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Vishista advaita
Modified Monism

The chief proponent of this philosophy was Ramanuja. Sri Ramanuja was born in 1017 AD (1017-1137 AD) The basic philosophy was however first proposed by Sri Nathamuni at least a century before him. Ramanuja gave it its systematic form as it is today.
Other Acharyas of the Vishnavite tradition are:

   Nathamuni (823-923 AD)
   Yamunacarya (916-1036 AD)
   Parasara Bhattar
   Sudarsanasuri and

The gross errors of Advaita is overcome by Ramanuja by giving the full inhomogenity within Brahman. The Brahman, according to this philosophy, is not attribute-less but it is full of attributes. Brahman is Sarvaguna, possessing infinite number of attributes. But these are selective qualities like jnana (knowledge), bala (strength), veerya (courageousness), shakti (power), tejas (brilliance), satyakama (desire of good), satyasamkalpa, kaarunya (merciful compassion) etc. Brahman is the antithesis of all imperfections and negative qualities, like anger, pain, hunger, death, evil, sin, sickness and so on. Brahman is eternal, pervades all, is the cause of the entire creation. Being the creator Brahman is the only Independent Entity and the Support of the other two entities in the cosmos viz., souls (Jiva) and the material world (Jagat). Since there was nothing outside of Brahman, the created is also part of the creator but distinct from it.

There are three entities Chit, Achit and Iswara. There is unity in this trinity. The cosmos is the body of the Lord. Ishwara is the head of the cosmos whole Cosmos, the entire universe, is the body of Brahman. Brahman is like Man because Man was created in the Image of Brahman. In Man, Jiva is in this body. Jiva is the Saririn while the body is the Sarira. Brahman is the Lord. Jivas are His servants. While Brahman exists, Jiva and world subsist in Him. When creation occurs, the universe the essence of which was always within Brahman evolves itself and issues out of the Brahman with name and form, this is what is called creation. Brahman creates the world just as a spider creates it's webs out of itself. In this sense, Jivas exists within the Brahman dormant in the state of "sleep". Sao also insentient matter existed within Brahman dormant. They are translated and comes into reality. Creation is a spontaneous, joyous, creative activity (Leela) of Brahman arising out of love, which gives the Jiva the purpose and fulfilment in life.

In the . Vedarthasamgraha Ramanuja establishes that all the statements of the Upanisads can be interpreted in a coherent manner if it is assumed that Brahman is the efficient cause of the universe due to His active role in effecting the manifest creation from its unmanifest cause, as well as being the material cause of the universe by ever being the inner abiding soul of the unmanifest cause. He further clarifies the latter by emphasizing that it is impossible to conceive the unmanifest cause as being independent of Brahman. In the state of pralaya (grand dissolution), the manifest Universe is dissolved into its unmanifest cause, and the latter exists as a mode (prakara) of Brahman. The relation between this Universe (in both the manifest as well as the unmanifest state) and Brahman is that between the body and the soul - they form one organic whole. Further Vishista Advaita emphasizes a divine form - a supernal form of personality to Iswara whom they call Vishnu.

The divine form is a corrolary to the since the scriptural texts themselves indicated at many places that the Lord possesses a Supernatural Form. It reconciles the apparent contradictory texts where the Lord is described as enjoying Praktrtic (material) endowments Several earlier acharyas have suggested it including, Bhagavan Badarayana (the author of the Brahmasutras), Acarya Tanka and Dramidacarya.

Siva and Brahma are merely demigods compared to Visnu (Narayana), who alone is the expressed image of the Brahman and the Head of the Cosmic organism. But the identification of Visnu as the Personal God is arbitrary and not necessarily of Vedic import. He ascribes five divine attributes - sat (reality), jnana (knowledge), ananta (infinity), amalatva (purity) and ananda (bliss) to the high God which he calls as Kalyanaguna.. The favorite dictum of the Advaitins ''Tat tvam asi" is explained by Ramanuja as the indwelling of the Brahman in all creation qnd not as an identity. Thusthere is no discrepancy if all things are equated to Brahman by Upanishads since He is the indwelling soul of all entitities.

