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Karnataka is a land that has nurtured all religions, which has supported intellectuals and which has given the world great thinkers and saints.
For instance, let us take the three celebrated Acharyas. Acharya Sankara is from Kerala. But Sringeri, one of the most important religious centers (maThas) established by him, is situated in Karnataka. Acharya Ramanuja is from Tamil Nadu. But his favorite place Melukote is in Karnataka. As for Acharya Madhva, he is of course a glorious son of Karnataka and proud gift of Karnataka to the field of World Philosophy.
In Karnataka, who does not know South Kanara District? And in the district, the taluk of Udupi, and, in that again, the city of Udupi with the temple of Krishna holding the churning-rod? Belle is a village about eight kilometers south of Udupi. Close to it is a lovely hamlet called Paje bounded by rocks and hillocks. Acharya Madhva was born in this unknown hamlet. This inconspicuous village came to be celebrated as a holy place of pilgrimage by the birth of this Acharya. It gained celebrity as 'Pajaka-Ksetra'.
We should go back 744 years from now. As many as 4338 years have passed since the inception of the Kali- yuga and the 4339th year is running. Indeed, the Vijayadasami, following Navaratri, in the bright half of the month Asvayuja in the year Vilambi (1238 CE) is a day of great festivity. On the afternoon of that day, Acharya Madhva was born in this tiny hamlet of Karnataka. The name given to the child by his father was 'Vasudeva'.
The Acharya's father belonged to the family of Nadillaya. Narayana Panditacharya who wrote a biography of the Acharya has not recorded the names of the Acharya's parents. But it is believed by some that the father's name was Nadillaya Narayana Bhatta and the mother's name was Vedavati.
Even from childhood, the religious student Vasudeva had spiritual leanings. He was drawn to the path of renunciation. Further, he possessed an extraordinary intelligence. While the parents were eager to prepare him to set up a family, Vasudeva went far away from home and family, thinking that the entire universe was his home. Even as a young boy of eleven years, he chose initiation into the monastic order from Achyuta-prajna, a reputed ascetic of the time, near Udupi, in the year Saumya (1249 CE). The preceptor Acyuta-prajna gave the boy Vasudeva the name of 'Purnaprajna' at the time of his initiation into samnyasa.
Only within forty days of his initiation into Sanmyasa, a very remarkable episode occurred in Acharya's career. Expert scholars in Tarka (Logic) of nation-wide fame, such as Vasudeva-pandita, arrived in Udupi in the course of their search for a competitor who might conquer them in debate. This proud scholar who had sounded his drum of victory everywhere in the country was defeated by the little monk- Purnaprajna.
Rejoicing at the extraordinary brilliance of the little monk, his preceptor Acyuta-prajna consecrated Purna- prajna as the head of the empire of Vedanta and conferred on him the title 'Anandatirtha'.
Another time, a Buddhist scholar visited the holy center of Acyuta-prajna. He was accompanied by another scholar, Vadisimha, who had embraced Buddhism after his defeat by Buddhisagara in a philosophical debate, though he was originally a follower of Vedic religion.
Purna-prajna silenced both these Buddhist scholars who had traveled all over the country winning certificates of victory in philosophical debates. The joy of Acyuta-prajna was boundless. The title Ananda-tirtha conferred by him on Puma-prajna at the time of the latter's consecration function became indeed meaningful.
Thus Purna-prajna is the Acharya's name given to him at the time of Samnyasa. The name conferred on him at the time of consecration as the Master of Vedanta is 'Ananda- tirtha'. And the favorite nom de plume assumed by him by choice is the Vedic name 'Madhva". The Acharya gained publicity later on by this favorite name itself, traceable to the Vedas.
The Acharya set out on a tour of South India even in his teens. He visited prominent places of pilgrimage like Anantasayana, Kanyakumari, Ramesvara and Sriranga. Wherever he went, he delivered discourses and preached the message of his Tattvavada or religious truth to the people. This initiated a new discussion among scholars all over India. The Acharya refuted in clear terms a few age-old beliefs. He started that spirituality should not be mixed up with superstitions. As a result, there was hot opposition to him from some orthodox extremists. But the Acharya braved it all with courage, without yielding to any mean threats.
The urge which was deeply surging in the heart of the Acharya for long turned into a firm resolve as a result of this tour. 'The superstitions in the way of this path of philosophical truth should be wiped out! My whole life should be dedicated to the spread of ultimate truth.'
The first task accomplished by the Acharya as soon as he returned to Udupi, after adopting this firm resolve, was the writing of a commentary (bhasya) on the Bhagavadgita.
In course of time, the Acharya desired to tour North India and to spread the message of vedic religion far and wide. The holy center of Badri beckoned him irresistibly. Fired by the wish to visit holy places like Vyasa's hermitage, the penance-grove of Nara-Narayana etc., and to present his commentary on the Gita as a tribute to sage Vyasa, the Acharya moved straight to Badri. There he observed a vow of strict silence for 48 days, bathing in the holy Ganga. And then he set out alone towards Vyasa-Badri, his cherished destination.
After his return from there, the task of writing a commentary on the Bramha-sutras came to be undertaken by the Acharya. The Acharya never wrote any work of his by hand. It was his practice to dictate continuously to his disciples who would take them down. His composition of works was as facile as his discourse. A disciple of the Acharya, Satya-tirtha by name, reduced to writing in palmleaves, whatever was dictated by the Acharya.
In the meantime, the Acharya's influence had spread far and wide throughout the country. Scholars all over India were stunned by his extra-ordinary genius, never seen or heard of before. The circle of his disciples grew bigger and bigger. Some ascetics got initiation from him and were admitted into the order of samnyasa.
Once, while returning from Badri, the Acharya was camping en-route in a holy place on the banks of the Godavari. Here he was accosted by an eminent pundit, Sobhana-bhatta by name. This person was well known in that region as a peerless scholar. This visit changed the entire career of the man. Seeing the extraordinary personality of the Acharya, and listening to his wonderful discourses, he was so much overwhelmed that he became the Acharya's disciple and joined his retinue.
Achyuta Prajna's cup of happiness was full on seeing Acharya Madhva back home after his resounding victory in all parts of the country and on his rich retinue of disciples hailing from different places. Though in the beginning he too had his own doubts about the Acharya's view of ultimate reality (Tattvavada), now he became a whole-hearted adherent of the Acharya's new philosophy.
