Showing posts with label Madhvacarya. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Madhvacarya. Show all posts

Saturday, December 19, 2015


The Greatness of Vayu

Vayu served Lord Rama as Hanumanta in his first incarnation. As Bhimasena he served Lord in his second incarnation. Acharya Madhva is believed to be his third incarnation. This is based on authentic and holy vedic references like the BaLiththa sUkta ViShNu sUkta, and so on. In order to understand the glory of the Madhva incarnation it is important to getan idea about Vayu and his greatness.

Vayu occupies a very high place in the hierarchy of gods, next only to Lord Narayana and Lakshmi, and equal to Brahma in status. He is expected to take up the Brahma position in the next cycle of creation. He is the Lord’s dearest devotee and considered as the best ‘adhisthAna’ (icon) to worship the Lord. There are hundreds of references in Shruti and Smruti that underscore his position in the hierarchy, his strength, devotion and other qualities. That is why he is called ‘jIvottama’ or the best amongst jIvas (sentient beings) whereas Hari is Sarvottama.

Conditions before advent of Acharya

Towards the end of dvApura yuga, Lord vEdavyAsa classified the Vedas and composed the brahmaSutras, MahAbhArata and 18 puranas to help the virtuous grasp the import of the vEdas correctly and unambiguously. Through the Kurukshetra war and other incidents, Lord Krishna had rid the earth of all bad elements. Dharma was on an even keel.

Things had drastically changed by the turn of the thirteenth century. Large parts of India were under Muslim rulers. Hindus were struggling to maintain their religion against the onslaught of other religions. People were becoming confused due to the multiplicity of doctrines from different religious leaders. There were 21 commentaries on the brahmaSutras, each claiming to represent the real intent of VedavyAsa and the true spirit of Vedanta. Each new commentator began his work soundly criticizing all the previous commentaries.

According to the Sumadhva Vijaya (SMV) , an authentic biography of Acharya Madhva, the gods were very unhappy at this sorry state of affairs. They approached Lord ViShNu and asked him to save sanAtana dharma (eternal and timeless vedic religion). Lord ViShNu has a self-imposed rule not to incarnate in Kaliyuga, so he directed Vayu to incarnate on earth and reestablish sanAtana dharma. Vayu received the Lord’s command with devotion and complete humility, like accepting a crown on his head. The prayers of other gods were worn on his breast like a precious necklace

Birth & Childhood

Madhygeha Bhatta (called naDillAya in tulu) and his wife lived in the village of Pajaka near Udupi, Karnataka, India. They were a pious couple. They prayed to Lord Ananteshwara to bless them with a son and performed severe penance. Consequently, Vayu incarnated as their son on Vijayadashami (10th day of the bright half of the lunar month of Ashwayuja - September and October) in the year 1238 AD(CE4). His parents named him 'Vasudeva'.

Even from his childhood it was obvious that Vasudeva was unlike other kids of his age. He was overflowing with deep devotion to the supreme Lord and possessed extraordinary physical and mental abilities. He repeatedly astounded his parents and teachers, performing several extraordinary feats.

When he was a baby his sister fed him well boiled horse-gram that even adults cannot digest easily. He happily ate it and digested it without any after effects.

He spent an entire day without food or water, roaming his father’s fields, holding on to the tail of a bullock. Even then there was no sign of fatigue on its face.

He gave tamarind seeds to a person who had lent his father money. The lendor solemnly accepted the seeds given by the charming child as full repayment of the debt. His faith did not go unrewarded; in due course, he became a devotee of God and attained salvation.

Even before he was eight, he jumped from the top of a hillock called durgabeTTa and landed near his house! On another occasion, he replanted a dry plant and made it sprout !

His guru’s son was suffering from chronic headache since birth. Vasudeva blew air into his ears and cured him of his headache

When a deadly serpent bit him, he jumped on its hood and pressed it down to earth. Its poison did not affect him.

His father discovered that anything taught to him was immediately grasped. He had to teach new things to his son everyday, without repeating anything from the previous lessons! Vasudeva also astounded the teacher in his gurukula (small residential school) with a flawless recital of Vedic hymns, including portions that the teacher had not covered till then!

