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Sri Ramakrishna Explains The Vishishtadvaita Of Sri Ramanujacharya

Once in response to the request of Swami Vivekananda for being enlightened on the doctrine of Vishishtadvaita of Sri Ramanujacharya, Sri Ramakrishna gave the following explanation:

This doctrine holds that the Absolute (Brahman) must not be considered apart from the world (jagat) and the soul (jiva). The three between them form one — three in one and one in three!

Let us take a bilva fruit. Let the shell, the seeds, and the kernel be kept separate. Now suppose somebody wanted to know the weight of the fruit. Surely it would not do to weigh only the kernel of the fruit. The shell, the seeds, and the kernel are all weighed with a view to knowing the real weight of the fruit. No doubt we reason at the outset that the all-important thing is the kernel, and not either the shell or the seeds. In the next place we go on reasoning, saying that the shell and the seeds belong to the same substance to which the kernel belongs.

At the first stage of the reasoning we say, 'Not this,' 'Not this.' Thus the Absolute is not-soul (not the finite individual soul). Again, It is not the world either. The Absolute is the only Reality, all else is unreal. At the next stage we go a little further. We see that the kernel belongs to the same substance as that to which the shell and the seeds belong. Hence the substance from which we derive our negative conception of the 'Absolute' is the identical substance from which we derive our conception of the finite soul and the phenomenal world. Your 'Relative' (Lila) must be traced to that very Being to which your 'Absolute' (Nitya) must be traced.

Hence, as Ramanuja says, the Absolute is qualified by the finite soul and the phenomenal world. This is the doctrine of Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism).

Source - Teachings of Sri Ramakrishna, pp. 47-48, Almora Edn. (1934).