The Acharya who stayed in the environs of Udupi for some more time wrote his bhasyas or authoritative commentaries on all the ten Upanisads. He composed glosses on forty hymns of the Rigveda, opening up for the first time its vista of spiritual significance. He also wrote the treatise Bhagavata-tatparya highlighting the essential teachings of the Puranas. Many topical handbooks were also authored by him to suit different occasions. A large number of devotional songs too were composed by him which could be sung by his disciples, while moving with him in groups.
It was during this period that the Acharya installed the image of Krishna9 which he found in the western ocean near the Udupi sea-coast. After sometime, he left some disciples behind for performing Krishna's worship and undertook his second tour to Badri.
Once the Acharya had to cross the river Ganga. The other bank was under Muslim rule. Although stopped by the Muslim soldiers on the other side, the Acharya boldly crossed the river and reached the other bank. He was taken before the Muslim ruler who was filled with wonder by the boldness of the ascetic. The Acharya said: I worship that Father who illumines the entire universe; and so do you. Are we not both children of that only God? Why should I fear then either your soldiers or you?
Hearing such words for the first time from the mouth of a Hindu monk, the Muslim king was astounded. He was filled with reverence for this unique monk. He begged the Acharya to stay permanently in his kingdom and offered gifts of several jagirs. But the Acharya who was free from wordily cravings, rejected the offer and walked on to Badri, with the monk's staff in his hand.
Once, when his party, was attacked by a band of robbers on the difficult road to the Himalayas the Acharya made his pupil Upendra-tirtha silence them after a fierce flight. He used to say: ‘One should cultivate strength of body even like strength of mind; it is impossible for a weak body to house a strong mind’. Accordingly he had made his disciples achieve strength in their body as well as in their Vedantic pursuit.
To the people of that time, the Acharya’s physical strength itself was something miraculous, because his body was strong and adamant. Even to this day, the huge rock- boulder lifted up and placed in the river Bhadra by the Acharya, near Kalsa bears witness to his Herculean strength. This incident is confined by the sentence inscribed on that stone.
The Acharya had darshan once again of Lord Narayana and of sage Vyasa. On his return home thereafter, he wrote the treatise - Mahabharata-tatparya-nirnaya. On his way home, he visited Kashi. There he held a philosophical debate with an elderly Advaita ascetic, Amarendra Puri. Sri Puri had to go away silently, humbled by the dazzling genius of the Acharya.
Then came Kuruksetra. Here occurred a strange episode. The Acharya got a mound there excavated and demonstrated to his disciples the buried mace of (the epic hero) Bhima therein; and once again had it buried under the ground.
Later on, the Acharya arrived in Goa on his way back to Udupi. With his sweet music there he enthralled the audience. The Acharya's musical genius also was as unique as his perfect physique and brilliant intellect. Writers contemporaneous with the Acharya have acclaimed rapturously the Acharya's musical expertise as well as his rich melody of voice.
As already stated, Acharya Madhva toured over the length and breadth of India twice. He propounded his philosophy of theism (tattva-vada) before the best scholars of the country. The whole assembly of the learned was humbled by his brilliant genius.
The Acharya rescued from oblivion several sections of the Vedic literature that had become obsolete by his time. He also showed the way of synthesizing revelation (sruti) with mythology (Purana). He brought out the hidden spiritual significance in Vedic literature. He challenged the veracity of twenty one bhasyas or expositions of the Brahmasutras which had been in the field up to his time, and made people subject them to a reconsideration.
Thus, Acharya Madhva's is a unique personality in Indian history, with a many-sided genius. He was a matchless scholar in philosophy. He was a unique research explorer in the Veda and the literature on the Veda. He was a profound specialist in ancillary Vedic branches of study like astronomy, phonetics, ritualism etc. He was highly accomplished in the science of sculpture. He was the founder-preceptor who gave a form of its own to Karnataka Music. He was a great composer of musical songs, and an eloquent orator. What is more, he was a man of strong body with a well-proportioned physique; and yet a bold selfless monk with utter unconcern to all these extra-ordinary endowments.
Christianity too had spread slightly at the time of the Acharya. Islam had spread already to a remarkable extent in North India. In Karnataka too, Jainism and Virasaivism had taken deep root along with a plethora of other religions of India. Against the background of all these religions, the revival of Vedic religion became the Acharya's primary mission.
In this task of religious revival, the tradition established by the Acharya too was unique. He wrote several works in Sanskrit devoted to distilling the essence of the sastras or authoritative texts to suit the learned. But those advanced treatises were hardly within the reach of the masses. Hence the Acharya, who was a great musician and composer himself, wrote lyrical pieces meant to be sung in lucid Sanskrit. He got musical songs (kirtanas) composed in Kannada by his disciples and made them popular by arranging them to be recited by bhagavatas or professional songsters. This Kirthana literature, inaugurated by Naraharitirtha grew sumptuously in the hands of later preceptors like Sripadaraja, Sri Vyasatirtha and Sri Vadiraja. This tradition of music-composer-monks continued till Sri Raghavendra Swamin who was a profound musician on the lute (vina). Thus the Vyasa- pathway grew into the dasa pathway in Kannada. This tradition yielded to the Kannada region such mystic- saints as Sri Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa, Vijayadasa, Gopaladasa and Jagannathadasa. Even women-mystics like Helavanakatte Giriyamma illumined this tradition. The original founder of this tradition of expounding the Vedic message in Kannada was Acharya Madhva; it should not be forgotten that he was the source-head of inspiration for all these later authors. It is indeed because of this farsighted vision of the Acharya that the holy Ganga of dasasahitya flowed in the Kannada land and made Kannada literature more glorious than ever.
The Acharya's contribution is not limited to what we noted so far. He brought into vogue a new medium of folk- art in the open-air theatre known as Bhagavatara ata and Dasavatarada ata (show of Ten Incarnations) through his disciple Narahari-tirtha. This art has continued up to our time developing into an effective medium of folk- art in the districts of North and South Kanara and had received recognition in India and abroad. This art, in its turn, gave inspiration for the development of Kucupudi art-form in Andhra.
The many sided genius of the Acharya is indeed amazing. What is even more amazing is the fact that the Kannada people are entirely unaware of the extensive contribution of this great son of the Kannada soil.
