Advaita-vada (impersonalism)

What is the parinama-vada?

Babaji: There are two kinds of parinama-vada: brahma-parinama-vada and sakti-parinama-vada. The brahma-parinama-vada teaches that Brahman becomes transformed into the individual souls and the material world. Thus they say that only Brahman exists, and to support their idea they quote these words of the Chandogya Upanisad (6.2.1):

“Brahman is one without a second.”

This theory may be called ‘advaita-vada’ (impersonalism).

The mayavadis’ vivarta-vada is of three kinds: 1. the soul is really Brahman but he becomes bewildered into thinking that he is an individual soul, 2. the idea that the individual souls are reflections of Brahman, and 3. the idea that Brahman takes a nap and dreams that He has become the many individual souls. None of these are the true vivarta-vada. The evidence of the Vedas refutes them all.

Insights into a book below called Beyond Nirvana (The Philosophy of Mayavadism).

beyond_nirvana_1st_ed_2003 on Sankaracharya and Buddha.

Sri Bhaktivinoda Thakur’s Answers:

1. Who are the Mayavadis?

– Those who accept all spiritual objects as illusion, think that Brahman is beyond illusion, the Supreme Controller is affected by illusion, and that the bodies of the Lord’s incarnations illusory are Mayavadis.

They say that the functions of maya are present in the living entities’ constitution. In other words, the living entities’ false egos are created by maya.

Therefore they think that when the living entities are liberated, they do not remain in an individual state as pure living entities.

They also teach that after liberation, the living entities become one with Brahman. (Commentary on Caitanya-caritamrta Adi 7.29)

2. Is impersonalism the conclusive opinion of the Vedas? Where was impersonalism born?

– The philosophy of impersonalism has been around a long time. It is a partial Vedic opinion. Although many scholars have preached the philosophy of impersonalism outside India, there is no doubt that this philosophy was spread throughout the world from India. A few scholars came to India with Alexander and carefully studied this philosophy. Those scholars then partially preached impersonalism in their respective books and countries. (Tattva-sutra 30)

After carefully discussing the Vedas and the Vedanta-sutras, the Acharyas have drawn two kinds of conclusions. Srimad Sankaracharya preached the philosophy of monism based on the conclusions put forth by the sages like Dattatreya, Astavakra, and Durvasa. This is one kind of conclusion. The Vaishnava Acharyas preach the science of pure devotional service based on the conclusion put forth by the great souls like Narada, Prahlada, Dhruva, and Manu. This is another kind of conclusion. (Sri Manah-siksa Chapter 9)

3. What is the brief history of the birth of Mayavada philosophy?

– The philosophy of Buddhism gradually turned into tantric philosophy, and at that time, the Mayavada philosophy was created. This philosophy remained within Buddhism along with the philosophy of Buddhism. But as the philosophy of Mayavada or impersonalism spread, the followers of Buddhism called it covered Buddhism. (Tattva-viveka 1/14)

The holy places of the Aryans were converted into holy places for Buddhists. All signs of brahminical culture practically disappeared. In the 7th century, when this tragedy was no longer tolerable, the brahmanas became very angry and conspired to destroy Buddhism. At that time, by providence, the most learned and intelligent Sankaracharya became the commander-in-chief of the brahmanas in Kasi. (Sri Krsna-samhita introduction)

4. Where did godlessness and impersonalism originate?

– Nescience results in the adoration of matter, and too much jnana results in atheism and monism. Adoration of matter has 2 forms. Positive adoration means to accept material characteristics as knowledge of the Supreme Lord, and negative adoration means to accept material characteristics as the Supreme. Those who engage in positive adoration accept and worship a material image as the Supreme. Those who engage in negative worship accept the negative features of material characteristics as Brahman. Such people conclude that the Supreme is impersonal, without form, without activity, and without senses. (Sri Krsna Samhita Conclusion)

5. Why are Mayavadis more condemned than Buddhists?

– Since Lord Buddha opposed the Vedic injunctions, Vedic Aryans called him an atheist, but the Mayavadis’ propagation of atheism under the shelter of the Vedas is more dangerous than Buddhism because an enemy in the guise of a friend is more dangerous than an enemy. (Commentary on Caitanya caritamrta Madhya 6.168)

6. Are the Mayavadis’ commentaries not opposed to Vyasadeva’s codes?

– Factually, the Lord’s devotional service is described in the Vedanta-sutra, but the Mayavadi philosophers prepared a commentary known as Sariraka-bhasya, in which the Lord’s transcendental form was denied. The Mayavadi philosophers think that the living entity is identical with the Supreme Soul, Brahman. Their commentaries on the Vedanta-sutra are completely opposed to the principle of devotional service. (Commentary on Caitanya caritamrta Madhya 6.169)

7. Can the existence of the living entities be illusory?

– The living entities are eternally spiritual; they are not subjected to bondage or distress. They suffer miseries due to the misconception of identifying their body as the self. Thinking the rope a snake and the oyster silver are 2 examples given in the Vedas in this regard. Mayavadis mistakenly consider the living entity’s very existence illusory. When a person, by the mercy of a Satguru, understands that these 2 examples have not been given in regard to the living entity’s existence but in regard to misunderstanding the gross and subtle bodies as the self, then he finds the real path. (Caitanya-siksamrta 1/6)

8. What is the devotional explanation of the Vedic statement tat tvam asi?

– The Mayavadi commentators say that the Vedic statement tat tvam asi concludes that the Para Brahman and the living entities are nondifferent. The word tat means “He,” the word tvam means “you,” and the word asi means “are”; so they wrongly arrive at conclusion that words tat tvam asi means “you are the Para Brahman, there is no difference between you and Him”.

But the Vaishnava commentators have given different meanings of the word tat tvam asi. According to them, the word tat means “He who is infallible” and this word has been derived from the word tasya meaning “His.” Therefore, the word tat tvam asi means “you belong to Him.” The word tasya makes the distinction between the Para Brahman and the living entities. From this, it is concluded that you are not the Para Brahman. (Tattva-sutra 6)

9. How do the Mayavadis offend Sri Krsna?

– A Mayavadi naturally offends Krsna because he says that Krsna’s form, name, and pastimes are material. The word “material” means illusory, or the product of matter. According to the Mayavadis’ opinion, the Absolute Truth is formless and without variety. If the Absolute Truth wishes to accomplish something, therefore, He must take shelter of illusion and accept a material form. They consider the forms of Rama and Krsna to be material. Mayavadis consider the name of the Absolute Truth to be Brahman, Paramatma, or Caitanya, the forms of Rama or Krsna products of matter, the names of Rama and Krsna material sound vibration, and Their pastimes mundane.

The difference they see between the living entity and Rama or Krsna is that the living entity is forced to accept a material body as a result of karma, but Caitanya (or consciousness) accepts a material body out of His own sweet will to fulfill His mission in this world. He also gives up His material body out of His own sweet will. This proves to them that the names, forms, and pastimes of Rama or Krsna are material.

According to the Mayavadis, as long as a practitioner has not attained knowledge, he should worship personalities like Rama or Krsna. After attaining knowledge, however, he will no longer need to chant or meditate on such material names and forms. At that point, he should chant only Brahman, Paramatma, or Caitanya. This means that the Mayavadis think the forms of Rama and Krsna to be more abominable than the Absolute Truth. That is why the Mayavadis are the greatest offenders at Krsna’s feet. (Sajjana toshani 5/12)

10. Do the Mayavadis hear, chant, and offer prayers that are pleasing to Krsna?

– Mayavadis consider the glories of devotional service, the object of worship, and the Lord’s servants as temporary. Their hearing, chanting, serving, and offering prayers, therefore, are felt by Krsna as blows of thunderbolts. (From Saranagati)

