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Achintya Bheda Bheda in Bhagavatam

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One who has completely fixed his mind on Me should see Me within his own soul and should see the individual soul within Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Thus, he sees the individual souls united with the Supreme Soul, just as one sees the sun's rays completely united with the sun.



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Iv heard alota Hari's use the term 'Achintya Bheda Bheda tattva' but noones been able to explain or translate it properly. I fear majority of the time its neophytes pretending to be clever and know it all.


1) what is the literal translation word for word?

2) whats does it mean?

3) how does it differ from dvaita, etc?


thank you

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... question is whether you seriously want to know the answers to these questions and why intend on passing comments on your idea of "neophytes".


Anyway here's the little i know.


1) Acintya -- inconceivable

bheda -- difference

abheda -- oneness

2) So acintya-bheda-abheda means eternal inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference. It is the description of the Truth of how the Lord is inconceivably one with and different from His creation, the jivas etc. It describes how apparent contradictory features coexist in the Lord without any conflict due to His inconceivable nature. Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur says this about His inconceivable nature:


Babaji: These topics can be understood in isolation from each other, but their relationships are inconceivable. In the material world, because opposite qualities have the inherent tendency to annihilate each other, principles that are mutually opposed cannot be present together at the same place. However, Sri Krsna's sakti has such inconceivable power that in the spiritual world it manifests all the mutually opposing qualities together at the same time and in a very wonderful and beautiful manner. Even though Sri Krsna has the most beautiful form (rupa), He is formless (arupa); He has a transcendental murti (form), but He is present everywhere; He is always active, and yet, being unaffected, He performs no karma; He is the son of Nanda Maharaja, although He is unborn; He is simply a cowherd boy, although He is worshiped by all others; and He has a human-like form and bhäva, although He is omniscient. Similarly, at one and the same time, He possesses all qualities (savisesa), and yet He has no qualities (nirvisesa); He is acintya (inconceivable), and full of rasa; He is both limited and limitless; He is very far away, and very close by; He is unaffected (nirvikara), and yet He is afraid of the mana (sulking mood or apparent anger) of the gopis. How far can we enumerate the infinite variety of Sri Krsna's qualities such as these? They contradict each other, and yet they are eternally and beautifully present without opposition or conflict in His svarupa (form), His abode, and in the various paraphernalia related to Him. This is the inconceivable nature of His sakti.




3) Think about it yourselves. Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana gives ten points of difference between dvaita of Madhvacharya and acintya-bheda-abheda.



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Acintya bheda abheda tattva

The Doctrine of Distinction and Non-Distinction

by Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura

(Sri Chaitanya Siksamrtam, chapter 5)


Every thing in existence is but a transformation of the energy of the Lord. This is the teaching of Sri Chaitanya to the Advaita sanyasis of Kasi.


In his Vedanta sutra, Vyasadeva has described that everything is a transformation of the Lord's energy. Shankaracharya, however, has misled the world by commenting that Vyasadeva was mistaken. Thus Shankaracharya has raised great opposition to theism throughout the entire world.


According to Shankaracharya, by accepting the theory of the transformation of the energy of the Lord one falls into an illusion by indirectly proposing that the Absolute Truth itself is transformed. According to Shankarachaya, the Absolute is formless and impersonal. But it is the Lord's energy which is transformed, not the Lord himself, and the transformation of energy is a proven fact. It is the false bodily conception that the changing body is the self that is an illusion. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of potency and by his inconceivable energies he has transformed the material cosmic manifestation.


Using the example of the touchstone (philosophers stone) which, which by its energy turns iron to gold and yet remains the same, Sri Chaitanya said that although the God transforms his innumerable energies and creates the world he always remains unchanged. Although touchstone produces many varieties of valuable jewels it nevertheless remains the same. It does not change its original form.


When we speak of the Supreme as impersonal, we deny his spiritual potencies. Logically, if you accept half of the truth, you cannot understand the whole.


To Sarvabhauma, Sri Chaitanya said:


Vedanta sutra is the summary of all the Upanisads, therefore whatever direct meaning is there in the Upanisads is also recorded in the Vedanta sutra. For each verse the direct meaning must be accepted without interpretation.


