There is a philosophy having the name Advaita and there is also a philosophy called Dvaita.

Both these terms- Advaita, Dvaita- are found in scriptures, including the Upanishads.

Now, there is yet another philosophy having the name "Vishishtadvaita".

  • So, is this term too a scriptural one? Are there any instances where the word is used in any of the scriptures?

Since, the philosophy was propounded by the Vaishnavas and is followed too by the Vaishnavas, so we can assume that at least some Vaishnava scriptures might be making mentions of the word.

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    Breaking words - is not a right logic in this case. "कलन" and "यन्त्र" are ancient valid Sanskrit words (both are found Bhagavad Gita). But their combination "कलनयन्त्र" means "Calculator". How can we expect "Calculator" to be found in scriptures? "Vishishtadvaita" is name given to a philosophy which is derived from Advaita. The term could be few centuries back & hence less likely to be found in scriptures, which were written before that.
    – iammilind
    May 25, 2018 at 6:12
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    I broke the words only in response to your comment that the word is a modern one (to which there is no surety). I am not trying to prove that the term is or might be scriptural by that logic. Regarding calculator then it is called Ganakayantra.. @iammilind
    – Rickross
    May 25, 2018 at 6:35
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    Terms called Advaita and Dvaita exist in scriptures but it doesn't necessarily mean that they denote philosophies all the time. Adi Shankara didn't name his philosophy as advaita neither did Madhvacharya. Advaita was originally called Purushavada before him and he named his proposed philosophy something else. Dvaita was called bhedavada, Tattva Vada. These names became famous when these are compared in later days. Qualified non dualism got its name when it was compared with advaita. Hence it was called Vishishta Advaita. May 25, 2018 at 6:40
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    @Sarvabhouma How Advaita is called Purushavada?? Purusha is terminology used in Samkhya and Yoga Darshanas not in Vedanta. Moreover, terms like Advaita and Dvaita are present in Agamas and tantras.
    – The Destroyer
    May 25, 2018 at 16:53
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    @TheDestroyer Upanishads also use the word Purusha to denote Brahman or self. Adi Shankara also commented on those mantras with purusha in them. See Kathopanishad. The name before Adi Shankara was Purushavada because it only proposed that there's only Purusha and nothing else. I know dvaia andadvaita terms occur in Agamas and Upanishads but they don't necessarily mean the philosophy we know everytime. These names became famous with time. The names were different originally. May 25, 2018 at 19:09

1 Answer 1


Presumably by 'scripture', you're referring to one of the ancient texts belonging to one of Shruti, Smriti, Itihasa, Purana and not the works of recent Acharyas. If that is the case, the term 'visistadvaita' cannot be found in the scriptures and it is a relatively modern (post-Ramanuja) invention. Ramanuja himself is not known to have used the term in any of his 9 works including the Sribhashya and the Vedartha Sangraha.

The earliest known reference to the term "visistadavaita" occurs in the 17th verse of the Ramanuja Ashtottara Shatanaama Stotra of Vaduga Nambi also known as Andhrapurna.(Ref: See minutes 7-10 of this video where the presenter makes this point. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9eKZmluRd2M&t=420s)

Vaduga Nambi was a disciple of Ramanuja, hence a contemporary although it is quite likely he composed the verse sometime after Ramanuja passed away..

The verse goes:

śrībhāṣyādimahāgranthakārakaḥ kalināśanaḥ
advaitamataviccettā viśiṣṭādvaitapāragaḥ

The term was invented in order to comply with the rules of prosody when composing this verse. The technically correct term that describes Ramanuja's philosophy would be "saviśeṣādvaita" or "non duality (advaita) with differences".

The term Visistadvaita ended up becoming more popular although when discussing the theoretical issues in orthodox circles, saviśeṣādvaita is frequently used as well.

Sudarsana Suri is also said to have used this term in the Tatparya Dipika and the Srutaprakasika (although I have not verified it myself) and Vedanta Desika has defined the term in the Nyaya Siddhanjana. (Ref: 'Antiquity of the term Visistadvaita' by Dr. V Varadachari. I have not seen this paper but a number of other works refer to it. Here is one such citation of this work in this context:)

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  • Sorry, I thought that it was implied from the statement that the earliest known reference is post-Ramanuja. I have made that explicit in the answer and I have also added references. Hope you find them satisfactory.
    – hashable
    Aug 26, 2018 at 18:21
  • @hashable The ss from the book is kind of satisfactory and i don't think we can get anything more substantial than that. So i am selecting this answer. And BTW it was my guess too that it can only be a man-made term and not a scriptural one unlike Advaita/Dvaita.
    – Rickross
    Aug 27, 2018 at 7:26
  • Note that the quote from the book misses the use of the term by Vaduga Nambi about 150 years before Sudarsana Suri, although if you mainly care about whether the term is scriptural or not, it is sufficient to show that the term is modern.
    – hashable
    Aug 27, 2018 at 12:25

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