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Pancha Bheda of Madhvacharya – The Fivefold Difference in Madhva Philosophy

Pancha Bheda of Madhvacharya is the fivefold difference and it is an important aspect of Madhva School of philosophy. The term pancha means the group of five. The prefix ‘pra’ emphasizes the indispensability of the knowledge of these five distinctions for the attainment of liberation in Dvaita (dualism) of Madhva.

Pancha Bheda are:
  1. God from the individual being
  2. One being from another being
  3. An atma from matter
  4. God from matter
  5. Matter from matter
Reality presents to an inquiring mind three primary entities; thinking selves, a material world outside, and intimation of a Supreme Power above. Thinking selves are many. Several categories of matter which constitute the world are given to the senses.

The Fivefold Difference in Madhva Philosophy

A broad-based, fivefold distinction (pancha bheda) runs through them.

As these three entities are eternal and their mutual distinctions are equally so, the world of this fivefold distinction is designated as prapancha.

The famous verse – prapancho yadi vidyeta nivarteta na samshayah – it is beyond question that the phenomenal world would cease to be if it had any existence – forming part of Gaudapada Karika on Mandukya Upanishad according to the Madhva tradition, is recognized as the locus classicus of the doctrine of this fivefold distinction.

Madhva has drawn special attention to the fact that this verse expresses a reduction ad absurdum.

The hypothetical argument would naturally lead to the rejection of the theory of the falsity of the world and the theory thereby affirms its reality because there is no viable (logical) concomitance between “whatever exists” and its necessary sublation (nivrtti).

A logically sustainable interpretation of the text, prapancho yadi vidyeta nivarteta, has therefore been proposed by the Dvaita School, establishing the reality of the five fold difference is not adventitious but intrinsic and real.

In Vishnu-tattva-vinirnaya, Madhva has lucidly explained how maya develops into categories with their mutual fivefold difference.

Notes taken from - Encyclopedia of Hinduism – Volume VIII – IHRF – ( page no 9)