Achintya Bheda Abheda Vedanta: Vedanta doesn’t just teach oneness, but differentiation too.

Lord Chaitanya’s meeting with Mayavadis of Benaras


  • Achintya Bheda Abheda Vedanta
  • Vedic verses which teach oneness or non-difference
  • Vedic verses which teach difference
  • To whom, Lord manifests his own form and who can understand absolute truth or God as it is by TATTVA?
  • Soul upon liberation
  • God has a Spiritual form and Spiritual qualities
  • Supreme Person or God has multi potencies
  • Supreme Person is basis of Impersonal Brahman
  • Supreme Person expands himself as Supersoul and detailed explanation on realizations of three aspects of Absolute truth
  • Supreme person’s abode

Achintya Bheda Abheda Vedanta, the Philosophy of Lord Chaitanya:

  1. The individual souls and supersoul are same in quality but different in quantity just like sun and it’s rays or gold and it’s particles. Thus we (individual souls) and God are different as well as same. I’m quoting a detailed example for a better understanding of this Vedanta : Srila Prabhupada says in Gita introductory chapter : A particle of gold is also gold, a drop of water from the ocean is also salty, and similarly we the living entities, being part and parcel of the supreme controller, īśvara, or Bhagavān, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, have all the qualities of the Supreme Lord in minute quantity because we are minute īśvaras, subordinate īśvaras. We are trying to control nature, as presently we are trying to control space or planets, and this tendency to control is there because it is in Kṛṣṇa. But although we have a tendency to lord it over material nature, we should know that we are not the supreme controller. This is explained in Bhagavad-gītā. Ref: Introduction
  2. The individual souls are subordinate to Lord or dependent on Lord eternally.
  3. The world is real but temporary.
  4. God (Lord Krishna/Vishnu) has a Spiritual, eternal form with spiritual or transcendental qualities. His bodily effulgence is known as Brahman.
  5. The individuals are different souls which are of same quality and quantity compared to each other.
  6. Bhakti alone can give salvation.
  7. Moksha is not the destruction of the “I” in the soul, but it is the destruction of the false sense of “I”, the ahamkara (false ego or pride), confusion of oneness with the body, karma and so on. The true “I” of the individuality of the soul persists even through moksha because it is a different entity than Supersoul (Krishna), who is the inner soul or supersoul of the individual soul.

What is “Achintya” or inconceivable in this Vedanta?

Both Bheda (difference) and Abheda (oneness) are present between Supreme Lord and Individual beings, but how these two are reconciled, cannot be understood by mere logical thinking. Simultaneous difference and identity of sakti (energy) and saktiman (energetic) cannot be comprehended by mere logic. Therefore, it is called acintya or inconceivable. In his Govinda-bhasya (commentary on Vedanta Sutra), Baladeva Vidyabhusana states that the relation between the Supreme Lord and the individual souls is inconceivable to the human mind and it is simultaneously identical and non-identical.

Vedic verses which teach oneness or non-difference:

Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.1: sarva khalv idam brahma “Everything, both matter and spirit, is non-different from the Supreme Personality of Godhead who is the Supreme Brahman.

Chandogya Upanisad 7.25.2: atmaivedam sarvam iti, “The Supreme Personality of Godhead is everything.”

Vedic Verses which teach difference:

Katha Upanishada 1.2.20:

aṇor aṇīyān mahato mahīyān ātmāsya jantor nihito guhāyām tam akratuḥ paśyati vīta-śoko dhātuḥ prasādān mahimānam ātmanaḥ

“Both the Supersoul [Paramātmā] and the atomic soul [ jīvātmā] are situated on the same tree of the body within the same heart of the living being, and only one who has become free from all material desires as well as lamentations can, by the grace of the Supreme, understand the glories of the soul.”

The Svetasvatara Upanishad 5.9:

bālāgra-śata-bhāgasya śatadhā kalpitasya ca bhāgo jīvaḥ sa vijñeyaḥ sa cānantyāya kalpate

“When the upper point of a hair is divided into one hundred parts and again each of such parts is further divided into one hundred parts, each such part is the measurement of the dimension of the spirit soul.”

Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1

dva suparna sayuja sakhayah samanam vriksham parishasvajate tayor anyah pippalam svadv atty anasnann anyo ‘bhicakasiti

“The Lord and the living entity are compared to two birds sitting in a tree. While the illusioned living entity eats the fruits of the material world, the Lord as Supersoul and best friend witnesses these activities.”

Katha Upanishad 2.2.13

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman

“The Supreme Lord is eternal and the living beings are eternal. The Supreme Lord is cognizant and the living beings are cognizant. The difference is that the Supreme Lord is supplying all the necessities of life for the many other living entities.”

Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 4.3.8:

sa va ayam purusho jayamanah shariram abhisampadyamanah sa utkraman mriyamanah

“At the moment of birth the spirit soul enters a material body and at the moment of death the soul leaves the body.”

//As we can see, the above verse says the soul or Jiva enters and leaves the body. This suggests clearly that the Jiva or soul is not unlimited Brahman but an eternal part of the Para Brahman. The same is confirmed in the verses of Mundaka and Svetashvatara which are quoted above the verse of Katha Upanishada.

Also, the Same is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita 15.7:

mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ
“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts.”

// The verse above, clearly says that there is another living entity or soul which is atomic in size and eternal part of the Supreme Lord. However, the Impersonalists try to argue that here Krishna says, the material bodies are my frag-mental parts, but to refute such illogical conceptions, Krishna said “sanātanaḥ” means eternal. The bodies of the living entities (individual souls) are not eternal and subject to deteriorate.

To whom, Lord manifests his own form and who can understand absolute truth or God as it is by TATTVA?

Mundaka Upanishada 3.2.3

nayam atma pravacanena labhyo na medhaya na bahuna srutena yam evaisa vrnute tena labhyas tasyaisa atma vivrnute tanum svam

“The Supreme Lord is not obtained by expert explanations by  vast intelligence or even by much hearing He is obtained only by one whom He Himself chooses To such a person He manifests  His own form.”

So, Lord choose souls randomly? No. There must be some requirements. Let’s see the version of Lord himself on this:

Bhagavad-gita 7.25:

nāhaṁ prakāśaḥ sarvasya yoga-māyā-samāvṛtaḥ
mūḍho ’yaṁ nābhijānāti loko mām ajam avyayam

“I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My internal potency, and therefore they do not know that I am unborn and infallible.”

Bg 11.54:  

bhaktyā tv ananyayā śakya aham evaṁ-vidho ’rjuna
jñātuṁ draṣṭuṁ ca tattvena praveṣṭuṁ ca paran-tapa
“My dear Arjuna, only by undivided devotional service can I be understood as I am, standing before you, and can thus be seen directly. Only in this way can you enter into the mysteries of My understanding.”
BG 18.58: bhaktyā mām abhijānāti yāvān yaś cāsmi tattvataḥ
 “One can understand Me as I am, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, only by devotional service.

Soul upon liberation

Chāndogya Upaniṣad 8.12.3, the demigod Brahmā explains:

evam evaiṣa samprasādo ‘smāt śarīrāt samutthāya paraṁ jyotir upasampadya svena rūpeṇābhiniṣpadyate sa uttamaḥ puruṣaḥ

“By the Supreme Lord’s mercy, the enlightened soul leaves his material body and enters the effulgent spiritual world. There he attains his own spiritual body. He becomes the most exalted of persons.”

Thus, it is evident from all the above verses that the individual souls and Supreme Person or Brahman are same as well as different. Individual soul is same in quality (Individual souls possess qualities of God in minute quantity, for e.g. the particle of gold also possess the qualities of whole gold) but different in quantity (the particle of gold possess whole gold’s quality but in different quantity) compared to Brahman or Supreme Person.

Vedic Verses which says GOD has a Spiritual form and Spiritual qualities:

[Let first see the Logic: The Vedanta-Sutra (1.1.2) defines God or the Absolute Truth, brahman, as the source of everything. Janmady asya yatah. Another ancient text, the Brahma-Samhita (5.1), defines God similarly as the cause of all causes sarva karana-karanam. This concise definition of God is essentially in agreement with the understanding of God given by all the theistic traditions of the world. So, if God is the source of everything that we see in this world, then God himself should possess the essential attributes of everything, else he would be lesser than his creation. In this world, there exist both personal beings and impersonal forces, so both these aspects should be present in God. If God were not a person, then he, who by definition is the Complete Being, would be incomplete. Another simpler way of putting this is: if we as the children of God are persons, how can our father, God, not be a person? So, those who say that God is not a person are actually limiting him, by divesting him of what his creation has.

Now let’s consider the question: do personality and form not limit God? Vedic wisdom helps us understand that what causes limitation is not form, but matter. Due to the very nature of matter, all material objects are limited, whether they have form or not. When we think of God’s form, we subconsciously project our conceptions of matter on the form of God and so think that a form would limit God. But God is not material; he is entirely spiritual. Spirit has characteristics different from matter; that which is spiritual has the potential to be unlimited, irrespective of whether it has form or not. So God’s form being spiritual does not limit him. This is how, due to his being spiritual, God is a person with a form and is still unlimited.

