Viveka (Sanskrit: विवेक, romanizedviveka) is a Sanskrit and Pali term translated into English as discernment or discrimination.[1] Viveka is considered as first requirement for the spiritual journey. The next requirement in the joureny in Vedanta, vairagya as known as detachment is a natural extension of viveka.[2] Advaita Vedanta Darshana interprets viveka as discrimination between the real and the unreal while Visistadvaita Vedanta Darshana interprets viveka as discrimination of food.[3][4]

Advaita Interpretation

According to Rao and Paranjpe, viveka can be explained more fully as a sense of discrimination; wisdom; discrimination between the real and the unreal, between the self and the non-self, between the permanent and the impermanent; discriminative inquiry; right intuitive discrimination; ever-present discrimination between the transient and the permanent.[3]: 348  Viveka also means the power of separating the invisible Brahman from the visible world, a faculty of distinguishing and classifying things according to their real properties and the ability to discern the self or atman from empirical world. It is an antidote to avidya which is the root cause of all suffering. Viveka can be cultivated by association with Jnanis and saints, the study of Vedanta literature, meditation, and by separating oneself from the senses.[5]

The Vivekachudamani is a Sanskrit poem in dialogue form that addresses the development of viveka. Within the Vedanta tradition, there is also a concept of vichara which is one type of viveka. Viveka is the basis of the monastic name of Swami Vivekananda, the first Hindu spiritual teacher to journey to the west.

Visistadvaita Interpretation

According to Ramanujacharya of Sri Vaishnava Visistadvaita Vedanta Darshana, viveka means discrimination of food. Food contains all the energies that make up the forces of our body and mind and the material particles of the food eaten construct the instrument of thought. There are certain kinds of food that produce a certain change in the mind and the body. The following three things in food that must be avoided by Bhaktas:[4]

When these things are avoided, food becomes pure. Further, Ramanuja quotes Chandogya Upanishad saying "If one eats pure food, one’s mind becomes pure. If the mind is pure, one’s memory becomes strong and steady. If the memory is good, one becomes free from all bondages and mind is a constant memory of God".


  1. ^ Discrimination learning refers to learning to distinguish.
  2. ^ The Vedanta Kesari. Sri Ramakrishna Math. 1992.
  3. ^ a b Rao, K. Ramakrishna; Paranjpe, Anand C. (2016). Psychology in the Indian Tradition. ISBN 978-81-322-2440-2.
  4. ^ a b Vivekananda, Swami (27 November 2019). Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Partha Sinha.
  5. ^ Laxminarayana, G. (23 March 2020). Self Help for a Spiritual Journey: A guide on what, why and How aspects of Key spiritual terms. Notion Press. ISBN 978-1-64828-813-5.