Here is a reproduction of a discussion I had with a Madhva scholar on certain Dvaita-Advaita issues. The following is just one aspect of the discussion that actually covered several topics.
Dvaitin: Krishna who is none other than Ishwara who is in turn omniscient is experiencing and teaching Dvaita only. This is clear from his statements like द्वाविमौ पुरुषौ लोके (15-16_20).
Advaitin: There is nothing in that set of verses to show that the Lord is teaching dvaita. He teaches the transcendental Truth in the verse यस्मात् क्षरमतीतोऽहं अक्षरादपि चोत्तमः…..पुरुषोत्तमः. That alone is the Ultimate Truth, the other two (kshara and akshara) being only the relative reality. It is akin to the pAdatraya of the mAnDukya Upanishad. The PuruShottama is the Turiya, the pAdatraya-vilakShaNa Brahman of the Mandukya.
Dvaitin: Note that the very word द्वौ stands for Dvaita. There is absolutely no evidence in Krishna’s statements to show that only the Purushottama is the ultimate truth and Khshara and Akshahra are unreal. If Purushas are unreal his Purushottamatva would be meaningless.
Advaitin: द्वौ is vyavaharika satya, being paratantra. Anything that is paratantra satya which depends on the Swatantra Satya is unreal. Sri Raghavendra Tirtha in his commentary on the Purusha Suktam has cited a smriti: यदधीना यस्य सत्ता तत्तदित्येव भण्यते where it is clear that the ‘इदं सर्वम्’ of ’पुरुष एव इदं सर्वम्’ is the world of chetanAchetana which has no sattA of its own but has to depend on the sattA of the Swatantra Brahman. The best example for something that has no sattaa of its own but depends on something else’s sattA for its very being is the rope-snake. The adhyasta sarpa has no ‘isness’, sattA, being, of its own; it depends on the adhiShThAna rope for its very being. The state, fate, of the paratantra kShara (manifest world) and akShara (the unmanifest, beeja, cause of the manifest world called mAyA, prakRti) is the same as the adhyasta sarpa of the example. क्षराक्षरयोस्स्वतन्त्रसत्ताभावात् स्वतन्त्रस्य ब्रह्मणः सत्ताधीनत्वात् परतन्त्रसत्यत्वेन तयोः मिथ्यात्वं सुलभमवगम्यते रज्जुसर्पदृष्टान्तेन । तावतीत्य वर्तमानस्य ब्रह्मणः एव पारमार्थिकसत्यत्वमुपपद्यते । पूर्वमेव द्वितीयाध्याये ’नासतो विद्यते भावः’ इत्यत्र क्षराक्षरयोरभावत्वं उपदिष्टं भगवता तत्त्वदर्शिनिर्णीतत्वेन । तत्स्मरणीयं इदानीं पञ्चदशे पुरुषोत्तमतत्त्वावगमे । एतेन पुरुषोत्तमाख्यब्रह्मणः तथात्वं क्षराक्षरापेक्षितत्वात् न स्वरूपलक्षणता । माण्डुक्येऽपि पादत्रये प्रथमद्वौ क्षरः तृतीयस्तु अक्षरः इति विभागः । तत्रापि चतुर्थपादवर्णनावसरे पादत्रयं निराकृतम् भवति ’नान्तःप्रज्ञं…..प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवमद्वैतं…स विज्ञेयः ’ इत्यनेन मन्त्रेण । एवं च एतच्छ्रुत्याधारेण गीतायामपि पुरुषोत्तमतत्त्वं वेदितव्यम् । यत्स्वयमेव सत्ताशून्यं तत् कथं परमार्थसत्ताभाक्भवितुमर्हति?
Dvaitin: After mentioning his Purushottamatattva, he mentions that that is गुह्यतम ie. Ultimate secret. The तमप् प्रत्यय here clearly shows that this is the most superior tattva.
Advaitin: True. The pArmaarthika Satyam is what is taught by the word ‘guhyatama’. The other two, kshara and akshara are only ‘guhyatarau’.