Another one:

If God is the source of everything, then He must be the source of both the form-endowed and the formless things we see in this world. To be their source, He must himself have both these aspects. But how can He have form and also not have form? The Vedic texts give the analogy of the sun. The sun has form as a celestial globe and is formless in its widespread effulgence. Similarly, God has form as the Supreme Person, Krishna, and is formless as the all-pervading effulgence known as Brahman. Just as the sun globe is the source of the sunlight, Krishna is the source of the Brahman, as is confirmed in the Gita (14.27).

Chaitanya Charan Das (]

Mundaka Upanishada 3.2.3 which is quoted in ‘Vedic verses which teach difference’ says the Supreme Lord reveals his form to only those who he himself chooses.

Isha Upanishada 16

pūṣann ekarṣe yama sūrya prājāpatya vyūha raśmīn samūha tejo yat te rūpaṁ kalyāṇa-tamaṁ tat te paśyāmi yo ‘sāv asau puruṣaḥ so ‘ham asmi
“O my Lord, O primeval philosopher, maintainer of the universe, O regulating principle, destination of the pure devotees, well-wisher of the progenitors of mankind, please remove the effulgence of Your transcendental rays so that I can see Your form of bliss. You are the eternal Supreme Personality of Godhead, like unto the sun, as am I.”

Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.19

apani-pado javano grahita pasyaty acakshuh sa srinoty akarnah

sa vetti vedyam na ca tasyasti vetta tam ahur agryam purusham mahantam

“The Supreme Lord has no material hands and feet but accepts whatever is offered to Him and moves very quickly. The Supreme Person has no material ears and eyes but sees and hears everything. He is the knower of everything, and He is all that is to be known. It is said that He is the best and the greatest of all persons.”

Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6.11

eko devah sarva-bhuteshu gudhah sarva-vyapi sarva-bhutantaratma

karmadhyakshah sarva-bhutadhivasah sakshi ceta kevalo nirgunash ca

“The Supreme Personality of Godhead manifests Himself as the all-pervading Supersoul, the witness present in the hearts of all living entities. He witnesses all activities of the living entity. He is the supreme living force. He is transcendental to all material qualities.”

//The impersonal form cannot act or manifest itself as Supersoul which has size of the thumb of the living entity’s material body. Thus, it is only the Supreme person who manifest itself as Supersoul, Manifest the material world through his energies etc.

The Supreme Person has multi potencies:

Shvetashvatara Upanishad 4.1

ya eka varno bahudha shakti-yogad varnan anekan nihitartho dadhati

“He who has no rival creates the varieties of this world, using His own potencies according to His own wish.”

Shvetashvatara Upanishad 6.8 

parasya shaktir vividhaiva shruyate “The Supreme has many potencies.”

The Supreme Person is the basis of Impersonal Brahman

Supreme Person Sri Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita 14.27:

brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham amṛtasyāvyayasya ca śāśvatasya ca dharmasya sukhasyaikāntikasya ca

“And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.”
Isha Upanishada 16 which is quoted above also says the same.
Brahma samhita 5.40

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose effulgence is the source of the nondifferentiated Brahman mentioned in the Upaniṣads, being differentiated from the infinity of glories of the mundane universe appears as the indivisible, infinite, limitless, truth.”

The Supreme Person resides in the heart of all living beings as well as in the atoms too by expanding himself in innumerable forms as Supersoul

Bhagavad-gita 7.21, Lord Krishna says:

yo yo yāṁ yāṁ tanuṁ bhaktaḥ śraddhayārcitum icchati tasya tasyācalāṁ śraddhāṁ tām eva vidadhāmy aham

“I am in everyone’s heart as the Supersoul. As soon as one desires to worship some demigod, I make his faith steady so that he can devote himself to that particular deity.”

Katha Upanishad 1.2.20 which is quoted in ‘vedic verses which teach difference’ section, also says the same.

Srimad Bhagavatam also confirmes the three aspects of Absolute truth which are explained above:

Srimad Bhagavatam 1.2.11:

vadanti tat tattva-vida tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate

“Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramātmā or Bhagavān.”
Purport by Srila Prabhupada:

The Absolute Truth is both subject and object, and there is no qualitative difference there. Therefore, Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān are qualitatively one and the same. The same substance is realized as impersonal Brahman by the students of the Upaniṣads, as localized Paramātmā by the Hiraṇyagarbhas or the yogīs, and as Bhagavān by the devotees. In other words, Bhagavān, or the Personality of Godhead, is the last word of the Absolute Truth. Paramātmā is the partial representation of the Personality of Godhead, and impersonal Brahman is the glowing effulgence of the Personality of Godhead, as the sun rays are to the sun-god. Less intelligent students of either of the above schools sometimes argue in favor of their own respective realization, but those who are perfect seers of the Absolute Truth know well that the above three features of the one Absolute Truth are different perspective views seen from different angles of vision.

