Does any one know what this(Shakti Visishtadvaita) philosophy is all about? I know what are dvaita, advaita philosophies but this is new one.

  • It is a form of qualified non-dualism. According to this the individual jivas are neither separate from Shiva, nor they are one with Shiva. Rather they are rays of Shiva. Thus they can be in one sense equated with Shiva the same way how the Sun's rays can be equated with the Sun. But yet they can be different from the Sun. This is Shakti Vishistadvaita according to Wiki
    – Sai
    Mar 4, 2015 at 17:19
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    @Sai If that's what Wikipedia says, then it's inaccurate. Saying that jivatmas are equated with Paramatma in one sense and seperate from Paramatma in another is the philosophy of Bhedabhedavada, AKA Dvaitadvaita, of which Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's Achintya Bheda Abheda is a branch. That is like half-way between Advaita and Dvaita. Vishishtadvaita is much closer to the Advaita side of the spectrum. It says that there is an overarching unified whole, and then it makes qualifications in some way about the unity of that whole, whereas in Dvaitadvaita you can entertain things outside of Paramatma. Mar 5, 2015 at 3:06
  • @KeshavSrinivasan You are right. I probably misunderstood the Wiki article. I tend to get confused between finer details of technicalities between Achintya and Vishista because I have come across several places where Ramanuja says things about Brahman which seem to be in accordance with Achintya and overall most of the dualistic philosophies have good inspiration from Ramanujacharya's fantastic and illuminating and loving works so they are mostly similar. Thanks for highlighting the differences :)
    – Sai
    Mar 5, 2015 at 3:52
  • @Sai Yeah, Gaudiya Vaishnavism does have a lot in common with Sri Vaishnavism. Achintya Bheda Abheda was basically born from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu's attempt to reconcile the teachings of Madhwacharya and Ramanujacharya, because he felt that both were divinely inspired thinkers. Mar 5, 2015 at 4:51
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    @KeshavSrinivasan oh I see. Good information. Thanks for sharing that. It reiterates once again the various similarities amongst the vedantic philosophies :)
    – Sai
    Mar 6, 2015 at 6:16

1 Answer 1


Shakti Vishishtadvaita is the philosophy of a Shaivite sect known as Lingayatism, AKA Virashaivism, founded by the 12th century philosopher Basava. Note that the term "Shaivite" actually means something here; there are a lot of people who call themselves Shaivites, like Iyers for instance, but they're actually followers of Adi Shankaracharya's Smartha sect (which I discuss here and here) and simply adopt Shiva as their personal god. The Lingayatas, on the other hand, are actual Shaivites, in the sense that they really view Shiva as the supreme being, and not just one among a number of equally valid ways to conceptualize Brahman.

In any case, the Shakti Vishishtadvaita philosophy of the Lingayata sect is a variant of the Vishishtadvaita Vedanta philosophy of the Sri Vaishnava sect (of which I'm a member). The fundamental difference between different Vedantic philosophies is the relationship between Jivatatmas (individual souls) and Paramatma (the supreme soul or supersoul). According to Adi Shankaracharya's philosophy of Advaita, Jivatma and Paramatma are one and the same, and according to Madhvacharya's philosophy of Dvaita, Jivatma and Parmatma are completely seperate. The standard version of Vishishtadvaita, or "qualified monism", takes a middle view: it says where there is one big unified whole called Paramatma, but within that there are still distinct parts like Jivatmas, akin to how an unborn baby is part of the body of a pregnant woman, but the pregnant woman's body extends beyond the baby (what Western thinkers would call panentheism).

Shakti Vishishtadvaita, or "monism qualified by Shakti", is a modification of this view, where Shiva is not merely united with seperate beings called Jivatmas, but rather he transforms himself into Jivatmas and the world, so that the Jivatmas and the world exist but are still have "Shiva-ness". This transformation is done through the power of Shakti, Shiva's energy, who is considered non-different from Shiva himself. Here is how this website characterizes the philosophy:

Vimarsha Shakti exists in Shiva by the relation of Samarasya or identity, just as heat and light exist by the relation of identity in the fire and the sun. In other words, between the substance and the attribute there is an inseparable union or essential identity which points to reality that continues to remain in the character of individual organic Whole. It is for this reason that Siddanta Shikhamani speaks of intrinsic and ever abiding in Shiva. Hence he is characterized and distinguished by his self-conscious power to work wonders. This is Shaktivishistadvaita. Here Vishista does not suggest any inseparable union of two or more entities like soul, world and God of the Ramanuya system or of South Indian Shaivism. Vishistattva simply connotes the nature of Vimarsha, namely the self-conscious power of Shiva. Because of this Divine energy or Chit-shakti which has the power of doing, undoing and doing otherwise, Shiva transforms Himself into the world without ceasing Himself to be. Hence, Veerashaivism maintains Shivaparinamavada....

In the case of Sankhya and Ramanuja, it is Prakrti Parinamavada but in Veerashaivism it is Shiva Brahma parinamavada. The world comes out of the very essence of Shiva and not from maya, or body or even power of God as found in the other systems. In upholding the doctrine of the transformation of essence (svarupa parinamavada), Veerashaivism remains most faithful to the Scriptural authority. God happens to be both the material and efficient cause of the world, though God becomes the world by the process of modification. He does not suffer any change within Himself. The world is the Sat-aspect of God and therefore a real manifestation of Him and not an illusion. It is non-different from Him; the relation between the two is that of the identity of cause and effect. The world gives us an idea of the greatness of God, and those who realize this greatness cannot but worship Him. In the words of Hegel, the reality of the world supplies the individual with the religion of majesty in which the reflecting mind is overwhelmed by the contemplation of the manifestation of the Divine Being.

One of the best ways to understand a Vedantic philosophy is through its commentary on the Brahma Sutras, the defining text of the Vedanta school as I discuss here. So for more information about Shakti Vishishtadvaita, you might want to read C. Hayavadana Rao's introduction to the Shrikara Bhashya, the Shakti Vishistadvaita commentary on the Brahma Sutras. Here it is in PDF format. (I downloaded it from the Digital Library of India and then re-uploaded it to Google Drive.)

  • its quite unique how this philosophy was used in the Karnataka , Maharashtra and Andhra to motivate people to participate in social , economical and political affairs while providing a strong spiritual base... I started reading the history. Its unfortunate being born as Lingayath myself I never took interest previously.
    – Manju
    Mar 6, 2015 at 4:50
  • @ManjunathNimbal Wow, I just found out about the existence of the Lingayata sect and now I'm meeting an actual member! Before you posted your question, the only Shaivite sects I was familiar with were Shaiva Siddhanta (a dualist philosophy based on the poetry of the Nayanars), Shiva Vishishtadvaita (which is much closer to Ramunajacharya's Vishistadvaita), and Pashupata Shaivism (the sect founded by Shiva's incarnation Lakulisha, whom I discuss here.) Mar 7, 2015 at 5:30
  • @ManjunathNimbal By the way, I suggest that you at least read the section of Rao's book that starts on page 856 (according to the book's page numbering). That gives a good overview of Shakti Vishishtadvaita. Mar 7, 2015 at 5:52
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    Lingayatism is not shakthi-vishistadwaitha, lingayatism is soonyavaada siddhantha. Veerasaivism is shakthi-vishistadwaitha. Both are not same and lingayatism is founded by basvanna but veerasaivism is ancient than lingayatism.
    – Anoop VA
    Mar 3, 2017 at 15:19
  • Did bhasavanna performed any miracles like nayanars?
    – user9554
    Oct 2, 2017 at 19:16

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