As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa that summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here.

In any case, in Adhyaya 2 Pada 2 of the Brahma Sutras, Vyasa discusses various rival schools to Vedanta. In particular, he says this:

Topic-8: Bhagavata View Refuted
42. (The Bhagavata view that Samkarsana and others originate successively from Vasudeva and others is wrong), since any origin (for the soul) is impossible.
43. And (this view is wrong because) an implement cannot originate from its agent (who wields it).
44. Alternatively even if (it be assumed that Vasudeva and others are) possessed of knowledge, (majesty etc.,), still the defect cannot be remedied.
45. Besides, (in this scripture) many contradictions are met with and it runs counter to the Vedas.

This translation is biased towards Advaita, but nevertheless most commentators on the Brahma Sutras agree that Vyasa is talking about the Pancharatra texts, the foundational texts of Vaishnavism which I discuss in my answer here. Now Adi Shankaracharya's Advaita commentary argues that Vyasa is criticizing Pancharatra, whereas Ramanujacharya's commentary argues that Vyasa is defending Pancharatra from a potential crticism, but both agree that Pancharatra is the subject being discussed.

But as with many things, the Dvaita philosopher Madhvacharya has a very different intepretation of these Sutras. He thinks that when Vyasa is criticizing the notion that the soul comes from Brahman, he is not criticizing the Pancharatra texts, but rather the Shakta Agamas, i.e. the texts followed by those who think the goddess Shakti is supreme. Here is how Madhvacharya interprets Sutra 42 in his commentary on the Brahma Sutras:

  1. On account of the impossibility of origination, (Shakti, a Goddess, cannot be the cause).

For the bringing forth of anything has not been observed on the part of the female without the favour of the male.

Baladeva Vidyabhushana, the Gaudiya Vaishnava commentator on the Brahma Sutras, gives the same interpretation as Madhvacharya:

The followers of Śakti have imagined Her to be the sole cause of the world by reasoning alone, unsupported by Vedic authority. Since they base their theory on reason, they must be refuted by such reason as would appeal to the common sense of mankind. It is not possible that Śakti alone could be the mother of the whole universe, because by Herself, She has no power of origination. We do not find immaculate conception in this world, nor do females give birth without connection with males.

My question is, what is the logic of Madvacharya's argument that Shakti cannot create souls? Just because human females require a man to bear children, why does that imply that the supreme goddess Shakti (as Shaktas view her) would require the help of a man to create souls? Surely if Shakti were engaging in the activity of creation, she wouldn't need to use human means of reproduction to do it!

Are there any followers of Madhvacharya or Baladeva Vidyabhushana who have elaborated on their reasoning here? The reasoning seems ridiculous to me. Then again, some of the reasoning of Adi Shankaracharya and Ramanujacharya doesn't make sense to me at times, so perhaps I'm missing something here.

  • 8
    From an advatic standpoint, Shakti is Saguna Brahman, Brahman seen from within the veil of Maya. There is no creation, there is only projection of Brahman. There is no creation of individual souls in advaita, but there is in the dvaita of Madhava. The problem with Madhava's argument is he implies dualistic concepts into advaita which do not exist in the advaita. He's trying to compare apples and oranges. For his arguments to make sense you have to first accept his dualistic concepts as being a part of advaita - which they are not. Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 6:10
  • 9
    @SwamiVishwananda First of all, this has nothing to do with Advaita vs. Dvaita, all the Vedantic schools, including Madhvacharya, believe that individual souls can never be created. Both Adi Shankaracharya and Madhvacharya agree that in Sutra 42, Vyasa is criticizing the notion that individual souls can be created, it's just that Adi Shankaracharya attributes this notion to Pancharatra whereas Madhvacharya attributes this notion to the Shaktas. Commented Nov 14, 2015 at 14:56
  • 6
    @ChinmaySarupria I just have a difference of opinion with Shastri. Ramanujacharya said it's Vyasa: sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe48/sbe48003.htm Madhvacharya says the same thing. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 14:24
  • 6
    @ChinmaySarupria Well, I don't think Wikipedia is right. He is called Badarayana because of the Badari tree, it's not a conflation at all. And I completely disagree with Shastri's argument. Like he baselessly suggests that Badarayana is the grandson of the Mimamsaka Badari. And he says that Adi Shankaracharya wouldn't cite other works by the same author, but that's not true at all. In any case, numerous Acharyas have said that the Brahma Sutras were authored by Vyasa. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 17:13
  • 6
    @ChinmaySarupria No, it's not only Vaishnavas that make the identification; the Purva Mimamsa Acharya Kumarila Bhatta also makes the identification. And there are works by Advaitins like Vachaspati Mishra and Sayana that say the same thing. Commented Nov 26, 2015 at 13:16


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .