What is the difference between Advaita, Dvaita, and Vishishtadvaita philosophies?

Geetha, 12th March 2013
Hare Krishna,
Please accept my humble obeisances,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada,

I want to know in detail, what is the difference between Dvaita, Advaita and Vishistadvaita philosophies. Please help me.

Thank you,
Your servant,

Harish, 16th March 2013

Hare Krishna !

Thank you for the question.

Please find below a answer replied by Srila Gurudeva Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari on the same topic in year 2004 :

“My Dear Abhay,
Please accept my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Dvaita philosophy states that God and the living entity are eternally Two. Advaita philosophy states that God and the living entity are in actuality eternally One. The actual fact is that both philosophies are correct. The philosophy which synthesizes them both is known as Acintya Bhedabheda Tattva. This means that the Absolute Truth is simultaneously, inconceivably one and different. How is this so? The Lord is eternal, full of knowledge, and bliss and the living entity is also eternal, full of knowledge, and bliss. Therefore the Lord and the living entity are qualitatively the same, just like a drop of ocean water has the same chemical composition as the entire ocean. However there is a gulf of difference between the quantity of water contained in the drop and the entire ocean, just as quantitatively the Lord and the living entity are Two. The Lord is very big, He is the source of everything, while we are very tiny. We his emanations. He is the Complete Whole are we are the part. Since the part is always meant to serve the whole, we are meant to serve Him. Is this clear?


Hare Krsna !

Thank you for the question.

I have no idea about Vishistadvita Philosophy.
Also find an excerpt from Srila Prabhupada’s secretary on the same :

At the press conference in Hyderabad one reporter asked right away whether Srila Prabhupada was an advaita (monistic) or dvaita (dualist) philosopher. Srila Prabhupada scoffed at the question. “What is the point of discussing such things—whether one is dvaita or advaita. Krsna says, annad bhavanti bhutani: ‘All living beings subsist on food grains’ Annad means grains. The people have no grains. Grains are produced from rain, and the rain from yajna (sacrifice).’ So perform yajna. Become Krsna conscious. Dvaita or advaita you may be, but you still need grains.”

Srila Prabhupada was recalling the press conference. One newspaper reported that he had said that Bhagavad-gita contains all answers to all problems—social, political and otherwise—and should not be misinterpreted. He smiled when he heard that and said, “They have captured the main points of my talk.” As for dvaita/advaita, he said, “Krsna never says we are all one. If a servant says, ‘Yes, I am the same as the master,’ that is his impudence. But the master never says it. Krsna says to Arjuna, ‘Many births you and I have had, but you are not the same as Me. You forget; I do not. Therefore you should surrender to Me.’ Where is the question of advaita if Krsna says ‘Surrender to Me’? Our philosophy is both advaita and dvaita. We are one with Krsna in our qualities, but He is much greater than us.”

Thank you.
your servant

Geetha, 17th March 2013

Hare Krishna,
Please accept my humble obeisances,
All Glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Thank you Harish Prabhu for your reply.

Thank you,
Your servant,

Jayendran Chandrasekaran, 18th March 2013

Hare Krishna Mataji,
Please accept my humble obiesances,
Dandavat pranams,

Each of these philosophies is an ocean and I would try to  list down the differences as per my limited  understanding  and time available.

The philosophy of oneness where there is  only one truth. There are no two ‘truths’. The sannyasis of the tradition carry a ‘Ekadanda’ to signify only one truth. There is only Brahman and when the one Brahman is superimposed on Maya, creation springs forth. Hence Krishna is also a product of Maya according to  advaita. The jivas see duality within this world  because of  Avidya(ignorance). Unlike in Vaishnavism, the definition of  maya is different from that of avidya. Avidya clouds the living entity making them view suffering and pleasure differently.

They have a famous Rajju-Sarpa Nyaya(Snake-Rope  analogy)  to explain creation saying that creation is like a person mistaking a rope  to be a snake. So the snake was not there. It  is an illusion. Similarly this world and jivatams is not  real.  There is only the rope(Brahman) and the confusion is  because of  the Avidya and Maya present. Maya is neither true nor  false.

While Maya is said to be the cause for  creation of this world, avidya is attributed to suffering. Hence being free from suffering is not the ultimate Moksha in Advaita, since one can still remain within the adjuncts of Maya(like thinking oneself as different from Brahman(Krishna).
There are three levels of reality that the Mayavadis posit. One is Pratibhasika, next is Vyavaharika, other is Paramarthika.  The stage where all worldly people are present is said to be pratibhasika where they view pain and pleasure differently and the stage where one sees himself and the god as different is  said to be Vyavaharika Satya( The mayavadis comfortably  interpret all the statements supportive of Bhakti in the Gita using this philosophy and saying that it is a lower level of  reality) and the last satya where one sees only one truth, nothing second , is called Paramarathika where there is only  one truth(Ekameva  advitiyam Brahmam). It hugely draws strength from five Mahavakyas in the Upanishads. One of the popular being ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ and the other one popular being ‘ Tat Tvam asi’.
There are different types of  Advaita, one proposed by Sankara and the other popular one is by Yadava  Prakasa(Guru of Ramanujacharya). The differences arise in the matter of whether Maya is true or  not.


According to Sripada Ramanujacharya , Sriman Narayana is the Brahman and his attributes are the Jada(matter) and Chit(Living entities). It is like a soul with a body. Like we have a soul and a body. Sriman Narayana is the soul of everything in this world and everything else is his  body. So  when we see the world around us , it is to be understood to be as a body to that soul. And everything is his body. Hence there is only  one truth(hence the term advaita  in Vishishtadvaita), but since there are attributes  to  this one truth, it has got VIsheshana. Hence, :”Vishishtoyoho advaita Vishishtadvaita”- An advaita with variety.

