What is the difference between a Brahmavadi and Mayavadi?

What is the difference between a Brahmavaadi and a Mayavadi? Is one better than the other? Should we interact with one but leave the other alone? How to know which is which?

Brajanath Das, 26 December 2015

Hare Krishna!

Please accept my humble obeisances!

All glories to Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

While reading three stages of realization I got following  doubts – 

What is the difference between a Brahmavadi and a Mayavadi? What is their destination?

Different stages of Yogis realizations (in Paramatma realization)?

Please help me to understand.

your servant,

Brajanath Das

Amala-Purana Das, 28 December 2015

Hare Krsna Prabhuji,

Please accept my humble obeisances!

All Glories to Srila Gurudeva and Srimati Gurumata!

All Glories to Srila Prabhupada!!

Brahmavadis are those who are attracted to the impersonal Brahman but they are not offensive to the Lord’s personal form or consider the Lord’s form as material; it’s just they are either ignorant of the personal conception or they are indifferent towards personal conception i.e. not attracted towards they personal form of the Supreme Lord.

Mayavadis on the other hand are so deeply rooted in their impersonal conception that they blaspheme the transcendental form of Supreme Lord, consider it material and temporary and as a tool to go “something beyond” hence they are condemned.

Srimad Bhagavatam gives us two examples, four kumaras and Srila Sukadeva Goswami who were Brahmavadis and later became devotees.

Four Kumaras already knew about Lord Visnu. They heard about Visnu from Brahmaji and so they wanted to explore and they came to Vaikuntha. Thus, they knew about Lord Visnu, had no offensive attitude towards Visnu; it was just that they were not attracted towards Visnu. But when the fragrance of Tulsi offered on Lord’s lotus feet entered their nostrils, it agitated their impersonal conception and they became devotees.

Similarly, when Srila Sukadeva Goswami heard about Krishna from one of the disciples of Srila Vyasadeva, he became attracted and came to Vyasadeva and learned further from him.

People today in pursue of their spiritual goals can become attracted to Impersonal Brahman. This could be because of culture or natural course of spiritual evolution: one can move from form to formless i.e. from matter to spirit. In this way many people can acquire impersonal conception of the ultimate realty. Now that impersonal conception can:

– translate to offensive mentality towards personal conception

– translate to ignorance of the personal conception

– be indifferent towards personal conception (i.e. not attracted). For example, Four Kumaras

Out of above three first category is Mayavadis and other two are Brahmavadis. Brahmavadis can be elevated to the personal conception and become devotees when they associate with the devotees. So we should also not put every “Impersonal Brahaman seeker” in the category of Mayavadis. We should try to understand their conception of ultimate reality and if they are Mayavadis then we should stay away from them else we should try to inform them about the personal conception of the Absolute truth and bring them in contact with devotees.

Hope it helps

your servant,

Amala-Purana Das

Bhakta Sunil, 29 December 2015

Hare Krishna

Please accept my humble obeisances

All Glories to Vaishnavas

In reply to your question regarding difference between Brahmavadi and Mayavadi, the following conversation should help


Conversations and Morning Walks

1975 Conversations and Morning Walks

Brahmavādī means those who are aspiring to merge into the impersonal Brahman effulgence. Māyāvādīs remain fools forever. They have no knowledge. Aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ, always impure.

Morning Walk — July 2, 1975, Denver:

Harikeśa: Śrīla Prabhupāda, what’s the difference between a Brahmavādī and a Māyāvādī?

Prabhupāda: That you already questioned. We answered.

Harikeśa: I did?

Prabhupāda: Yes. (break) …vādī means those who are aspiring to merge into the impersonal Brahman effulgence.

Harikeśa: And Māyāvādīs, they do not attain that impersonal realization?

Prabhupāda: Māyāvādīs remain fools forever.

Harikeśa: They never leave this material platform.

