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The Philosophy of Vallabhācārya - Brahmavāda (Monistic Polytheism)

The doctrine of Vallabhācārya is also known as "brahmavāda ", "sākāra-brahmavāda", "bhedasahiṣṇu-abheda-vāda", "śuddhadvaita-vāda" or Monistic Polytheism. It is the doctrine in which Brahman (the Second-less Ultimate Reality) has become everything. One complex homogeneous entity devoid of any distinctions within itself becomes many for its own sport through divine will without undergoing least change within itself. Every other thing has proceeded from it at the time of creation and is non-different from it during creation and merges into it at the time of dissolution. Pure Brahman only is the Independent Material and Efficient cause of the Universe and not Nescience, Matter, etc.

"Whenever, however, wherever, by or through whatever, out of whatever, for whatever, of whatever, to whatever; in the material form or conscious form or divine form, whatever happens-it is all in all the lord himself" - Sri Vallabhācārya

Scriptural References

  • तं तु औपनिषदं पुरुषं पृच्छामि  (बृह. उप. 3 |9|26)
  • ब्रह्म ते ब्रवाणि  (बृह. उप. 2|1|1)
  • यतो वा इमानि भूतानि जायन्ते ...तद ब्रह्म (तैत्ति. उप. 3|1)
  • सत्यं ज्ञानं अनन्तं ब्रह्म (तैत्ति. उप. 2|1)
  • किंस्विद् वनं क उ स वृक्ष आस ...? (ऋक् संहिता 10|81|4)
  • ब्रह्म वनं ब्रह्म स वृक्ष आस ...(तैत्ति. ब्राह्म. 2|8|9|17)
  • सर्वं खलु इदं ब्रह्म (छान्दोग्य उप. 3|14|1)
  • आत्मैव तदिदं सर्वं सृज्यते ...अयमेव ब्रह्मवाद शिष्टं मोहाय कल्पितं (तत्वार्थदीप निबन्ध 2|183-184)

Component theories of Vallabhācārya's Brahmavāda

Vallabhācārya's Brahmavāda consists of 9 different component theories -

  • Brahma-Vāda
  • Theory of Co-incidentia of Contradictorum
  • Theory of Non-duality of Material and Efficient Cause
  • Theory of Eternal Presence of Cause in the Effect
  • Theory of Eternal Presence of Effect in the Cause
  • Theory of Manifestation and Un-manifestation
  • Theory of Substantial Identity
  • Theory of Unmodified Substantial Transformation
  • Theory of Creation as part of Divine Willful Sport

सत्कारणवाद – Theory of Eternal Presence of Cause in the Effect

The cause is eternally present into the effects without undergoing the least amount of changes and thus the cause does not get modified, destroyed or exhausted at least.

Example reference:

असद् वा इदं अग्रे आसीत् – सत्कारणवाद (छान्दोग्य उपनिषद्)

वा - means "as if '' not there. That means Unmanifested (not the absolute absence)                                        

सत्कार्यवाद – Theory of Eternal Presence of Effect in the Cause

All effects are eternally present into the cause and thus all effects are Ultimate Reality and not just phenomenal illusionary appearance, or Relative Reality. If effects are considered illusionary or unreal, then the cause may not even remain a cause itself. Brahman’s value is enhanced when he creates the universe just like Gold and the Ornament. He reveals infinite formal, nominal and functional multiplicities which were so far unrevealed.

Example reference:

सदेव सौम्य इदं अग्रे आसीत् – सत्कार्यवाद (छान्दोग्य उपनिषद्)

अविकृत परिणामवाद: Theory of Unmodified Substantial Transformation

Substance and Transformation are not different. That means the transformed one is Identical to the substance and not Illusionary. Thus, Substantial Transformation is acceptable in Vallabha Vedānta. Thus, Brahman without undergoing the least change within itself transforms into sentient and insentient forms, Names and functions. For e.g  Gold and the Ornament.

आविर्भाव/तिरोभाव – Theory of Manifestation and Un-manifestation

Five types of Non-existence (prior non-existence, posterior non-existence, temporal non-existence, mutual non-existence) are not accepted in Vallabha’s system. For e.g. Frog and Turtles go into the Hibernation process. While in hibernation, the function of oxygen is mere concealed (not absent) but after the process is over, the oxygen is manifested in functions. Same as a child in the mother's womb taking oxygen via blood while in womb and when outside, takes oxygen from the environment. That doesn’t mean oxygen was totally absent. Oxygen was always needed and present within the womb and outside.

अभिन्न निमित्त उपादान कारणता वाद - Theory of Non-Differential–Instrumental–Material Cause

A pot is made from soil; but water, wheel, stick etc. have an equal role in pot making. All ornaments are made from gold; but tools like hammer, anvil etc. have their contribution in ornament making. From these examples, two conclusions draw our attention:

  • The creation (production) of an object takes place from a substance or some material.
  • In making/creating an object, it is necessary to have some adjuncts.