He was also very adept in sports like swimming, wrestling and weight lifting. He could easily take on several of his strong friends at the same time and effortlessly defeat them .

Accepting Sanyasa

Vasudeva returned home from the gurukula at the age of eight, determined to become an ascetic. He realized that this was the only way he could propagate the true philosophy enshrined in the holy scriptures and establish the unrivalled and unequalled supremacy of God. His parents were very distressed to hear this since he was their only son. Vasudeva relieved them by promising to wait until another son was born to them. When another baby was born, vAsudeva sought and obtained his parents permission, which was provided reluctantly.

achyuta prekSha tIrtha (some say that his name was achyuta pragna), a great ascetic belonging to Advaita (non-dualistic) school of Vedanta, had his maTha in the Ananteshvara shrine. He was the spiritual leader of the community at that time and so vAsudeva requested him to take him as his disciple. achyutaprekSha, who was eagerly waiting for a worthy disciple immediately agreed. Vasudeva was inducted into sanyAsa (monkhood) with pUrNapragna as his Ashrama-nAma (name taken after one becomes a monk


Pilgrimage to South India

The Acharya set out on a tour of South India. He visited prominent places of pilgrimage like Anantasayana, Kanyakumari, Ramesvara and Sriranga. Wherever he went, he delivered discourses and preached the true meaning of the scriptures to the people. This initiated a new discussion among scholars all over India.

After coming back to Udupi, he authored his first work – a commentary (bhashya) on the Bhagavadgita.

First tour of North India

In course of time, the Acharya decided to tour North India in order to further spread the true message of Vedic religion. He also wanted to visit Badari to meet shrI VedavyAsa (an incarnation of Lord Hari) and get His blessings. Accordingly in 1263 he set out with several disciples and reached Badari. According to the Sumadhva Vijaya, when he presented his Gita bhAshya to Narayana, He is supposed to have directed him to change one word from ‘shaktitah’ to ‘leshatah’ (indicating that the standard of the bhAshya was set to the level of the audience and not at the Acharya’s level which is much, much higher). He is also supposed to have woken up Acharya in the night and directed him to read the Bhashya again.

From there, Acharya made the trek to Upper Badari in 48 days. In order to keep his mind focused on shrI VedavyAsa, he observed a vow of silence for the entire duration, bathing in the cold waters of the Ganga very early in the morning. At the final leg of the trip, he directed his disciples to stay back and went alone. However one disciple, shrI Sathya tIrtha followed him for a while but could not keep up. After a while he became so tired that he could not move forward or backward. Acharya sensed this and out of concern for his safety created a fierce wind by waving his hand; this wind carried Sathya tIrtha safely back to the previous camp.

Acharya reached upper Badari and saw shrI VedavyAsa. He prostrated before Him with deep devotion. shrI VedavyAsa was very happy to see him and greeted him effusively. He then taught some hidden aspects of the scriptures to Acharya. This was done to show that true knowledge has to be learnt from a guru and to underscore the point that Acharya’s knowledge of scriptures was flawless because this had been imparted to him by the Lord Himself.

On his way back, Acharya participated in a vidvat sabha on the banks on the GodAvarI river in the Andhra. The sabha featured two erudite scholars and staunch advaitins, Shobhana BhaTTa (the prime minister of the kAkatIya kings) and SvAmI ShAstrI (the prime minister of the Gajapati kings of kaLinga). Both of them were defeated and thoroughly mesmerized by Acharya’s magic personality and erudition. They converted to dvaita and got initiated into sanyAsa as PadmanAbha and Narahari tIrthas respectively. Acharya sent Narahari tIrtha back to Kalinga to obtain the rare and priceless icon of Lord Rama buried in the treasury. Sri Narahari tIrtha served the kingdom diligently and received the icon as his reward. He went back to Udupi and offered this icon to Sri Madhvacharya. This is the famous MUla RAma icon worshipped in the Raghavendra swamigala maTha.

After his return from Badari AchArya authored a commentary on the Bramha-sutras.

