why do we deny advaitins as athiests

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Why do vaishnavas strongly critisize advaitins though they too base their arguments on vedas and worship deities? what is the problem with Buddhism?

Whenever there are two parties discussing a topic, and if they opine differently they will argue strongly to prove their own argument. Most of the times these arguements are based on personal opinions, limited knowledge and ego. But the position of vaishnavas on advaitins should not be seen in the same line, as the arguments are not based on personal opinions but on clusions of previous acharyas, based on the unlimited knowledge base of vedas and humble surrender to the Supreme Lord.

Before we start the critical study of advaitin's position and flaws in their arguments, let us understand the glory of Sri Shankara Acharya. By the time of Sri Shankara's avatara, the whole world became athiestic and suffering with avidya (ignorance), lack of dharma and direction. The whole world is dark except for the few adherants of vedas like vaishnavas.

what is the problem with Buddhism?

Before the advent of Sri Shankara Acharya, Lord Buddha (Sriman nArAyaNa Himself on the authority of srimad BhAgavata PurANa) has given an illusory theory for the people of material consciousness and made them adharmic with His excellent philosophy (Lord is beyond our perception and His actions are in-conceivable without guidant of Acharyas). He gave a philosophy based on moral laws, athiesm, denial of vedas and illusory "nirvANa(viodness)". His instructions are somuch attractive that any person who is not adherant to vedas and devotion unto the Lord gets easily carried away. He lures unintelligent men by saying only intelligent men can understand His philosophy. That enables people not to investigate His philosophy critically and accept. Moreover, on the surface, one cannot find fault as it is based on moral laws like non-violence and truthfulness. Even today many people think philonthropic actions and being good is ultimate purpose of life. But they miss the critical point why should one do either philonthropic or good works. They have no clue what actual good is. The purpose of all good actions is to attract the attention of the Lord and get pure devotion unto Him.

When we do not develop love for the Supreme Lord, we lose all our morals and dharma at some point or the other. We are never independant of Him. As we can see today, in countries like china, people lost their own religion, forgot all good (their own moral laws), consume more meat (including frogs and snakes) than any other country, and work day and night like machines to improve material comforts. This proves, how it is most important to have mercy of the Lord for the living entity to have ethical life and subsequent desire for eternal bliss (liberation). Lord doesnot allow selfish people to serve Him, for He accepts only unselfish, unbroken devotional service. We should know from this example that acting in all good ways is only to develop love for the Lord.

return to  refutation of advaitins:

Sri Shankara acharya has established the truth of vedas that they are not stories written by some intelligent men, but rather they are apaurusheya (not written by any mundane being) as against the arguments of athiests, buddhists and materialists. He established that ultimate sreyas for living being is to liberate from cycle of repeated birth and death as against temperory preyas (immediate material comforts). He attracted large number of disciples all over India and proclaimed un-parallel superiority of vedas. He also commented on most of the important scriptures of vedic literature.

Apart from all this, Sri Shankara maintained that Sri Hari is the Supreme Brahman (HariH om). Acknowledging all glory of Sri Shankara Acharya, I proceed to expose the flaws in his philosophy.

Srimathe Ramanujaya Nama:

Sri Shankara Acharya's philosophy is famously called Kevala advaitha (absolute non-duality). Though Sri Shankara has accepted vedas as supreme authority, his philosophy does not represent true purport of vedas. As you can see, this is a bold statement and is purely based on the authority of Sri Ramanuja Acharya, who conclusively disproved the arguments of Sri Shankara in all his works and especially in Sri Bhashya, the original commentary on Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana. I will discuss the misconceptions of advaitha philosophy in a brief manner and you can read Sri Ramanuja'a original conclusive arguments available in this website (scriptures section). In this article, I will concentrate on the differences between the two schools.

