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Q1. Describe the five types of differences (Panchvidbheda). Bring out their philosophical significance for Madhva’s theory. (2013/12 ½)


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  • Akshay


    Madhvacharya differentiate his philosophy from Shankara and Ramanuja by propounding the theory of Dvaitvada. In his methaphysics he accepted two realities brahman or God who is independent and chit-achit or jiva and jagat which are dependent on Brahman. According to him the uniqueness of particulars can be understood in terms of differences from other.
    Madhva advocated the reality of five-fold differences known as Panchavidhabheda. These differences are real and beginning less.
    1. Brahma-Jiva or God and Soul difference: It is one of the most important differences. Soul is atomic and subject to bondage and liberation while Brahman is all-pervasive (vibhu). Brahman has unlimited power and knowledge that is HE is omniscient and omnipotent while soul has limited power and knowledge. If Brahman is the target then Soul is the arrow. Hence Brahman and soul are different.
    2. Brahman-Jagat difference: Brahman is independent of matter while matter or jagat is dependent on Brahman. Also Brahman is beyond the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas while matter consists of all three qualities. Unlike matter, Brahman is consciousness and bliss. Brahman is efficient cause of this jagat. Thus Brahman and jagat can’t be accepted as identical.
    3. Jiva-Jagat difference: Though Jiva and Jagat are dependent on Brahman, they differ from each other. Jiva is subject to pain and pleasure as it has consciousness, while jagat or matter is devoid of these qualities. Jiva has a desire of liberation thus falls in bondage while jagat has nothing to do with bondage and liberation. Thus both are separate and different from each other.
    4. Jiva-Jiva difference: Madhva even accepted the existence of different jivas. According to him jiva has two types of difference – intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic difference is associated with the difference of power, knowledge and bliss in different jivas while extrinsic difference refers to the different bodies to which jiva is associated.
    5. Jagat-Jagat difference: According to Madhva, there are different matters or jagat which differs among themselves due to mixture of three gunas in different proportions.
    This theory of Panchvidhabheda has been criticized by arguing that some statements of Upanishads like Aham-bramhasani, indicates the identity between Brahman and soul. Also such differences diminished the relevance of liberation.
    However, according to Madhva difference has its own importance:
    • Difference is the real essence of everything as the knowledge validates it.
    • The process of knowledge involves the process of identifying particulars by perceiving difference between them.
    • Inference also admits the difference as it is depend on the recognition of difference of major, minor and middle term and vyapti. Otherwise it would have been meaningless.
    • Verbal testimony also proves the existence of difference. The Mundaka Upanishad describes self as the arrow and Brahman as the target. This shows the difference between Brahman and soul.
    • Also in practical terms, if we do not accept difference in the particulars, then the experiments of science, calculations of mathematics will be meaningless. Even the existence of human being and animal can be recognized only through perception of difference between them.