," on his life.

Madhvacharya's theology influenced those of later scholars such as Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Dvaita Philosophy

Madhva’s dualism is based on the authority of the Vedas, which he regards as authorless. God, rather than being the author of the Veda, is the great teacher (mahopadhyaya) who reveals the truth expressed in the Veda.[7]

Madhva’s Dvaita school is decidedly realist in the same category as other Indian philosophical schools such as Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika and Purva mimamsa. In contrast to Advaita Vedanta, Madhava explained that the universe is not fundamentally illusory, but is instead a real creation of Brahman. Like Ramanuja, Madhva identified three entities which are absolutely and eternally real: God, souls (atman), and primal matter Prakriti. Souls and matter are entirely dependent (asvatantra) for their being on God (Vishnu), who is completely independent (svatantra). The dependence of souls and matter on God is expressed metaphorically as Bimba-pratibimba (source-reflection).


In contraat to Advaita Vedanta, Madhva identifies Vishnu as a highly personal creator god, Saguna Brahman, or "Brahman with qualities." God (Vishnu) possesses infinitely good qualities; existence, knowledge and bliss constitute His essence (saccidananda). God is the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe. God has a divine body and is transcendent, but is also immanent as the ruler of all souls. God is a perfect personality. He damns some and redeems others, and is pleased only by bhakti (eternal love for God with a full sense of His greatness).[8] God is Lord of Karma, governing all things that exist within reality and all the events which can potentially occur. Therefore God is the efficient cause of the universe, but Madhva denies that he is the material cause, because God is unalterable and cannot have created the world by dividing Himself in any way. Neither could a perfect God change himself into an imperfect world. God is necessarily beginningless and co-eternal with other entities such as prakriti (primal matter) and kala (time). Under the influence of God when He wants to create, primal matter evolves itself into various material forms which eventually return to primal matter at the time of their dissolution.

Spiritual Hierarchy (Taratamya )

The spiritual hierarchy of Dvaita is distinct from that of other Hindu movements. Vishnu is accorded supreme status. His consort, Lakshmi, is the Power of God. She is all-pervading and eternal like Vishnu, but does not exist on the same level. She is ever-liberated (nityamukta) and possesses a divine body. Brahma and Vayu exist on a slightly lower level, followed by their wives, Saraswati and Bharati. Garuda, Shesha, Shiva, Indra, Kama, Surya, Chandra, Varuna, Nala, Vignesh and others occupy a successively lower hierarchy.

Madhvacharya divided life in the world can be divided into akshara, life with an indestructible body, and kshara, life with a destructible body. Laxmi is akshara, while others from Brahma on down are ksharas, or jivas. The body of Vishnu does not consist of Prakriti (matter) and is therefore excluded from this classification.

Categories of Difference

Dvaita notes five categories of eternal difference (bheda)[9] in reality. These differences are not regarded as attributes, but as the very nature of an existence which makes it unique:

  • Between the Lord (Īśvara) and the self (jivātman)
  • Between innumerable selves
  • Between the Lord and matter (prakriti)
  • Between the self and matter
  • Between phenomena within matter

jiiveshvara bheda chaiva jadeshvara bheda tatha
jiiva-bhedo mithashchaiva jaDa-jiiva-bheda tatha
mithashcha jada-bhedo.ayam prapajncho bheda-panchakaH
- paramashruti

"The difference between the jîva (soul) and Îshvara (Creator), and the difference between jaDa (insentient) and Îshvara; and the difference between various jîvas, and the difference between jaDa and jîva; and the difference between various jaDas, these five differences make up the universe."
- From the Paramopanishad, a.k.a .Parama-shruti, as quoted by Ananda Tîrtha in his VishNu-tattva-vinirNaya.

