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Nature Of Being And Existence – What Is Real? – Madhwa School Of Philosophy Answers

The Dvaita or dualist school of Vedanta philosophy in Hindu religion is associated with Sri Madhvacharya (Madhva). Here is a look at the ontology or the metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence in Madhwa School of philosophy. Madhvacharya answers the question of what is Real.

  1. When the existence of a thing cannot be denied in the whole of space and in the three constituents of time (past, present, and future) it is real: trikala-sarvadesiyanisedhapartiyogita satta.
  2. Object of knowledge is real
  3. What can produce a tangible result is real.

Anything that measures up to any one of the above stated criteria is real. That which does not is unreal. A horn of hare and a son of barren woman are unreal.

Dream-entities are real as they are made of a transforming cause called samskara. Samskara is converted into various products, by the immanent and omniscient God, within the mind of the dreamers. Samskara is a product of experience.

The real is of two kinds, the independent and dependent. The creator of this universe is the only independent reality. It is called Brahman in Upanishads. All other sentient and insentient beings are dependent realities. They are dependent on Brahman in all aspects of their existence. Dependence is not superimposition. Their reality, too, is under the authority of Brahman. Upanishads describe Him as the Real of the Reals.

The sentient beings are irreducible and their number is infinite. Among insentient real all material things can be reduced to the primordial prakriti through various stages. Sattva, rajas and tamas are the essential characteristics of prakriti. Prakriti, space, time and sound are the irreducible insentient Real.

All the sentient beings except Brahman and his consort Mahalakshmi are called jva. Thus the universe is divided into three categories. They are

  1. Brahman or Ishwara (Mahalakshmi is subsumed here)
  2. Jiva
  3. Jada, the insentient.

Though Jiva and Ishvara can be considered as one category by the common factor of sentience, they are considered separate categories with a spiritual purpose. According to Madhvacharya, the knowledge of the independence of Ishwara, also known as Vishnu, Hari, Narayana, etc, and the dependence of the rest of the world on him is essential for earning his grace. This is the spiritual consummation of our birth as human beings. Ontological scheme of the universe of Madhvacharya aims at fulfilling this requirement. Hence the consideration of Ishwara as a separate category.

Accordingly, categories are basically two independent and dependent. Dependent realities are of two kinds – bhava and abhava. Bhava is the object of positive perception in the first instance. Abhava is the object of negative perception in the first instance. All jibas and the insentient things are bhava. Time, space, sound, and primordial matter, with its myriad modifications, come under bhava. Abhava is of three kinds. They are:

  • Pragabhava (non-existence of a thing before its production)
  • Pradhvamsha (destruction)
  • Sadabhava (eternal non-existence)

The world of attributes, comprising qualities, actions, being, power, similarity, difference, visesha etc, is regarded by Sri Madhvacharya as constituting the very essence of the substance themselves. These attributes do not have a separate existence of their own and therefore do not require an independent enumeration.

Of the attributes, difference and Visesha play a very important role in understanding the universe.

Source - Notes taken from Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume III - page 560 - 561 - IHRF - Rupa - 2011