Acharya's influence spread far and wide throughout the country. Scholars were stunned by his extra-ordinary genius. The circle of his disciples grew bigger and bigger. Some even got initiated into sanyasa

Setting up Sri Krishna icon at Udupi

The popular story associated with the setting up of the Krishna icon and the composition of the dvadasha stotra is as follows:

One morning Acharya Madhva was on the seashore performing his rituals when he saw a ship in distress, wobbling violently in the stormy waters. He waved his upper cloth and calmed the storm. When the grateful captain of the ship offered him the entire contents of the ship, he declined to accept anything except three mounds or lumps of gopichandana that had been used as ballast. With his divine vision, he saw in one of the lumps a beautiful and precious icon of shrI Krishna that had originally been worshipped by Rukmini Herself. Soaked in devotion he carried the lumps on his shoulders and walked towards Udupi, composing the dvaadasha stotra on the way. He duly consecrated the icon in Udupi and personally worshipped it for 20 years.

He initiated 8 young boys into sanyAsa and appointed them as pontiffs of 8 maThAs. He set up a unique system in which the 8 pontiffs would worship the Krishna icon for two months each in turn. This system, called paryAya, was modified in 1532 by Sri VadirAja, extending the term to two years per pontiff.

Second tour of North India

Acharya undertook another tour of North India from Udupi. On their way to badari, he and his disciples had to cross the river gangA without boats. Acharya asked his disciples to hold on to him and form a chain. Together, they crossed the river to the great amazement of everybody. Soldiers guarding the other side of the river tried to prevent him from crossing the river, but could not do so. They surrounded him and took him to their muslim king. When the King questioned Acharya, he replied back in the king’s language that he could do this feat by the grace of the Supreme God, who was also the controller of the king and the entire Universe. The King understood the greatness of AchArya and offered a part of his kingdom as jaghir. AchArya did not accept his offer but sought the King’s permission to peacefully pass through his kingdom.

In Badari Acharya had darshan once again of Lord Narayana and VedavyAsa. VedavyAsa gifted him with eight Saligramas. These are available even today and are worshipped as VyAsa Mushtis.

While returning from Badari, AchArya and his disciples had to once again cross the river GangA without boats in a different kingdom. AchArya left behind all his disciples and walked onto the GangA River. He disappeared from the sight of his disciples and reached the other end. The Muslim King of that region was surprised to see him crossing the river without a boat. His clothes were also not wet. The king recognized the greatness of AchArya. He immediately arranged for boats to get AchArya’s disciples from the other end of the river.

When the Acharya and his disciples passed Kuruksetra, the scene of the Mahabharata war, he identified a mound and got it excavated. It contained the mace of Bhima. None of the disciples could even move it. Acharya easily lifted it and showed that he was indeed Bhima. He once again had it buried.

He also visited Kashi where he debated with an elderly Advaita ascetic, Amarendra Puri and soundly defeated him.

On his return home thereafter, he wrote the treatise - Mahabharata-tatparya-nirnaya.


Shankara & Trivikrama Panditacharya

A monk called Padmatirtha arranged for some vile elements to steal the rare library of the Acharya. Acharya went to Kasaragodu and defeated him in a debate. The Acharya's arguments on that occasion were captured by his disciples into a treatise called Tattvoddyota. Jayasimha, the king of that region, invited the Acharya to his court and arranged for the return of his stolen library. He also punished Padma tIrtha.

Trivikrama Panditacharya was the king’s preceptor, and the brother of Shankara panditAchArya, Acharya’s disciple and his librarian. He debated with Acharya for fifteen days and lost. He embraced dvaita and became Acharya’s favorite disciple. He composed Vayu stuti, extolling Vayu and his three incarnations in 41 verses. It is extremely popular among mAdhvAs and is believed to protect those who recite it with devotion from harm and shower them with happiness and peace. He also wrote Tattva-dipika, a commentary on Acharya's Brahma-sutra- bhasya.

Trivikrama Panditacharya’s son, NArAyaNa panDitAchArya, wrote “sumadhva Vijaya”, a great poem that captures the life and achievements of the Acharya in a full, reliable and accurate way.

