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Can someone please explain me these theories of advaita vedanta in simple words. The information that is out there on the internet is a little hard for me to grasp.

  1. Ajati-vada
  2. Abhasa-vada
  3. Drishti-Srishti-vada
  4. Parinama-vada
  5. Vivarta-vada

Thank you.

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    Among the above, parinama vada is not a theory of advaita.
    – user23407
    May 16 at 8:18
  • 2
    There are other vadas also in Advaita including srishti drishti vada. Should I add them in the answer ?
    – GIRIBLR
    May 16 at 14:28
  • @GIRIBLR ... Sure, u can add them in your answer. That would be great :) May 16 at 14:43
  • 1
    Also have a look here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/15577/20129 for vivarta and ajatavada
    – Adiyarkku
    May 16 at 14:57
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All your vadas comes from jagat, jiva and Brahman relationships.

  1. How did the world appear? There are three theories of creation in Advaita: ajata, drishti shristi vada, shristi drishti vada.

  2. Now, how did Brahman transform into the world? What is the relation between jagat and Brahman. According to Samkhya, it is pariNAma vada and according to Advaita, it is vivarta vada.

  3. Then what is the relationship between Brahman and Jiva? There are three vadas for these and those vadas will be presented last.

Thus all the vadas in your list will be covered but they represent different things.

Short answer with analogies:

Creation theory (how jiva sees jagat)

shristi drishti vada: World exists; you see it.

drishti shristi vada: You see the world, therefore it exists.

Ajata vada: never was any creation at all, and that there is only Brahman

How brahman became jagat?

Parinama vada: transformation of brahman to world. Like curd from milk

Vivarta vada: apparent transformation of brahman to world. Like snake in rope, like mirage in desert.

How brahman is related to jiva?

Pratibimbavada: Reflection theory. Reflection of sun in water. Reflection is real.

Abhasavada: Appearance theory. Reflection of moon in water. Reflection is unreal.

Avachchhedavaada: Limitation theory. Space in different pots.

Detailed answer:

jagat, jiva and Brahman relationships.

How does a jiva view jagat?

From talks with Ramana Maharshi

[Ramana Maharshi:] The ajata doctrine says, “Nothing exists except the one reality. There is no birth or death, no projection or drawing in [of the world], no sadhaka [no seeker], no mumukshu [no one seeking liberation], no mukta [no liberated person], no bondage, no liberation. The one unity alone exists ever.”

‘To such as find it difficult to grasp this truth and who ask. “How can we ignore this solid world we see all around us?” the dream experience is pointed out and they are told, “All that you see depends on the seer. Apart from the seer, there is no seen.” ‘This is called the drishti-srishti vada, or the argument that one first creates out of his mind and then sees what his mind itself has created.

‘To such as cannot grasp even this and who further argue, “The dream experience is so short, while the world always exists. The dream experience was limited to me. But the world is felt and seen not only by me, but by so many, and we cannot call such a world non-existent,” the argument called srishti-drishti vada is addressed and they are told, “God first created such and such a thing, out of such and such an element and then something else, and so forth.” That alone will satisfy this class. Their mind is otherwise not satisfied and they ask themselves, “How can all geography, all maps, all sciences, stars, planets and the rules governing or relating to them and all knowledge be totally untrue?” To such it is best to say, “Yes. God created all this and so you see it.”’

Dr. M. said, ‘But all these cannot be true; only one doctrine can be true.’

Bhagavan said, ‘All these are only to suit the capacity of the learner. The absolute can only be one.’

Shristi-dristi vada is the view that the world is primary and gives rise to consciousness. This is the common western view and is known as the Realist view of reality.

Dristi-shristi vada is the view that consciousness is primary and gives rise to the world appearance. In western philosophy, this is known as the idealist view of reality and is the view of some Buddhist schools. However, advaita view is different is that the world and individual are both projected illusions that simultaneously "appear". Take a dream, all objects and people appear to be real as long as we are in the dream. All of them share the same universe.

While dreaming, the world within the dream seems real and separate from you the dreamer causing a duality. However, on waking up, you realize that the world in the dream was just a projection of your mind and it existed because of you (the dreamer). Gaudapada, in his Mandukya karika, argues that 'Waking up’ from the waking state to another "state" will let you realize that the world in your waking state also existed because your awareness existed. Thus the dream world as well as the waking world as the same amount of reality and both are dependent on the seer. Consciousness exists first and then this consciousness manifests the apparent dream-world and dream-subject/object duality.