Dvaitin: गुह्यतमम् never stands for पारमार्थिकसत्यम्. It means ultimate secret only. Krishna is referring to the entire Purushottamatattva he has taught in the foregoing verses and drawing the conclusion that this is the ultimate secret thereby denying any other like Nirguna Brahman.
Advaitin: As stated in the previous paragraph, all that Krishna taught in the foregoing verses is about the jiva and jagat, along with their kAraNam. On the basis of the Mandukya, the sakAraNa jiva-jagat in its entirety is the dependent tattva, not having even the sattA of its own. Like the superimposed serpent, it has to depend for its very being on the swatantra. Therefore Krishna concludes saying that he who knows that the dependent kSharAkshara is mithyA and the transcendental Tattva the Independent Brahman, here called PuruShottama, is the sole Satya is the buddhimAn. It goes without saying for the serious student of the prasthAnatraya that the guhyatamatattva has to be the one free of any guNa-s that are relative to the dependent reals: the jiva and jagat. These guNa-s restrict, constrict, Brahman. The aim of the Scripture is to free Brahman of all such upAdhikRta guNa-s and present It as the NirguNa tattva for mokshaprApti. The knowledge of the SaguNaBrahman will have the fruit of taking the aspirant to Brahmaloka and through that path, kramamukti, get the final liberation.
Dvaitin: Recently you have mentioned that you accept ज्ञानम् and आनन्दः in Nirguna Brahman according to the statement विज्ञानमानन्दं ब्रह्म. If you are ready to accept these two virtues in Brahman despite contradicting Nirgunatva, why not you accept other virtues like valor, charm, strength etc.? Just as one can argue that knowledge and happiness of Brahman are much different from the ones famous in the world, so also one can argue that the other virtues are also much different from those perceived in the world. In fact this is in accordance with the Brahmasutra कार्याख्यानादपूर्वम् (3-3-19). Similarly actions like creation of world can also be accepted as actions much different from the ones perceived in the world.
Thus if you are ready to accept that Brahman has लोकविलक्षणगुणरूपक्रिया there would not be no debate between us in this regard. This is in accordance with the Shrutis like परास्य शक्तिर्विविधैव श्रूयते स्वाभाविकी ज्ञानबलक्रिय़ा च। आदित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात्।
Advaitin: I have already pointed out that all these virtues going by various names ‘vibhuti’, ‘icchA’, etc. are attributed to Brahman ONLY in relation to the jiva or / and the jagat. As they are जीवजगत्सापेक्षं they cannot be the true, inherent, nature of Brahman which even according to your school ‘can do very well without the paratantra’ (as per Dr.BNK’s words). Hence only the जीवजगन्निरपेक्षगुण/स्वभाव can be admitted in Brahman. Hence only jnAnam, Sat, Anandam are svarUpabhUta svabhAva of Brahman. I have also shown how the scripture (Upanishad for you) negates all these virtues by the words: आप्तकामस्य का स्पृहा . Actually आदित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात् very clearly teaches that the ‘tamas’ consists of the entire ‘tamaHkAryam’ that is the jiva-jagat paratantratattva and the One that transcends these is the Effulgent One. तमोलक्षितपरतन्त्रः प्रकाश्यः स्वप्रकाशशून्यत्वात् । तत्प्रकाशकं ब्रह्म तु स्वप्रकाशं सत् तदतीत्य वर्तते इत्येतदेव ’परस्तात्’ इत्यस्यार्थः । तत्तु सर्वपरतन्त्रापेक्षितगुणवर्जितमेव भवितुमर्हति ।
Dvaitin: Your attention is drawn towards the statement ब्रह्मेति परमात्मेति भगवानिति शब्द्यते( भागवतम् 1-2-11). This would mean that there is no distinction between God and Brahman. This is further supported by addressing Krishna as परब्रह्म by Arjuna and Uddhava.
Advaitin: Actually, as I had pointed out before, the word Brahman can be easily used/applicable for Ishwara, saguNa Brahman. So, in this sense there is still scope for distinguishing Ishwara from NirguNa Brahman.
