Monism or Dualism | Advaita or Dvaita
Monism and Dualism
When the Great Being is seen as both the higher and the lower, then the knot of the heart is rent asunder, all doubts are dispelled and karma is destroyed.
Atharva Veda, Muṇḍaka Upanishad 2.2.8. eh, 170
What Are the Many Hindu Philosophies?
From time immemorial, India’s sages and philosophers have pondered the nature of reality. Out of their speculations have blossomed hundreds of schools of thought, all evolving from the rich soil of village Hinduism. Aum.
At one end of Hinduism’s complex spectrum is monism, Advaita, which perceives a unity of God, soul and world, as in Śankara’s acosmic pantheism and Kashmīr Śaiva monism.
At the other end is dualism, dvaita—exemplified by Madhva and the early Pāśupatas—which teaches two or more separate realities.
In between are views describing reality as one and yet not one, dvaita-advaita, such as Rāmānuja’s Vaishnava Vedanta and Srikantha’s Śaiva Viśishṭādvaita.
Hindu philosophy consists of many schools of Vedic and Āgamic thought, including the six classical darśanas—Nyāya, Vaiśeṣikā, Sānkhya, Yoga, Mimāṅsā and Vedanta.
Each theology expresses the quest for God and is influenced by the myth, mystery and cultural syncretism of contemporary, tribal, shamanic Hinduism alive in every village in every age.
India also produced views, called nāstika, that reject the Vedas and are thus not part of Hinduism, such as Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Chārvāka materialistic atheism.
The Vedas state:
“Theologians ask: What is the cause? Is it Brāhma? Whence are we born? Whereby do we live? And on what are we established?” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
Followers of a Śaivite lineage, a Vaiṣṇavite heritage and the Sikh tradition assemble at an outdoor pavilion. Though their paths and philosophies differ, they live in harmony and mutual respect.
How Do Monism and Dualism Differ?
To most monists, God is immanent, temporal, becoming. He is creation itself, material cause, but not efficient cause.
To most dualists, God is transcendent, eternal, Creator—efficient cause but not material cause. Aum.
To explain creation, philosophers speak of three kinds of causes: efficient, instrumental and material.
These are likened to a potter’s molding a pot from clay. The potter, who makes the process happen, is the efficient cause. The wheel he uses to spin and mold the pot is the instrumental cause, thought of as God’s power, or śakti. The clay is the material cause.
Theistic dualists believe in God as Lord and Creator, but He remains ever separate from man and the world and is not the material cause.
Among the notable dualists have been Kapila, Madhva, Meykandar, Chaitanya, Aristotle, Augustine, Kant and virtually all Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians.
The most prevalent monism is pantheism, “all is God,” and its views do not permit of a God who is Lord and Creator. He is immanent, temporal—material cause but not efficient cause.
History’s pantheists include Śankara, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Plotinus, the Stoics, Spinoza and Aśvaghosha.
The Vedas proclaim:
“As a thousand sparks from a fire well blazing spring forth, each one like the rest, so from the Imperishable all kinds of beings come forth, my dear, and to Him return.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
In philosophy, a pot, like cosmic creation, has three causes: material (clay or brass); instrumental (the potter’s wheel) and efficient (the craftsman). For monistic theists, God is all three.
Are Monism and Dualism Reconcilable?
Monists, from their mountaintop perspective, perceive a one reality in all things. Dualists, from the foothills, see God, souls and world as eternally separate. Monistic theism is the perfect reconciliation of these two views. Aum.
Visualize a mountain and the path leading to its icy summit. As the climber traverses the lower ranges, he sees the meadows, the passes, the giant boulders. This we can liken to dualism, the natural, theistic state where God and man are different.
Reaching the summit, the climber sees that the many parts are actually a one mountain. This realization is likened to pure monism.
Unfortunately, many monists, reaching the summit, teach a denial of the foothills they themselves climbed on the way to their monistic platform.
However, by going a little higher, lifting the kundalini into the space above the mountain’s peak, the entire Truth is known. The bottom and the top are viewed as a one whole, just as theism and monism are accepted by the awakened soul.
Monistic theism, Advaita Īśvaravāda, reconciles the dichotomy of being and becoming, the apparent contradiction of God’s eternality and temporal activity, the confusion of good and evil, the impasse of one and two.
The Vedas affirm:
“He who knows this becomes a knower of the One and of duality, he who has attained to the oneness of the One, to the self-same nature.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
A reflective saint has reached, through yoga, a mountaintop consciousness which reconciles the differing views of monism and theism. His state of grace is blessed by Śiva, who wraps a garland around his head, and Śaktī, who holds him in Her lap.
What Is the View of Monistic Theism?
Monistic theism is the synthesis of monism and dualism. It says God is transcendent and immanent, eternal and temporal, Being and becoming, Creator and created, Absolute and relative, efficient and material cause. Aum.
Both strict monism and dualism are fatally flawed, for neither alone encompasses the whole of truth.
In other words, it is not a choice between the God-is-man-and-world view of pantheistic monism and the God-is-separate-from-man-and- world view of theistic dualism. It is both.
Panentheism, which describes “all in God, and God in all,” and monistic theism are Western terms for Advaita Īśvaravāda. It is the view that embraces the oneness of God and soul, monism, and the reality of the Personal God, theism.