Ajata is the knowledge that nothing – neither the world, soul nor God – ever comes into existence, and that ‘That Which Is’ ever exists as IT is. Ajata vada is the final truth and is the paramarthika satya. It never accepts even the appearance of this trinity of jiva, ishvara and jagat, but proclaims that the One Self-shining Reality alone exists eternally and without modification. However, from the vyahavarika point, the vivartha vada is recommended to explain how the jiva, ishvara and jagat came into existence simultaneously by the consciousness. Since this accepts the appearance of the world, souls and God, it is only a working hypothesis to help aspirants.

How does the Brahman then become the jagat ?

pariNAma involves complete transformation of one thing into another, like milk becoming yogurt or curds. Thus one gives the product the same degree of reality as the material cause. Hence jIva and jagat become as real as Brahman from which they are formed. Vishishatadvaita, Samkhya and Kashmir shaivism follow this model.

vivarta involves a transformation of the cause into products without the cause getting destroyed during the transformation. Hence, it is called an apparent transformation. The scriptures give three examples to illustrate this transformation: clay becoming many types of clay-vessels; gold becoming many golden ornaments; iron becoming many iron-tools (Ch. Up 6-1-3). Another example is the rope that appears as a snake. There is no snake and disappears on the knowledge or rather disappears on the removal of avidya. Brahman remains as Brahman. Brahman expresses as ‘existence’ in everything, and as ‘consciousness’ and ‘bliss’. Hence the famous Gita shloka: brahmArpaNam brahma haviH – everything is nothing but Brahman; and neha nAnAsti kincana – there is nothing other than Brahman.

How is jiva related to Brahman?

Advaita teaches Atman and Brahman are one. There is nothing other than Brahman. If so, what is the relation metaphorically between brahman and jiva. The great divide between the two major schools of Advaita, viz., bhAmati and vivaraNa is defined by which metaphor is more appropriate to express the relation between brahman and the individual (jIva).

Pratibimbavada is the theory of reflection. Brahman is the locus of Avidya. Jiva is a mere reflection (pratibimba) of its prototype (bimba) i.e. of Brahman, and therefore, identical with its essence, Brahman. In this theory, the reflection, jiiva, is not mithyaa, This is the vivarna school traced to Padmapada based on BSB II.iii.50. The one Self appears as different in different beings. It appears as one and as many, like the reflection of the moon in water. See BSB III.2.18. ata eva copamā sūryakādivat. Scriptures explain the fact of Its having forms by saying that they are like reflections in water of the one sun.

Abhasavada is the theory of appearance advocated. Traced to Suresvara and holds that the jiva is merely an illusory appearance of Brahman. This appearance or semblance is mithyaa or illusory. The jiva is an abhasa or semblance of the supreme Self, like the semblance of the sun in water. The jiva is not the Self itself, nor is it something different. See BSB II.iii.50. It is to be understood that the jiva is only a semblance of Paramatma like the sun in water. The (empirical) Jiva is not the atma itself. (Aabhaasa eva ca esha jivah paramaatmanah jalasooryaadivat-pratipattavyah na sa eva saaakshaat).

In pratibimbavada of Vivarna school, the reflected consciousness is also considered real. In Abhasavada, the reflected consciousness is considered unreal.

avachchhedavaada is the Limitation theory. Attributed to Vachaspati Mishra of the Bhamati school. Jiva is a delimitation of consciousness by the internal organ in the jiva but Ishvara is unlimited. Brahman is subtle, partless and like space. Jivas are existent like space in pots. Space appears limited by the pots but all that actually is there is only space (Brahman) but are limited by pots (jivas). Shankara briefly talks about this in Mandukya karika 3.3.

Just because the vivarta vada (to explain transformation), vivarna, abhasa, bhamati schools evolved post-Shankara, one should NOT assume that Shankara does not discuss it. The origins of these vaadas can be found in Shankara’s own writing. He discusses avaccheda-vada in the first chapter, pratibimba-vada in the third chapter and the abhasavada in the fifth chapter of Upadesha Sahasri.

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  • I have a few questions. They may sound stupid because i'm still learning advaita and trying to grasp as much as possible. In the drishti-srishti vada theory, how is it possible to create an entire universe full of planets, galaxies etc. just by seeing? I mean the world wouldn't stop existing if a man goes blind or if we cover our eyes with our hands. The world will still be there. So how is it possible? May 17 at 17:12
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    @TheCrimsonUniverse Thanks for accepting my answer. I have added a few sentences on the drishti-srishti vada. To say everything is projected through your mind and consciousness is the same thing that happens in your dreams. You realize that the world exists because you the seer exists. If a seer does not exist, who sees the world? Thus the famous koan, if a tree falls in the forest when no one is there, does it make a sound? The point is, there is nothing apart from the seer (consciousness). See the added sentences.
    – GIRIBLR
    May 18 at 5:03

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