To the sannyasis at Varanasi, Mahaprabhu said:


The Vedic sound vibration omkara(om, or aum), the principle word in the Vedic literatures, is the basis of all the hymns of the Vedas. Therefore one should accept omkara as the sound representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the reservoir of the cosmic manifestation. It is the purpose of the Supreme Personality of Godhead to present pranava as the reservoir of all Vedic knowledge. The words "tat tvam asi" favoured by Shankaracharya are only a partial explanation of the Vedic knowledge. It is pranava that is the mahavakya (supreme statement) in the Vedas. Shankaracharya's followers disregard omkara to stress the mantra "tat tvam asi". Vedanta philosophy consists of words spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Narayana in the form of Vyasadeva. The material defects of mistakes, illusions, cheating and sensory defects do not exist in the words of Godhead. The Absolute Truth is described by the Upanisads and Vedanta sutra but one must understand the verses as they are. That is proper understanding. Sripad Shankaracharya has described all the Vedic literatures in terms of indirect meanings. One who hears such explanations is ruined.


According to direct understanding, the Absolute Truth is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who has all spiritual opulences. No one can be equal to or greater than him. Everything about the Supreme Personality of Godhead is spiritual, including his body, opulence and paraphernalia. Mayavada philosophy, however, covering his spiritual opulence, advocates the theory of impersonalism. The Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of spiritual potencies. Therefore his body, name, fame and entourage are all spiritual. The Mayavadi philosopher, due to ignorance, says that these things such as the body of Krishna are all merely transformations of nature in the material mode of goodness. Shankaracharya, who is an incarnation of Lord Shiva, is faultless because he is a servant carrying out the orders of the Lord, but those who follow his Mayavada philosophy are doomed. They will lose all their advancement in spiritual knowledge.


Pranava or omkara is an indirect name of Krishna, the original sound of the Vedas, sabda brahma. The noun "pranava" is formed from the verb pranu (to sound), made from the prefix pra (very much) and the verb nu (to praise). Therefore pranava or omkara is the sound incarnation of the Supreme Brahman, the person worthy of our praise and worship. From omkara all the Vedas have appeared.


Pranava is the seed of the Vedas, the mahavakya or principal sound. All other parts of the Vedas are particular statements of relative value. Shankaracharya, the formulator of mayavada philosophy, minimized the prominent position of omkara and proclaimed four specialized statements as mahavakya: 1. aham brahmasmi (I am brahman) 2. prajnanam brahma (brahman is knowledge) 3. tattvam asi (you are that brahman) 4. ekam eva advitiyam (there is only one existent being).


Shankaracharya took other statements as the essence of the Vedas and preached exclusive monism. He taught that the conditioned jiva is simply an illusion produced by maya, that brahman is subjected to maya, and that liberation for the jiva is the absence of maya. By this philosophy the pure relation of the soul with the Absolute Being becomes hidden. The conclusion of all the Vedas has not been considered by the Mayavada philosophers. Thus, Madhvacarya took other Vedic statements and established an opposing philosophy, dvaitavad. However, because he did not consider all the Vedic statements the full relation of the soul to the Lord was not revealed. Ramanujacarya as well, in his visistadvaita philosophy, did not show the complete relationship. Nimbarka Swami, propounder of dvaitadvaita, preached a somewhat incomplete doctrine. Visnu Swami also, in his suddhadvaita doctrine, left some ambiguity. In order to establish the eternal nature of love of God, Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu gave pure, complete teachings about the relationship of soul with the Lord through the doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda. In this way he delivered the world from the darkness of mental speculation.


Mahaprabhu said that the only mahavakya is pranava. Its meaning is evident in the Upanisads. What the Upanisads teach is perfectly sanctioned by Vyasa in the Vedanta Sutras. The authentic commentary of the Vedanta sutras is the Srimad Bhagavatam. The first sutra teaches that the principle of transformation is the truth. yato va imani bhutani jayante (Taittriya Upanisad) also supports this. The Bhagavatam also establishes this truth. Fearing that with the principle of transformation the Supreme Brahman becomes changeable, Shankara established vivarta-vada, the theory of illusion. This vivarta-vada is the root of all faults.