Prabhupāda: They do not know. They have no knowledge. Aviśuddha-buddhayaḥ (SB 10.2.32), always impure. Otherwise how they are thinking, so ‘ham: “I am same. I am God. I am moving the sun, I am…” Such rascals, they remain always in ignorance. (break) …no sense that “If I am the same, then why I have fallen down in this māyā?” They say, “It is my līlā. I have become dog. So it is my līlā. I have become hog. It is my līlā.” (laughs) This is their philosophy. Hare Kṛṣṇa. (break) Māyāvāda. They are fools, mūḍha. Māyayāpahṛta-jñānā. They are described in the Bhagavad-gītā. Māyāvādī means māyayāpahṛta-jñānā: “Their knowledge has been taken away by māyā.” Fools. Either you call them fool or call them lowest of the mankind or the most sinful, whatever way you can call, they are like that. All good qualifications. Therefore Caitanya Mahāprabhu has warned, māyāvādī-bhāṣya śunile haya sarva-nāśa: (CC Madhya 6.169) “If you hear from Māyāvādī, then your spiritual life is finished.” It’s so dangerous.

Harikeśa: The Brahmavādīs have some possibility of advancement?

Prabhupāda: Oh, yes.

Harikeśa: What is that thing that enables them to advance?

Prabhupāda: That you will know later on. First of all try to understand this. Don’t try to understand everything in a moment. That is foolishness.


Regarding second question, the following lectures should help :


Lecture on BG 4.24-34 — New York, August 12, 1966: 

So anyway, either the Brahmavādī or Paramātmavādī or the bhakta, they are all tattva-vit. They are all transcendentalists. There is no difference. But as there are three classes in every sphere, so there are three classes in the transcendental field also. So here Bhagavad-gītā, the Lord recommends that jñāninas tattva-darśinaḥ (BG 4.34). You have to find out a person who is tattva-darśī, who has realized the Absolute Truth, either in Brahman conception or in Paramātmā conception or in Personality of Godhead conception because we have got different tastes. So the Paramātmā or the Supreme Absolute Truth is also manifested in three phases: Brahman, Paramātmā, Bhagavān. So anyway, either you select the impersonal Brahman conception of the Absolute Truth, either you select the localized supreme soul, Supersoul conception of the Absolute Truth, or you accept the highest, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat kiñcid asti dhanañjaya (BG 7.7). The Lord says that “This is the last phase of Absolute Truth, what I am, Kṛṣṇa.”

Lecture on BG 4.34 — New York, August 14, 1966: 

And even in that knowledge field also… Of course, transcendental knowledge, as we have discussed already, they are viewed in different, three different angles of vision: the knowledge of Brahmavāda, or impersonal, impersonal Absolute Truth, and the knowledge of Paramātmā, the localized Supersoul, and the knowledge of Bhagavān, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There are different stages of development of knowledge. But the first beginning knowledge is that we must understand that “I am not this body. I am spirit soul, and my aim of life should be how to get out of this material entanglement.” That is knowledge. That is the beginning of knowledge.



Bhakta Sunil

Dra Varni, 04 January 2016

thank you  Hare Krsna!!

Dra Varni

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What is the position of the Impersonalist in the spiritual world?

What is the position of the impersonalist in the material world? Is their position impermanent? Why can they not enter the spiritual world?

Suzanne Inwood, 25 June 2019

Hare Krishna

Dear Devotees,

I have a question regarding the following found in Srila Prabhupada’s book Beyond Birth and Death Chapter 2:

The impersonalist’s position in the spiritual world is nonpermanent, for out of loneliness he will attempt to acquire some association. Because he does not associate personally with the Supreme Lord, he has to return again to the world and associate with conditioned living entities there.

It is of utmost importance, therefore, that we know the nature of our constitutional position: we want eternity, complete knowledge, and also pleasure. When we are left alone for a long time in the impersonal brahmajyoti, we cannot have pleasure, and therefore we accept the pleasure given by the material world. But in Krṣṇa consciousness, real pleasure is enjoyed.

Here are my questions:

If a spark in brahmajyoti gets lonely and desires association why does this spark have to go back to the material world INSTEAD of, through begging Krishna for direct association progress from there into a loving relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead? 

If one has become part of the sunshine can one not then progress to the sun?   

Can the impersonalist realize while sitting as a spark in the effulgence that he wants association with Krishna and not with material associates in the material world?

Can he realize he wants Krishna instead of only the effulgence of Krishna’s body and then get to go to Krishna? Can the spark awaken to the servant position while sitting as a spark in the effulgence?

Thank you for reading.