If we put the same in logical point of view, we can say that there are two factors which are responsible behind any production. So, we have 2 types of causes:

  1. Upādāna kāraṇa/Material cause - Any material, without being separated from its substance/origin changed into a different form/shape, such a material is an example of material cause(Upādāna kāraṇa). For instance, soil is one type of material from which we can make pots, toys etc. We can’t separate soil and pot apart. Therefore, here soil is an example of the material cause for the pot.
  2. Nimitta kāraṇa/Efficient cause - The tools we use in making different things out of any material is said to be an efficient cause. For example, water, wheel, stick are required for pot-making. Therefore they are said to be the efficient cause(Nimitta kāraṇa) for the pot.

Generally, the material cause and the efficient cause are always separate in all functions/works. This theory however can’t be attributed to the creation of the universe, in which the Brahman is the material as well as the efficient cause. To simplify this, we can say the world is created from the Brahman himself and the Brahman has been the creator of it. In other words, the Brahman is the material and the Brahman is the tool behind the creation of the world, the matter, and elements like nature(Prakṛiti), person(Puruṣa), time(kāla), deed(karma) and temperament(swabhāva) are different different forms of Brahman himself. Hence the Brahman is an inseparable cause. The material cause and the efficient cause are unique and unparalleled for the world.

जगतः  समवायि स्यात्  तदेव च निमित्तकम् |

कदाचिद्रमते स्वस्मिन् प्रपञ्चेपि क्वचित्सुखं ||

यत्र येन यतो यस्य यस्मै यद्यद यथा यदा |

स्यादिदं भगवान् साक्षात् प्रधान पुरुषेश्वरः ||

( तत्वार्थ दीप निबन्ध  1|68-69)

अविकृतपरिणाम वाद - Theory of Unmodified Substantial Transformation

When Upādāna - the material cause (gold) results into the form of kārya - the effect (ornament) and even when no kind of modification or alteration takes place in its original realistic form, in that case such an effect is called Avikṛtapariṇāmavāda - the unmodified transformation. If any object results in an unmodified form, its transformation is possible in its original form. For example: golden ornaments are avikṛtapariṇāma - the unmodified transformation of gold. Even though gold is transformed into the form of the ornaments, no kind of transformation or alteration takes place in the fundamental reality or the attributes of the gold. For this reason, by melting the ornaments, the transformation of gold in its former state is also possible.

As we have considered before, Brahman is verily both the instrumental cause and the material cause of the universe. No other reality except Brahman plays a part in the creation of the universe. Brahman himself is the creator of the universe and Brahman himself results into the form of the universe. Though Brahman holds myriads of endless names and forms of the universe, no kind of modification occurs in the form of Brahman. Though gold that results into the ornaments remains gold; and gold does not become extinct after being made into ornaments. Similarly though Brahman himself remains as Brahman. However water is drawn out from the sea, how much it may be evaporated by heat, even then the sea remains equally perfect. Though Brahman results in the imperfect, confined and limited universe, no kind of loss occurs in the perfectness, the endlessness and the vastness of Brahman. Again when ornaments are melted, their transformation into their former state is possible. Similarly, when Brahman wishes to bring out the deluge, he can merge the universe in his own form. At this time the universe becomes non-different (identical) with Brahman. It is for this reason that Śrī Vallabhācārya considers the universe as avikṛtapariṇāma – the unmodified transformation of Brahman.

तादात्म्य वाद - Theory of Identity

Sri Vallabhacharya clearly states in his commentary on Brahmasutra (i.e. Anubhasyam 3.2.) that there is a relationship of substantial identity between Karana (cause) and Karya (effect), Dharma and Dharmi, Guna and Guni, Ansh and Anshi, Utpatti and Upapatti schools of thought. Thus, he defines his Brahmavada as below -

Monistic Polytheism = Realism + Neither Dual nor Non-Dual


Monistic Polytheism = [A = B] where A=Singularity (अद्वैत) and B=Multiplicity (द्वैत)

The type of Unity in Brahmavada is Substantial Unity while considering all types of multiplicities of Formal, Qualitative, Functional and Nominal types due to his willful sporting desire (līlā)

लीलार्थसृष्टिवाद - Theory of Creation as part of Divine Willful Sport

Brahman manifests from one to many in various forms, names and functions due to his willful sporting desire which is also termed as līlā. Brahman creates the universe out of his willful desire to take various forms as part of the rejoicement. This is defined by Vallabhacharya as अनायासेन हर्षात् क्रियामाणा चेष्टा लीला (सु. बो.). Upanishads and Puranas also defines the līlā in क्रीडार्थं आत्मनः इदं त्रिजगत् कृतं  ते स्वाम्यन्तु तत्र कुधियो अपर ईश कुर्युः कर्तुः प्रभोः तव किम् अस्यतः आवहन्ति... (भाग. पु 8/24/20). The same is described by Vyasa in Brahmsutra as लोकवत् तु लीला कैवल्यं (ब्रह्मसूत्र).