11. Is the Mayavadis’ glorification of Krsna an aparadha against the chanting of the holy name?

– The Mayavadis’ glorification of Krsna while they perform their sadhana is also offensive. Pure devotees should not approve their chanting of Krsna’s names, because in their association one will simply commit namaparadha. Even though Mayavadis display various symptoms of ecstatic love, such as shedding tears or having their hair stand on end, these symptoms are not genuine. They are simply a shadow of a reflection of the transformation of ecstatic love. Hence they are offenses. (Sajjana toshani 5/12)

12. Why shouldn’t devotees hear Mayavadi commentaries or philosophy?

– Even though someone firmly fixed in devotion to Krsna’s service might not be deviated by hearing the Mayavada bhasya, that bhasya is nevertheless full of impersonal words and ideas, such as Brahman, which although representing knowledge are impersonal. The Mayavadis say that the world created by maya is false, that there is no living entity but only a spiritual effulgence. They further say that God is imaginary, that people think of God only out of ignorance, and that when the Supreme Absolute Truth becomes fooled by the external energy (Maya), He becomes a jiva. Upon hearing all these nonsensical ideas from the nondevotee, a devotee can become as afflicted as if his heart and soul were broken. (Commentary on Caitanya caritamrta Antya 2.98-99)

13. To whom alone should one worship?

– Mayavadis engage in the worship of 5 gods: Durga, Surya, the sun-god, Ganapati, Siva, and Vishnu. At first, there is the material energy (under the control of Durga), then appears the sun, which induces action in the material energy, then appears Ganesa (Ganapati), who confirms the existence of consciousness. Then appears Lord Siva, who is perceived as all-pervading, and finally, Lord Vishnu is served. He is the Supersoul, saccidananda, incomparable, and beyond the reach of ordinary living entities. From a doubtful person to a learned scholar of spiritual topics, all are eligible to worship the Para Brahman. The symptom of actual worship is to make advancement on the path of raga. One should therefore worship the Supreme Lord, who is saccidananda and the controller of all living entities. However, if one remains entangled in other processes of worship, one will never achieve the goal of life. (Tattva-sutra 47)

14. Is the worship of Vishnu among the worship of the 5 gods not pure Vaishnava religion?

– The worship of Vishnu that exists in the worship of the 5 gods, is not pure Vaishnava religion, even though it consists of taking initiation, worshiping Vishnu, or even worshiping Radha and Krsna. (Jaiva Dharma Chapter 4)

15. Do the devatas accept the worship offered by the Mayavadis?

– The devatas do not accept the worshipable ingredients and foods offered to them by the Mayavadis because the Mayavadis are infected with the faults of Mayavada philosophy. (Jaiva Dharma Chapter 10)

16. Is it proper to accept a living entity or a sannyasi as Lord Narayana?

– The Mayavadi sannyasis consider themselves Brahman and address each other Narayana. It is the custom of the smartas that if the brahmanas and the grihasthas see a sannyasi, they should offer him obeisances, thinking him to be Narayana. To stop this
wrong belief, Sriman Mahaprabhu said that any living entity, including a sannyasi, can never become Krsna, who is full of 6 opulences. The living entity is only a spiritual spark; therefore he is like a particle of the rays of the sun Krsna. It is improper to offer obeisances to a living entity because one considers him to be Narayana. (Amrta-pravaha-bhasya, Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 18/ 112 to 116)

17. Is the philosophy of accepting an animal as God pure religion?

– A person or a community who worships an animal as God is understood to be following the wrong philosophy of mayavada. (Caitanya-siksamrta 5/3)

18. What is the result of dry argument and too much jnana?

– Therefore acceptance of the gross form of the Supreme, as well as acceptance of the impersonal form, are both products of nescience and always contradictory. When reasoning overcomes knowledge and becomes established as argument, then one does not accept the soul as eternal. In this situation the philosophy of atheism is born. When knowledge comes under the subordination of reasoning and gives up its nature, then one aspires to merge with Brahman. This aspiration is born from too much jnana and does not benefit the living entity. (Sri Krsna Samhita Conclusion)

