, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 371-403
Date: 08 Aug 2007

Reconciling dualism and non-dualism: three arguments in Vijñānabhikṣu’s Bhedābheda Vedānta

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Abstract

The late 16th century Indian philosopher Vijñānabhikṣu is most well known today for his commentaries on Sāṃkhya and Yoga texts. However, the majority of his extant corpus belongs to the tradition of Bhedābheda (Difference and Non-Difference) Vedānta. This article elucidates three Vedāntic arguments from Vijñānabhikṣu’s voluminous commentary on the Brahma Sūtra, entitled Vijñānāmṛtabhāṣya (Commentary on the Nectar of Knowledge). The first section of the article explores the meaning of bhedābheda, showing that in Vijñānabhikṣu’s understanding, “difference and non-difference” does not entail a denial of the principle of contradiction. The second shows how the relation between the individual soul (jīva) and Brahman can be understood as a relation of part and whole. The third section discusses Brahman as cause of the world, and Vijñānabhikṣu’s particular formulation of Brahman as “locus cause” (adhiṣṭhānakāraṇa). Understanding these arguments enables us to appreciate how Vijñānabhikṣu’s Difference and Non-Difference Vedānta is a credible alternative to the Advaita Vedānta schools prevalent in northern India in the late medieval period, and how in his later works Vijñānabhikṣu built upon this Difference and Non-Difference metaphysical framework to argue for the unity of Vedānta, Yoga, and Sāṃ-khya philosophies.