Different stages of spiritual evolution lead one from the basic stage of Religion to the highest state of Advaitam. Spiritual evolution is nothing but the different stages in our awareness. Our awareness changes according to our knowledge. The difference between Religion (dvaitam) and spirituality (Advaitam) depends on our Consciousness. If one is conscious of only the mind, body and intellect, then duality is prominent. In one is conscious of the body, mind, intellect, along with the consciousness of the Self, then it is the beginning of Advaitam. If one is conscious of the Self alone, then it is Advaitam. Therefore, Dvaitam or Advaitam depends on the consciousness in which one exists. One has to pass through the gradual process of spiritual evolution for this natural transition. However, all over the world only Dvaitam is prominent and commonly practiced. Until realized, though it is the Reality, Advaitam appears as a concept. To realize this Reality one must have the knowledge about it and it is the Advaita Philosophy. Dvaitam is not a separate state, but it is the basic state and it leads to Advaitam. Advaitam is the highest state, where the mind dissolves in Reality. When a person sleeps he is in his Self, but he is not aware of it. So the state of Absolute Consciousness is sarcastically said in Vedanta as a state where one is awake while asleep.
Duality is the experience of life through sense perception. Through duality it is difficult to get the exact essence of life because the likes and dislikes of the senses always shadow the perception. The world exists as such. It is only the likes and dislikes that create deep impressions on the mind. The whole aspect of life is divided in to two concepts as Shiva (masculine) and Shakti (feminine). A dualist cannot think anything beyond that. Duality is the basics of all the Religion and rituals. The whole life is based on duality. Sense organs enhance the concept of duality through the sense perceptions. The senses establish the concept of opposites like good and bad, rich and poor, right and wrong, heat and cold and so on. It is the perception which makes this difference and decides the opposites. When we involve more in sense perceptions, the concept of duality gets deeper. However, at the same time if there is no duality there is no creation. In the primordial state there was no duality. When the evolution of the Universe started, duality also came in to existence. Now the point is, one should not be trapped in this duality. If one limits oneself in the duality, he will not know the beyond. People who practice Dvaitam (duality) do not accept Advaitam. They get locked in the concept of duality. Duality is the source of all pleasure, and so one hesitates to look beyond. At the same time duality is the source of all the sufferings too. When one experiences an unbearable suffering, they try to look beyond. Due to suffering they cannot handle duality, at the same time they cannot transcend it too. The sense organs give us full freedom in one way. However, it also limits the knowledge of our Self. Due to this, one is completely unaware of his real nature and is left in the dark. To transact in this world one has to remain in duality, at the same time he should be conscious of the Self. This unique state makes him explore beyond the limitations. In short like a tortoise, while interacting with the world one has to stretch out his senses, and when the interaction is over he has to hold back his senses and be aware of the inner Self. This makes one a well balanced person. By this, he understands that it is not the sense organs that operate the senses, rather the ‘Being’ beyond which operates the senses. When one realizes that ‘Being’ he has direct perception of the world and not through the interpretation of the senses.
Moving from Dvaitam to Advaitam is a natural process of evolution. In Dvaitam, one differentiates the Supreme power from him and names it as God. He fails to realize that he himself is that Supreme power. In Dvaitam, each one is different from one another and there is gradation among living being also. The assumed distance between God and man gave way to all kinds of rituals. This assumed distance is the cause for the fear factor in God in Dvaitam. Devotion is mainly due to fear or due to the need for the satisfaction of desires. Only in the higher stages of Dvaitam, devotion is due to pure and inseparable love. Rituals are celebrated based on the region, language and mainly spiritual evolution. Thus, the supreme power is divided into different aspects, though the supreme power is beyond any aspect or attributes. The Supreme power is seen through different emotions; form and attributes are imagined according to the emotions. According to the emotions the Supreme power is related to the devotee as a boss, son, father, mother, friend, child and so on. However, all these bhavanas make the mind of the devotee to expand and this paves the way to understand the Reality. An adherent devotee gradually moves to meditate the form. He takes leave from concentrating on the celebrations of the rituals alone. This is the point where the mind takes a turn towards the concept of Advaitam. Meditation leads to Advaitam. It is only a matter of time. By meditating the form, the mind slowly assumes the concept behind that form and this gives a better understanding and knowledge about that Supreme power. Through different stages of evolution of the mind an adherent devotee attains knowledge and realizes that everything is pervaded by God and He does not live in a far away distant place. However, the knowledge about God must still go deeper and he has to realize that the Supreme power is none else than his Self. This knowledge must become his experience. Now he is no more confined in the idea that God can be limited by a form.
Dvaitam has to be followed until one gets well established in Advaitam. Else he will be left in dark. This is the reason that many Advaita acharyas like Sankaracharya, gave equal importance for the form worship also. During the transition period from Dvaitam to Advaitam there will be a lot of confusion and turbulence, but one has to walk on the path forward boldly. Ultimately, Advaitam can be practiced only by people with strong will and determination. Only through Dvaitam one can reach Advaitam. The basic concept of almost all the scriptures is Advaitam, though it is explained with the help of Dvaitam. In Dvaitam, it is believed that God is responsible for all the actions and one is destined to carry out His orders, wheareas, in Advaitam only Consciousness remains, the rest is Maya. When one transforms in to Advaitam, he cares less for the actions and become aware of his existence, Consciousness. This is the reason that the Indian scriptures describe the Brahma jhanis as the persons who do not care for their appearance or actions. He will not be aware of his external life. He just lives to exhaust his karmas that had started to give fruits. He is beyond the realm of the body, mind, and intellect. The change in awareness from external to internal causes all the difference. This change makes him perceive the world as Maya (illusion). He realizes that Brahman pervades everything and That alone exists. By this experience, the confusion and doubts in the mind are erased. Until one reaches this knowledge, the facts in the scriptures appear as just imagination and assumption. The scriptures are written by great sages who had devoted their life for the evolution of the mind. They had passed through the different stages of mental evolution and established themselves in Reality. Therefore, one must trust in the scriptures as it is and have faith in the words of the Guru to pass through the different stages of spirituality. Even in the beginning stage itself, if we have doubt in the Reality, then it is impossible to reach the higher state. The impatience in learning makes many to leave the practice halfway. One must allow the mind to take natural transition. One should not limit oneself in duality.
In Advaitam there is no prayer or worship, because prayer or worship is done to a form which is assumed as different from the devotee. Advaitam involves only understanding of the supreme knowledge. There is no sentiment or emotion attached to Advaitam. It is the state beyond the sense perception and mind. Many will not have the opportunity to practice Advaitam because there are only few Advaita Gurus in the present time.
Dvaitam and Advaitam are the two sides of a same coin. The same person who has practiced Dvaitam in the early part of his life can practices Advaitam in the later period of life, just like Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. Until one reaches the highest state of Advaitam, the philosophies mingle with each other, and this should be carefully handled by the practitioner. Just like a cocoon while passing from one leaf to the other holds the first leaf tightly till it settles on the new leaf, one must not leave Dvaitam till he establishes in Advaitam. One philosophy cannot refute the other, because both of them are interdependent. However the Reality is Advaitam, Brahman alone exists and the rest is Maya.
Thanks for the crisp explanation, although brief. Would appreciate to brief about the differences between Advaitham and Vasishtadvaitham in similar manner.