An analogy for this would be like a King with his subjects. When we think of a King, it does not mean a King  alone, since it is  inclusive of  all the subjects he has in his kingdom. So when the Sastras say Brahman it includes his attributes which are the JIvatmas and the Insentient (Jada). So to say anything of this is  unreal is equivalent to  denigrating the Brahman itself, since everything is  his attribute. But, again  there is only  truth. That is Sriman Narayana(according to Sripada  Ramanujacharaya). There are hence three truths(realities), but actually only one truth in another perspective ,Sriman Narayana, Jivatmas(living entities) and Jada(Matter).

Sarangathi is stressed as  the best means for Moksha and is  distinctly stressed as being different from Bhakti. Bhakti  is seen more as an effort from the individual(Karma mishra Bhakti equivalent in Gaudiya sampradaya) , while Saranagati(Shuddha Bhakti equivalent)  is seen more as an utter dependence on God  for Moksha.


The necessity of Dvaita springs forth because Sripada Madhvacharya felt that even Vishistadhvaita does not give full freedom to  Sri Hari as much as he deserves, since according to Sripada Ramanujacharya, Brahman is in one sense,Krishna plus the living entities and Matter. Hence, the dependence of Krishna on the living entities, to exist as Krishna, was seen as a shortcoming. by Sri Madhwa. Also, Sri Ramanuja posits that upon Moksha,the living entities gain an equal status as Krishna, which Sri Madhwa was not very happy about.  Also, Sri Madhwa felt that Sri Ramanuja grouped both the living entities and matter in one group under the banner of being a body to Brahman, without stressing its difference  too much.

Hence, Sri Madhwa gave the  highest authority to Sri Hari, in comparison to whom the Living entity  is like a dust. There are  also varieties amongst the living  entities, both in the conditioned state and in the liberated state, even in the amounts of bliss they experience. There is also difference between different types of matter  that exist(for eg; 24 elements) . Hence Sri Madhwa posits five difference doctrine(Pancha Bheda).

Sri Madhwa  gives the concept  of Parantantra and Svatantra satya. Sri Hari  is the  independent reality while the jivatmas and matter is dependent reality. He offers a taratamya(gradation) amongst different living entities (even amongst demigods) and matter .To explain this, Sri Madhwa  gives  this example.

” When we talk of a coconut, though we actually mean the kernel of the coconut, we also use it to refer it to a coconut that has its shell. By addressing the shell of the coconut as the coconut itself would be foolish but yet, because of the presence of the kernel inside we also include the shell when we think of a coconut.Similarly, the kernel of all existence is Krishna himself. Yet when we address this creation, sometimes we consider them as good as God himself, only because all of these contain within them God as the Paramatma, the kernel. A disconnection of that object(shell) from God(kernel) would rid itself of all meaning and hence is ignorance.”

So he concludes that Sri Hari is independent reality, the kernel of the coconut, yet there are different realities that are apart from the kernel, like the shell,namely, the jivatmas and the jada that are dependent on the kernel. The shell is different from  the Kernel and is eternally so. He vehemently condemned  Mayavada  during his  preaching. Hence according to Sri Madhwa, Sri Hari is the supreme reality, the jivatmas can reach him through the process of Bhakti.

There are various verses iin the Bhagavad Gita, I feel are against the philosophy of Advaita and where Prabhupada has mentioned. I am pasting it here. Please go through these verses carefully along with the purports to understand how to defeat advaita.(The most important that all Acaryas have mentioned is 2.12 in BG)

Important Verses with Prabhupad purports against Mayavada

30 key slokas:



Another reference I often look upon is By His Holiness Suhotra Swami..here is the link


Sri Gauranga Mahaprabhu took the best of all these and put them in the right perspective and got  the juice called ‘Achintya Bheda Abheda tattva’ . Devotees who are more senior to me can post here about Gaudiya Sampradaya so  that I may learn.  And, There might be many devotees who can correct me from whatever I have  posted here. Please do so , so that I may improve my understanding.

Your servant,

Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 19th March 2013

Hare Krishna Geetha,

Please accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Gurudeva.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Good question, and I relished reading the answer by Jayendran.

Primarily, the common features of all these Sampradayas is that “I am not this body, I am spirit soul”. Sometimes discussions on these lofty subject matters as discussion of the various philosophies is carried out without being on the basic platform of spiritual knowledge, to be free from the bodily platform of understanding.

Reading Srila Prabhupada’s books very carefully gives us a strong understanding of our own Sampradaya and the others also.

Mahabhagavat Das

Geetha, 20th March 2013

Hare Krishna,
Please accept my humble obeisances,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada.

Thank you very much Jayendra Prabhu for giving detail explanation about three Philosophies. Now I got a little knowledge about these philosophies. Thank you once again,

Thanking you,
Your servant,

Please subscribe to daily inspirational emails from His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari (Writings and lectures archived at sda-archives.com), written fresh every day from his travels around the world sharing the highest spiritual knowledge with everyone. Sign up now at www.backtohome.com. com

Author: Mahabhagavat Das SDA

I am a formally initiated disciple of His Grace Sriman Sankarshan Das Adhikari. My spiritual master was initiated by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada in 1971. He is the author of the famous Ultimate Self Realization Course. Check it out at www.joincourse.com.

4 thoughts on “What is the difference between Advaita, Dvaita, and Vishishtadvaita philosophies?”

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