The Ultimate Synthesis of Advaita & Dvaita – achintya bheda abheda

There are a lot of different philosophies in the world. Some are just absurd, but some are partial truths. Instead of fighting over philosophies, one should try to understand the ultimate synthesis of philosophies – if you haven’t heard of it before, it’s called “Simultaneous Inconcievable Oneness and Difference” – the philosophy of Lord Chaitanya.

When it comes to philosophies, there are an infinite variety.

Some philosophies apply to life in the material world, and don’t extend to the spiritual realm. We will discard these philosophies, because they pertain to the temporary. It is not that they are devoid of value, but that for a spiritualist they are not of too much consequence in the long run, from the perspective of eternity.

Often, followers of various philosophies debate, quarrel, bicker, and disagree with each other in mild and severe forms. Sometimes, a difference in philosophy results in quarrels, enmities, violence, murder, and even war!

This article does not claim to list and explain all the different philosophies, but simply summarizes the chief ideas.

I wrote before about the chief philosophies that drive our modern world, such as voidism and randomness, which are merely imaginations.

Actually, when thinking of philosophies, one should consider the tale of the 6 blind men and the elephant.

Once upon a time, 6 blind men were taken to “see” an elephant… those who are blind in vision use their other senses to “see”… we don’t mean any offense to blind readers of this post, but this is how the story goes.

6 blind men and the elephant

One touched the side of the elephant.

The second touched the tail

The third touched the tusk

The fourth touched the trunk

The fifth, the ear of the elephant.

The sixth, the leg of the elephant.

Then they all came out and began to tell each other what the elephant is like. One said the elephant is like a wall (side), the second said it is like a stiff rope (tail), the third said it is just like smooth spear, and the fourth said it is like a snake (trunk). The fifth said it is like a smooth tray (ear) and the sixth said it is just like a tree trunk (leg).

All of them began to disagree with each other, and eventually got into an argument about what the elephant is like.

All the blind men were partially right, but could not synthesize their partial truths into one consistent whole.

Scholars looking at philosophies are just like those blind men.

In particular, there are 2 main spiritual philosophies

Advaita – This philosophy describes that all is one, and there are variants of these philosophies all the way from Kevaladvaita, Shuddhadvaita, Vishishtadvaita. This philosophy encapsulates practically all of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

Dvaita – This philosophy describes that God is one and the living entities are separate from God… and in some remaining ways describes the key difference between God and the living entity, between God and nature, and so on.

And scholars have fought over this for thousands of years.

So many philosophies… is there one that encapsulates and synthesizes them all?

Only God can establish something perfect…

धर्मं तु साक्षाद्भ‍गवत्प्रणीतं
न वै विदुऋर्षयो नापि देवा: ।
न सिद्धमुख्या असुरा मनुष्या:
कुतो नु विद्याधरचारणादय: ॥ १९ ॥

dharmaṁ tu sākṣād bhagavat-praṇītaṁ
na vai vidur ṛṣayo nāpi devāḥ
na siddha-mukhyā asurā manuṣyāḥ
kuto nu vidyādhara-cāraṇādayaḥ

Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great ṛṣis who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the asuras, ordinary human beings, Vidyādharas and Cāraṇas.

In the 16th Century, God Himself appeared in the form of Lord Chaitanya and described the ultimate synthesis of all valid philosophies.

कृष्णवर्णं त्विषाकृष्णं साङ्गोपाङ्गास्त्रपार्षदम् ।
यज्ञै: सङ्कीर्तनप्रायैर्यजन्ति हि सुमेधस: ॥ ३२ ॥

kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇaṁ
yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair
yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ

In the Age of Kali, intelligent persons perform congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead who constantly sings the names of Kṛṣṇa. Although His complexion is not blackish, He is Kṛṣṇa Himself. He is accompanied by His associates, servants, weapons and confidential companions.
Lord Chaitanya with His associates

Lord Chaitanya’s philosophy is as follows:

achintya bheda abheda – simultaneous inconceivable oneness and difference.

This philosophy is different from all the valid and invalid philosophies, but beautifully synthesizes the correct aspects of all valid philosophies.

I am just a humble servant of the servant of the servant ad infinitum of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. If anyone wishes to understand this in more detail, they are invited to thoroughly study the books of Srila A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (ask me how), and then, after understanding Srila Prabhupada’s books, into the famous writings of Srila Jiva Goswami, the 6 Sandarbhas.

The Absolute Truth – how simultaneously one and different

Geetha, 05 March 2013

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

I am not able to understand clearly  “The Absolute Truth” is one and different.  Please help me to understand it better.

Thank you,

your servant,

Rathin Mandal, 05 March 2013

Hare Krishna Mataji,

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

I am not able to find the exact phrase ‘one and different’. But as I have read it before, so I am trying to describe it to you.
It means to say that everything that exists in the material world or the spiritual world are created by energies of Supreme Personality of Godhead Sri Krishna. Hence in a way there is no difference between any entity in either world with Sri Krishna, as it is part and parcel of Sri Krishna only. But at the same time that entity is not in equal position to Supreme Personality. This is explain in the following verse:
BG 9.5: And yet everything that is created does not rest in Me. Behold My mystic opulence! Although I am the maintainer of all living entities and although I am everywhere, I am not a part of this cosmic manifestation, for My Self is the very source of creation.