The most important tenets of advaitha philosophy are " Brahma Satyam, Jagam Mithya (Brahman is the only reality, this phenominal world is product of illusion and hence unreal). All the plurality of this universe is nothing but illusion. Brahman is undescribable, formless, quality less, infinite and only reality. The jivAtman in all the beings is essentially Paramatma(brahman) only. Whatever we conceive with our senses is nothing but illusion as the very faculties of the senses are illusion. The illusion prevailing is like dream state of Brahaman and when He araises from sleep, He will find all this to be illusion. Hence the atman is Para Brahman. To know that one is Brahman Himself, one has to approach gnana marga (self enquiries), should proceed with'neti neti(not this, not that)', in the end what one is left with is one's self (brahman) ". Shankara tries to substantiate his philosophy from the Upanishads.

The important difference between the vaishnavas and advaitins is that according to vaishnavas"Jiva(chit) and matter(achit) are seperate real entities dependant on Paramatma for every thing". Because they are never independant of Brahman, they are part of Brahman, but jivatma is never Para Brahman". The relation between chit+achit and Paramatman is illustrated as sharIra-sharIri(body/embodied). The other important distinctions are "Brahman has a transcendental form. upanishadic statement 'neti, neti' doesnot mean 'not this, not that', rather 'unlimited-ness' of attributes of Brahman. This is not limit, that is not any limit for Brahman. Mere negation of duality doesnot result in absolute unity. Though the Absolute Brahman is one, it has varigatedness in the form of eternal jIvatma, temperory matter. Ishvara or Sriman Narayana, who is the husband of Sri Lakshmi devi is Para Brahman. Hence the difference between jiva and paramatma is not unreal as opposed to advaitins".

According to advaitins karma, gnAna and bhakti are three different paths to realise Brahman. Where as vaishnavas maintain that bhakti alone can make one realise Brahman in full. One may have partial enlightment through karma and gnana but that realisation is not full. When one performs good karma, one gets the opportunity to remove avidya (ignorance) through right gnAna and when one's endeavor to acquire gnAna is fruitful, then one understands that devotion unto the Supreme Lord, Sriman Narayana, is the ultimate purpose of life. Hence a devotee is to be understood as a perfectionist in karma and gnAna yogas. Sri Krishna also enlightens Arjuna in the same line. First He explains the importance of Karma yoga and Gnana yoga and finally Bhakti yoga. More precisely, He instructs us to "give up all dharma and surrender unto Me, I will remove all sinful reactions, do not fear". This is the true purport of Bhagavad gita.

The refutation of Advaitin's position and completeness of Sri Visishta-advaitha with authoritative statements from upanishads is given by Sri Ramanuja in all his works and please check the scriptures section.

Advaitins also perform devotional service, then why do you say they are not devotees rather athiests?

To understand the answer to this question, one should understood how devotional service can be performed. Devotional service essentially needs a performer of service, a receiver of service and an action of service. But in advaitha philosophy, there is no distinction between God, devotee and no action is real. Because the idea of advaitin is that he is one with Narayana, his service will not be accepted by Narayana. In one sense, an advaitin is worshipping himself, according to their philosophy. Sri Krishna clearly states,"when one offers a leaf, or flower or water to Me in love and devotion, I accept all such offerings." Hence there is an agent of action, receiver of action as well as a service.

To believe oneself to be God is no less than believing no God. Hence an advaitin is as good as an athiest.

Moreover, advaitins think that deities are symbolic or objects of concentration. Agamas clearly refute this idea as deities are Archa avatara (worshippable deity incarnation). To think that deity of the Lord to be a symbol is no less than dis-respecting the deity.

As there is no variety within Brahman, all the demigods are also as worshippable as Sriman Narayana Himself; according to advaitins. They always quote that "what good is to know the face of the Lord when we cannot even hold His feet?". But the point is that if donot know who is the Supreme Lord, we will worship the feet of a wrong deity as Supreme. This is clearly refuted by Sri Krishna in Bhagavad gita: "Any one worshipping other demigods are worshipping Me only in truth. But because they do not know Me only as the True enjoyer of all worship, they fall into the cycle of repeated birth and death". gita 9:23,24.

!! namO nArAyaNAya !!

Sri Ramanuja points out many mistakes in logic, integrity and concreteness of Shankara's interpretations with proper illustrations and establishes how Visishta-advaitha is fool proof and complete purport of vedas. Please read different resources available in the scriptures section.

athAto "brahma" zignAsA - Then thereafter be inquisitive to enquire about "the Absolute"