‘Jeeva(Individual soul) is different from Ishvara(God)’
It may be accepted that the stand: Jeeva is different from Ishvara based on anumana(inference) like: We have not seen the Ishvara and accepting the Vedas, that there is one controller who controls everything. It is also clear from the Vedas that Ishvara is present in his own domain(like vaikuntha) and also that a jeeva can reach that domain after death(conditions apply). For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Vishnu is the god of the gods or the highest god. A jeeva could be a man or a woman, Brahmana or a shudra. Jeeva is the controlled and Ishvara is the controller.
If this is the message of the Vedanta, then how is it different from other faiths like Christianity or islam which propounds the same message(replacing respective terms). It could be true that, afterall, one of these gods is true. But, we will never know. Hence this is not acceptable by the wise.
Even if we have to come to a conclusion, then perhaps Christianity or islam is much simple. There is no discrimination on fellow humans based on the castes. If it is contended that caste system originated or sustained due to the theory of’ distribution of work’, then it has to be based solely on the merit of a human and not by birth. It is evident that there were Brahmanas who were of poor conduct, Kshatriyas who were in capable. The message given by all these faiths are the same but this vedic version comes with this inhuman act of discrimination which is not acceptable by the wise. Perhaps this is why sri Ramanujacharya were of the opinion that other castes too have the right to learn the scriptures.
By doing rigorous sacrifices like agnihotra, by setting up fireplace and offering ghee and other things to the fire, are we trying to please the god to protect us? Then it should be called as slavery in disguise rather than sacrifice. What difference is there between a King and God? It means that jeeva is essentially bound forever to Ishvara either through sacrifices or through ‘bhakti’. If Bhakti is deemed greater than sacrifices, then why are the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas? If sacrifices are mentioned for gaining greater worlds, then it means that jeeva is bound by It’s own desires and Ishvara has no meaning at all or Jeeva(devoid of desires) itself is Ishvara.
Now for the sake of argument, let us accept the 9 types of Bhakti explained in the scriptures like: Sravana(intent on hearing about god), Kirtana(singing glories of god), Smarana( recounting the glories of god) etc. But what difference does it make if the jeeva includes this in the daily curriculum? Is a place guaranteed near the lord getting an opportunity to serve his feet? But again, what is gained by serving his lotus feet?Bliss/ananda? Now then, Bhakti is the currency for bliss. Just like a slave serves his master and cajoles him, for the sake of his well-being, a jeeva listens, sings and think about God to obtain bliss, to obtain mukti. There is no difference between this and a drunkard drinking liquor. Whether one tries to attain the state of bliss through senses or through bhakti by restraining the senses, both are but same-Samsara.
It is true that God is Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent. Even if the Vedas or the other faiths don’t declare about the existence of God, when there is lack of anything, the conception of fullness comes. So even for an atheist the concept of Omnipresence, Omnipotence and Omniscience is there, imminent. Then what does one achieve by reading those Vedas which says the same thing. Hence the difference between jeeva and Ishvara is not the import of the Vedas and It is a waste of time to read such views and hence it is not acceptable by the wise.
Now let us proceed a bit further and draw attention towards the relation between jeeva and Ishvara. Jeeva is not Omniscient and Ishvara is omniscient. For example, a jeeva can’t count the stars in the sky. So Ishvara should well be able to count these ‘countless’ stars. You see the contradiction here? If Ishvara has to succeed in doing this impossible act, then a different condition has to be brought in. Let’s call it Absolute plane. If we don’t bring in this special condition(explained later), even God will not be able to count the ‘countless’ stars. He will be wise to admit that it is countless. If god however claims that he can count the countless, then he is a God of the fools and not acceptable as God by the wise.
Now, we know about lack of fullness and the very idea of omniscience is not even possible to think on a relative plane. To explain this omniscience, we have to bring in a condition, call it absolute plane. But this absolute plane condition is brought in based on relative plane only. Taking the same example: The jeeva is the knower and the stars are the known. To understand Omniscience, we have to have the jeeva as the locus, otherwise jeeva will never know about omniscience and there is no point in reading the scriptures.
Whether one counts the stars in the sky or the ants in the garden, Omniscience can happen only when the known is not different from the knower. This is nothing but the absolute plane condition. If we try to explain Omniscience on a relative plane, then the knower tries to know the known for an infinite time and hence this is the definition of samsara and not Omniscience. In the same way, omnipresence and omnipotence can be explained on a plane which has no subject-object difference, as if in a deep sleep state. Those who regard the relative plane as the absolute, neither know about god nor do they want to. Indeed they are atheists in disguise. But how can this explain the non difference between jeeva and Ishvara? Since now omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence has been explained with the jeeva as the locus, we have defined God by arriving at the conclusion-Aham Brahmasmi- Jeeva is non-different from Ishvara. Whether you define God as Omniscient, Omnipresent and Omnipotent, or you define all these separately, it is still the same. And this can be defined with only jeeva as the locus. And thus this is acceptable to the wise.
Just like a mother convinces her child that the moon will come every night and goes away during day, the scriptures talk about Ishvara. But when the child matures, it will know about the reality.
But one might say: I don’t need Omniscience, I am quite satisfied in Lord’s service. A man can think like this, but it is just a statement which fools himself. Because, the locus of bhakti is jeeva. Jeeva, who is not omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, how can jeeva be so special when it comes to bhakti? Somehow a man will think that his bhakti is untainted and without pause. Just like a man who becomes proud of excess wealth or beauty. Never does a man want to love an ugly woman, never does a man want to hurt himself, never does a man want to worship an incapable. The idea of perfection whether attainment or bhakti, is imminent. As long as this knowledge of Vedanta is not understood, the man is subjected to this process of ‘counting the countless’. This is samsara. The knowledge of the non-difference between knower and the known is the release from this samsara, attaining god in the real sense. Thus paramarthika bhakti-absolute devotion is achieved by this knowledge of non-differnce (refer Vishnu sahasranama: one who is known by knowledge;refer gita:jnani is the best among bhaktas). Only this is accepted by the wise.
Ishvara as the locus:
It is also important to mention about Ishvara on a relative plane. But even while explaining about Ishvara, jeeva has to be the locus. Otherwise it can be said that: Ishvara knows himself as non different from Jeeva and others;end of story(refer gita: Krishna says-he knows about past and present but arjuna doesn’t). Thus again, non-difference between jeeva and Ishvara is verified.
If it is established that the non-difference between jiva and Ishvara to be the import of the Vedas, then what is the significance of bhakti?
The bottom-line of bhakti is love which is imminent in man like love of family, love of senses, love of spouse/children, pets etc. A wise man concludes that love is imminent even when it is not diverted towards anything or anyone apart from himself. Love towards a wife can be possible only after meeting the wife(or would-be) and not before that. But the nature of that love was imminent even before meeting. Thus bhakti too is equal in all jeevas before and after realizing god. Knowledge of this is liberation. Ignorance is bondage(refer gita: I am same towards everyone. One who knows me correctly, he is in me and I am in him).
My prostrations to Vyasa Bhagavan and Adi Shankaracharya.