Advaita, Viśiśtādvaita and Dvaita – The three flavors of Vēdānta śāstra

Course content:

Advaita, Viśiśtādvaita and Dvaita – the three flavors of Vēdānta śāstra also called the three “Schools of Vedantic Thought” cover the whole range of possibilities, with reference to the relationship between the three main entities in question i.e., Jiva (living beings), Jada (matter) and Ishwara (Lord) as being one and the same i.e., non-dual, (abheda), or fundamentally and irreconcilably different (bheda) or something in-between (visista). All the other schools of thought within Hindu thought, end up being some variation or combination of these three fundamental perspectives.

This course will examine the conceptual overview of the Bhagavad Gita, through selected verses, according to the perspectives of these three Acharyas (S, R, M), by exploring the original commentaries of the main Acharyas of these three schools in Sanskrit, instead of derived works. It will cover the fundamental concepts of Advaita, Viśiśtādvaita and Dvaita in reasonable detail, highlighting the areas where these Acharyas concur and where they differ. The Course will include the following:

  • Introduction and Background of Gita as per the three Acharyas (S, R, M)
  • Summary of Gita according to Shankarāchārya
  • Summary of Gita according to Sri Rāmānujācharya
  • Summary of Gita according to Sri Madhvāchārya
  • A “Samanvaya” or establishment of the close relationship between these three schools (mata traya samanvaya)

At the completion of this course, students will gain a greater clarity regarding common misconceptions held by many people, regarding these three perspectives.  Students will clearly understand how these three schools of philosophy approach the Bhagavadgita, which is one of the three main textual sources of Arsha Vidya or the “philosophy of the Rishis”, known as “PrasThana traya”, the other two being the Brahmasutras and the Upanishads.

Course Learning Objectives:

In this course students will be able to:

  1. Appreciate the Bhagavad-Gita from three perspectives of Advaita, Viśiśtādvaita and Dvaita.
  2. Distinguish the unique views and concepts of these three schools of thought.
  3. Access the essence of the Upanishads i.e., Vedanta through the Bhagavad-Gita.
  4. Deepen the understanding of the main Yogas of the Gita i.e., Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Dhyana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga
  5. Recognize how all these Yoga’s lead to “Sharanagati” or “Jnana”, no matter where they begin.

While no prior knowledge of Sanskrit is required, it will definitely be helpful. Prior knowledge of the perspectives of anyone Acharya will also be valuable.

Class Structure

There will be a minimum of 1 contact hour with one or more faculty every week. The class is structured in a way that promotes discussion and debate based on self-study and reflection each week. While the content being discussed in each class will be concluded within 60 minutes, the discussion time will be free format and can continue for an additional 30 minutes maximum. During the course, students will be required to submit two short essays of between 1000 and 1500 words each. They need not be academic quality papers – but should be based on students’ self-reflection on what they have learned and assimilated so far.

Required / Elective: Elective

Prerequisites: Admission into a Program of Study

Faculty / InstructorMr. Krishna Kashyap

Time: 8:30 pm EST – 10:00 pm EST

Day: Every Monday

Start Date: October 11, 2021

End Date: December 20, 2021

Quarter Offered: Fall 2021