Acharya answered Trivikrama Panditacharya’s request for another in-depth commentary on the Brahma-sutras by authoring Anu-vyakhyana. He did this in a manner that had never been done before. He dictated each of its four chapters to four disciples simultaneously. He also authored another work on the Brahma-sutras called Nyayavivarana.

Acharya’s brother had developed total detachment in life and was longing for sanyAsa. Acharya satisfied his request and initiated him into sanyAsa with the Ashrama nAma Sri Vishnutirtha. He became the first pontiff of the present day Sode and Subramanya mathas.

Acharya composed a literary work called "Krsnamrtamaharnava" for the benefit of another disciple. This is primarily an extract of verses from other works, selected by the Acharya for their spiritual content.

When Acharya was in Ujire he lectured the Brahmins there on the spiritual aspects of rituals. This discourse was published later under the title of Karmanimaya.

Other remarkable incidents

Some enemical elements sent two strong wrestlers to harm Acharya physically. He sensed this and wanted to teach them a lesson. He invited the wrestlers to demonstrate their power by preventing him from reciting Vedic hymns by strangling him. The wrestlers were overjoyed at this golden opportunity and tried their best. Finally, they gave up exhausted, being unable to even make an impression on Acharya’s neck.

Once when Acharya sensed that a tinge of arrogance was creeping into his disciples about their physical prowess he put a stop to it immediately. He planted a finger on the ground and challenged them to move it, either individually or collectively as a group. When they could not do so, they realized their mistake and sought his forgiveness.

Acharya had remarkable yogic powers. He once became so light that a small boy could easily carry him and make a tour of the local temple.

Acharya had an ox that used to carry his precious books and sit by his side listening to his speeches. One day he announced that the ox would write commentaries on his works, since he knew that the ox was really Lord Indra. When the ox was poisoned by some misguided people Acharya revived it sprinkling on it water sanctified by the dvaadasha stotra. We learn from JayatIrtha vijaya that the ox later reincarnated as Sri JayatIrtha and wrote commentaries on all the major works of the Acharya.

To test his powers of digestion, a brahmin named Shankara offered Acharya 4000 banana fruits and 30 vessels full of milk. AchArya polished off the food without a trace. The super human abilities of AchArya impressed the King of that place. He tried to force Acharya to stay in his kingdom and even had him locked up in the village temple. AchArya became invisible to the king and his soldiers and left the place with his disciples.

Using his powers AchArya and his disciples appeared like stones to thieves who had come to rob them. After the thieves left, AchArya and disciples resumed their journey. The thieves looked back and saw the group walking peacefully. They were stunned by Acharya’s yogic power. They fell at his feet and asked for forgiveness.

When a band of robbers attacked him and his disciples on the difficult road to the Himalayas Acharya made his pupil Upendra-tirtha silence them after a fierce flight.

When the Acharya was touring Kalsa in Karnataka he noticed that people were struggling to lift a huge rock boulder. He effortlessly lifted it with one hand and placed it on the river. This rock, called Bhimana Bande, exists even to this day. It carries an inscription about this incident.

Once Acharya and his disciples were forced by a king to participate in the digging of a tank. The Acharya feigned ignorance and asked the King to show them the correct technique. The king started digging and could not stop. Acharya and his disciples smiled and walked on

āpūryamāṇam acala-pratiṣṭhaṁ
samudram āpaḥ praviśanti yadvat
tadvat kāmā yaṁ praviśanti sarve
sa śāntim āpnoti na kāma-kāmī (Bhagavad Gita 2.70)

A person who is not disturbed by the incessant flow of desires – that enter like rivers into the ocean, which is ever being filled but is always still – can alone achieve peace, and not the man who strives to satisfy such desires.

Madhvacarya's Commentary

The way in which those situated in transcendent meditation experience the objects of the senses is explained in this verse by Lord Krishna. Whoever remains unaffected by sense objects even when they approach incessantly, who is not overwhelmed by them, who does not endeavour for them, who is not at a loss due to their absence, who is unchanged like the ocean which does not increase no matter how many bodies of water enter it and which does not decrease if no other bodies of water enter it endeavouring for neither. Such a one as this can attain peace. This is the meaning.

