Achintya Bheda Abheda

Last updated

Achintya-Bheda-Abheda (अचिन्त्यभेदाभेद, acintyabhedābheda in IAST) is a school of Vedanta representing the philosophy of inconceivable one-ness and difference. [1] In Sanskrit achintya means 'inconceivable', [1] bheda translates as 'difference', and abheda translates as 'non-difference'.


Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534 CE), the founder of Achintya Bheda Abheda school and Gaudiya Vaishnavism Chaitanya-Mahabrabhu-at-Jagannath.jpg
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1534 CE), the founder of Achintya Bheda Abheda school and Gaudiya Vaishnavism

The Gaudiya Vaishnava religious tradition employs the term in relation to the relationship of creation and creator (Krishna, Svayam Bhagavan), [2] [3] between God and his energies. [4] It is believed that this philosophy was taught by the movement's theological founder Chaitanya Mahaprabhu [5] (1486 - 1534) and differentiates the Gaudiya tradition from the other Vaishnava Sampradayas. It can be understood as an integration of the strict dualist ( dvaita ) theology of Madhvacharya and the qualified monism ( vishishtadvaita ) of Ramanuja. [6]

Historical perspective

Historically within Hinduism there are two conflicting 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 Soul is considered to be part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. Same in quality but not in quantity. God having all opulence in fullness, the spirit soul however, having only a partial expression of His divine opulence. God in this context is compared to a fire and the souls as sparks coming off of the flame.


The theological tenet of achintya-bheda-abheda tattva reconciles the mystery that God is simultaneously "one with and different 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 different 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 difference." (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 difference 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 different, but as quantities they are very different. 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 infinite extent, as would the Personality of Godhead himself. [11] Thus there is a difference between the souls and the Supreme Lord.

Difference in concept to Advaita Vedanta

It is clearly distinguished from the concept of anirvacaniya (inexpressible) of Advaita Vedanta. There is a clear difference between the two concepts as the two ideas arise for different 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 empirically real, and they are different from each other, but at the same time they are the same. But that does not negate the reality of both. [1] [12]


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-different, such as fire 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 differences between Avatars of Svayam bhagavan and Lord Himself, so the difference 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 1996 hit song Tattva. "Achintya-bheda-abheda-tattva".

See also

Related Research Articles

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Bengali Hindu saint of Nabadwip

Shri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, honorific: "Mahāprabhu", , was an Indian guru considered by his followers to be the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the chief proponent of the Achintya Bheda Abheda Vedanta school and the Gaudiya Vaishnavism tradition within Hinduism. He also expounded the Vaishnava school of Bhakti yoga, based on Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad Gita. Of various forms and direct or indirect expansions of Krishna such as Lord Narasimha, Mahavishnu and Garbhodaksayi Vishnu respectively, he is believed to be Krishna in the mood of Radha. He popularised the chanting of the 'Hare Krishna mantra' and composed the Siksastakam in Sanskrit. His followers, Gaudiya Vaishnavas, revere him as a Krishna with the mood and complexion of his source of inspiration Radha. His birthday is celebrated as Gaura-purnima.

Vedanta or Uttara Mīmāṃsā is one of the six (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy. Literally meaning "end of the Vedas", Vedanta reflects ideas that emerged from the speculations and philosophies contained in the Upanishads, specifically, knowledge and liberation. Vedanta contains many sub-traditions, ranging from dualism to non-dualism, all of which developed on the basis of a common textual connection called the Prasthanatrayi: the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

Gaudiya Vaishnavism Hindu religious movement inspired by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

Gaudiya Vaishnavism, also known as Bengali Vaishnavism, Chaitanya Vaishnavism or the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition, is a Vaishnava Hindu religious movement inspired by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534) in India. "Gaudiya" refers to the Gauḍa region of Bengal, with Vaishnavism meaning "the worship of Vishnu". Its theological basis is primarily that of the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana, as interpreted by early disciples of Chaitanya, such as Sanatana Goswami, Rupa Goswami, Jiva Goswami, Gopala Bhatta Goswami and others.


'Gauranga' is another name for Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the 16th century Bengali Saint and founder of Gaudiya Vaishnavism.The term Gauranga Mahaprabhu references Lord Chaitanya possessing the golden complexion of Srimati Radharani as an incarnation or avatar of Sri Krishna.

Ishvara is a concept in Hinduism, with a wide range of meanings that depend on the era and the school of Hinduism. In ancient texts of Indian philosophy, depending on the context, Ishvara can mean supreme soul, ruler, lord, king, queen or husband. In medieval era Hindu texts, depending on the school of Hinduism, Ishvara means God, Supreme Being, personal god, or special Self.

Tat Tvam Asi "The essence that is eternal , you are that "

Tat Tvam Asi, a Sanskrit phrase, translated variously as "Thou art that," is one of the Mahāvākyas in Vedantic Sanatana Dharma. It originally occurs in the Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7, in the dialogue between Uddalaka and his son Śvetaketu; it appears at the end of a section, and is repeated at the end of the subsequent sections as a refrain. The meaning of this saying is that the Self - in its original, pure, primordial state - is wholly or partially identifiable or identical with the Ultimate Reality that is the ground and origin of all phenomena.

The Chaitanya Charitamrita is one of the primary biographies detailing the life and teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534), a Vaisnava saint and founder of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. It was written by Krishna Das Kaviraja, primarily in the Bengali language, but also including a great number of Sanskrit verses within its devotional, poetic construction, including Siksastakam. Intertwined with the stories of Caitanya Mahaprabhu's life are philosophical conversations detailing the process of Bhakti yoga, with special attention given to congregational chanting of Krishna's names and the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.

Jiva Goswami Indian philosopher

Jiva Goswami was an Indian philosopher and saint from the Gaudiya Vaishnava school of Vedanta tradition, producing a great number of philosophical works on the theology and practice of Bhakti yoga, Vaishnava Vedanta and associated disciplines. He was a member of Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, being the nephew of the two leading figures, Rupa Goswami and Sanatana Goswami.

Hinduism incorporates diverse views on the concept of God. Different traditions of Hinduism have different theistic views, and these views have been described by scholars as polytheism, monotheism, henotheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnostic, humanism, atheism or Nontheism.

<i>Pancha Tattva</i> (Vaishnavism) five aspects of divinity within Gaudiya Vaishnavism

Pancha Tattva in the Gaudiya Vaishnava or Krishnaist tradition refers specifically to the Five aspects of God or Absolute Truth.

The concept of God in Hinduism varies in its diverse traditions. Hinduism spans a wide range of beliefs such as henotheism, monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, pandeism, monism, atheism and nontheism.

Brahma Samhita

The Brahma Saṁhitā is a Sanskrit Pañcarātra text, composed of verses of prayer spoken by Brahma glorifying the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa or Govinda at the beginning of creation. It is revered within Gauḍiya Vaiṣṇavism, whose 16th-century founder, Caitanya Mahāprabhu (1486–1534), rediscovered a part of the work, the 62 verses of Chapter 5, which had previously been lost for a few centuries, at the Adikeshav Temple in Thiruvattar, Tamil Nadu, South India. Mitsunori Matsubara, in his Pañcarātra Saṁhitās and Early Vaisṇava Theology dates the text at c. 1300 CE. The text contains a highly esoteric description, with the Kāma-Gāyatrī, of Kṛṣṇa in His abode Goloka.


Krishnaism, or Kṛṣṇaism, is an Hindu tradition related to Vaishnavism, but centering on the devotion to Krishna as the Absolute, the ultimate reality and the source of all reality.

Cataphatic theology or kataphatic theology is theology that uses "positive" terminology to describe or refer to the divine – specifically, God – i.e. terminology that describes or refers to what the divine is believed to be, in contrast to the "negative" terminology used in apophatic theology to indicate what it is believed the divine is not.

Kumara Sampradaya One of the four Vaiṣṇava Sampradāyas

The Kumāra Sampradāya, also known as the Hamsa Sampradāya, Nimbārka Sampradāya, Catuḥ Sana Sampradāya and Sanakādi Sampradāya, is one of the four Vaiṣṇava Sampradāyas. It was founded by Nimbarka, a disciple of the Four Kumaras, and teaches the Vaishnava theology of Dvaitadvaita (dvaita-advaita), or "dualistic non-dualism." Dvaitadvaita states that humans are both different and non-different from Isvara, God or Supreme Being, and is also known as Bhedābheda (bheda-abheda) philosophy.

