Quick Reference

A doctrine, first systematically expounded in Bādarāyaṇa's Brahmasūtra(s), designed to explain the relationship of the individual or ātman to the absolute or brahman (neut.). Each self is regarded as non-different (abheda) from brahman, which is its cause. However, the individual self is essentially only part of brahman, and so lacks some of the absolute's qualities, such as creative power, and freedom from impurity. The two are therefore in some ways different (bheda). According to the Advaitin Śaṅkara's interpretation of this, however, such difference is ultimately illusory: ātman and brahman are really non-different (abheda). This reading is, in turn, rejected by the Viśiṣṭādvaitin Rāmānuja, who emphasizes that the individual self and brahman are not completely identical: rather, individual selves are both real and ‘modes’ (prakāra) of brahman, upon whom they depend as the body depends on the soul. This seems very close to the position of the Brahmasūtra(s), and others have described Rāmānuja as subscribing to the bhedābheda doctrine. Rāmānuja himself, however, associates the bhedābheda doctrine with Bhāskara, and specifically rejects it, along with both the abheda and bheda positions. This seems to be because he regards the absolute as possessing personal qualities, subject to real modifications, in contrast to the unqualified absolute of the bhedābhedavāda, the modification of which appears to be problematical. Nimbārka's Dvaitādvaita is also sometimes characterized as a bhedābheda teaching.

Subjects: Hinduism.

Reference entries