After his return home from the second tour, the Acharya took the lead in initiating such social reforms within the environs of Udupi. Although he was mature in mind and on the other side of sixty by now, he had to face some opposition in his birthplace itself. A section of orthodoxy opposing his new message was still active. It was about this time that an Advaita ascetic, Pundarika-Puri by name, came to Udupi seeking a debate with the Acharya and had to go back in utter discomfiture. Meanwhile, a monk called Padmatirtha arranged for the theft of the rare library of the Acharya, kept in the custody of one Pejattaya Sankara Pandita in Kasaragodu. The Acharya be took himself to Kasaragodu and defeated Padma-tirtha in a philosophical debate. The cream of the Acharya's thesis on that occasion was reduced to writing by the disciples. This itself became a treatise called Vada (lit 'thesis') or Tattvoddyota. Later on, Jayasimha of Kumble, the king of the Tulu region, invited the Acharya to his court and honored him by arranging for the return of his stolen library. Pejattaya Trivikrama Panditacharya, who was the royal preceptor of the time, carried on a long debate with the Acharya for fifteen days and at last became his disciple, bowing down to the latter's greatness. He then wrote a matchless commentary called Tattva-dipika on the Acharya's Brahma-sutra- bhasya and thus paid his tribute to the guru.
The Acharya too was equally fond of Trivikrama pandita. It was in answer to the request of this devoted pupil that the Acharya wrote an extensive commentary in verse, viz, Anu-vyakhyana on the Brahma-sutras. The Acharya was dictating this work- to four disciples simultaneously, on each of the four chapters, without any break. At the same time, the composition of the work Nyayavivarana was also completed.
Acharya Madhva completed his four-monthly stay (chaturmasya) at Kasaragodu and returned to Pajaka. There he initiated his brother into the monastic order, since he was longing for it with a deep sense of detachment.
This was Sri Vishnutirtha, the first pontiff of the present day Sodematha and Subramanyamatha. About the same time, Sobhana-bhatta living on the bank of the Godavari also came to receive initiation into samnyasa from the Acharya. He became famous later on as Padmanabha-tirtha, the founder of the line of pontiffs in Desastha-mathas.
Both before and after the initiation of these two, several disciples form various regions of the country got their initiation into samnyasa from the Acharya. Among them, the names of eight disciples who chose to stay on in Udupi as pontiffs of different mathas are as under, in the order of their initiation":
1. Hrisikesa-tirtha (Palimaru matha)
2. Narasimha-tirtha (Adamaru-matha)
3. Janardana-tirtha (Krsnapura-matha)
4. Upendra-tirtha (Puttige-matha)
5. Vamana-tirtha (Sirur-matha)
6. Vishnu-tirtha (Sode-matha)
7. Srirama-tirtha (Kaniyuru-matha)
8. Adhoksaja-tirtha (Pejavara-matha)
The other two celebrated samnyasin-disciples of the Acharya are:
9. Padmanabha-tirtha (Desastha-mathas)
When Padmanabha-tirtha was initiated into samnyasa is not definitely known. There were several who had got initiation before him. It appears that he should have been initiated into the order sometime between the dates when these eight pontiffs were initiated into the order.
The Acharya was now seventy. Even at this age, he toured all over the district and engaged himself in educating the general public. He composed for the benefit of a good natured Brahmin, Eda-Paditaya, in the village Idya16, the literary work "Krsnamrtamaharnava". Then he went on to Ujire and exposed there the spiritual aspect of ritualism in order to open the eyes of Brahmins who had faith in the ultimacy of rituals. This discourse itself came to be published later under the title of Khandartha-nimaya (Karmanimaya). Next he visited Panchalingesvara temple at Paranti, which he found in a dilapidated condition, without any worship or festivity. He made arrangements for the resumption of proper worship there according to the rituals prescribed by the ancient scriptures (agamas).
The Acharya's life span of 79 years was thus one teeming with activity. When he thought that his life mission had been served, he put the responsibility of carrying on the tradition of this Tattvavada or philosophical thesis on the shoulders of his disciples and betook himself to Badri, all alone, without any thought or care. The day on which he thus proceeded to Badri was the ninth in the bright half of the month Magha in the Kali year 4418 (1317 CE). Even now, the anniversary of the Acharya is celebrated as Madhvanavami on the said day itself.
The disciples of the Acharya, both pontifical and lay, continued this tradition with devout zeal. They nourished the young plant by supplying it constantly with the waters of their penance and erudition. Hundreds of dialectical treatises came to be written. Among the writers belonging to this school we may roughly classify some outstanding ones in the following chronological order: Vishnu-tirtha, Padmanabha-tirtha, Narahari-tirtha, Trivikrama-panditacharya, Narayana-Panditacharya, Vamana-Panditacharya, (Traivikramaryadasa), Jaya-tirtha (Tikacharya), Vijayadhvaja-tirtha, Visnudasacharya, Vyasa-tirtha, Vadiraja, Vijayindra-tirtha, Raghavendra-Swamin, Yadupati-acharya, etc.
The Acharya did not earn any huge establishment or property for his matha. All the property that he left as legacy to his disciple-pontiffs was just a casket for keeping the gods of daily worship, a staff and a piece of cloth tied on the sides like a bag to receive alms (jolige). Later, the mathas took better shape as the number of their devout adherents became more and more. Below is a broad sketch of the Madhva- mathas now existing:
The number of mathas which came into being in Udupi itself, yoked to the responsibility of Krishna-worship is eight:
7. Kaniyuru Matha
8. Pejavara Matha
It is a local custom to call the mathas after the names of villages where the original gifted properties of the matha are situated. Thus the matha which had its property in the village Palimaru is now called Palimaru-matha. The older name of the Sode-matha was Kumbhasi-matha. Later on, in the time of Vadiraja, when the matha was established at Sode in North Kanara, it became famous as Sode- matha.
The mathas in Karnataka which were developed respectively by Sri Padmanabha-tirtha, Narahari-tirtha, Madhav- tirtha and Aksobhya-tirtha are eight:
10. Sosale Vyasaraya-matha
16. Balegaru (Banagara)-matha
For the first four mathas the founder-pontiffs are the first four mentioned above, viz, from Padmanabha-tirtha to Aksobhya-tirtha. A traditional branch of Vyasaraya-matha itself came to be established at Kundapura in the district of South kanara and came to be termed Kundapura-Vyasaraya- matha.