Tattva (song) 1996 single by Kula Shaker

"Tattva" is a song by the British psychedelic rock band Kula Shaker, released as the band's debut single. It was first released in the United Kingdom on 1 January 1996 as "Tattva ", then reissued on 24 June as a re-recording from their debut album K with a different sleeve and track listing. The re-recording reached number four on the UK Singles Chart, number 11 on the Canadian RPM Alternative 30 chart and number 10 on the US Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.

Svayam Bhagavān is a Sanskrit theological term for the concept of absolute representation of God as Bhagavan - The Supreme Personality who possesses all riches, all strength, all fame, all beauty, all knowledge and all renunciation.

Para Brahman (Sanskrit:परब्रह्मन्) is the "Highest Brahman" that which is beyond all descriptions and conceptualisations. It is described in Hindu texts as the formless spirit (soul) that eternally pervades everything, everywhere in the universe and whatever is beyond.

Tripurari American Hare Krishna

Swami Tripurari, also known as Swami BV Tripurari or Tripurari Swami, is an American author, poet, and guru, described as "a prominent master in the Gaudiya Vaishnava lineage", and "one of the leading practitioners of Bhakti-yoga in the West."

Satyanarayana Dasa Indian scholar

Dr. Satyanarayana Dasa is an Indian Gaudiya Vaisnava scholar and practitioner. Dasa is a polymath, holding a Ph.D. in Sanskrit from Agra University, a degree in Indian law from Agra University, a Bachelors of Technology in Mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology and a Masters of Technology in Industrial Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. Currently based in India at the Jiva Institute, which he founded, Dasa has published numerous books and original papers in the field of Gaudiya Vaisnavism including translations and commentaries on the Sat Sandarbhas. His honors include an award from the President of India in 2012. Dasa has been called a leading living practitioner-scholar of Jīva Gosvāmin.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Gupta, Ravi M. (2007). Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami's Catursutri tika. Routledge. ISBN   0-415-40548-3.pp. 47-52
  2. Kaviraja, K.G. Sri Caitanya-caritamrita. Bengali text, translation, and commentary by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Madhya 20.108-109 Archived 11 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine "It is the living entity's constitutional position to be an eternal servant of Krishna because he is the marginal energy of Krishna and a manifestation simultaneously one with and different from the Lord, like a molecular particle of sunshine or fire."
  3. Kṛṣṇa Upaniṣad 1.25: bhinnam. nā bhinnamābhirbhinno na vai vibhuḥ
  4. 1 2 Prabhupada, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami (1972). Bhagavad-gita as it is . Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Los Angeles, Calif. 7.8 Archived 19 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  5. "Additional information". Archived from the original on 7 June 2002. Retrieved 16 April 2008. "Lord Chaitanya taught that as spirit souls we are part of God and thus we are not different with Him in quality, and yet at the same time we are also different from Him in quantity. This is called acintya-bheda-abheda-tattva, inconceivable, simultaneous oneness and difference."
  6. Satsvarupa, dasa Goswami (1976). "Readings in Vedit Literature: The Tradition Speaks for Itself": 240 pages. ISBN   0-912776-88-9.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  7. "Additional information". Tatfoundation. Archived from the original on 12 May 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2008. "This interpretation of the Upanishads, that the individual soul and God are absolutely non-different, is what distinguishes advaita from other forms of Vedanta."
  8. "Additional information". Archived from the original on 12 April 2008. Retrieved 16 April 2008. "Dvaita,... asserts that the difference between the individual soul or Jiva, and the Creator, or Ishvara, is eternal and real"
  9. yathorṇa-nābhiḥ sṛjate gṛhṇate ca yathā pṛthivyām oṣadhayaḥ sambhavanti yathā sataḥ puruṣāt keśa-lomāni tathākṣarāt sambhavatīha viśvam - Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.1.7
  10. Prabhupada, A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami (1988). Srimad Bhagavatam. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. Bhag. 4.31.16 Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine "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 different"
  12. S. Devadas Pillai, ed. (1997). Indian Sociology Through Ghurye: A Dictionary. Columbia, Mo: South Asia Books. p. 403. ISBN   81-7154-807-5.