As we know that (and Keshav Srinivasan has written many times):

The most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school

And there are sub schools of Vedanta which are graphically shown here:


Among them Advaita (अद्वैत) & Vishishtadvaita (विशिष्टाद्वैत) are the most popular schools of Vedanta. I know about Advaita Vedanta but don't about Vishishtadvaita much. I want to compare both philosophies and study the difference between them.

So, What are the differences between Advaita & Vishishtadvaita ?

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    "Advaita and Visistadvaita" is the exact title of a book by S.M. Srinivasa Chari, so you might want to check that out. In any case, here's a very brief summary of some differences: Advaita says the world is an illusion, Visistadvaita says the world is real. Advaita says Jivatma and Paramatma are the same, Visistadvaita says Jivatma and Paramatma have a body-soul relationship. Advaita says that the supreme Brahman is Nirguna, Visistadvaita says the supreme Brahman is Saguna. Commented May 21, 2016 at 16:12
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    @AmitSaxena Yes, personally I agree with you that it's absurd to think that the world and Brahman are completely separate. By the way, Dvaita rejects the notion that Brahman is the material cause of the world, but it accepts the notion that Brahman is the efficient cause of the world, i.e. Brahman is the one who controls the behavior of the world. Commented May 21, 2016 at 17:54
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    @AmitSaxena By the way, Dvaita is not the only philosophy that says that Brahman is separate from the world but controls it; Patanjali's Yoga school and the philosophy of the Shaiva Agamas say the same thing. That's why the Brahma Sutras reject the Shaiva Agamas; see my question here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/10624/36 See also the beginning of my answer here where I lay out how different schools of Hindu philosophy view the relation between Brahman and the world: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/11058/36 Commented May 21, 2016 at 17:57
  • 4
    I don't think it is right to classify Neo Vedanta as a separate subschool. Swami Vivekananda has said many times that Advaita is the highest truth. Advaita is the only goal. He also said that those who follow Vishistadvaita will also ultimately come to Advaita. In reality, Advaita is not a philosophy, it is a state, the ultimate state. Other philosophies can be followed to reach that state.
    – Pinakin
    Commented May 22, 2016 at 5:08
  • 2
    "Neo-Vedanta" is a construct of Christian Western Orientalists. There is no classification of Neo-Vedanta among Vedantists - nor would Vivekananda or Radhakrishnan agree with it. The diagram shows also 'Bhedabheda' as a root classification. Where did you get this - Western Orientalists? This classification system is not recognized by most Hindu philosophers... Commented May 28, 2016 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


The following article by Balarama Murty Vempaty discusses the three philosophies - Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita and Advaita. It also talks about the role of Karma, Gnana and Bhakti in these philosophies.

In the book, 'Hanumat Vibhuti', Sri Rama asks Hanuman to describe their relationship. Hanuman responds:

"deha bhudhaya dasoham, jiva bhudhaya tvamansha; atma bhudhaya tvamevaham, iti me nisicat mati"

"From the standpoint of the physical body, I am Your servant. From the standpoint of Jeeva (soul), I am part of You. From the standpoint of Atman, You and I are one and the same. This is my confirmed opinion.”

This sloka sums up the connection between the three systems of philosophy Dvaita, Vishishtadvaita and Advaita as they illuminate Bhakti , Sraddha and Jnana, the very fundamental traits needed to realize God and enjoy the Bliss. Hanuman’s life through his different roles exemplifies how all the three paths of Karma, Bhakti and Jnana lead to salvation!. Let us go over the meaning as it relates to three philosophies.

"From the standpoint of the physical body, I am His servant”; there is a difference between the Lord and me, as the name and form are different. The Lord is my master and I am indeed His servant. This is the Dvaita philosophy followed by Madhvacharya and several others.

From the standpoint of a Jeeva (Soul), an individual dwelling in the body, I am the one conditioned by the mind and intellect which are always centered upon You, I am the part and You are the whole. This is fundamental to Vishishtdvaita followed by Ramanujacharya and others.

But from the standpoint of the Atman, the essential Self, I and the Lord are one and the same. There is only one, that is Ananda, Pure Bliss! This is my firm conviction.” This is the concept of Advaita philosophy followed by Adi Sankaracharya. The interpretations in bold letters are mine.