Another branch of the matha founded by Padmanabha- tirtha became Mulubagilu-matha. Sripadaraja (alias Srilakshminarayana-tirtha) who was one of the pioneers of dasa-literature and the preceptor of Vyasa-tirtha was one of the illustrious pontiffs who illumined the tradition of this matha.
Still another branch of Madhava-tirtha established a matha at Majjige-halli which also came to be developed. In the same way, two branches of Akshobhya-tirtha grew into independent mathas at Kudli and Balegaru.
Apart from these there are four more mathas in the Tulu region:
18. Bhandarkeri - matha
The Subramanya-matha has grown out of Vishnu- tirtha's line itself. It is said that the line of disciples under the pontiff Acyuta-prajna, who in turn was the guru to initiate the Acharya into samnyasa, branched into two lines- one at Bhandarkeri and the other at Bhimanakatte. Bhandarkeri is located some 20 Km north of Udupi in Barakuru. Though Bhimana-katte (Bhima-setumunivranda) is also a matha of Tulu region, its original source- head is a place called Bhimanakatte on the Tirthahalli-Shimoga road. According to folk-tradition, the Chitrapura-matha is only a branch of the Pejavara-matha. This matha is situated at Citrapura, some 35 Km. away from Udupi on the Udupi-Mangalore highway.
Two more mathas of Gauda Sarasvata Brahmanas who illuminated the Madhva School are quite famous:
21. Gokama-Partagali Jivottama-matha
The original locale of Gokarna-matha is Gokama. Later, pontiffs of this line started a matha in Parta-gali (Madagaum ... Mathagrama). After one of its celebrated pontiffs, Jivottama-tirtha, the matha also came to be called Jivottama-matha. According to the traditional list of pontiffs in this matha, its founder pontiff is reckoned as Sri Narayana-tirtha who had his initiation into samnyasa from Sri Ramachandra-tirtha, the tenth pontiff of palimaru-matha at Udupi.
Though there is a branch-centre of Kasimatha in Kasi, it is originally a matha of the South only. Gauda Sarasvata Brahmins of the north costal region stretching from Udupi up to Bombay are disciples of Gokama- matha. The Gauda Sarasvatas from Udupi up to Kanyakumari in the south are disciples of Kasi-matha.
Besides these, two more important Madhva organizations in North India deserve mention here:
The Madhva-Gaudiya-matha is a Madhva religious center in Bengal. One of its branches existed also in what is now Bangladesh. A temple of Acharya Madhva also existed there. The International Hare Krishna pantha is an outgrowth of this.
The Acharya has written four works on the Sutraprasthana (the Vedantic school of Brahmansutra);
2. Sarva-sastratha-sangraha (Anubhasya)
Two works are on the Gita-prasthana (Vedantic school of the Bhagavadgita) :
In the Upanishad-prasthana (the Vedantic school of ti Upanisads), the Acharya has written bhasyas or authoritative commentaries on all the major Upanisads. But there is notable uniqueness in respect of these also. While all the other have commented only on three chapters of the Aitareya Upanishad, the Acharya's bhasya covers the entire Upanishad-kanda (of 9 chapters) of the Aitareya Aranyaka:
11. Talavakaropanishad-bhasya (Kenopanishad-bhasya)
13. Atharvanopanishad-bhasya (Mundakopanishad-bhasya)
15. Yajniya-mantropanishad-bhasya (Isavasyaopanishad-bhasya)
The verses occurring in the middle of the Mandukyopanishat are mistakenly held to be Gaudapada's karikas. But Acharya Ramanuja has accepted that these form original portions of the Upanisat itself. But Madhva has rejected the old wrong notion once for all by writing bhasya on these verses also. In this connection it is noteworthy how senior Advaita scholars too like Brahmananda accept that these are original Upanisadic verses.
The Acharya not only blazed a new pathway of spiritual interpretation of the Veda, by writing a commentary on 40 hymns of the Rig veda, but also showed the way leading to a synthesis of Samhita, Brahmana and Aranyaka texts by commenting upon some chapters of the Aitreya Brahmana and the Mahanan-ini-khanda of the same Aranyaka. These works are:
18. Khandartha-nirnaya (Karma-nirnaya)
So also, there are three works of his that lay bare the heart of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavata in a bid to synthesize the teachings of Itihasas and Puranas:
20. Mahabharata-tatparya (Yamaka-bharata)
Nine topical treatises are concerned with determining epistemology and ontology:
23. Vada (tattvoddyota)
24. Mayavada-dusana (mayavada-khandana)
25. Upadhi-dusana (Upadhi-khandana Tattva-prakasika)
26. Mithyatvanumana-dusana (Mithyat-vanuniana-khandana)
30. Vada-laksana (katha-taksana)
Seven works offer guidance regarding performance of ceremonials and rituals as laid down in law-books, regarding building architecture, mantra and tantra and duties and practices of householders and mendicants:
35. Om-Tat-Sat-Pranava-kalpa (Yati-pranavakalpa)
In the field of devotional literature, there are two works of his; one is a stotra or hymn of praise; the other is an anthology of compositions set to music and meant to be sung:
Further, there is a work which the Acharya is said to have composed in his boyhood while playing with the ball, it is a small work in a unique meter:40. Kanduka-stuti
Of these, 38 had been published formerly. Two, viz. Nyasapaddhati, that explains the daily routine duties of mendicants, and Tithinirnaya, that is a unique work on mathematics indicating precise formulae for the determination of each date's extent, are works which were first noticed by me in the course of my research in Palm-leaf Manuscripts some years ago.
Acharya Madhva's line of thought gave a new turn to the tradition of Indian Philosophy. This has been called by the name 'Tatvavada' in ancient works21. In later times, when the un-philosophical trend emphasizing only conflict became prominent for recognizing Vedic schools of thought only in terms of Dvaita-Advaita etc., this came to be called the 'Dvaitamata' or 'dualistic school'. But from the standpoint of True Vedic tradition, this is not a name that can be fully justified
In the philosophical system of the Acharya, tattvas or categories of reality are primarily two: svatantra-tattva and asvatantra-tattva (i.e. Independent reality and dependent reality). God who creates the universe is the Independent reality; the entire universe created by him is the dependent reality.