The Abode of Supreme Person

Chāndogya Upaniṣad 4.15.1:
sa khalv eva vartayan yāvad āyuṣam brahmalokam abhisampadyate. na ca punar avartate.
“Leaving this life, he enters the spiritual world. He never returns.”

Chāndogya Upaniṣad 4.15.6:
etena pratipadyamānā imaṁ mānavam āvartaṁ nāvartante
“They who enter the spiritual world never return to the world of men.”

Bhagavad-gita 8.15-16, Lord Krishna declares:
mām upetya punar janma duḥkhālayam aśāsvatam nāpnuvanti mahātmānaḥ samsiddhiṁ paramāṁ gatāḥ
“After attaining Me, the great souls, who are yogīs in devotion, never return to this temporary world, which is full of miseries, because they have attained the highest perfection.”

ā-brahma-bhuvanāl lokāḥ punar āvartino ‘rjuna mām upetya tu kaunteya punar janma na vidyate

“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains My abode, O son of Kuntī, never takes birth again.”

Bhagavad-gita 15.6, Supreme Lord Krishna says: na tad bhāsayate sūryo na śaśāṅko na pāvakaḥ yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama

That supreme abode of Mine is not illumined by the sun or moon, nor by fire or electricity. Those who reach it never return to this material world.”

Srila Prabhupada says in the purport of Bg 15.6:

The spiritual world, the abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa – which is known as Kṛṣṇaloka, Goloka Vṛndāvana – is described here. In the spiritual sky there is no need of sunshine, moonshine, fire or electricity, because all the planets are self-luminous. We have only one planet in this universe, the sun, which is self-luminous, but all the planets in the spiritual sky are self-luminous. The shining effulgence of all those planets (called Vaikuṇṭhas) constitutes the shining sky known as the brahma-jyotir. Actually, the effulgence is emanating from the planet of Kṛṣṇa, Goloka Vṛndāvana. Part of that shining effulgence is covered by the mahat-tattva, the material world. Other than this, the major portion of that shining sky is full of spiritual planets, which are called Vaikuṇṭhas, chief of which is Goloka Vṛndāvana.

As long as a living entity is in this dark material world, he is in conditional life, but as soon as he reaches the spiritual sky by cutting through the false, perverted tree of this material world, he becomes liberated. Then there is no chance of his coming back here. In his conditional life, the living entity considers himself to be the lord of this material world, but in his liberated state he enters into the spiritual kingdom and becomes an associate of the Supreme Lord. There he enjoys eternal bliss, eternal life, and full knowledge.

One should be captivated by this information. He should desire to transfer himself to that eternal world and extricate himself from this false reflection of reality. For one who is too much attached to this material world, it is very difficult to cut that attachment, but if he takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness there is a chance of gradually becoming detached. One has to associate himself with devotees, those who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One should search out a society dedicated to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and learn how to discharge devotional service. In this way he can cut off his attachment to the material world. One cannot become detached from the attraction of the material world simply by dressing himself in saffron cloth. He must become attached to the devotional service of the Lord. Therefore one should take it very seriously that devotional service as described in the Twelfth Chapter is the only way to get out of this false representation of the real tree. In Chapter Fourteen the contamination of all kinds of processes by material nature is described. Only devotional service is described as purely transcendental.

The words paramaṁ mama are very important here. Actually every nook and corner is the property of the Supreme Lord, but the spiritual world is paramam, full of six opulences. The Kaṭha Upaniṣad (2.2.15) also confirms that in the spiritual world there is no need of sunshine, moonshine or stars (na tatra sūryo bhāti na candra-tārakam), for the whole spiritual sky is illuminated by the internal potency of the Supreme Lord. That supreme abode can be achieved only by surrender and by no other means.


  1. This Vedanta is so much deeper, I have tried my best to present it understandable for all types of people.
  2. All the translations of Bhagavad-Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Brahma Samhita, Upanishads, Vedanta Sutra etc. in the article are taken from the texts translated by Srila Prabhupada and his disciples from, and other sources.

Thank you for reading.

Hare Krishna!

Lord Krishna, the Supreme Person, talks about his eternal spiritual abode.

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