Many scholars and philosophers have debated the fundamental relationship between God, Man and Creation. The unity of existence is one of the great themes of Vedanta and an essential pillar of its philosophy. Unity is the song of life; it is the grand theme underlying the rich variations that exist throughout the cosmos. Whatever we see, whatever we experience, is only a manifestation of this eternal oneness. The divinity at the core of our being is the same divinity that illumines the sun, the moon, and the stars. Karma, Jnana and Bhakti are major ways to explore and understand that divinity at the core. Karma and Jnana are the basis of Vedas and Upanishads. Bhakti is a post-Vedic concept evolved through the blending of Karma (found in Vedas) and Upasana (found in Aranyakas). Bhakti is fundamental to Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita. The Alwars are the most ancient Vaishnava poet-saints of Tamilnadu who with intense devotional love for Vishnu sang the mystic glory of the Lord. The Divya Prabandham, a collection of hymns of Alwars, is placed side by side with Vedas by Vishishtadvaitins. Later theologians of Vaishnava faith tried to combine Karma and Jnana aspects with Bhakti and thus came Vaishnavism followed by Ramanujacharya and Madhvacharya. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu popularized Bhakti in the North as well.

Bhaktiyoga is defined as the ‘continuous stream of remembrance of God, uninterrupted like the flow of oil and characterized by the eight fold limbs of Yama, Niyama etc.’ Adi Sankara, who propounded Jnana as the only basis for salvation defines Bhakti in Vivekachudamani as ‘Svasvarupaanusandhanaam Bhaktirityabhidhiyate’ meaning the same continuous flow of thought ‘Thou Art That’. We shall examine how these definitions apply to the three systems of philosophy below.

Dvaita Philosophy: According to Madhvacharya, the Dualist, the Universe and the living souls are separate from God. Madhvacharya speaks of living beings as the servants of God and advocates the reality of five-fold differences between: 1) Individual Soul and God, 2) Soul and Soul, 3) Soul and Matter, 4) God and Matter, and 5) Matter and Matter. This is the basis on which we mentioned that Dvaita philosophy is based on body level perspective as seen and felt by the senses of the relationship between God, Soul (Man) and Matter. In this philosophy the Supreme Being is Vishnu or Narayana. HE is the personal first cause. HE is the Intelligent Governor of the world. He lives in Vaikuntha along with Lakshmi, His consort. Chaitanya Mahprabhu and others also follow this kind of approach. Under Dvaita philosophy, the Soul (Jeeva) upon liberation does not lose its distinct identity, which is different from Vishnu, nor does it become equal to Him in any respect. It is most appealing to the common man irrespective of caste or creed since it is based on intense devotion, Bhakti, that ultimately leads to Jnana and Salvation.

Vishishtadvaita Philosophy: Visistadvaita, or Qualified Non-dualism, according to Ramanuja, accepts the ultimate Reality to be Brahman; but the individual souls and the universe (Matter) are also real, being parts of Brahman or modes of His manifestation. Brahman, with the universe and the individual souls, constitutes the whole of Reality. The metaphor of the pomegranate fruit is chosen to illustrate the philosophy of this school. The seeds are the living souls and the rind is the universe and one cannot think of the fruit without the seeds and the rind. A Visishtadvaitin wants to become like Lord Narayana and enjoy the divine bliss. He does not wish to merge himself or become identical with the Lord. He wishes to remain as a spark or a ray of HIS Consciousness. Bhakti and Prapatti (total surrender) are the means of achieving salvation.

Advaita Philosophy: According to the Non-dualist, Brahman or Pure Consciousness is the only Reality; the universe of names and forms is unreal, and man, in his true essence, is one with Brahman. Sankaracharya proclaimed this as as “Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya Jeevo Brahmaiva na parah”. An Advaita Jnani merges himself and becomes one with Brahman just like all the rivers lose their identity once they merge into the big Ocean. His goal is to become identical with Brahman. It is based on the definition of God as ‘Ekam Eva Advitiyam Brahma’ (one and only one Reality without a second) given in Vedas and supported by the four Maha Vakyas of ‘Upanishads’, namely, ‘Prgnanam Brahma’, Aham Brahma Asmi’, ‘Tat Tvam Asi’, and ‘Ayam Atma Brahma’. For our purpose we can say that they all mean the same that is: The Atma meaning Consciousness is all pervading and the same Consciousness is also in me with no difference.