Now begins the summation.

Even while experiencing interaction with the senses, one who does not transgress the boundaries of desire, like the ocean which remains steadfast within its boundaries destined by creation, then such a one is not bound by theses desires. One is then liberated from these desires. Ka means to become selfish. Hence one whose desires are self-centered is known to be the selfish one. All desires are not contrary to liberation nor are all desires opposed to liberation. In the absence of desires it is not possible to live a normal life. Since attaining peace from endless desires is liberation itself, subsequently develops eternal faith in the Supreme Lord. Verily this is truth

Namaste Pranesha....

Acharya lived for seventy nine years. The Sumadhva Vijaya is not clear about his final days. It just says that it was the ninth day him and showered flowers on him. This is the famous prayer that ends with the verse ending in “namaste prANesha praNata vibhavAya ….”

After this, the popular belief is that his disciples searched for him under the flowers but did not find him. It is believed that he went to Upper Badari to continue his studies with Shri VedavyAsa. This day is celebrated as Madhva Navami.

Disciples of Acharya

Several disciples form various regions of the country sought and obtained sanyAsa from the Acharya. The prominent ones among them are:

Sri Padmanabha-tirtha (Sri Raghavendra Swamy matha) *
Sri Narahari-tirtha (Sri Raghavendra Swamy matha)
Sri Madhava-tirtha (Sri Raghavendra Swamy matha)
Sri Akshobhya-tirtha (Sri Raghavendra Swamy matha)
Sri Hrisikesa-tirtha (Palimaru matha)
Sri Narasimha-tirtha (Adamaru-matha)
Sri Janardana-tirtha (Krsnapura-matha)
Sri Upendra-tirtha (Puttige-matha)
Sri Vamana-tirtha (Shirur-matha)
Sri Vishnu-tirtha (Sode-matha)
Sri Srirama-tirtha (Kaniyuru-matha)
Sri Adhoksaja-tirtha (Pejavara-matha)

In addition to the above direct disciples there are several other illustrious ascetics associated with dvaita Vedanta. The names that immediately come to mind are Sri Jaya tIrtha (also known as Teeka Rayaru for his act of writing commentaries on Acharya’s works), Sri Brahmnya tIrtha, Sri LakshminArAyana muni (more commonly known as Sri SripAdarAja), Sri Vibhudendra tIrtha, Sri VyAsa tIrtha, Sri VadirAja tIrtha, Sri VijayIndra tIrtha, Sri RaghUttama tIrtha, Sri SudhIndra tIrtha, Sri Raghavendra tIrtha and so on. In addition, there were many gruhasthas (householders) who served the cause of Acharya Madhva. The prominent ones are Sri TrivikramapanditAcharya, Sri Shankara Panditacharya, Smt. Kalyani devi (Trivikrama panditAcharya’s sister), Sri Narayana panditAchArya, Sri Vamana PanditAchArya, Sri PurandaradAsa, Sri VijayadAsa, Sri GopaladAsa, Sri JagannAthadAsa (author of HarikathAmrutasAra) and so on. It is a widely held belief that most of the saints and haridasas who came in the dvaita tradition are incarnations of celestials who came down to serve Acharya Madhva.
* All the mathas are now called as given in brackets

Nine points summary or mission statement of Sripad Madhvacarya's philosophy is:

1. Lord Vishnu, the Personality of Godhead, is the Absolute Truth, and nothing is higher than Him.

2. He, the Lord is known by the study of Vedas 'sarvasya caham' (Bhagavad Gita 15:15.)

3. The material world is real, but temporary.

4. The Jivas (living entities) are different from the Lord ('bimba prati bimba').

5. The Jivas are, by nature, servants of Lord Vishnu's lotus feet.

6. In both the conditioned and liberated states, the Jivas are situated in higher and lower statuses and always remain individuals in their identity.

7. Liberation does not mean an impersonal merging, but the attainment of serving Lord Vishnu's lotus feet.

8. Pure devotional service rendered to 'guru' and Vishnu automatically grants liberation, release from material bondage. There is no need of only seeking liberation. One only need seek pure devotional service.