Bhaktin Suzanne

Rakesh, 25 June 2019

Hare Krsna Mataji

Please accept my humble obeisances.

As far as I know, those souls which have gone to Brahma Jyoti have not started their Bhakti process, else they wouldn’t have decided to go to Brahma Jyoti in the first place.

They can go to Spiritual world, if, by inconceivable arrangement of Krsna, they get association of devotees or mercy of devotees or Krsna.

The four Kumaras were on Brahma Jyoti platform but when they smelt the fragrance of Tulasi Mahrani placed at the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu, they tasted the higher pleasure of Bhakti and became devotees.

Hope this helps.

your servant


Tapas Chakraborty, 25 June 2019

Hare Krishna

All glories to Srila Prabhupada

The impersonalists and personalist  both can accomplish liberation from the materialistic world but following different paths.

The impersonalists follows the path of yoga such as jnana, hatha, Kriya etc which is very difficult and full of austerity whereas the personalist follows the Path of Bhakti yoga.

The difference between them is that  Impersonalists don’t accept the separate existence of Lord but the personalist accepts the Lord.

The path of impersonalists is called Pantheism.

The personalists believe in whatever they see in this  world is the manifestation of the Supreme Lord therefore everything should be engaged in the service of Lord. They not only thrive for their personal liberation but for all.

As the impersonalists chose not the path of Lord for liberation, hence they cannot enter the higher Planets where Lord resides rather they find the place in Brahmajyoti- the spiritual sky. Since they do not recognize Krishna, hence after liberation they cannot embrace Krishna consciousness.


Shreyas, 25 June 2019

Hare Krishna Mataji,

Please accept my humble obeisance.

Thank you for engaging us with more and more genuine inquiries. You are indeed starting to take full benefit of these groups.

As stated by Bhakta Rakesh, it is only by Lord’s inconceivable arrangement or association of a pure devotee that even such a person can get transformed to accept Lord’s personal form. Srila Prabhupada and his followers have already done many.

The famous verse below also answers a part of your query as to why a person in Brahmajyoti doesn’t attain the personal association of Lord from there directly:


your servant

Shridhar das

Suzanne Inwood, 26 June 2019

Thank you for your response


Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 13 September 2019

Hare Krishna! Thank you so much for all these lively discussions! This is what I live for! 🙂 And when we started this group in 2011, this is what we had in mind. We welcome thoughtful questions from those looking to get closer to Krishna, and we welcome thoughtful and considerate answers that maintain fidelity to our disciplic succession starting from Krishna and flowing through Srila Prabhupada to Srila Gurudeva and ourselves.

Some items to note:

1. Impersonalists are of 2 kinds “Mayavadi” and “Brahmavadi”.

2. The “Mayavadi” is actually inimical and envious of Krishna the Person. They aim to use Krishna as a ladder to become Krishna themselves. Therefore, it is unlikely they will suddenly develop an impetus to serve Krishna. Remember, only the pure servitor gets pure service, because the impure/envious “servitor” is a disturbance to the pure devotee.

3. The “Brahmavadi” does not bear envy towards God, but doesn’t have personal experience of a Personal God. The 4 kumaas mentioned earlier in this thread are in this category… when they got a personal experience of the Lord by smelling the fragrance of the Tulasi leaf and sandalwood paste offered to the Lotus Feet of the Lord then they became devotees… But important to note that the pure devotees they ended up cursing got an even higher and more intimate benediction to serve the Lord personally even through their own defamation… Everyone loves to hate Ravana/Kumbhakarna and Hiranyakashipu/Hiranyaksha and Shishupala/Dantavakra… but actually they are so amazing as devotees, that Jaya and Vijaya don’t mind their infamy as those demons. They got to rise higher and be more intimate (how intimate is a wrestling match) than their servant-status would otherwise permit them to!

4. Because on the impersonal effulgence platform “sat”, there is no sense of knowledge or bliss, there is just the sense of eternity. On the Paramatma platform there is “chit” knowledge, and only on the Bhagavan platform there is “ananda” bliss. In Brahman, there is no variegatedness, no service, no experience, just a sense of eternal oneness, and it is actually pretty boring up there. There’s only so much “om” anyone can take, you need to progress to “om namo bhagavate vasudevaaya” which is beyond Brahman.