Bhakti, the main emphasis in Dvaita and Vishishtdvaita is a form of Savikalpa (with form and shape) mode of modification of the mind in the form of God after it attains moksha, whereas Brahmagnana is the form of Nirvikalpa (formless, shapeless) mode of modification of the mind in the form of Brahman the only one without second is the emphasis of Advaita philosophy. While the goal of Bhakti of the Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita philosophies is developing unsurpassable love towards God, Brhamagnana of Advaita dispels the Ignorance which is held as the root cause of all sufferings and leads to Moksha by the Vedic pronunciation ‘Brahma Vid Brahmaiva Bhavati’ (the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman). The Advaitic school has extolled the qualities and pleasures of Bhakti so eloquently that for the ordinary man there should be no doubt about the fundamental role of Bhakti in Advaita. Adi Sankara has established the tradition of ritually worshipping together all the five divinities – Surya - the Sun-God; Sakti - the Mother; Vishnu, Ganesha and Siva in a sophisticated ritual called the PanchAyatana Puja, wherein the said divinities are worshipped not in their human-like forms but in certain symbols in the form of stones. It is as though the devotee trains himself to take the mind from the forms to the formless while at the same time allowing full scope for one’s emotional feelings of devotion and surrender. The first step in understanding the non-dual philosophy of Sankara is this non-difference of Siva and Vishnu. The next step is to realize that this one God is not only transcendent but also immanent in every one of the living beings

In conclusion, all schools of philosophy specify the rituals, pujas, havans, bhajans etc., to cleanse the mind of impurities (Chitta Suddhi) as the first step. The next step is really to develop practice of intense Bhakti to steady the mind on saguna Brahman (Ishta Devata or God). The last step of complete surrender to or merge in the nirguna Brahman is where the differences appear in the three philosophies.

After reading this article, I would say personally I believe in a mix of Vishishtadvaita and Advaita.

When I am dealing with the world, Paramarthika, I cannot ignore the world - Vishishtadvaita

When I am meditating etc., Vyavharika, I can repose - Advaita

Many years ago, when I had just started meditating, I would have said that I believed in Dvaita.

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    Under 'Advaita Philosophy' above, this part of the sentence.....the four Maha Vakyas of ‘Brahma Sutras’,...is to be corrected as //the four Maha Vakyas of the Upanishads'.// The Mahavakyas are not of the Brahma sutras. Also the hyperlink in the word 'Brahma Sutras' above leads to a Nimbarka school text. In any case, if the word Brahma Sutras is removed and replaced by 'Upanishads', the hyperlink also will go. Commented Nov 25, 2019 at 17:57
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    The four Maha Vakyas are from Upanishads/Vedandata. - Tat Tvam Asi ( Chandogya Upanishad of the Sama Veda) - Aham Brahman Asmi ( Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of the Yajur Veda) - Prajnanam Brahma ( Aitareya Upanishad of the Rig Veda) - Ayam Atma Brahma ( Mandukya Upanishad of the Atharvana Veda)
    – jomegaA
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 9:33
  • I am not Brahmin by birth but getting slowly into Brahma Vicharanam. Me and Brahman are the same (just captured a small portation). The purpose of this life is to merge with thee but the karma will direct it to re-birth. :-(
    – jomegaA
    Commented Feb 28, 2022 at 9:38

Sri Vishishtadvaita is the main principle of Sri-Vaisnav Sampradaye.and it is very beautiful described and easily can understand by anyone.

There are total three famous opinions in Vaisnav Samprdaye: 1. Advaita - Sri Sankracharya 2. Dvaita - Sri Madvacharaya 3. Vishishtadvaita - Sri Ramanujacharya

There are total three types of Shrutis in Vedas/Scriptures: 1. Abhed Shruti ( Advaita)- Where Supreme lord (Super-Soul) and living-entity (Sub-Soul) is one they are not different from each other. 2. Bhed Shruti (Dvaita)- Where Supreme Lord (Super-Soul) and living-entity (individual soul) is not one but they are different from each other. 3. Gatak Shruti ( Vishishtadvaita)- It is Solution of above two opposite Elements (Abhed tatva & Bhed tatva) is truth .