Lord Narayana alone is the Supreme Independent God-head. The entire Veda hymns only His praise by various epithets such as Agni, Indra and Varuna. Monotheism alone is thus the quintessence of Vedic literature and not polytheism.
All names (of God) are only epithets; God is the Ocean of all qualities or excellence. Hence any name is good enough to invoke God. All names designate only God. Not only Vedic words, not only Sanskrit names, whatever the word may be, in any language wherever in the world, every name will designate Him alike. For, there is no sound or word, in any language of the world, which is not essentially a name of God.
Though God is one, divinities are many. These divinities are not God: they are only souls that have realized God and risen to a high state by acquiring siddhi or divine power. These siddhas or realized adepts can serve as gurus to guide the jiva or soul who is still a sadhaka or religious seeker.
If God is 'bimba' or the original substrate, jivas or souls are His pratibimbas or images. The image is always dependent on the original substrate; it can never become identical with it. One original substrate can have many images. Even so the souls can be many. Each soul has its own distinct individuality, different from another. So many souls, as many varieties. Along with all these differential gradations, these souls are all entwined in the single thread of similarity to God in their knowledge-aspect.
Just as souls, the inanimate substances too that go into the creative apparatus of the universe are innumerable. Thus the soul (jiva), who is at the center in the triple categories of God-soul inanimate world, becomes involved in the meshes of samsara or bondage when he leans towards one side; becomes liberated if he leans to the other side.
There is one important point to be noted here. Mukti or liberation does not mean any cessation of the World itself it is not any disappearance of a World falsely held as real. Liberation means release from the bondage of the world. The world, does exist even after release; but there is no bondage. Earlier, the soul being unaware of its power of self-conscious- ness, was ignorant of the original substrate, (viz. God); and had become a tool in the hands of the inconscient, searching in vain for the original. But now (in release) he has conquered inconscient Nature; for he has now become conscious of God, who is his original and also the First Cause of the entire universe.
The inconscient world is five-faceted; five elements, five elemental essences, five sheaths, five sense-organs etc. That is why it is designated as "pra-panca" or a 'perfect pentad'. In this pentad intermixed in a fivefold manner, the principle of prana or life is also a five-fold entity of prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana. Moreover, it is being controlled all the time by God who also assumes five forms, viz: Anirudha, Pradyumna, Samkarasana, Vasudeva and Narayana.
Thus one might distinguish a five-fold difference too in this world; difference between one inconscient and another inconscient; difference between inconscient and the soul; difference between the inconscient and God; difference between one soul and another; difference between soul and God. This difference is neither temporary nor merely practical; it is an invariable and natural property of everything. For such is the law of nature: One is not two; two is not one.
The Acharya effected a synthesis and integration between several self-contradictory notions which had accumulated by his time regarding God, devotion and the universe. We might refer here to some of the important ones among them:
God is both endowed with forms and is formless; both qualified and unqualified. He is endowed with forms because He has a body of knowledge and Bliss. He is formless because he has no body within, the reach of our finite thought. He is qualified because He possesses in perfection all good or auspicious attributes. He is unqualified also because He is devoid of all material adjuncts. When viewed from the right standpoint, it will be realized that all modes of utterance express varied aspects of the only truth. The Vedic literature will not open out its secrets to one who is not having this synthetic vision.
The World is not a magic show improvised by any magician. It is ultimately true. From another standpoint, it is untrue also. But then the word ‘untrue’ does not mean ‘false,’ it means 'dependent reality'. Its truth is restrained by God; hence it is untrue.
Similarly, there is no truth in the objection that the Vedic religion is tainted with iconolatry or image-worship. For, it does not worship icons; it worships only God symbolized by the icons. Is not the all-existent God existing in the icon?
Among other significant contributions of the Acharya's Tattvavada, vyakti-visistavada or unique individuality of every soul and svabhavada or theory of unalterable natural law governing humanity deserves notice. The following is a summary statement of it:
There is no object like another. There is no person or jiva like another. No man's nature is like that of another. Underlying everything and every individual person, there is a unique individuality or specialty. The all-round and complete development of this special personality is indeed the goal of human life. Human life of bondage (samsara) is none other than a practical workshop that helps the individual soul to attain the perfect development of his personality in dependence upon God. Mukti or release is only a state of perfection or enjoying the bliss of such a perfect development of one's own personality.
Each one's attainment is commensurate with one's effort. Our development is in keeping with our personality. The sea is full; the tank is full; even water-pots may be full of (of water). But that fullness is not identical in all these. The volume varies according to the variation in size. Everything is full; yet it is full of variation also.
There are no two things in this creation which are identical. Even two leaves of the same tree are not exactly identical. Hence the idea that all become one or all become identical ultimately, is only a sugar-coated sop. It is an idea opposed to scriptures. It is an idea going against the very law of Nature.
The development of an individual takes place strictly in accordance with his inner nature. The environmental factors only help manifest what is already rooted in one's inner nature. Thus inner nature is the spontaneous way of life for a Jiva. It is an innate characteristic rooted firmly in the jiva from time immemorial. No amount of effort can alter its course. A sattvika or pure-hearted man cannot become a tamasa or evil minded one. Nor can a tamasa turn into a sattvika. One's attainment of perfection is nothing but a complete manifestation of one's unique individual nature.
The idea of chaturvarnya or "four colors" in the Gita vindicates this view only. The Gita idea of "four colors" is quite distinct from the idea of "four castes" prevalent today. It is an idea that relates only to the soul's inmost nature or personality-trait. The true color of the soul needs to be discovered. That indeed is a right social order. In such a social order, the son of a low-born (sudra) may be a nobleman (brahmana); on the contrary, a bramana's son may also be a sudra. For, varna of 'color' is not something which is transmitted hereditarily; it is something quite personal; something which is determined by the individual's own personality traits.
Only one who knows God can know the secret of the universe. It is impossible to know the universe completely by scientific research into matter. Hence one should know God Himself. It is only by knowing the root that one can tackle a tree. This indeed is the pathway of knowledge (Jnanayoga). The principle that unites the soul to God like a thread is called prana-tattva or the "vital principle". It is the one principle that embodies all souls and is also termed "jivottama-tattva" or the "principle of perfect jiva-hood". The Acharya says about himself that it is an aspect of this supreme principle that incarnated itself in human form as Madhva in order to lay bare the Supreme Truth.