विरुद्ध्धर्माश्रयतावाद - Substratum of contradictory attributes or Theory of Coincidentia of Contradictorum

As both the saguṇa and nirguṇa śruti are accepted equally while acknowledging the real character of brahman has posed a serious problem. Brahman is described in this śrutis as both indeterminate, and as the creator and sustainer of the universe as both infinite and manifesting Itself as finite as atomic and all-pervasive and as One who notwithstanding his Omnipresence resides in the hearts of all individual souls. The Vedānta-Sūtra, also assert in uncertain terms that Brahman is substratum of contradictory attributes. Brahman is both Passive and Active, as one who is indeterminate and yet is the source of the origin, sustenance, and dissolution of the world-order, one who is transcendent and immanent, as one from the evolution of changing world order starts and yet suffers no mutation, as one being all-pervasive and omnipotent and the indweller (antaryāmi) in the hearts of millions of creatures. Such contradictory assertions for the same Brahman are baffling to the human mind and is the greatest paradox of Upaniṣada philosophy. They seem to violate laws of logic and Law of the Excluded Middle and any rational justification to human intellect. One may naturally ask: how can we assert contradictory attributes in substratum? Can we assert both the negation and its counter positive on the same ground? In Vidvanmaṇḍanaṃ Śrīmad Viṭṭhalanātha asserts that the standards of our empirical judgement are absolutely incapable of disclosing the truth about the transcendent and essential nature of Brahman. We deny the co-existence of contradictory attributes in one and the same substratum. The basis of our judgement is always our empirical perception for we never perceive such a phenomenon in ordinary human life. Like the indeterminate nature of Brahman can’t be experienced the contradictory attributes in Brahman could only through Śruti and not through empirical means or cognition (pramāṇa). Brahman being the substrate of these contradictory attributes is not a defect but rather an ornament and a sign of his infinite greatness which is executed through his māyā, power or capacity. (Aṇubhāṣya. p121). The inefficacy of the analytic and a-priori laws of logic, such as the Law of Contradiction and Law of Excluded logic, that stem forth directly from our limited and partial mental consciousness, in arriving at a true and essential nature of Reality.

Example reference:

द्वे वाव ब्रह्मणो रूपे मूर्तंचामूर्तं चाथ यन्मूर्तं तदसत्यं यदमूर्तं तत्सत्यं तद्ब्रह्म तज्ज्योतिर्यज्ज्योतिः सआदित्यः स वा एष ओमित्येतदात्माऽभवत्स त्रेधात्मानं व्यकुरुतोमितितिस्रो मात्रा एताभिः सर्वमिदमोतं प्रोतं चैवास्मीत्येवं ह्याहैतद्वा आदित्यओमित्येवं ध्यायताऽऽत्मानं युञ्जीतेति ॥ ३

Two forms, or two manifestations, as it were, are of Brahman. These two manifestations are murtam ca, amurtam ca, the formed and the formless, the visible and the invisible, that with shape and that without any particular shape. These are the two ways in which Brahman manifests itself in the five elements, murtam caivamurtam ca: And, likewise, that which is with form is martya, or perishable. That which is without form is not perishable - it is amrta. That which is with form is limited - sthita. That which is without form is yac, or unlimited. That which is with form is Sat, or perceptible. That which is without form is Tyat, or imperceptible. That which is murta is also martya; it is also sthita; it is also Sat.


Sri Vallabhācārya's Brahmavāda can be summarized using below representations -

Monistic Polytheism = Realism + Neither Dual nor Non-Dual


Monistic Polytheism = [A = B] where A=Singularity (अद्वैत) and B=Multiplicity (द्वैत)


Monistic Polytheism = एकमेवाद्वितीयं + तद् ऐक्षत बहुस्यां प्रजायेय


Monistic Polytheism = (ब्रह्म स्वस्वरूप स्वाभाविक अद्वैत  + नाम रूप कर्म जीव नानात्व रूप ऐच्छिक द्वैत )

Venn Diagrammatic representation of Various theories including Vallabhācārya's Brahmavāda




Theory Degree of līlā Diagrammatic Representation
Voidism Unavailable

अनात्म वाद  

अनीश्वर वाद

शून्य वाद

Vedic Interpretive Philosophies
Absolute Monism Unavailable

इदं हि विश्वं भगवान इतर

Dualism Unavailable

इदं हि विश्वं भगवान इतर

Singularity in Duality
Qualified Non-Dualism Low

इदं हि विश्वं भगवान इव

Same as above
Duality in Singularity
Visheshadavaita Medium

इदं हि विश्वं भगवान इव

Undivided Dualism High

इदं हि विश्वं भगवान्

Same as above
Monistic Polytheism Highest

इदं हि विश्वं भगवान्

Understanding Vallabhacharya's Brahmavada with Boolean Algebra

Let A=Singularity (अद्वैत) and B=Multiplicity (द्वैत)

Truth Table केवलाद्वैत

(मायावाद – शाङ्कर मत)



(रामानुज मत)



(वाल्लभ मत)






A B A AND ~B A=  +

, ,

C = चिद् and D = अचित्

A=B or A=~[~B] ~A And B A AND B
Comparing Vallabhacharya's Brahmavada with other theories