Sri Vishishtavaidta is based on Gatak Shruti.and this thing is also beautifully described in the Sri-Bhasya by the author of Sri-Bhasya, Sri-Ramanujacharya. Every Mysterious Elements ,principle & ArthaPanchak** are depend on Vishishtavaita Prinicple.

If you will understand this main principle then you can easily understand all mysterious thing which is in Sri-Vaishnav Sampradaye.This Principal gives solution of Gatak Shruti even also gives a solution of the Abhed(Advaita) and Bhed(Dvaita).

Generally people think that this principle is only applicable for those who belongs to Sri-Vaisnav (Ramanuja) Sampradya.But it's wrong, because this principle is already presented before it was invented. Sri- Ramanuja only put light on this principle through the help of Scirputers (Granths/Purans).

As we know Shreemad-Bhagvad Gita is universally accepted.Elements which were described by Sri Lord Krishna to Arjun is all are Sri Vishitadvaita principle.

Let's we will understand Sri-Vishistadvaita Principle from Shreemad-Bhagvad Gita.

क्षेत्रज्ञं चापि मां विद्धि सर्वक्षेत्रेषु भारत। क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोर्ज्ञानं यत्तज्ज्ञानं मतं मम।।13.3।। -And know Me also as the Kṣetrajña in all Fields, O Arjuna. The knowledge of both the Field and its Knower is, in My view, the highest knowledge. Even Sri-Ramanuja is also commented in Sri-Bhasya:" The Characteristics & Form of nature and soul are to live as body of Supreme Lord.

अहमात्मा गुडाकेश सर्वभूताशयस्थितः। अहमादिश्च मध्यं च भूतानामन्त एव च।।10.20।।

-I am the Self, O Gudakesha (Arjuna —Conqueror-of-sleep), dwelling in the hearts of all beings. I verily am the beginning, the middle and also the end of all beings.

Understand by Visishadivata: In the body there is one soul and also there is one super-soul who is also present within the body. ( Four-armed Visnu).So, That's mean Supreme Lord, living-entity(we) and nature is not one.It's rebuttal or disclose the principle of Advaita.And also it can't be distinct or apart like the body and soul can't be apart from each other.So, It's rebuttal or disclose the principle of Dvaita.

उत्तमः पुरुषस्त्वन्यः परमात्मेत्युदाहृतः। यो लोकत्रयमाविश्य बिभर्त्यव्यय ईश्वरः।।15.17।।

-Distinct from these is the Supreme Person, described as the Supreme Self [in the Vedas], He who pervading the threefold universe, supports it as the Immutable One and the Lord.

By Visishtadivata : Here it's rebuttal the Abhed Shruti ( Advaita). The Greatest man Supreme lord who is distinct from us.Even though he is enter in us and take care of us and also maintain our body system. So, we can directly understand from the Sloka Supreme Lord is different from us.

अहं वैश्वानरो भूत्वा प्राणिनां देहमाश्रितः। प्राणापानसमायुक्तः पचाम्यन्नं चतुर्विधम्।।15.14।।

-Becoming the Vaishvanara Agni, I function within the bodies of all living beings. In association with the Prana and the Apana, I digest the four kinds of food.

By Visishtadivata : Lord Visnu is so Mercy-full that he enters in us as supersoul and digest the food which is taken by us.If lord is not distinct from us then how he can digest our Food?.So,It's rebuttal or disclose the principle of Advaita. If lord is distinct from us then we don't need to think of digest the food. It's means we are capable to digest food by oursleves. It's also not right.So,It's rebuttal or disclose the principle of Dvaita.

The Visishtadvaita principle is tell us like as we can't discriminate the white color from the white clothes. even though they both are different from each other like same as Davita and Advaita can't be discriminate from each other. even thogh they both are different from each other and same as we and Suprme Lord Visnu are different from each other but also not differentiate from each other.

There are so many slokas in Bhagvad Gita where we can see the principle of Visisthadvaita like 18.61,15.15,10.31,10.42,15.13,7.6 to 7.12, 9.4 to 9.6 and 10.41.

Sri-Ramanuja the great saint we thankful to him because he disclose the confusion of Dvaita and Advaita.

Jay Shreeman-Narayan. Jay Shree Krishna. Om Namo Narayan.


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