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Achintya Bheda Abheda

Achintya-Bheda-Abheda (, acintyabhedbheda in IAST) is a school of Vedanta representing the philosophy of inconceivable one-ness and difference,[1] in relation to the power creation and creator,
(Krishna), Svayam Bhagavan,[2][3] and also between God
and his energies[4] within the Gaudiya Vaishnava religious
tradition. In Sanskrit achintya means 'inconceivable',[1]
bheda translates as 'dierence', and abheda translates
as 'non-dierence'. It is believed that this philosophy was taught by the movements theological founder
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu[5] (1486 - 1534) and dierentiates the Gaudiya tradition from the other Vaishnava Sampradayas. It can best be understood as an integration of a
strict dualist (Dvaita) view of Madhvacharya and the qualied monism Vishishtadvaita of Ramanujacharya while
rejecting the absolute monism Advaita of Adi Sankara.

considered to be part and parcel of the Supreme Lord.

Same in quality but not in quantity. The Supreme Lord
Sri Hari having all opulence in fullness, the spirit soul
however having only a partial expression of His divine
opulence. The Lord in this context is compared to a re
and the spirit souls as sparks coming o of the ame.

2 Philosophy

Caitanyas philosophy of acintyabhedbheda-tattva completed the progression

to devotional theism. Rmnuja had agreed
with akara that the Absolute is one only,
but he had disagreed by arming individual
variety within that oneness. Madhva had underscored the eternal duality of the Supreme
and the Jva: he had maintained that this duality endures even after liberation. Caitanya,
in turn, specied that the Supreme and the
jvas are inconceivably, simultaneously one
and dierent (acintya-bheda-abheda). He
strongly opposed akaras philosophy for its
deance of Vysadevas siddhnta.
Satsvarupa dasa Goswami, Readings in
Vedic Literature: The Tradition Speaks for Itself, Chapter 5[6]

The theological tenet of achintya-bheda-abheda tattva

reconciles the mystery that God is simultaneously one
with and dierent from His creation. In this sense
Vaishnava theology is panentheistic as in no way does it
deny the separate existence of God (Vishnu) in His own
personal form. However, at the same time, creation (or
what is termed in Vaishnava theology as the 'cosmic manifestation') is never separated from God. He always exercises supreme control over his creation. Sometimes directly, but most of the time indirectly through his dierent potencies or energies (Prakrti). Examples are given
of a spider and its web; earth and plants that come forth
and hair on the body of human being.[9]
One who knows God knows that the impersonal conception and personal conception are simultaneously present
in everything and that there is no contradiction. Therefore Lord Caitanya established His sublime doctrine: acintya bheda-and-abheda-tattva -- simultaneous oneness
and dierence. (A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)[4] The analogy often used as an explanation in
this context in the relationship between the Sun and the
Sunshine.[10] For example both the sun and sunshine are
part of the same reality, but there is a great dierence
between having a beam of sunshine in your room, and
being in close proximity to the sun itself. Qualitatively
the Sun and the Sunshine are not dierent, but as quantities they are very dierent. This analogy is applied to the
living beings and God - the Jiva being of a similar quality to the Supreme being, but not sharing the qualities to
an innite extent, as would the Personality of Godhead
himself.[11] Thus there is a dierence between the souls
and the Supreme Lord.

Historical perspective

Historically, within Hinduism there are two conicting

philosophies regarding the relationship between living
beings (Jiva or Atma) and God (Ishvara, Brahman or
Bhagavan). Advaita schools assert the monistic view that
the individual soul and God are one and the same,[7]
whereas Dvaita schools give the dualistic argument that
the individual soul and God are eternally separate.[8] The
philosophy of Achintya-bheda-abheda includes elements
of both viewpoints. The living soul is intrinsically linked
with the Supreme Lord, and yet at the same time is not
the same as God - the exact nature of this relationship
being inconceivable to the human mind.The spirit Soul is

Dierence in concept to Advaita 7 References


It is clearly distinguished from the concept of anirvacaniya (inexpressible) of Advaita Vedanta. There is a
clear dierence between the two concepts as the two
ideas arise for dierent reasons. Advaita concept is related to the ontological status of the world, whereas both
Svayam bhagavan and his shaktis (in Lord himself and his
powers) are fully real, and they are dierent from each
other, but at the same time they are the same. But that
does not negate the reality of both.[1] Mayavadi concept is
a direct opposite and a contradicting concept to an early


While it applied to relations between Purusha (the Lord)

and Prakriti (be it material, marginal, or spiritual powers), in the theology of the concept there are areas of
exceptions. Jiva Goswami also accepts that any object
and its energy are non-dierent, such as re and power of
burning. While some maintain that its only a secondary
extension of the principle that it is primarily applied to
Svayam bhagavan and His energies. It does not, however,
apply to dierences between Avatars of Svayam bhagavan and Lord Himself, so the dierence between Vishnu
and His origin, is not covered by the concept of acintya
bhedabheda, i.e. it cannot be applied in cases where different levels of Purusha are compared.[1]


The phrase is used as the chorus line in Kula Shaker's

1998 hit song Tattva. Achintya-bheda-abheda-tattva.


See also
Gaudiya Vaishnavism
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Svayam Bhagavan

[1] Gupta, Ravi M. (2007). Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of

Jiva Gosvamis Catursutri tika. Routledge. ISBN 0-41540548-3.pp. 47-52
[2] Kaviraja, K.G. Sri Caitanya-caritamrita. Bengali text,
translation, and commentary by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust.Madhya 20.108109 It is the living entitys constitutional position to be
an eternal servant of Krishna because he is the marginal
energy of Krishna and a manifestation simultaneously one
with and dierent from the Lord, like a molecular particle
of sunshine or re.
[3] Ka Upaniad 1.25: ...na bhinnam. n bhinnambhirbhinno na vai vibhu
[4] Prabhupada,
A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami (1972).
Bhagavad-gita as it is. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Los
Angeles, Calif.7.8
[5] Additional information. Krishna.com. Retrieved April
16, 2008. Lord Chaitanya taught that as spirit souls we
are part of God and thus we are not dierent with Him
in quality, and yet at the same time we are also dierent from Him in quantity. This is called acintya-bhedaabheda-tattva, inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and
[6] Satsvarupa, dasa Goswami (1976). Readings in Vedit
Literature: The Tradition Speaks for Itself. pp. 240
pages. ISBN 0-912776-88-9.
[7] Additional information. Tatfoundation. Archived from
the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2008.
This interpretation of the Upanishads, that the individual
soul and God are absolutely non-dierent, is what distinguishes advaita from other forms of Vedanta.
[8] Additional information. dvaita.org. Archived from the
original on 12 April 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2008.
Dvaita,... asserts that the dierence between the individual soul or Jiva, and the Creator, or Ishvara, is eternal
and real
[9] yathora-nbhi sjate ghate ca yath pthivym oadhaya sambhavanti yath sata purut kea-lomni
tathkart sambhavatha vivam - Muaka Upaniad

[10] Prabhupada, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami (1988). Srimad

Bhagavatam. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Bhag. 4.31.16
One may be in the sunshine, but he is not on the sun itself.
[11] Kaviraja, K.G. Sri Caitanya-caritamrita. Bengali text,
translation, and commentary by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Madhya 6.163
Qualitatively the living entity and the Supreme Lord are
one, but in quantity they are dierent
[12] S. Devadas Pillai, ed. (1997). Indian Sociology Through
Ghurye: A Dictionary. Columbia, Mo: South Asia Books.
p. 403. ISBN 81-7154-807-5.

External links
God Is Both Personal and Impersonal (stephenknapp.com)


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