All the living entities are emanating from the body of Sri Krishna, hence we possess some qualities of Supreme Person, but being very very small particles of the Supreme Person, we cannot equal him quantitatively. When one is able to understand his true identity and his relationship to Supreme Person, he can understand these energies.
BG 10.8: I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.

The phrase ‘one and different’ is also emphasized in the following verse:
BG 9.7: O son of Kuntī, at the end of the millennium all material manifestations enter into My nature, and at the beginning of another millennium, by My potency, I create them again.

In this verse Sri Krishna has said that everything in the material world is created by his will and at the end they enter back into him. This means that during the existence of the material world we are existing differently from the Supreme Personality of Godhead but still we are part and parcel of him.

Hence we are one with Krishna and still different from him.

A common example is that, a tree carries so many leaves, fruits etc. From a distance they may look one with the tree but when we come closer we they see each leaf or fruit has its own identity. But there existence depends only on the tree.

your Servant

Geetha, 06th March 2013

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

Thank you Rathin Mandal Prabhu for your reply.

Thank you,

your Servant,

Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 06 March 2013

Hare Krishna Geetha Mataji and Rathin Mandal Prabhu,

Very nice question, and very nice answer. A place where nice questions are being asked and nice answers are being given is a place of purification

The phrase can be written as “Inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference” from the cosmic manifestation/living entity/living entities/Supreme Absolute Truth.

So, whenever you hear this “The Supreme Absolute Truth is Inconceivably Simultaneously One and Different”, you should ask first “from what/who”? 🙂

This is a core of our philosophy, achintya (inconcievable) bheda (difference abheda (non-difference) tattva (principle/philosophy). Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has very elegantly explained this concept in such way that our Sampradaya includes the core essence of Advaita/Monism (Shankaracharya), Vishishta Advaita / Pure non-dualism, Dvaita/Dualism (Madhvacharya), Vishishta Advaita / non-duality but characterized by attributes (Ramanujacharya), and all bona fide philosophies of the Supreme Absolute Truth.

Some places where you can read more about this:

And Srila Prabhupada spoke this in Perfect Questions Perfect Answers, with Bob Cohen “Śrīla Prabhupāda: But you cannot say that sunshine is not the sun. Without the sun, where is the sunshine? So you cannot say that sunshine is not the sun. But at the same time, it is not the sun. It is the sun and not the sun—both. That is our philosophy. Acintya-bhedābheda—inconceivable. In the material sense, you cannot conceive that a thing is simultaneously positive and negative. That you cannot think of. That is inconceivable energy. And because everything is Kṛṣṇa’s energy, Kṛṣṇa can manifest Himself from any energy. Therefore, when we worship Kṛṣṇa in a form made of something—of earth, water or something like that—that is Kṛṣṇa. You cannot say that it is not Kṛṣṇa. When we worship this metal form of Kṛṣṇa [the Deity form in the temple], that is Kṛṣṇa. That’s a fact, because metal is an energy of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, it is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa, and Kṛṣṇa is so powerful that He can present Himself fully in His energy. So this Deity worship is not heathenism. It is actually worship of God, provided you know the process.” (hint, read full book, it is SO sublime!)

Please note I am not any expert in this. 🙂

Mahabhagavat Das

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Reconciling Advaita Philosophy with Krishna consciousness

Bhakta Sunil change, 2nd January 2014

Hare Krishna everyone

Please accept my humble obeisances
All Glories to Srila Prabhupada

When I tried to tell a person about Krishna Consciousness , he mentioned that he follows Advaita Philosophy

If I remember correctly , I read in Srila Prabhupada’s book that there is actually no conflict between Advaita philosophy and Bhakti yoga process

Please tell , is Advaita philosophy also a God-realization process?

and what to tell to a person who follows Advaita philosophy?


Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 4th January 2014

Hare Krishna Dear Sunil,

Here are some points you can rely upon:

1. Advaita means “One without a second” – Krishna is undisputedly One without a second, no one is comparable to Sri Krishna. Therefore, the perfection of Advaita philosophy is to surrender to Krishna, the real Advaita.

2. The foremost propounder of Advaita philosophy is Adi Shankaracharya who is an incarnation of Lord Shiva who is the topmost Vaishnava. So the deep inner meaning of Advaita philosophy is Krishna consciousness.

3. The famous “Bhaja Govindam” song is written by Adi Shankaracharya himself, so any so-called follower of Advaita philosphy must take shelter of Krishna as instructed in the song.

4. Our philosophy is given by Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and is called “Achintya Bheda Abheda Tattva”, or “Simultaneous Oneness and difference”. Krishna’s creation is also Krishna, but is also different from Krishna the person, this is the secret, just as the sun cannot be separated from the sunshine, still the sun is the source of the sunshine and is therefore different from the sunshine.

There are many more points, but main thing is to give Srila Prabhupada’s books and encourage them to read…

Mahabhagavat Das

Bhakta Sunil, 4th January 2014

Thank you very much Mahabhagavat Prabhu

Your reply is very nice and helpful
your insignificat servant,

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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 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,

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