5. In the hierarchy of pure Love of God, there being 5 shanta – neutral, dasya – servitude, sakhya – friendship, vatsalya – parental affection, madhurya – conjugal mood… “servant” is higher than “neutral” – an impersonalist is most likely to adopt a mood of neutrality (“I know You are God, I respect You, but I’m fine way over here in this corner of the spiritual world”) rather than progressing to servant (“How can I serve you, how can I serve you, my dear Lord how can I serve you”), but of course such progress is dependent on their eternal identity and/or causeless mercy as pointed out before. In the spiritual world even the pebbles are conscious, the trees and grass are fully conscious. They don’t actively serve Krishna, but they do experience the bliss of service when Krishna steps on a pebble (the pebble melts in sheer ecstasy) or when the grass gets a speck of dust from Krishna’s lotus foot (the grass wears the dust as a brilliant ornament) or when Krishna takes a flower or fruit for Himself or more likely a servant of a servant picks such a thing for Krishna’s pleasure (then the tree experiences great pleasure). But once in the spiritual world a jiva can adopt the mood that will give Krishna the most pleasure, the jiva doesn’t care about his own pleasure at that point, only Krishna’s pleasure – that is purity.

5. Srila Prabhupada says that even the most neophyte devotee has surpassed the Brahman and Paramatma realizations, so yes, every devotee is already sitting “in the effulgence” at every moment, that is why genuine devotees, no matter how insignificant, are always so happy, because they are experiencing “sat” eternal “chit” knowledge and feeling “ananda” bliss. I have had personal experience – I go out on the street or knock on people’s doors trying to get them to reconnect with Krishna. Many do, they take books, give donations, and chant Hare Krishna. Many who chant Hare Krishna – often for the first time in their lives, burst out crying or become emotional for reasons no one knows. To experience the Hare Krishna Mahamantra in that way is among the biggest thrills of my life, because it reaffirms how Krishna is in His name. That person just surpassed Brahman and Paramatma realization and experienced Bhagavan consciousness, Krishna consciousness, even if for a brief moment.

I pray this helps.


Mahabhagavat Das

Marc, 19 September 2019

Mahabhagavat Prabhu,

Hare Krishna!

I appreciated your detailed and sometimes humorous response to this question.  This is my question:

Sri Ramakrishna reached his impersonalist experience through an intense devotion to Kali, “Mother” as he often put it.  He experienced states of spontaneous samadhi.  Here is bhakti revealed to be a method to impersonalist experience, that being the highest. 

What do you think of this?  No idle question I would say, given the enormous popularity of Ramakrishna, not only in temples and with seekers and intellectuals but in mainstream Indian society as well, in temples, family activities and camps and such.

Obeisances to Srila Prabhupada

Thank you


Mahabhagavat Das SDA, 19 September 2019

Dear Marc,

Hare Krishna.

Thank you.

Sri Ramakrishna, the guru of Swami Vivekananda, was a “shakta” worshipper. A devotee of the personality of the material energy known as Kali, Durga, etc.

Swami Vivekananda for example was a meat-eater and I have read where he preached that meat-eating was OK for a transcendentalist and in fact was good “concentrated food”. But this diet is in the mode of ignorance, “tamasik”. So that instruction is also in the mode of ignorance.

The word “bhakti” is permissible only in connection with the Supreme Absolute Transcendence, Sri Krishna.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, such a person connected deeply to a demigod has no experience of the Supreme Absolute Truth while on the platform of demigod worship. https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/7/20/

Bg. 7.20

kāmais tais tair hrta-jñānāḥ
prapadyante ’nya-devatāḥ
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakrtyā niyatāḥ svayā


kāmaiḥ — by desires; taiḥ taiḥ — various; hrta — deprived of; jñānāḥ — knowledge; prapadyante — surrender; anya — to other; devatāḥ — demigods; tam tam — corresponding; niyamam — regulations; āsthāya — following; prakrtyā — by nature; niyatāḥ — controlled; svayā — by their own.


Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.


Sri Krishna is our authority. We don’t go by someone’s popularity or fame.


Mahabhagavat Das

Marc, 19 September 2019

Dear Mahabhagavat Prabhu

Thank you for your reply which I will reflect and read upon further.

Hare Krishna!


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