The philosophy of Sri Vallabhacharya is Suddha-Advaita or pure monism, because he does not admit Maya like Sankara, and believes that the whole world of matter and souls is real and is only a subtle form of God. Those who bring Maya for the explanation of the world are not pure Advaitins, because they admit a second to Brahman. Vallabha holds that Brahman can create the world without any connection with such a principle as Maya, but Sankara traces the universe to Brahman through the power of Maya. Hence the philosophy of Vallabha is called pure monism or Suddhadvaita. Vallabha expounded that system in the Anu-Bhashya, his commentary on the Brahma Sutras. He called it Suddha-Advaita or pure monism as against Sankara’s Kevala Advaita and Ramanuja’s Visishta-Advaita. Vallabha was a Telugu Brahmin of South India. He migrated to the north and developed the views of Vishnuswamin who belonged to the thirteenth century. His system of thought is known by the name Brahma-Vada.
Vallabha says that the entire universe is real and is subtly Brahman. The individual souls and the world are, in essence, one with Brahman. Jiva, Kala (time) and Prakriti or Maya are eternal existences, but they have no separate existence apart from Brahman.
Vallabha was a great Sanskrit scholar. He settled down first at Mathura and then at Varanasi. He preached with great zeal the Vaishnava cult and philosophy. He was the founder of the great Vaishnava Mutts of Rajasthan and Gujarat. His followers are found in great numbers in Nathdwara.
Important Works of Vallabha
Vallabha accepts the authority not only of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad-Gita and the Brahma Sutras, but also of the Bhagavata Purana. The important works of Vallabha are Vyasa-Sutra Bhashya (Anu-Bhashya), Jaimini Sutra Bhashya, Bhagavata-Tika Subodhini, Pushti-Pravaha-Maryada and Siddhanta-Rahasya. All these books are in Sanskrit. He has written many books in Braj Bhasha also. The scriptures are the final authority for Vallabha.
Stress on Worship and Grace
Vallabha’s religion is a religion addressed to the worship of Vishnu in the form of Krishna. It was derived chiefly, like the system of Chaitanya, from the Vaishnava philosophy propounded by Ramanuja. It is centred round the conception of a personal and beneficent God who is Sat-Chit-Ananda. Lord Krishna is the highest Brahman. His body consists of Sat-Chit-Ananda. He is called Purushottama.
God—The Only Being
According to Vallabha, God is the Absolute or the Purushottama. He is perfect. He is Sat-Chit-Ananda. He is infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. He has all the auspicious qualities also. The Sruti texts which say that He has no attributes, mean only that He has not the ordinary qualities.
God is real. There is no other reality besides Him. He is the only Being. He is the source for this universe and all souls. He is the first cause and the only cause. God is the material as well as the efficient cause of the universe. He creates the world by the mere force of His Will. Brahman manifests Himself, of His own Will, as the universe and the individual souls, but He does not undergo any change in His essential nature. Things come out of the Akshara (Sat-Chit-Ananda), like sparks from fire. Brahman is the Creator of the world. He is also the world itself.
God is personified as Krishna, when He possesses the qualities of wisdom and action. He appears in various forms to please His devotees.
The World Of Nature And The World Of False Relations
Creation is manifestation of Brahman. The universe is the effect of Brahman. The universe is as eternal and real as Brahman Himself. The inanimate universe is filled with Brahman. The world is not an illusory appearance. It is not different from Brahman in essence.
Jagat is the world of Nature. It is not illusory. It is real. It is God Himself in one form. But, the Samsara or temporal involvement is illusory. This is created by the soul around its ‘I-ness’ and ‘mine-ness’. The separation from God on account of egoism makes the soul forget its original, true, divine nature. Samsara is a product of the soul’s imagination and action which play round its ‘I-ness’ and ‘mine-ness’. On account of its selfishness, it puts itself in wrong relations with other souls and with the objective universe. It creates a web of its own and gets itself entangled in it. This is an illusion, because the web has no reality. This Samsara, the world of false relations created by the soul, is alone Maya. Samsara or Maya rises because the soul, which is not apart from God, tries to set itself up as an independent reality or entity in its own right. The self which is something apart from God is illusory. Its body is illusory and its world also is illusory. All this is Samsara. It is very different from the world of Nature.
Jiva And Brahman
Analogy of the Spark and the Fire
The Jivas are not effects. They are Amsas or parts of God. They issue from Him spontaneously as sparks from fire. Brahman is the whole. The Jiva or the individual soul is part; but, there is no real difference between Brahman and the individual soul, because the individual soul is of identical essence with Brahman.(According to Ramanuja, the parts are really different from the whole.) The soul is one with Brahman. It is as real and eternal as Brahman.
The individual soul is not Brahman screened by the veil of Avidya. It is itself Brahman, with the attribute ‘bliss’ being obscured or suppressed. Ananda or bliss is suppressed or obscured in the individual soul. Ananda and consciousness are suppressed or obscured in matter or the inanimate world. When the soul attains bliss, and the inanimate world attains both consciousness and bliss, the difference between Brahman and these vanishes.
The soul is both a doer and an enjoyer. It is atomic in size, but it pervades the whole body by its quality of intelligence, just as sandalwood pervades even the places where it does not exist by its sweet fragrance and just as a lamp, though confined only to a part of a room, illuminates the whole room.