Classification of Souls

Madhvacharya hypothesized, based on Vedic texts and yukti (reason), that souls are eternal and not created by God. Souls depend on God for their very "being" and "becoming." Individual souls are numberless and atomic in size. The soul is by nature blissful and conscious of God, but is subjected to pains and imperfections because of its connection with the senses and mind of the material body, a connection which comes about because of past karma. God controls the soul from within, but it is a real agent and a real enjoyer, and is responsible for its acts.[10]

According to Madhva, souls are in bondage because they have an incorrect understanding of the nature of God, due to beginningless ignorance (avidya). When a human being realizes his or her fundamental dependence on God, he or she can attain moksha. Those who do not realize that Vishnu is the only independent entity will remain trapped in the cycle of rebirth until they understand. Jnana (knowledge) and the accomplishment of ritual duties alone is not sufficient for the release from beginning-less ignorance (avidya). The only true way to gain unmediated knowledge (aparoksa-jnana) of Brahman is through bhakti yoga, the path of devotion toward God. Only bhakti will evoke the grace of God, without which the attainment of moksha is ultimately impossible.

In contrast to Advaita, Madhva holds that souls maintain their individual identities after achieving liberation and union with Vishnu, and exist eternally in a separate and subordinate state to God.

Madhvacharya differed significantly from traditional Hindu beliefs in his concept of eternal damnation. He believed that because jivas(souls) have many different kinds of karma, both good and bad, they must not all have started with same type of karma from the beginning of time. The doctrine that the jivas (souls) were not all equal at their inception led to a concept of eternal damnation. Madhva divided jivas (souls) into three classes: Mukti-yogyas, which qualify for liberation; Nitya-samsarins, who are subject to eternal rebirth or eternal transmigration due to samsara; and Tamo-yogyas, who are eventually condemned to eternal hell (Andhatamas). Only Jainism holds similar beliefs; most Hindus believe in universal salvation, the concept that all souls will eventually obtain moksha, even if it occurs after millions of rebirths

See also

  • Dvaitadvaita
  • Shuddhadvaita
  • Achintya Bheda Abheda
  • Vishishtadvaita
  • Advaita
  • Shivalli
  • Hindu philosophy


  1. For definition of Dvaita as a dualistic school of Vedanta, see: Flood, 1996, p. 239.
  2. For definition of dvaita as "dualism" see: Flood, 1996, p. 245.
  3. For Dvaita as a new school of Vedanta exegesis founded by Madhva in the thirteenth century C.E., see: Flood, 1996, p. 245.
  4. For contrast with advaita as expounded by Shankara and eternal distinction between the individual self and "the absolute" or "the Lord" see: Flood, 1996, p. 247.
  5. Chandrahar Sharma, A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy (Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 2003, ISBN 8120803647), 372. Quotation from Mahabarata-tatparya-nirnaya I, 9-70.
  6. Daniel P. Sheridan, "Jayatirtha," in Great Thinkers of the Eastern World, Ian McGready, ed. (New York: Harper Collins, 1995), 236.
  7. Sharma, Critical Survey, p. 373
  8. Sharma, Critical Survey, p. 373
  9. For the five categories of bheda, see: Flood, 1996, p. 246.
  10. Sharma, Critical Survey, p. 375

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Flood, Gavin. An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. ISBN 0521438780
  • Sarma, Deepak. An introduction to Madhva Vedanta. Ashgate world philosophies series. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate, 2003. ISBN 0754606376
  • Sharma, B. N. Krishnamurti. History of the Dvaita school of Vedānta and its literature from the earliest beginnings to our own time. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981.
  • Sharma, B. N. Krishnamurti. Philosophy of Śrī Madhvācārya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986. ISBN 8120800680
  • Sharma, B. N. K. The Brahma Sutras and Their Principal Commentaries. 3 vols., Munshiram Manoharlal, 1986.
  • Sharma, Chandrahar. A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 2003. ISBN 8120803647
  • Tapasyananda. Bhakti schools of Vedānta lives and philosophies of Rāmānuja, Nimbārka, Mādhva, Vallabha, and Caitanya. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1990. ISBN 8171202268

External links

All links retrieved February 12, 2024.


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