I remember reading about an allegory which uses the Moon and its shadow in water to describe the viewpoints of Dvaita, Advaita and Vishishta Advaita.

I cannot seem to find it online now.

Does anyone have a reference to that? Or, a reproduction from memory is also welcome.

1 Answer 1


Not sure if this is what you're looking for but this research paper - THEORY OF CAUSATION IN VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY mentions the following on page 17-18:

Pratibimbavada: Advaita philosophy maintains the relation of reflection (Pratibimba) between the jiva and Brahman. The reflection of infinite consciousness in the mirror of Avidya is jiva. In the commentary of the Brhadaranyaka upanisad Samkara suggests the theory of reflection.

The Absolute is the original (bimba) and the world is the reflection (Pratibimba) just as the MOON causes many refection’s in different pools of water and the reflections differ in their clarity according to the degree of cleanliness of the water refecting it and just as they appear to be stable or moving if the water is stable or moving, similarly, due to the nature of Avidya, the jivas who are the reflections of the infinite, appear to have different forms and types.

From this analogy two things are clear. First it is one Brahman which is reflected differently in different Antahkaranas due to different Avidya, and secondly, that the clearness of the reflection of the Brahman will be proportionate to the clearness of the Antahkarana.

The paper titled CONSCIOUSNESS IN VIŚIṢṬĀDVAITA AND DVAITA mentions something similar on page 77:

According to Advaita, the plurality of consciousness seen in daily life is illusory/not real (mithyā) because it is limited by different objects and also the finite selves (jīvas). This is like the single moon appearing as many when reflected on the waves of a pond/river/ocean. For Rāmānuja, difference in knowledge is proved by differences in the objects cognized through knowledge just as difference in the act of cutting is proved by difference in the objects cut.

The text further mentions:

According to Śaṅkara, wrong identification (adhyāsa) with the body-sense in complex is illusory (mithyā). Therefore, it can be eliminated by knowledge even when one is alive. Hence, Śaṅkara advocates the possibility of jīvanmukti after attaining real knowledge. But for Rāmānuja, as long as the soul remains embodied, its relation with the body is real therefore, so it can never have the feeling of bodilessness without which liberation from worldly miseries is impossible. It is absurd to say that although the body-feeling is negated, the body still continues like the illusory perception of the double-moon by a person who knows even that there is only one moon.

In another article - PHILOSOPHY OF MADHAVACHARYA it is mentioned on page 64:

For, further down in his Tdy Madhva goes on (by way of explaining his earlier statement: Na ca pratyaksadrstam anyena kenapi badhyam drstam quoted by Dr. Narain) to point out that a perception can only be corrected by a more powerful valid perception. This recognises the existence of superficial perceptions (such as the perception of the limited size of the moon) which are erroneous. But there is no reason to doubt the soundness of our perceptual experience of the reality of the world.

The insentient (jada) is so because it cannot act of its own accord. Inasmuch as the human souls are not independent existents, knowers and agents, in a philosophical sense, they are regarded by Madhva as so many 'Reflections', Images, or 'Abhasas' of the Supreme Reality, in the sense that all their powers are rooted in the Supreme Source and derived from it, like the reflected light of the moon.'

There appear to be many interpretations of this moon and its reflection analogy but in order to differentiate amongst the different philosophies ans since you are asking for opinions as well I would surmise it like this -

  1. Advaita philosophy states that the Jiva is but a reflection of the original therefore NON-DIFFERENT. Moon is the only reality while the reflection is UNREAL.

  2. Dvaita might say that the Moon and the Reflection are two completely DIFFERENT things but both are REAL.

  3. Vishishth-Advaita might say that the two are different yet connected as without the Moon there can't be a Reflection. Both are REAL but qualitatively DIFFERENT.

This is just my understanding of whatever I have come across so there may be some differences in opinion so please feel free to share your viewpoint.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .