Ramanuja (11th century) He gave a sound philosophic basis to the
hhakti cult of the Vaishnavas by founding the philosophy of Visishtadvaita
(Modified Monism). According to it, god is saguna. The creative process
and all the objects in creation are real, but not illusory as was held by
Sankaracharya (founder of Advaita or Non-dualism). Therefore, not only
god but also the soul and matter are real. However, god is the inner
substance, whereas the rest (soul and matter) are his attributes and hence
they are dependent on him. Ramanuja was followed by several other saint-
philosophers who combined erudite scholarship with abiding faith in the
prapathimarga (path of self-surrender to god).
Madhavacharya (13th century) He was the founder of the Dvaita
(Dualism) school of philosophy. According to it, the world is not an
illusion but a reality, full of real distinctions. God, soul and matter are all
unique in nature, and hence they are irreducible to each other.
Nimbarka (13th and 14th centuries) He advocated another school of
philosophy, called Dvaitadvaita (Dualistic Monism). According to it, the
Brahman or the Supreme Being transforms himself into the souls and the
world, which are therefore real, distinct and different from the Brahman.
Though they (soul and world) are real and different from the Brahman,
they cannot, however, exist independently without his support.
Vallabhacharya (15 and 16th centuries) He was the founder of yet
another school of philosophy, called the Suddhadvaita (Pure Non-
Dualism). According to it, god is one, omnipotent and omniscient and the
cause of all that there is in the universe. He manifests himself in the form
of individual souls and matter (world). Thus, the three (god, soul and
world) are identical in essence though different in manifestation. At the
same time it should be kept in mind that god is pure (suddha) in himself
and does not undergo any change or transformation, though he is the cause
of everything in the universe. Vallabha’s teachings are also known as
pustimarga or the path of grace.
All the above saint-philosophers belonged to Vaishnavism. Ramanuja was
a Tamilian and Madhava was a Kannadiga, while Nimbarka and
Vallabhava were Telugus.