Parinama-vada, transformation through the Lord's energies, is approved by all scriptures and is the principle of pure existence. If the eternal existence of the Lord's energies is not accepted in parinama-vada, then the defects of the Lord falling under illusion and deterioration of the Lord appear. Yet it is not the Lord himself but his energies which are transformed.


The Lord is simultaneously distinct from his energies and non-distinct from them, this being possible because the Lord has inconceivably powerful energy. If the eternal, natural, superior energy of the Lord is accepted, then there is no fault in the doctrine of parinama-vada, or transformation.


The transformations of the Lord's energy, which give rise to the material universe, are factual, but the Lord does not change. By transformation of the Lord's energies the material world and the souls take their existence. Though gold is produced from the touchstone the touchstone remains unaffected. In this example given by Mahaprabhu, it is clear that Krishna's energies perform the creation, whereas Krishna's remains unaffected. It is all the transformation of his energies. By transformation of the cit sakti(pure consciousness and existence), the Lord's abode, name, form, qualities, pastimes and the individual souls exist. By transformation of the maya sakti (nature), the material world and the subtle and physical bodies of the living beings come into existence. This parinama-vada is found everywhere in the Vedanta Sutras and the Upanisads. The gradual evolution of mahatattva, ahankara, ether, fire, air, water and earth is also parinamavada.


After all the efforts of Advaita philosophy, what is left in the mind of the philosopher is an imaginary self and an imaginary world. But in pure parinama-vada, by Krishna's will, the material world and the souls are seen as real, true, existent entities. The world is not illusion but a temporary state of transformation, since by Krishna's will it may dissolve.


Although the Lord creates the world and enters into it, he remains eternally independent in his form as Krishna. He is always served by his spiritual energies. Only those who can understand this remarkable feature of the Lord are able to taste the Lord's opulence and sweetness. This is the relation of the soul to Krishna.


The soul's relation with the temporary world is like that of a traveler at an inn. The proper way to deal with the world, yukta vairagya, arises from a correct understanding of the relation between the soul and the material energy. As long as the correct understanding of temporary and permanent does not arise, the deluded soul cannot perform proper activities.


According to Lord Chaitanya's doctrine, the soul's identity and difference from the Lord, and the world's difference and identity with the Lord, are both established as truth. Since this cannot be adjusted by limited human reasoning this eternal difference and non difference is called acintya or inconceivable. Though it is inconceivable, logic and reasoning are not dissatisfied, for it is reasonable that God can have inconceivable power. Whatever is established by the Lord's inconceivable power can only be understood by the Lord's mercy.


The ancient sages have taught that logic cannot be applied to the inconceivable, for in inconceivable matters, logic cannot be accepted as a proof. Those who cannot grasp this are most unfortunate.





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Nimbarka says that both difference and non-difference are real. The soul and the world are different from Brahman, as they are endowed with natures and qualities different from those of Brahman. They are not different, as they cannot exist by themselves and as they depend absolutely on Brahman. Such a relation exists between the sun and its rays. the fire and its sparks.


In this way, the relation between jiva and Ishwara is considered to be understood through logic and metaphor.


But Bhaktivinode Thakur wrote:


According to Lord Chaitanya's doctrine, the soul's identity and difference from the Lord, and the world's difference and identity with the Lord, are both established as truth. Since this cannot be adjusted by limited human reasoning this eternal difference and non difference is called acintya or inconceivable. Though it is inconceivable, logic and reasoning are not dissatisfied, for it is reasonable that God can have inconceivable power. Whatever is established by the Lord's inconceivable power can only be understood by the Lord's mercy.


The real difference between the two philosophies is that in acintya-bheda-abheda there is recognition that the lords inconceivable power and potency enables him to reconcile contradictions, for instance the contradictory fact that Krishna is in everything and that Krishna is different from everything.

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In Srila Prabhupada's "Krishna book" there is a section called "Prayers of the personified Vedas". That chapter gives a substantive explanation of acintya-bheda-abeda. Ultimately, however, Mahaprabhu was telling his disciples that logic fails to give us real realization, and that only faith can lead us into the land we are seeking. Only faith can pay for our visa into the Kingdom of God.

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