19. Is theosophy another form of impersonalism?

– The theosophy preached in countries like America is also impersonalism. Whatever the proud scholars preach, the less intelligent people naturally accept. In India, many proud scholars like Dattatreya, Astavakra, and Sankara, all of whom were fond of arguments, preached this philosophy from time to time in different forms. Nowadays, all philosophies other than Vaishnava philosophy are subordinate to impersonalism. (Caitanya-siksamrta 5/3)

20. Are atheism and merging into the existence of Brahman unhealthy symptoms of consciousness?

– After becoming civilized, when a living entity cultivates various types of knowledge, then through his false arguments he covers his faith to some extent and thereby either accepts atheism or the desire to merge into Brahman. It is to be understood that this clumsy faith is the symptom of an undeveloped, weak consciousness. (Caitanya-siksamrta 1/1)

21. Why is merging into Brahman useless?

– The impersonalist desires to merge the soul into the impersonal Brahman, but searching for liberation by merging into Brahman is a mistake. It is the stealing of the self, because there is no happiness in that state. Neither the living entity, nor the Lord gains anything from such merging. (Sri Krsna-samhita 8.23)

22. Why isn’t the liberation that comes from merging into Brahman praiseworthy?

– How can the liberation of merging into the existence of Brahman be praiseworthy when even demons like Kamsa, who have been condemned by sastra as killers of cows and brahmanas, attained this state? (Brhad-bhagavatamrta, purport)

23. Why is merging into the Supreme Lord’s body more abominable than merging into the Brahman effulgence?

– There are 2 kinds of merging, merging into the Brahman and merging into the Supreme Lord’s body. According to the opinion of Mayavadi Vedantists, the living entity’s ultimate goal is to merge intoBrahman. According to Patanjali, in the liberated stage the living entity merges into the Supreme Lord’s body.

Of these 2 types of liberation, merging into the Supreme Lord’s body is more abominable. When merging with the Brahman, we attain nonvariegatedness because we have cultivated impersonal knowledge, but when merging into the Lord’s body after meditating on that personal body, we are more condemnable. This type of liberation only proves what a degraded mentality we possess.

The Patanjali system describes the Lord’s form as klesa-karma-vipakasayair aparamrsta purusa-visesa Isvara: “The Supreme Personality of Godhead is a Person who does not partake of a miserable material life.” The followers of the Patanjali system therefore accept the eternality of the Supreme Lord. They also say, sa purvesam api guru kalena anavacchedat: “Such a Person is always Supreme and is not influenced by the element of time.”

Yet according to them, purusartha-sunyanam gunanam pratiprasavah kaivalyam svarupa-pratistha va citi-saktir iti. That is, they believe that in the perfectional stage, the purusa conception is vanquished.

This yoga system is therefore abominable because its final conception is impersonal. The purport is that instead of attaining a substantial result due to substantial worship, such people attain an abominable result. (Commentary on Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 6.269)

24. Does too much jnana or advaita philosophy approach proper reasoning?

– Even with proper reasoning, too much jnana cannot be beneficial. We will now give 4 considerations in this regard:

1. If merging with the Para Brahman was the living entities’ ultimate goal, then we would have to imagine that the Lord, out of cruelty, has created the living entities. If we did not introduce such an improper existence, we would not feel any difficulty. If we accept Maya as the sole creator in order to verify Brahman as faultless, then we are bound to accept an independent truth separate from Brahman.