9. 'Pramanas'. Direct perception, logic and Vedic authority are three sources of actual knowledge

AchArya Madhva’s works are called as Sarvamoola, because they are the root source of all knowledge of the Almighty, who is also the source of everything.

Incidentally, the Acharya never wrote any work by hand. He composed the work in his head and dictated it continuously to his disciples who would take it down on palm leaves.

The following are his works

Commentaries On Vedic Hymns
Rig-Veda Bhasya

upanishad prasthAna' (On Upanishads)
Aitareya Upanishad Bhasya
Brhadaranyaka Upanishad Bhasya
Chandogya Upanishad Bhasya
Taittiriyaa Upanishad Bhasya
Isavasya Upanishad Bhasya
Kathaka Upanishad Bhasya
Atharvana [Mundaka] Upanishad Bhasya
Manduka Upanishad Bhasya
Shatprasna Upanishad Bhasya
Talavakara [Kena] upanishad Bhasya

'GitA prasthAna' (on bhagavad gita)
BhagavadgitA bhAshya
BhagavadgitA tAtparya nirnaya

‘purANa prasthAna’ (on itihasa and puranas):
BhAgavata tAtparya nirnaya
shrIman mahAbhArata tAtparya nirnaya

'sUtra prasthAna' (On brahma sUtras)
BrahmasUtra - bhAshya
BrahmasUtra - AnUbhAshya
BrahmasUtra - AnuvyAkhyAna
BrahmasUtra - NyAyavivarana

'lakshana granthAs'

'khandana traya'
upAdhi khandana
mayAvada khandana

'tattva granthAs'

bilva mangala sAdhu

Other Works (offering guidance on spiritual matters):
jayanti nirnaya
thithi nirnaya
nyasa paddati

The essence of Tattva Vada / Dvaita

The key point to be noted and remembered is that Acharya Madhva did not discover or invent anything new. All the major concepts enunciated by him were part of the timeless, eternal vedic religion (sanAtana dharma). He brought back these forgotten concepts into the conciousness of humanity, providing appropriate references. The school of philosophy associated with him has different names. Its ancient name is tattvavAda, but it is more popularly known as Dvaita (the dualistic school).

There is a very popular verse, attributed to Sri VyAsa tIrtha, which captures some of the highlights of the Acharya Madhva’s philosophy:

shrIman Madhva Mate harih paratarah
Satyam Jagat
Tattvato bhedah
jeeva ganaah hareh anucharAh,
nichochha bhavam gatAh
Muktih Naija sukhAnubhUti
amalA bhaktishcha tat saadhanam
Haixyaadi tritayam pramaanam
akhilam Amnaayaika vedyo harih

A loose translation of the above would be:
ViShNu is the supreme God,
The world is real,
The five-fold difference between God, living and non-living beings is an eternal fact,
All living beings are dependent upon Hari for their existence
There is a hierarchy amongst living beings, that is eternal (without beginning or end)
Salvation lies in the soul experiencing its intrinsic joy,
Salvation can be attained only through pure and unsullied devotion of God means of knowledge are sensory perception, inference and holy scriptures
Hari is to be perceived in His nature through the holy scriptures and only through them.

In addition to the above points, Acharya made several important contributions to Indian Philosophy. Some of these are:
Bimba-pratibimba: God is the object (bimba) and jIvas are His images (pratibimbas)·
Sarva-shabda vAchatva: every word, every sound is God’s name.
Jeeva traividya: three-fold classification of jIvas into Satvika (fit for liberation), Nitya-samsAri (happiness mixed with sorrow), tAmasika (fit for eternal damnation)
Vishesha: A special characteristic that acts as a distinguishing feature where there is innately no difference.
The concept of “Sakshi” and its importance.
Treating all the Hindu scriptures as an integral entity, unlike others who treat differentiate and discriminate between different portions of scriptures. He showed how seemingly conflicting passages from different scriptures should be interpreted to yield one coherent message.

Providing a spiritual and philosophical interpretation of the Rig Veda. As an example, he interpreted forty sUktas to show how it should be done.