Dvaita or Advaita, What is the Truth?

Hinduism Essay Subject Image

by Jayaram V

Dvaita and Advaita are the two classic approaches in Hinduism with a history that dates back to the early days of the Upanishads themselves. Scholars for long held two opposing views about the nature of existence, with a variety of mixed views. The fundamental and perplexing question that the ancient sages of India tried to answer was whether in the ultimate and absolute sense an individual Self was the same as the Supreme Self or different.

In contemporary terms, the question that still eludes a definitive answer is whether you are the same as God or different. Since ages, spiritual masters in India have depended upon their experiential authority to ascertain the answer and lived accordingly. Those who believed that the absolute was an indivisible reality held that they broke through the veil of illusion and experienced the highest truth, but those who believed otherwise considered themselves repositories of Truth and lived with a sacred responsibility to uphold it, serve it and live for it.

The sensory world is characterized by duality. You cannot perceived anything unless there is something to perceive. Both the knower and the known, or the subject and the object, must be present for the perception to happen. This duality defines our whole experience in the perceptual world. Without it we will be mentally insane, lost, or unmindful. The question is whether the duality is a mere phenomenon or an absolute reality. If it is an absolute reality it poses many other problems, such as who is real and the ultimate, and who has the control over whom.

If duality is absolute, how does God may perceive you? Another interesting question that one may ask is whether our perception of God changes when we view the world from the vantage of the object we worship rather than the subject. What if I become God, will I be able to see myself from His vantage. If in an absolute state, neither the knower and the known exist, how can anyone determine the truth or validate the experience? How the proponents of the Advaita are able to speak about the state if there was no known experience to speak about? These and many other questions baffle our minds as we being to think about the absolute reality. Most importantly, how can anyone maintain sanity in an absolute and unified state, and yet make sense to others?

God is in me. I am That God. In Hinduism, these two statements can be either two opposing views or part of self-transformation in which the seeker gradually comes to the realization that the God he has been searching for and worshiping thus far exists in him as his very Self.

The duality can persist even at that stage, and the aspirant may still feel that the divine Self is different from him, or by a sudden shift in his perception he may come to accept that he is indeed the Self and the very God he has been worshipping.

Thus, the percepts of Dvaita and Advaita may be part of a growing process. The differences may exist because of differences in perceptions and experience rather than the reality of the Self or Brahman. If Brahman is one, then only one of the two approaches can be true.

If Dvaita is the natural order of creation and existence, Advaita simply becomes a belief of the seeker or worshipper who may accept internally that no barriers exist between him and his object of veneration. He may surrender to God so totally that he does not experience any ego and thereby loses all notions of duality between him and God. It may also induce in him the experience of unity or oneness with Brahman and give him the impression that Brahman is alone true and the rest is an illusion.

On the contrary, if Advaita is true, Dvaita becomes a mere perception of the seeker who because of his inner conditioning and egoism may habitually see the reality in terms of duality, and himself distinct and different from others.

Hence, spiritual teachers like Ramana Maharshi suggested that truths become self-evident only when the mind is totally silenced and the ego is completely extinguished. From this perspective, if Advaita is the truth, we may conclude that the state of Dvaita arises because of ignorance and conditioning.

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