Religion is centered on God. But ‘Philosophy’ is centered on concepts. Where religion trends to become philosophy it shifts away from the reality of God and engages in conceptualizing God. This is what has happened to certain systems of Indian philosophy especially to Sri Sankara’s advaita philosophy. Sri Sankara has formulated a Philosophy of Advaita centered on a concept of God who is beyond all qualities (nirguna). Conceptually the Advaita Philosophy is logical and impressive. But can it satisfy the religio-philosophical thirst to approach God as unity and plurality in one?
(a) “Love”: The paramount expression of the reality of God. When Sankara developed Kevaladvaita on the foundation of the Upanishads. Ramanuja developed Visistadvaita and Madhava developed Dvaita on the same foundation viz. Upanishads. This means that the difference in conceptualization depends on the person of the philosopher. The person is prior to and determines the nature of the philosophy. Similarly the person of God is prior to the idea of God in Philosophies and writers. According to Paul Tillich personality is individualization by participation. Are not the rishies more important than Vedas? This is true of the western philosophies too. Whether that of Socraties, Plato, Aristotle, David Hume, Frederic Hegel or of Immanuel Kant. Even in theology, the pre-occupation of the theologians determines the nature of theology as illustrated in the scholastic theology of Thomas Acquinas and the neo-orthodox faith dominated theology of Karl Barth. This phenomenon of the philosopher’s or theologian’s preoccupation has put a veil on the whole process of philosophy and theology. My plea in this paper is that instead of beginning with the person and preoccupation of the philosopher or the theologian, let us begin with the reality of God. Any concept of God will remain veiled without encountering the reality of God. The reality of God is love in the absolute and most perfect sense. According to the Church Fathers holy Trinity is co- eternal, co-equal, co-essential God. Of course as in the Bible the fathers believed in the incarnation of God as the incarnation of God’s Infinite Love. There is no term other than infinite love to denote the reality of God. No concept of God will be meaningful without acknowledging the reality of God as love in essence and energeia.
(b) Love in essence and energeia implies God as trinity. God who is Love in essence cannot be a monad, because in a monad there is no possibility of the energeia or exercise of love. God who is love in essence and energeia cannot be only a duality because there is no possibility of the outpouring and full sharing of love in the duality. God who is love in essence and energeia can be a trio because there is only mutuality in a dio but sharing in a tri- unity. Only when God who is love, is a Trinity (tri-unity). i.e. one God in three person there is the possibility of sharing, outpouring and mutuality. A Trinitarian God who is love in essence and energeia is neither ‘one’ nor ‘many’ in a mathematical way. In Advaita there is only unity and no plurality, in Atraita there is unity and plurality.
(c) A Trinitarian philosophy beyond oneness, threeness, and manyness is Atraita philosophy. The Advaita philosophy dialectically denied oneness and manyness in a mathematical sense and denoted the absolute reality only in negative categories of advaita. The atraita philosophy also presents a philosophy of negative categories. (the term Atraita literally means ‘not in three’). Just as Advaita is a denotation of the absolute reality beyond oneness and manyness, Atraita is also a denotation of the absolute reality beyond oneness, manyness and threeness. But in atraita there is an emphasis on the dialectic of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. Traita denotes that the absolute reality is the Trinitarian God who is love in essense and sharing energeia.
(d) Why Atraita is an advance over Advaita ? Sri Sankara’s great and unique contribution is in the exposition of Avidya in relation to the self-manifesting power(maya) of Brahman. Avidya is the pluralistic dimension of maya, causing the feeling of difference (Dvaitha Bhava). Advaita is the epistemological attitude of seeing the absolute reality as neither one nor many. Being an epistemological tool advaita is well reccognised as the foundation of a dialectical philosophy. But Sankara’s exposition does not move beyond a dialectical approach to the absolute reality. It does not make clear whether it acknowledges the reality of the absolute one and many.
In Sankara’s vedic truth “Brahmasathya Jagathmithya”, God alone is truth,world is maya. In Atraita philosophy God himself includes and transcends singularity and plurality. It is here that we humbly present the relevance of an Atraita philosophy. Atraita philosophy at the outset acknowledges the reality of God as Love. Secondly, it is founded on a dialectical approach of transcending the mathematical ‘oneness, manyness or even threeness’, in God, by affirming a Trinitarian reality of Love is God. By affirming God as a Trinitarian reality, we, in line with the Biblical Revelation and Patristic Testimony, underline the Mystery of God in three eternal persons, integrating aspects of perfect communion within God on the one hand and with the creation on the other hand. There is a special significance to the term ‘mystery’ here. The Trinitarian Mystery transcends the western notion of a social Trinity of being simply a model for social sharing. It has parallel connotations to the use of ‘neti-neti’ in Indian philosophy and the use of apophatism in the eastern theology. Reality of God is a mystery beyond human comprehension and transcends even the human notions of communion or sharing.
In brief, atraita philosophy is a dialectical attempt to combine the Unknowability and the communion aspects of God. It is an advance over advaita philosophy because;
1. The Advaita has no scope for a communion or sharing aspect of God.
2. The Advaita does not pre suppose the reality of God as love in essence and energeia.