The pathway of Jnana-yoga or knowledge supreme is not opposed to Karma or action. The very dichotomy that the pathway of action is for the ignorant, while that of knowledge is for the adept, is absurd. Knowledge without action is an impractical intellectual exercise. Action without knowledge is but blind orthodoxy. Knowledge is necessary; knowledge-full action too is necessary. At the same time, an understanding of God's infinite glory is equally necessary. Having understood God's greatness, it is necessary to love him devotedly. The world also deserves to be lived, since the wonderful universe is just His creation in sport (lila)". Denying the world is as good as denying God's own infinite greatness. We should all dedicate ourselves to our duty in the following spirit: "We are all subjects in the kingdom of God; rendering assistance to those who are in distress is the tax we owe to God Himself, our king"". Such an integral synthesis of the pathways of knowledge, action and devotion becomes a perfect pathway for one's life.
The physical eye is not enough for the development of knowledge. The inner eye has to be opened; one has to turn inward. There are only two ways in which that goal can be realized; one is direct personal experience; and the other is the word of wisdom bequeathed to us by sages who were "seers" of the Veda. Their word is a torch to illumine our way. In the light of that torch and along that way alone we should walk on and discover Truth. Thus when both the word of scripture and our own immediate experience coincide, it becomes the highest criterion confirming our conviction. In order to achieve it, a continuous process of hearing, cogitating and realization of the scriptures is called for.
Not even scriptural statement is to be accepted if it is against one's own conscience. An awakened conscience can discover the integral unity underlying all Vedic statements. It is in order to demonstrate this synthetic essence of the Vedas that the Brahmasutras, Bharata, Pancaratra and Puranas have been written. These alone are primary authorities. Texts of smrti (moral code), written by sages like Manu, are acceptable as authorities only when they are in conformity with the essential message of the Veda. They are not at all ultimate authorities.
Another means of valid knowledge besides perception and scripture is interference or reasoning. Although it is an instrument of valid knowledge, it is not an independent instrument. Hence it is spoken of only as "anu-mana" (... anuusari pramana) or 'ancillary instrument of knowledge'; it can be developed only as a supplementary instrument to the other two, i.e., perception and scripture. It is important to note that in supra-sensory matters, nothing can be established by inference or reasoning independently. For, anything one desires can be established by reasoning. Those who do not possess this awareness can establish nothing by the strength of their reasoning.
Therefore in regard to supra-sensory facts and especially, in regard to God, there is no use in one's surrendering oneself to reasoning. One should surrender oneself only to God. One should surrender oneself to the voice of hoary sages and wise men who realized God; that is to say, to the Vedic words. One should know through word of sages, and having known, one should experience it; having experienced, one should see; having seen, one should succeed; having succeeded, one should gain.
And for that, one should surrender oneself to God; one should know through surrender; and knowing, one should again surrender. This awareness is the key to bliss. This is broadly the sum and substance of the Acharya's spiritual viewpoint.
The Acharya has discovered several unique facts about the physical world, the order of creation and the basic principles that govern creation. Some of them may be mentioned here:
1. The material ethereal sky that is one of the five elements filling this universe is that which suffers destruction along with the universe. It is permeated by a super blue color, beyond the reach of the bare eye. But there is another sky that fully pervades the universe, within and without; which transcends the universe and is eternal. It is called ‘auyakarta-akasa’ or ‘undifferentiated space’.
2. The atoms which are the micro-elements of physical matter are not at all ultimate and indivisible entities. In every atom too there are innumerable subtle particles.
3. There is life movement in plants, herbs and creepers too. That vegetation-life too can respond to the actions of man. There are plants that thrill to the melody of music and yield sprouts, flowers and fruits.
4. No matter is completely destroyed. Destruction is another name for only a change in form. We say that the body is destroyed. But really speaking, the body is not destroyed, it has become ashes; that is all. Thus existence and non-existence are two sides of the same coin.
5. From the microcosm to the macrocosm, the entire universe is completely interfused. To understand any one thing completely, a complete knowledge of the entire universe becomes necessary. By knowing one, all can be known. One who does not know all, does not know even one.
6. Enclosed within the fifteen fences of name, lordship, thought, speech, action, strength, food, mind, sense organ, earth, water, fire, air, sky and faith, the sixteenth jiva- kala or soul's particle lies hidden. When these fifteen inconscient fences are broken, the soul gets self-awareness. This is called self-realization. To one who has attained self-realization, the way beyond to God-realization becomes easy. First, the realization is of the ‘I’ principle. Next comes the realization of the ‘He’ principle. This is the secret of the realization of “So’ham” (I:HE), the Ultimate Truth. One who is unaware of his own self, or one who mistakes such awareness of self itself as ultimate realization, can never progress in the pathway of God- realization.
On the whole, Acharya Madhva's life-message is this:
Kuru bhumksva ca karma nijam niyatam Hari-pada-vinamra-dhiya satatam Harireva paro Harireva gurur-
(Do thy duty alloted by God to These And eat what comes to thy share!
Hari is God Supreme, Hari the 'Teacher great, Father and Mother too is Hari, beware!)
tadalam bahu-loka-vicintanaya Pravanam-kuru-manasa misa pade
(Stop then thy worldy cares endless,
Pin thy mind at the Lord's feet boundless!)
1. In the local language Tulu this village is known as Bolle. The eastern and western portions of this village are called Mudu Belle and Padu Belle respectively in Kannada. There is a small stream in between the two portions. Sri Madhvacharya was born in the western portion of the Belle village.
2. Paje-Paade means rock in Tulu. This is a suitable name for the place surrounded by the slopes of rocks and thus presenting a lovely view. Unfortunately the present day contractors are indiscriminately breaking the rocks spoiling thereby the historic beauty and serenity. A new organization by name Pajaka Foundation is striving hard to protect the village and to rejuvenate its hoary past and culture. There is a unique temple of Parashrama on a rock in front of the house where Sri Madhvacharya was born. Just by the side of it there is a hillock known as Kunjargiri, with a shrine of Goddess Durga on the top. In ancient works this hillock is recorded as Vimana Giri. (Madhva Vijaya 2-1 1). Beyond the hillock is the border of the Belle village. As soon as we cross the border we step into the area known as Paaje Halli. The Sankritized form of this name is Paajaka and hence the place came to be designated as Paajaka Kshetra.
