The Rift between Dualistic Vaishnavism and Advaita

NOTE: I have posted this as a thread on Medhaam Dehi (our forum) but NS suggested I post it as a blog entry. So here goes…

I’ve been sucked into this debate (I should say I inadvertently stumbled into it) on Facebook. I was “tagged” by an author who writes from the perspective of Gaudiya Vaishnavism on one of his blogs on Facebook where he wrote a very nice article on Ayurveda and Spirituality. 

In that there was one section that seemed incongruous. It was:


there are schools of Indian thought that confuse the Supreme Soul, God, with the individual soul, you and I.

To which I responded:

I have to comment:

There is no confusion. Those who delve deep into what the Individual Self is, realize that it IS the Universal Self. In fact, the “true” Self cannot even be phenomenologically inquired into. The various Darshanas simply leave off at different levels of evolution. Dvaitins stop at Saguna Brahman. Advaitins dissolve Saguna Brahman and all that remains is Nirguna Brahman…. Read More

After Turiya is reached and all thoughts cease…that which remains is Atman…also called Brahman. It is without properties and beyond reason and the intellect. It can only be experienced and is Sat Chid Ananda. There is no You or I after this state…only Being.



I am not at liberty to share the entire original article since I haven’t got permission from the author to do so on Medha Journal.

However, I did get several spirited (some bordering on hostile) responses to my response:

such as:

Dear Dwai Lahiri, thank you for your input.
What you told is a half truth, “only Being” is sat. Chit is conscious knowing, and ananda is pure selfless love for all beings. You did not account for the entire Vedic truth. Reality can’t be all one homogeneous being without qualities, because when you neglect the spiritual qualities, of all-knowing, and all-loving, (chit & ananda) you’re left with a partial understanding.
Since everything emanates from the supreme, how did illusion emanate from reality? Where does this idea of imperfection emanating from perfection come from?
This teaching (monism) comes from Adi Shankaracarya when he was a young man. After traveling all over India he had a change of heart. He recanted his own philosophy!
He wrote Bhaja Govindam begging his followers to accept his mature realizations. He also wrote Jagannathastakam and Pandurangastakam expressing his deeper realizations. In his own Gita commentary he admits that Narayana (the personal God) is purely spiritual and beyond brahman – narayanah paro-vyaktat – the source of brahman. … Read More
Shankaracharya left his body at age 30 completely frustrated that his followers clung to his youthful misunderstanding of reality and illusion, and wouldn’t accept his higher realizations. And this partial understanding is taught to this day, in stark contrast to Shankaracarya’s own later teaching.

and further:

Dear Vaiyasaki,
… Read More
I felt there were certain misunderstandings which I intended to clear. Shankaracharya’s “recantation” is simply his effort to ease the Bhakta into Advaita…not a rejection of Advaita.

Dear Steven,

My intention was not to debate…but simply suggest that there are different paths for individuals of different predilections.

For some Bhakti works..for some Jnana. And Raja works for some and Karma for others.

Here’s something you might appreciate..It’s a poem I had written a while back titled “Tat Tvam Asi”:

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and response:

hanks for your reply. Your explanation for Shankaracarya’s mature realizations is called gauna vritti, or indirect explanation. His own words are called mukhya vritti or direct explanation.
In our tradition, we do not interpret according to our own predilection, but we accept the truth as it is presented directly. Sri Chaitanya … Read Moreexplained that gauna vritti is like a cloud covering the direct explanation of mukhya vritti which is like the sun. His position was that we need not interpret scripture or realized saints because they speak the truth for ALL to understand.
The Vedanta Sutras confirm this in the opening verses – sastra yonitvat – the absolute truth is not indescribable by words because that is exactly what all scripture and all saints describe.


On your suggestion I read your poem Tat Twam Asi. I always admire poets and your poetry is nicely crafted. Bravo!
My guess is that you are not a Sanskrit speaker. So my one comment is that in the Vedic literature the correct Sanskrit is tattwam asi. Tattwam as a compound Sanskrit word signifies that twam is dependent on tat. Tat refers to brahman. Therefore, tattwam asi means you are dependent on that or you are a servant of that brahman.
When the words are separated there is a different meaning – you are that.
Again, in our tradition we don’t adjust or interpret the Vedas we accept them as it is, therefore tattwam asi is the mukhya vritti direct explanation…. Read More
Some people may ask, “What is the harm of gauna vritti?” The answer — yata math tata path — every person comes up with their own idea and claims it to be the genuine truth.
So to solve that problem there is a standard that is given by God, and accepted by all truthful persons, and that is mukhya vritti.

to which I responded:

Dear Vaiyasaki,

your interpretation of Tat Tvam Asi is very interesting and a nice extrapolation. 

Tat Tvam Asi means “You are That”. That is Brahman and the Mahavakya’s significance is profound…. Read More

Your interpretation is a lower truth…vyavaharika and the bhakta indeed is the servant of the Lord at that level. Once Non-dual realization happens, the Bhakta and God merge and there is no master-servant relationship anymore.

This should not under any means be misconstrued as having “God” complex or something like that. In Advaita state, there is no difference between God and Creation. So what is there for the Advaitin to “Lord” over? Everything is One.

At the Vyavaharika level, it is useful to understand the concept of Pratitya samutpada or the concept of Dependent Co-rising. This will show the seeker the empty nature of the dualistic world and lead him/her to Nirguna Brahman. Even though it is a Buddhist concept, it is a valuable insight into the nature of mundane reality.



and many such backs and forths…until it came to this that the author requested I don’t post “negative” comments since his audience is predominantly Vaishnavite and would take offense. I obliged.

However, one individual continues to persist:

Do you notice that your mentality is that your conception is higher and others is lower? You seem to look down at the bhaktas. You seem to be conditioned to think in terms of dual and non-dual. When you get past that, you get past all material conceptions of the absolute. The Vedas teach that the symptom of knowledge is humility, the symptom of information is pride.
The major problem with the philosophy that you are propounding is that we are all God. Hitler was God, Jack the Ripper was God, Osama bin Ladin is God, the malaria mosquito is God, the swine flu virus is God. 
1. How do you explain that God is acting against His own teachings taught in every scripture and by every saint?
2. What is that power that makes God forget who He is and acts against His own teachings to cause harm and suffering to His children, and turn planet earth into a toxic waste dump?… Read More
Our explanation is easy, we are not God.
What is your explanation?

You wrote me that: “Your interpretation is a lower truth…”
You are convinced that your understanding is higher and the Vaishnava teaching is lower. You’re convinced it is only an interpretation, and not mukhya vritti the direct teaching coming from God. 
You see in terms of higher and lower. Vaishnava tradition teaches to see in terms of transcendental and material. 
… Read More
Please try to transcend the notion that only you understand the ultimate truth, and embrace the conception that PERHAPS others have already gone past where you are at. 

Tat twam asi is the extrapolation. The original is tatwatm asi. By separating the words you get a different meaning. Again, it is gauna vritti. In order to support your position you have to reject mukhya vritti. 
That’s what Shankaracarya realized! And that’s why he recanted his own philosophy and embraced bhakti, written in his own words without later explanation what he really meant by Dwai Lahiri 

so I invited him over here to play. Let’s play Brother Vaiyasaki…


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