Madhva’s Dvaita Philosophy
Madhvacharya’s philosophy differs from the upanishads, which teach that God and the individual soul are the same. Madhva taught that matter, the individual soul and God were completely different. His school of thought is known as sad-vaishnavism.
Madhva was born in a poor Brahmin family in a village in Karnataka. In his childhood, he studied vedanta in a monastery. Madhva’s interests were not limited to spirituality alone. He also took part in wrestling, weight lifting and musical activities. His physique was dignified and muscular.
Madhva taught a philosophy which came to be called Dvaita. It’s tenets are:
- Vishnu is the main deity.
- Vayu is also worshipped.
- The world is eternal and real. (This differs from Shankara’s view that the world is only an illusion).
- Devotion is a sure means to attain liberation.
- Distinction or absolute difference. Madhva named five real distinctions, which are:
- The difference between God and the individual soul
- Between matter and spirit
- Between one individual soul and another
- Between soul and matter
- Between one type of matter and another
Madhva taught that knowledge can be gained by studying the vedas, and also through inference and perception. The universe is real, and is characterized by diversity and difference. God creates, sustains and destroys the universe. He governs natural and moral laws, removes ignorance and gives enlightenment. He can grant salvation by dissolving the bondage of the cycle of birth and death.
Each soul is unique and individual. One soul is permanently and fundamentally different from another. An unliberated soul may move towards liberation and God by following the righteous path. Or, it may condemn itself to damnation by being evil. If a soul is mediocre, it will continue to rotate in the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Eternal salvation can be attained by following the scriptures, doing good deeds and by devotion to God. When a soul attains salvation, it comes under the eternal care and protection of God. Then, the soul is freed from worldly miseries. It experiences spiritual bliss and basks in divine glory. However, Madhva said that the soul does not merge with God, and retains its individuality.