2. When a soul merges with Brahman, neither is benefited.

3. In the eternal pastimes of the Absolute Truth, there is no need for the souls to merge with Brahman.

4. If one does not fully accept the quality of variegatedness, which is the manifestation of the Lord’s energies, then there is no possibility of existence (sat), knowledge (cit), or happiness (ananda), and as a result, the Para Brahman will be considered impersonal and without basis. One may even develop doubts about the existence of Brahman. But, if one accepts the quality of variegatedness as eternal, then the soul cannot merge with Brahman. (Sri Krsna Samhita Conclusion)

25. Why is liberation, or merging into the Brahman effulgence, suicidal?

– We cannot achieve happiness through renunciation or cultivating knowledge (jnana). Renunciation and knowledge vanquish our material bondage and deliver liberation, but liberation does not bring happiness. Rather, it brings ruination. Liberation is therefore extremely abominable. Just consider this: on the one hand, liberation means we lose material enjoyment, yet do not achieve the highest benefit. (Navadvipa-mahatmya 7)

26. Why is happiness derived from devotional service unlimitedly greater than happiness derived from merging into the Lord’s existence?

– Happiness derived from merging into the Lord’s existence is always insignificant and abominable, but the happiness derived from devotional service is wonderful and full of variety, because Sri Hari’s ecstatic pastimes are full of sweetness. These 2 kinds of happiness are always opposed to one another. (Brhad-bhagavatamrta, purport)

27. Are the Mayavadis religious?

– The Mayavadis are atheists. (Kathasara, Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Chapter 6)

28. Are the impersonalist sannyasis of Kasi the only Mayavadis?

– The sannyasis of Varanasi are famous Mayavadis. The householders who worship 5 gods and who belong to their cult are also Mayavadis. Although they are initiated into Vishnu mantras, they are still called Mayavadis. Even many of those who identify themselves as close to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu are Mayavadis. Many cults such as baula and daravesa also fall into the category of Mayavada. (Sajjana-toshani 5-12)

29. What did Sankaracharya say regarding the living entities destination after liberation?

– Sri Sankara is totally silent about the wonderful destination a living entity achieves after his liberation. Those who pass their lives accepting only the external portion of his teachings become distracted from the path of Vaishnava religion. (Jaiva Dharma Chapter 2)

30. How did Sankaracharya convert karmis and jnanis to his own philosophy?

– Sankaracharya was not satisfied with his Brahmana followers, so he introduced 10 types of sannyasis, such as Giri, Puri, and Bharati. With the help of the physical and mental strength of these sannyasis, Sankaracharya converted the Brahmanas who were attached to karma-kanda, and he prepared himself to vanquish the Buddhists. Wherever he failed to convert the Buddhists to his philosophy, he engaged nagas, naked sannyasis, who used weapons such as spears. Ultimately, he wrote a commentary on Vedanta and thus combined the karma-kanda of the Brahmanas with the jnana-kanda of the Buddhists. In this way, he united both groups. The Buddhist temples were converted into Vedic temples. Out of fear of being beaten, as well as by realizing the insignificance of their own religious practices, the Buddhists helplessly accepted the authority of the Brahmanas. The Buddhists who hated being converted took the remnants of their cult and fled to Sri Lanka and Brahmadesa (Myanmar or Burma). The old Buddhists took Lord Buddha’s tooth and went to Sri Lanka from Jagannatha Puri. (Krsna-samhita Introduction)

31. How do less intelligent people define the role of material nature?

– Less intelligent people accept material energy as the doer of everything. However, the learned scholars attribute the killing of Mahisasura, Chandamunda, Sumbha, and Nisumbha to material nature as follows: The word “doer” is attributed to a male or female who performs a particular activity in the material world. For example, the water of the Ganges is the purifier, Calcutta is the giver of happiness, Kali is the destroyer of religious principles, and education is the giver of wealth. In the same way as the Ganges, Calcutta, Kali, and education are the doer, material energy is also the doer. (Tattva-sutra 22)

32. How did India benefit from the appearance of Sankaracharya?

– Sankaracharya has, to some extent, done a favor to India by evicting Buddhism. He helped stop the gradual deterioration of the ancient Aryan community. In particular, he changed the course of the Aryans’ mentality by introducing a new method of thought in their Sastras. He even inspired in them an urge to consider new subjects with their intelligence. (Sri Krsna-samhita introduction)


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