3. Anu Madhvacarita records this in clear terms
sahasraabdheebhya uttaree eekoona
catvaarimsaabdee vilambi samvatsaree
asviina sukladasamii divasee
sucikseetree durgayaa- caabhiviiksitee
budhavaaree maruttanuh (anu.ma.ca.2.4)
According to this Madhvacharya was bom in 4339 kali Era (1238 A.D.) Sri Acharya himself has revealed his time of birth in his Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya thus:
catuh sahasree trisatoottaree
gatee samvatsaraanaam tu
kalau prithivyaam jaatah
punarvipratanuh sa bhiimah
Some scholars infer this statement that 4300 kati Era (1199 A.D.) is the year of his birth. In fact Sri Acharya has simply said here that he was born after the kali Era 4300. This only indicates the round figure, and not the figure 39 after the beginning of the century. The statement does not answer the question as to which exactly is the year after 4300 Kati Era. Another work Anu Madhavacarita answers this in exact terms by metioning the year 39. Another statement of Sri Acharya lends support to this:
bhuusrii bhinnaaki einyoonaat kalyahaat
kaalavardhitaat garudadhyeeya vaakyaaptam
sauram vrthaapalam (tithi airnaya.2)
This stanza explains the method to be employed while making astronomical calculations about the dates and times. The Acharya records here the year of his composing the Work. The Calculations are as follows:
(bhuusriibhinnaaki cintya / garudadhyeeya) X kaala
The corresponding numbers are (1610424/11323) X 31 = 4409.
Accordingly Sri Acharya wrote the work in 4409 Kali Era. If 4300 is the year of his birth, we have to presume that he wrote it in his 109th year. But it is historically known that he lived only for 79 years.
eekoonaasiiti varsaani bhuutvaa
maanusadrtigah maagha suddha
navamyaam badariim yayau
Hence it is more appropriate to believe that he was born in 4339 kali Era. Sri Narahari Tirtha's Sri Kurma In- scription (Epigraphia Indica Vol. vi-25) seems to support this view. As per that inscription Sri Acharya was 70 years when he wrote Tithi Nirnaya.
4339+70 = 4409 i.e. 1308 A.D.
Madhvacharya's date of birth is also recorded in certain kaiftyats of the Mathas and other works. Since they do not tally with one another none of them can be taken as authoritative statements. Great scholars like Manjeshwara Govinda Pai and C.M. Padmanabhacharya have accepted 4339 Kali Era as the year of Sri Madhvacharya's birth.
4339 is a unique number. The sum total of these numbers is 10. (4+3+3+9=19=1+9 = 10) The sum total of the cubes of these numbers is also 10. If we go on adding the cubes of cubes also we get three numbers 847,919 and 1459. Even if we go on adding like this the sums will confine to these three numbers. The sum total of these three figures is also ten. The number thus indicates the praana tatva and the secret of avataara traya.
bhaktirjnaanamsa vairaagyam prajnaa
meedhaadhrtih sthith yooga praanoo balam caiva
vrkoodara iti smrtah ee,kad dasaatmakoo vaayuh
4. There is controversy about the date and month of his birth also. Some records proclaim vijayadasami, day in asvin month and other record maagha suddha saptami. It is difficult to come to any conclusion until we come across a reliable evidence. But oral traditions speak of vijayadasami as the birthday of Sri. Acharya. The almanacs also record vijayadasami as the birthday of Sri Madhvacharya. Hence the evidence found in Anu Madhva charita seems to be more reliable. Regarding the name of the day also one can observe that vijayadasami does not fall on Wednesday as observed by the author of Anu Madhvacarita, but on Monday.
5. Nadillaya is a Tulu word meaning a man of middle house. This is sometimes wrongly recorded as nadyantillaya. The Sanskritized form of this word is Madhyageha Bhatta.
7. Some modem writers have wrongly recorded this name as Acyuta Preksa. A stanza of madhva Vijaya is responsible for this misconception.
na naamamaatraacchucimarthatoopi yam
janoocyutapreeksamudaaharat sphutam (ma.vi.4,6)
But in the commentary on this stanza Vedangatirtha writes like this ‘achyuta preeksam acyutaprajna naamaanamityarthah’. Evidently Narayana Pandita, the author of Madhvavijaya used the word Achyutapreksa to indicate that the people used to respect this saint as if he had the vision of Lord Acyuta. This kind of change of epithets is noticed elsewhere also.
Instead of the name Purnaprajna the author of Madhva Vijaya ernploys the epithet, Purnabodha also (Madhva Vijaya 4.33).
Moreover, Narayana pandita himself wrote a commentary Bhava Prakashika to Madhva vijaya. He explains the word this way. ‘Acynta preeksah preeksaa prajnaa pratibheeti’. In another place he explains it in clear terms as ‘acyutee aatmaa buddhih prajnaa asyeeti acyutaatmaa acyuta prajnah’.
Another stanza in the guruparampara tradition also confirms this.
praajnatirtham ca pascaal
Even among the earlier saints the word prajnaa was in vogue, Satyaprajna is an example. The name of Madhvacharya is also Purna prajna, hence it is quite appropriate to believe that the original name of the saint was Acyuta prajna.8. Yadiimanupradivoomadhavaaadhavee guhaasantam maatarisvaamathaayati
(rgveda1.141.3)9. The popular legend now current among the devotees is as follows. A cargo ship loaded at Dwaraka was proceeding towards the South. When the ship was passing through Malpe there arose a big tempest and the captain cried out for help. Sri Acharya, engaged in meditation at the sea- shore heard this and waved his bark garment towards him. The tempest subsided. The captain sailed in the direction of the garment that was waved towards him and saluted the saint and requested him to accept any commodity that he desires from the ship as a mark of his gratitude. The Acharya did not accept any money or gold but took out only a lump of gopi mud. A lovely idol of Krishna found inside the lump of mud was later on established at Udupi.
