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The Philosophical Theology of Sankara and Ramanuja

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According to Sankara, the distinction between enjoyers and objects of enjoyment doesn’t exist. Brahman is everything. The world is illusion and only the atman is Brahman. The nirguna saguna (Brahman) distinction is critical to the Advedic position. Ramanuja accepts the basic idea of monism but modifies it to reconcile plurality by embracing differentiation and particularity. He argues that Brahman is a personality which comprehends within himself all plurality (one essence with internal differentiation). Sankara says Brahman is exclusive of particularities and Ramanuja says Brahman is inclusive. Sanakara views Brahman as subject only but Ramanuja views him as object. For Sankara, there is only subject, but for Ramanuja there is subject and object. Ramanuja insisted that Brahman can have contact with the world and even become embodied without compromising any of his defining attributes. Sankara has two levels of Brahman, nirguna, saguna. Ramanuja has two modes of Brahman, hidden, revealed.


A. Introduction B. Sankara's Advaitic Vendantism (non-dualism)

1. Monism

2. Neti-neti, "not this, not this"

3. Maya

4. Moksa

5. Ashram

6. Matha (pronounced "mutt")

C. Introduction to Ramnauja

D. Visistadvaita of Ramanuja

E. Five Defining Attributes of Brahman [End of part 1]

F. The Relationship of Brahman to the World

1. Efficient and material cause of the universe

2. Reality/perception

3. Body/Soul analogy - sarira-sarira-Bhava

G. Moksa in Ramanuja's thought

H. Prapatti (passive surrender) vs. parabhakti (active surrender)

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