The corresponding Greco-Christian concept is that of the Logos becoming a reality. In the creation of Jiva. The word became flesh in the creation. It is this presence of the word within the jagat that originally gave its direction of flow from order to higher growth. It was also the nature of Jiva to grow from glory to greater glory.

Jiva is dependent on Brahman for its subsistence and possesses various relationships to Brahman. So also Jiva is related to external world in a similar relation. These relations are describable in such terms as: sarira of the sariri (body of the indweller), Prakara of the Prakari (attribute or mode of the substance), sesha of the seshi (Owned of the owner), amsa of the amsi (part of the whole) , adharadeya and the sambandha (supporter and the supported), Niyamya and the Niyanta (controlled and the controller) and Rasksya and the Raksaka (redeemed and the redeemer). Jiva being the image of Brahman has the ability to make choices and do things of its own will. But Jivatma is not totally free because It is dependent on a Paramatma and his absolute nature . Jiva's moral and social responsibility arise from this eternal nature, purposes and will of Paramatma. Thus Jiva reaps the consequences of his Karma, the fruits of the actions.

"Even the All-loving Father, the Great Isvara, does not force His presence on the Atma, not yet ripe to receive Him. With infinite patience He waits and watches the struggle of the soul in Samsara , since the struggle is necessary for the full unfolding of the faculties of the Jiva." (Pillai Lokacharya).

The Rakshsas, the Devil are Jiva just as any others who have deviated from their purpose being self centered, having caught up in the net of pleasures. They misuse both Jiva and Ajiva to their gains and thus imposes death on all things.

Just as the Jiva is related to jagat so is Brahman related to Jiva. Brahman is the creator, and the creation is real, it is not mithya. Brahman permeates the creation. Just as human body consists of various organic elements combined together to form a body, various Jivas and Matter form to beocme the body of the Brahman.The Head of the experiential cosmos is the Saguna Brahman, the Iswara himself , the Brahman whom Jivatma can know.

In this view Bhakthi is the means of Mukthi. It is of the nature of the God to love. God is indeed Love. It makes sense because there are other beings beside God. Total and complete surrender to the will and puposes of God in love towards God, beings and non-beings brings mukthi. Any deviation from it by any one Jiva produces an in balance within the cosmos. Bliss is when the whole cosmos is redeemed.

There is more to this. While the Jiva struggles through the samsara, Iswara also suffers because of it. This is because Jivas are part of the body of Iswara. Iswara is not an immune distant being who do not feel hurt at the struggle of Jiva but is actively involved in the redemption process. While this is a logical conclusion of the vishista vedanta, where is the historic action of Iswara in history in the redemptive process? Only in the revelation of Jesus we see this suffering Iswara portrayed.

The relationship of Jiva and Brahman in the state of Redemption is given by the example of arrow and the target. When the arrow hits the target, it does not become the target. It subsists in the target. We go to a place. When we reach there, we do not become that place ourselves. We only subsist in that place but we do not become identical with that place.

As long as there is freewill for Jiva, the cycle of fall and redemption will continue.

Vishita Advaita is a beautiful picture and fits well into the Christian Theology. Jesus is the first born of all creation the Iswara - the Godhead. Paul in fact uses this picture

Col 1: 15 Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,

20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Rom 1: 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made,
Eph. 1: 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength,

20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,

23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

Eph 4: 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Church then is the redeemed Jivas who work together in unison to recreate and reconcile, the cosmos unto the Brahman, which forms the mukthi for the cosmos as a whole. Then Brahman can rest and go into blissful state till another fall occur within the cosmos. This cosmos consists not only the visible universe but all dimensions of existence. Moksha, according to Ramanuja, is attaining to the likeness or similar nature of Brahman. Moksha is the destruction ahamkara (ego or pride) which is the cause of all suffering.

Eph 1:9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,
10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment--to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.

Heb. 2: 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil--
15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

Thus we see that Vishista Advaita teaches exactly what the bible teaches in a very pictorial way. This is exactly the stand of the Eastern Churches.