As panentheists, we believe in an eternal oneness of God and man at the level of Satchidānanda and Paraśiva. But a difference is acknowledged during the evolution of the soul body.
Ultimately, even this difference merges in identity. Thus, there is perfectly beginningless oneness and a temporary difference which resolves itself in perfect identity. In the acceptance of this identity, monistic theists differ from most viśishṭādvaitins.
The Vedas declare:
“He moves and He moves not; He is far, yet is near. He is within all that is, yet is also outside. The man who sees all beings in the Self and the Self in all beings is free from all fear.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
Is Monistic Theism Found in the Vedas?
Again and again in the Vedas and from satgurus we hear “Aham Brahmāsmi,” “I am God,” and that God is both immanent and transcendent. Taken together, these are clear statements of monistic theism. Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
Monistic theism is the philosophy of the Vedas. Scholars have long noted that the Hindu scriptures are alternately monistic, describing the oneness of the individual soul and God, and theistic, describing the reality of the Personal God.
One cannot read the Vedas, Śaiva Āgamas and hymns of the saints without being overwhelmed with theism as well as monism.
Monistic theism is the essential teaching of Hinduism, of Śaivism. It is the conclusion of Tirumular, Vasugupta, Gorakshanātha, Bhāskara, Srikantha, Basavanna, Vallabha, Rāmakrishna, Yogaswami, Nityānanda, Radhakrishnan and thousands of others.
It encompasses both Siddhāṅta and Vedanta. It says: God is and is in all things. It propounds the hopeful, glorious, exultant concept that every soul will finally merge with Śiva in undifferentiated oneness, none left to suffer forever because of human transgression.
The Vedas wisely proclaim:
“Higher and other than the world-tree, time and forms is He from whom this expanse proceeds —the bringer of dharma, the remover of evil, the lord of prosperity. Know Him as in one’s own Self, as the immortal abode of all.” Om Namaḥ Śivāya.
There is on Earth no diversity. He gets death after death who perceives here seeming diversity. As a unity only is It to be looked upon—this indemonstrable, enduring Being, spotless, beyond space, the unborn Soul, great, enduring.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.19-20. uph, 143
Contemplating Him who has neither beginning, middle, nor end— the One, the all-pervading, who is wisdom and bliss, the formless, the wonderful, whose consort is Umā, the highest Lord, the ruler, having three eyes and a blue throat, the peaceful—the silent sage reaches the source of Being, the universal witness, on the other shore of darkness.
Atharva Veda, Kaivalya Upanishad 7. ve, 764
Where there is duality, there one sees another, one smells another, one tastes another, one speaks to another, one hears another, one knows another.
But where everything has become one’s own Self, with what should one see whom, with what should one smell whom, with what should one taste whom, with what should one speak to whom, with what should one hear whom, with what should one think of whom, with what should one touch whom, with what should one know whom? How can He be known by whom all this is made known?
Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad 4.5.15. ve, 420-21
Into deep darkness fall those who follow the immanent. Into deeper darkness fall those who follow the transcendent. One is the outcome of the transcendent and another is the outcome of the immanent. Thus have we heard from the ancient sages who explained this truth to us.
He who knows both the transcendent and the immanent, with the immanent overcomes death and with the transcendent reaches immortality.
Śukla Yajur Veda, Īśa Upaniṣad 12-14. upm, 49-50
Than whom there is naught else higher, than whom there is naught smaller, naught greater, the One stands like a tree established in heaven. By Him, the Person, is this whole universe filled.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upanishad 3.9. upr, 727
Even as water becomes one with water, fire with fire, and air with air, so the mind becomes one with the Infinite Mind and thus attains final freedom.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upaniṣad 6.34.11. tu, 103
One who is established in the contemplation of non-dual unity will abide in the Self of everyone and realize the immanent, all-pervading One. There is no doubt of this.
Sarvajñānottara Āgama, Ātma Sakshatkara 14. rm, 107
O Six-Faced God! What is the use of putting it in so many words? Multiplicity of form exists only in the self, and the forms are externalized by the confused mind. They are objectively created simultaneously with thoughts of them.
Sarvajñānottara Āgama, Ātma Sakshatkara 20-21. rm, 107
The luminous Being of the perfect I-consciousness, inherent in the multitude of words, whose essence consists in the knowledge of the highest non-dualism, is the secret of mantra.
Śiva Sūtras 2.3. ys, 88
I sought Him in terms of I and you. But He who knows not I from you taught me the truth that I indeed am you. And now I talk not of I and you.
Tirumantiram 1441. tm
O thou who pervades all space, both now and hereafter, as the Soul of souls! The Vedas, Āgamas, Purāṇas, Itihāsas and all other sciences inculcate fully the tenet of non-duality.
It is the inexplicable duality that leads to the knowledge of non-duality. This is consonant with reason, experience, tradition, and is admitted by the dualists and non-dualists.
Tayumanavar, 10.3. pt, 44
When the Vedas and Āgamas all proclaim that the whole world is filled with God and that there is nothing else, how can we say that the world exists and the body exists? Is there anything more worthy of reproach than to attribute an independent reality to them?
Everything is His doing—He who never forgets, He who does nothing while doing everything, He who acts without acting. Love is Śiva. Love is you. Love is I. Love is everything. “All speech is silence. All activity is silence. All is the fullness of blessed silence” [Tayumanuvar].
Natchintanai, Letter 2. NT, 16