Dvaitin: You have accepted that भगवान् stands for six virtues like समग्रैश्वर्यम्।If you are ready to accept ज्ञानम् as a virtue not coming in the way of Nirgunattva what prevents you to accept the other virtues stated in the same statement?
Advaitin: Even in that shloka षण्णां भग इतीरणा the समग्रज्ञानम् would come under the vibhUti of Ishwara, Brahman, and therefore not the svarUpa of the Supreme Brahman. The ‘samagra’ refers to the jiva-jagat and all knowledge about it/them will be only useful for creation, etc. activities of Ishwara. So, such a (samagra)jnAnam is outside the true nature of Brahman whose Jnanam is pure Consciousness, vijnAnaghana, viShayarahitakevalajnAnam.
Dvaitin: There is no statement in Gita in favor of Nirguna Brahman. You have accepted that even the statement निर्गुणं गुणभोक्तृ च stands for Brahman being void of Satva, Rajas and Tamas.
Advaitin: All the statements like ‘parAprakRti’ (differentiating Brahman from the aparAprakRti (7th chapter) consisting of the paratantra kShara-akShara), ‘kShetrajna’ (differentiating Brahman from the kShetram (13th chapter) that is aparAprakRti consisting of the paratantra kShara-akShara) and Sat of the BG 2.16 differentiating It from ‘asat’ in that verse itself, are undoubtedly statements teaching the NirguNa Brahman. Yes, Brahman void of the guNatraya is NirguNa Brahman. Yet, all the Divine Virtues stem still from the prakRti alone: His valour is shuddha rajaHkAryam, His samagrajnAna, vairAgya are shuddha-sattvakARyam and His कालोऽस्मि-लोकक्षयकृत्त्वं is shuddha-tamaHkAryam of prakRti. NirguNam Brahman is the one that is free of even this shuddha-kaaryam of prakRti.
Dvaitin: Considering these arguments supported by scripture too, we can easily come to the decision that Sri Krishna or Vishnu is super most.
Advaitin: This is not questioned. Actually KrishNa is:
कृषिर्भूवाचकः शब्दो णश्च निर्वृतिवाचकः।
तयोश्चैक्यं परं ब्रह्म कृष्ण इत्यभिधीयते॥
The root कृष् means to be, Being, combined with the suffix Na = Bliss,
makes the word कृष्ण to mean परं ब्रह्म = The Supreme Being endowed with
eternal bliss. This is the PauraNika-s definition.
ViShNu really means ‘vyApanashIlaH’. Shankaracharya has said in the तद्विष्णोः परमं पदम् (KaThopaniShat 1.3.9) thus:
तद्विष्णोः व्यापनशीलस्य ब्रह्मणः परमात्मनो वासुदेवाख्यस्य परमं प्रकृष्टं पदं स्थानं सतत्त्वमित्येतद्यदसौ आप्नोति विद्वान् – (That man of knowledge reaches the end of the road, i.e. the very supreme goal to be reached beyond samsAra. He becomes free from all the worldly bondages. That is the highest place, i.e. the very nature, of ViShNu, of the all-pervading Brahman, of the Supreme Self, who is called Vasudeva.)
For the name ‘ViShNu’ of the Vishnusahasranaama too, in the Bhashya, Shankaracharya gives a similar meaning, as one of the many.
व्याप्ते मे रोदसी पार्थ क्रान्तिश्चाभ्यधिका मम ॥
अधिभूतनिविष्टश्च तद्विश्वं चासि भारत । क्रमणाच्चाप्यहं पार्थ विष्णुरित्यभिसंहितः ॥ (mahaabharata शान्ति.३५०.४२-४३) …
Surely, in Advaita the ultimate goal, as different from saguNa brahma loka, is Moksha and that is what is meant by the above BhAshya on the term ‘ViShNu’. The term ‘VAsudeva’ too has a meaning that is different from saguNa Ishwara.
ओं तत् सत्