Classification Of Souls
There are three kinds of souls: (i) The pure (Suddha) Jivas. The divine qualities (Aisvarya) are not obscured in these souls by ignorance. (ii) The worldly Jivas (Samsarin). These souls are caught in the net or clutches of Avidya or ignorance. They experience births and deaths on account of their connection with gross and subtle bodies. (iii) Mukta Jivas or liberated souls. These souls are freed from the bonds of Samsara through Vidya or Knowledge. When the soul attains the final emancipation, it recovers its suppressed qualities and becomes one with God or Brahman. The world appears as Brahman to one who has realised the Truth or Brahman.
There is another classification of souls, viz., Pushti souls, Maryada souls and Pravahika souls. All these are different from one another in their origin, nature and final end. They all issue from God with their differences.
The Pushti souls are the highest, as they issue from the Ananda-Kaya or the bliss-body of God. These souls are the Amsa (parts) of His body. God is the Amsi (the whole). These are the souls of grace. They have the divine seed in them which bears fruit in the end. They ultimately reach the goal through the grace of the Lord. They have communion and fellowship with Lord Krishna. They develop Bhakti through the grace of the Lord. Bhakti is the means and the end in itself.
The Maryada souls are generated from the Vak or the Word of God. They are governed by law, not by grace. They perform their ritualistic duties, at first with selfish interests. Later on, they develop Nishkama-Bhava (unselfish attitude) and do their ritualistic routine without any self-interest. This purifies their mind. They reach the Akshara, which is a kind of vestibule to the abode of God. Afterwards they attain the supreme abode of God.
The Pravahika souls issue from the mind of God. They are the Samsaric Jivas. They are souls neither of grace nor of law. They are in continuous motion (Pravaha).
These three kinds of souls have further sub-divisions and cross-divisions into Pushti-Pushti, Pushti-Maryada, Pushti-Pravahika, Maryada-Maryada, Maryada-Pushti, Maryada-Pravahika, Pravahika-Pravahika, Pravahika-Pushti and Pravahika-Maryada.
Pushti Marga Or The Way Of Grace
The way of life and salvation, preached by Vallabha is called Pushti Marga. The soul of man has become weak and lean on account of sin. It is, therefore, in dire need of the grace of God for its upliftment and emancipation. God’s grace gives Pushti (nourishment) and Poshana (strength); and hence the name Pushti Marga or the Way of Grace.
The individual soul can attain the final emancipation only through the grace of God. Bhakti is the chief means of salvation. Jnana is useful. Maha Pushti or the highest grace removes great obstacles and helps in the attainment of God. The Bhakti generated by special grace is known as Pushti Bhakti.
The Four Kinds of Bhakti
This Pushti-Bhakti is of four kinds: (i) Pravaha Pushti-Bhakti, (ii) Maryada Pushti-Bhakti, (iii) Pushti Pushti-Bhakti and (iv) Suddha Pushti-Bhakti. Pravaha Bhakti is the path of those who while leading the worldly life, perform works which will lead to the attainment of God-realisation. Worldly life is compared to the flow of a river (Pravaha). Maryada Bhakti is the path of those who are rendered fit to attain knowledge which is useful for worship, through the grace of the Lord. They know all about the ways of God. They depend upon their own efforts to obtain knowledge. In Pushti Bhakti, the devotees lead a life of self-restraint. They hear discourses about the Lord. They do Kirtana and sing His Name. They do Japa of Mantra.
Suddha Pushti-Bhakti or the Purest Type of Devotion
In Suddha Pushti-Bhakti, the devotees do Kirtana and sing the Lord’s Name. They praise God. They develop a strong passion for doing these. This kind of devotion is generated by the Lord Himself. The Lord’s grace descends on the devotees. Then they develop a liking for God. This liking grows into Prema Bhakti (taste for God). The devotees acquire knowledge about God. Then they get attachment to God (Asakti). Then they develop a strong passion for attaining God. This is the ripe condition of love and Asakti. It is called Vyasana. This strong passion, or Vyasana, leads to the attainment of the highest bliss, the summum bonum or the end.
When love for Sri Krishna becomes intense, the devotee sees Lord Krishna everywhere. Hence everything becomes an object of love for him. He identifies himself with everything. The Gopis had this experience. They saw Krishna everywhere. They saw themselves also as Krishna. This is Para Bhakti or supreme devotion which becomes akin to the knowledge or Brahman-Jnana of the Vedantins or Jnanins. The inner and outer world is full of Krishna or Purushottama for such devotees. The fruit of this devotion is admission to the eternal sports or Lilas of Sri Krishna.
The supreme goal is not Mukti or emancipation. The highest goal is eternal service of Lord Krishna and participation in His sports in the celestial Vrindavana. Those who have developed Vyasana, or strong passion for God, reject with scorn the four kinds of Mukti. The Maryada-Bhaktas attain Sayujya Mukti, i.e., they become one with Sri Krishna. The Pushti-Bhaktas reject Mukti and take part in the sports or Lilas of Sri Krishna. They choose with intense delight the eternal service of Sri Krishna. The Bhaktas assume the forms of cows, birds, trees and rivers and enjoy the company of Sri Krishna, which bestows infinite joy. These sports are similar to those which Sri Krishna did in Vraja and Vrindavana. Some of the devotees become Gopas and Gopis and join the sports in the celestial Vrindavana.
Different Kinds of Liberated Souls
The liberated souls are of different kinds. Some have freed themselves like Sanaka. Some dwell in the city of God and attain salvation through the grace of the Lord. Some others develop perfect love and become the associates of God. (Excerpt from “All About Hinduism” by Yogi Sri Swami Sivananda)