The source of this legend is not known. No ancient work supports this legend. It must be of recent origin. The 19th pontiff of Sri Palimar Matha (18th century) Sri Raghuvarya Tirtha gives a different version of the story in his commentary on Anu Madhva Vijaya.
pradeesee goopiicandana madhyee
lagnaam goopiicandana buddhyaa saam
yaatrik-airaaniitaam ruupyapiitha- sampiipeeplavee bhinneejaladhau magnaam
sriikrisnapratimaamaaniiyee........ mathee pratisthaapayaamaasa.
According to this statement the ship carrying the idol of Krishna from Dwaraka wrecked at the sea near Udupi. Sri Acharya took it out from the bottom of the sea and established it in Udupi. This legend seems to be more ancient and trustworthy. We can consider this as authentic record since it was written by a traditional pontiff. The popular story of the tempest, like that of Krishna's image turning towards the west for Kanakadasa, must be a later invention by the local sthala purana writers.
Precious little is known about this Muslim ruler. Some believe that he must be Balban. But considering the fact that this is an incident that had occured during the oidage of the Acharya this must have occured during the reign of Jalal uddin Chilji (1 290-97 A.D.) Or Alla uddin Khilji (1 296 - 1316 A.D.).11. On the rock a beautiful status of the Acharya with a stick danda in hand is sculptured with the following inscription carved below.
srii madhvaacaaryaiah eekahasteena aaniiya sthaapitaa silla.12. Kapali Sastri, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo in his Rg Veda Bhashya Bhumika writes about the commentary on Rg Veda by the Acharya thus:
veedaanaamadhyaatmaparataa naastiiti koo naama bruutee madhvabhaasyeesu.jaagratsu.13. The ancient texts mention these 21 commentators : 1. Bharati Vijaya, 2. Sachidananda, 3. Brahma Ghosha, 4. Shataranda, 5. Udvarta, 6. Vijaya, 7. Rudra Bhatta, 8. Vamana, 9. Bhartr Prapancha, 10. Dravidacharya, 11. Brahma Datta. 12. Pishacha, 13. Vrttikara, 14. Vijaya Bhatta, 15. Vishnukranta, 16. Vadindra, 17. Madhva Dasa, 18. Shankara, 19. Bhaskara, 20. Yadava Praksha, 21. Ramanuja.
Among the Bhasya (commentaries) of the above mentioned philosophers, only those of Shankara, Bhaskara Yadava Prakasha and Ramanuja are available now.14. One stanza of Guruparampara mentions the names of the saints thus:
cintaya dhiirupeendram srii
sriiraamamanceehamadhooksajam ca15. If we convert the letter of the names of the ten disciples into the numbers according to the ka-ta-pa-ya sys- tem of numeration and go on adding the cubes we get only three figures: 153, 370 and 371. These three are unique figures in their own way: the sum total of their cubes is also the same number.
16. Vishvapathi Tirtha, the commentator of Madhva Vijaya calls this place Kokkada. But Vedanga Tirtha the ancient commentator and Raghuvarya Tirtha, the commentator of Anu Madhva Vijaya record this as idya.
17. The figures of the year of his initiation and departure to Badri are also interesting just like the figures derived from the letter of the names of his disciples. Sri Acharya was initiated in the year 4350 Kali Era, which gives the figure 153 when the cubes of individual numbers are added. His departure to Badri was in the year 4418 which again gives the figure 3 7 1.
18. He is the son of Pejattaya narayana Panditacharya. Till recently his works were not discovered. The author of the present book edited and published his commentary on Acharya's Anubhashya. The present author has with him the manuscripts of another six commentaries on Upanishats yet to be published.
19. These mathas are grouped into four pairs. If the swamiji of one matha expires without initiating his successor it is the responsibility of the swamiji of the other matha of the pair to initiate the successor.
20. Brahmanada Saraswathi in his commentary Gurachandrika on Madhusudana Sarswathi's Advaita Siddhi makes a significant statement.
maanduukoopanisadvyaakhyaaruupagaudapaadaacaaryagrantjastha prathama prakaranookta slookeebhyah srutitveena vaidika prasiddheebhyah. (Oriental Library publication, Mysore 1937. Vol.11 page 291).
Also note a sentence of Advaita Siddhi in the page number 251 in the same volume.
anaadi maayayaa suptoo yadaa jiivah prabudhyatee ityaadi srutisu.
It is clear from this that Madhusudhana Saraswathi also accepts the karikas of Manduka as sruti vaakya.21. Sri Vadiraja in his Yukti Malika refers to Acharya's siddhaanta as tatvavaada.
Pareecatatvaadee asmin gariiyastii bharoo mama.
It is worth mentioning here that the Bhagavata commentators of Bengal, the followers of Chaitanya refer to Madhvacharya as the preceptor of tatvavaada.
22. The words advaita and dvaita in addition to indicating the meaning of abheeda and bheeda have the connotation of yathaarthajnaana and ayahaarthajnaana also. Hence the word dvaita may sometime create confusion.
23. bhinnaaseabhinna dharmaascapadaarthaa nikhilaa api (Anu Vyakhyana 2.2.6.).
24. svabhavikoobraahmanaadih samaadyaireeva bhidyatee. yoonibheedakrtoo bheedoojneeya caupaadhikastvayam. (Gita Tatparya. 4-13.)
25. bahu citrajaged bahudhaakaranaat para sakiranantagunah paramah (Dwadasha Stotra.)
26. naanaajanasyasusruusaakarmaakhyaakaravanmiteeh,(Gita Tatparya. 6.3.)
27. bhuutamapyasitam divyadrstigoocarameevatu,utpadyateeavyaakrtamhigaganam saaksigoocaram. (Anu Vyakhyana 2.3)
28. mahattvaanutvayoornaivavisraantirupalabhyatee.(Anu Vyakhyana 2.3.6)
29. giitaat puspaphalaavaaptih sparsaat kaarsyam rasaar sthitih (Anu Vyakhyana 2.2.10)
30. sarveebhaavaaabhaavaasea padaarthaasteena sarvadaa
astyabhaavoosticadhvamsoo deehaabhaavasea bhasmataa. (Anu Vyakhyana 2.2.6)
31. eekam ea tatvatoojnaatum vinaa sarvajnataam narah na samarthoo macheendroopi tasmaat sarvatrajqnaseet (Gita Bhashya. 4.9 )
32. samyak samaahitaanaam tu praptaanaam soodasiim kalaam aparooksadrsaam kvaapi turiiyam drsyateepadam. (Manduka Bhasya)
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