Sri Vallabhacharya - his life & Philosophy of Suddhadvaita
Sri Vallabhacharya founded Pushti sect of Vaishnavism and the philosophy of Shuddha advaita (Pure Non-dualism). He was born to Telugu priest. His family had been living in Varanasi, who escaped to the Champaran of Chhattisgarh state, during the Hindu-Muslim conflicts in the late 15th century. Vallabha was born near Raipur, Chhattisgarh. He studied the Vedas and the Upanishads as a child and became one of the important leaders of the devotional Bhakti movement. He lived during 1479-1532. He wrote commentaries on Brahm Sutra & Bhagavata Purana and Shodash Granth.
After a short stay at Champaranya, Raipur, his parents returned Varanasi. At his age of eleven years, his father passed away. Vallabha undertook pilgrimage of the whole India three times lasting for a period of about twenty years. He did another round of pilgrimage, visiting Vijayanagar, Pandrapur, Gujarat, Vraja Bhumi and Himalayan pilgrimage centers.
Setting-up of Pushti Sampradaya & Nathdwara Temple:
Vraja Bhumi was especially dear to Vallabha where he established Sampradaya of Pushti-Marga which spread in western Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. During 1500-02, while camping at Gokula, an image of Sri Krishna in the pose of lifting the Goverdhana Hill (Goverdhannathji) emerged out of a cave in a hill. Vallabha offered worship and built a small temple. The image was later shifted to a big temple built by a rich merchant named Purnamall. He did third round of pilgrimage which ended with his marriage. Shortly after Vallabha’s demise, when his son Vittalanatha was the leader of the sect. Since the temple of Goverdhannathji came under threat of Muslim invaders, the image was then removed to Nathdwara, Udaipur Rajasthan.
Importance of Bhagvata Purana:
Unlike Shankara system in which the Upanishads or Jnana-Kanda alone is taken seriously, Vallabha accepted all scriptures like the Vedas, Smiriti, Mahabharata, Gita, Pancaratra and Purana. In practice, however, it is Bhagvata Purana that is mainstay of the school. He expressed that the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Bhagavad Gita and the Bhagvata Purana are progressive expositions of the revealed truth. His school accepted the Bhagvata Purana as its main scripture and Sri Krishna, both as the Supreme Being (Purushottama) and the Absolute Being. His preaching to the masses consisted generally in exposition of the Bhagavad Purana. Wherever he travelled he held Bhagavad-Saptahas for seven days.
Philosophy of Suddhadvaita:
Suddhadvaita means pure Non-dualism. Vallabha critically examined the Shankara’s Advaita system and explained as under:
Concept of Maya & Cause of World:
Shankaracharya’s Advaita - Brahman is Sat-Chit-Ananda. It means truth is unalloyed and there can be no touch of illusion or falsity in Him. Adi Shankaracharya pointed out that Brahman has to invoke Maya. Maya therefore, can be His real power, producing real effects and not false appearance.
Vallabha’s Suddhadvaita – Vallabha contended that Maya can either be internal or external to Brahman. If Maya is conceived as within Him, it means the real power and related to Him in attributes, which will make Brahman a qualified entity (Savisesa). Then the thesis that Brahman is Nirvisesa (attribute-less) will have to be given up. If on the other hand, Maya is conceived as outside of Him, it becomes a dual category just like Prakriti. Then, Dualism will be resulted.
Non-dualism Brahman is accepted as the cause of it. There are two kinds of causes involved in the production of a thing. One is the material cause (Upadana) and other is the instrumental cause (Nimitta).
Vallabha propounded the Philosophy of Suddhadvaita (pure Non-Dualism), purity consisting in that it does not accept Maya, a principle of illusion that has necessarily got to be conceived as outside Brahman.
The Supreme Brahman has its immediate emanation in Aksara. Emanation means presentation with the concealment of essential nature in some respects. Aksara is Sat-Chit-Ananda, with Ananda aspect considerably concealed and lesser in attributes to the Supreme Brahman. The Aksara is the Impersonal Being. So, Supreme Brahman or Sri Krishna is Personal and Aksara is Impersonal; as against, the Supreme Brahman (Para Brahman) is Impersonal and Apara Brahman (lower Brahman) is Personal in Shankara’s system. The impersonal Aksara is the source of the Jivas and the world of matter. Jivas are countless in number and comes out of the Aksara like sparks of fire, with Ananda attribute is concealed owing to ignorance. Ananda attribute is restored in liberation. Jiva is a part of Brahman and not a reflection.
The Jiva, owing to Avidya, or ignorance generated by desires and attachments, makes a wrong and perverse evaluation of the world, taking an ego-centric, or self-centered view of what is really is God’s playful manifestation. Thus Avidya generates Samsara and not the world. When the Jiva changes its outlook and becomes God-centric, it is released and attain to fellowship with God. It ends Jiva’s Samsara, not God’s world.
Attributes of Jiva & Matter-Doctrine of manifestation and concealment
Vallabha explained about the attributes of Jiva and Nature by doctrine of manifestation (Avirbhava) and concealment (Tirobahva). Brahman manifested or concealed His attributes of Ananda and Chaitanya partly or entirely, and presenting Himself as lesser categories.
Brahman or Purusottama or Krishna is as Sat-Chit-Ananda (existence-Consciousness-Bliss) in the fullest manifestation of all these attributes. When Ananda is completely concealed, the Jiva category of individual centers of consciousness comes into being. Jiva has Sat and Chit and is devoid of Ananda. When both Ananda and Chit are completely concealed, we get matter or Nature, which is only ‘Sat’. All these manifestations are the very Brahman, wherein His higher nature is only concealed and not destroyed or sublated. Prayer, worship, and other disciplines and above all, loving service without any motive, are the ways of invoking the Divine will to manifest the concealed Chaitanya and Ananda nature.
Vallaba admitted that Jiva has an element of super-imposition in its outlook and view the world colored and distorted by Avidya, being eg-centric. Avidya has its location in the Jiva and in no sense in the Isvara. Unlike Avidya in Shankara’s system, its function is not the generation the world, but imposing a wrong angle of vision. The ego-centric view of the world and life in it is Samsara; to attain to the God-centric view is release.
Reference: Bhakti Schools of Vedanta – by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.