ShrI MadhvAchArya (ShrI MadAnanda Theertha)
abhramaM bhaN^garahitaM ajaDaM vimalaM sadA |
AnandatIrthaM atulaM bhaje tApatrayApaham.h ||
The always undeluded, unobstructed, free of sloth, and free of filth;
that Ananda Tîirtha, the incomparable, I salute, who is the remover of all misery.
ShrI MadhvAcharya is the founder of the Tattvavāda (True Philosophy) school of thought. He was a pioneer in many ways, going against standard conventions and norms. MadhvAcharya is the third incarnation of Vayu, aka MukhyaprANa (the god of life), after Hanuman and Bhima. His name and advent are mentioned in the BaLitthA SUkta of the Rig Veda.
Acharya Madhva was born on Vijayadashami day of 1238 CE at Pajaka, a tiny hamlet near Udupi. Narayana Panditacharya who later wrote Madhva’s biography has recorded the names of Acharya’s parents as Madhyageha Bhatta (Naduillayaru) as name of the father and Vedavati as Acharya’s mother. At birth ShrI MadhvAcharyaru was named as Vasudeva.
Even as a child, Vasudeva exhibited great talent for grasping all things spiritual. He was drawn to the path of renunciation, and his early age of 12 -16, he chose to be a sanyasi, and took the initiation under monastic order from AchyutaPragna (Purushottam Theertharu), a reputed ascetic of the time, near Udupi. At the time of his initiation into sanyasa, he was given the name of Poornaprajna. Later during his pattabisheka he was named as Ananda Theertha. However, he named himself as Madhva (Madhva = Madhu + Va, Madhu means ananda, and Va means Theertha, hence MadhVa = Ananda Teertha). As Madhva is also a name that occurs in the BaLittha SUktaof the Rigveda for the third avatAra of MukhyaprANa, he became famous as MadhvAcharya. The other name as per veda for MadhvAcharya is Dashapramathi – Dasha (Infinite) – pramathi (Knowledge) which equals Poorna (Infinite) – prajna (Knowledge). Knowingly or unknowingly, shrI Achytapragnaru gave shrI MadhvAcharyaru his vedic synonymous name.
The approximate period during which Acharyaru lived in this bhoomi is between 1238AD and 1317AD, and as per Anu MadhvA Vijya (author unknown) he lived for 79 years. Narayana Panditacharya who later wrote Madhva’s biography has not recorded his living years, except details on shrI MadhvAcharya’s disappearing on a Navami day from his routine day to day affairs. It is believed that ShrI Acharyaru is undergoing studies on vedic knowledge from shri VedaVyasa Devaru at Badrikashrama even today.
ShrI MadhvAcharya authored around 40 + works, he is the only philosopher who has authored commentaries on variety of topics.
- Gita Bhaashya
- Brahma-Suutra Bhaashya
- Gita Tatparya
- Kena or TaLavakâra Upanishad Bhâshya
- KaThopanishad Bhâshya
- MuNDaka Upanishad Bhâshya
- Mânduukya Upanishad Bhâshya
- Iishaavaasyopanishad Bhaashya
- Satprashnopanishad Bhaashya
- Aitereyopanishad Bhaashya
- Taittiriiyopanishad Bhaashya
- Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad Bhaashya
- Chaandogya Upanishad Bhaashya
- Tantrasara sangraha
- Dwadasha Stotras – 12
- Naka Stutis – 2
- Kandartha nirnaya
- Bhâgavata Tâtparya
- Maha Bharatha Tatparya Nirnaya
- Krishnamrutha Maharnaya
- Rig Veda Bhâshya
- Sadâchara Smrti
- Yati PraNava Kalpa
- Krishna Jayanti NirNaya
- PramâNa LakshaNa
- Kathâ LakshaNa
- Upâdhi Khandana
- Prapancha Mithyâtva-anumâna KhanDana
- Mayâvâda Khandana
- Karma NirNaya
ShrI MadhvAcharya‘s philosophy:
ShrI MadhvAcharyaru used three main methods of proof (pramANa) to present his philosophy. They are – personal experience (pratyakSa), scriptures (agamas, shruti), and inference (anumana).
He was the first philosopher to formulate an Adhyatmic (philosophical) interpretation of the Rig Veda. To illustrate his point, he interpreted forty suktas as an example. He gave a fresh doctrine of the validity of knowledge with special reference to the principle of “sAkshi”. ShrI MadhvAcharya developed the sAkshi concepts, and used them in the right places in his philosophy.
ShrI MadhvAcharya was motivated by four rationales:
- A determination to remain true to experience above all, in the spirit of science.
- A commitment to sound reasoning.
- An intensive emotional devotion on ShrI Narayana (The God) that drove all his actions.
- Fearless persistent and determination in interpreting his philosophy in the toughest environment that was revolving around advaitis.
His exclusive philosophical contributions in addition to prameya stotra towards Indian philosophy are as follows:
- There is only ONE GOD, All words or sounds reflect god’s name alone (it can be in all language and all sounds). He is the world’s First philosopher to say so; he preached it and followed it to earnest. During his incarnation period, there was presence of Islam and Christianity in India, and he understood those religions, and still propagated his philosophy of Tattvavāda (True Philosophy). The greatness of his thoughts on this can be found in this true incident, once during his Pilgrimage to Badrikashram, he had to cross the river Ganga, and the other shore was under a Muslim king. While crossing the river along with his disciples, the soldiers across shouted not to cross, but he fearlessly crossed the river, and told the soldiers that he wants to meet their king. When he met the king, the king asked him how did you cross the river without fear, he said to the Muslim king; Why should I fear of you? Both of us pray to the one god, you call him as Allah, I call him Narayana, so we are brothers. Impressed by this philosophy, the Muslim king said, I have not seen a Hindu saint like you. After meeting you, I like you, and offered him land and wealth to form the mutt and stay in his Kingdom. Acharyaru, declined the offer, and asked a favor of cooperation for him and his disciples to travel to Badrikashram.
- He said that the Lord ShrI Narayana by residing in a living or nor living thing, gives it a shape, characteristics and attributes. For example: In his young age – he said: Swavastu pranathi yadam, (One who lives in everything, is to whom I am praying).
- Every living thing has his own self characteristics (There is division, and no two things are equal). He introduced the concept of “vishesha”, in the relationship between a substance and its attributes.
- Satvic jivas can only attain Moksha, and not Rajasic and Tamasic Jivas. He said Karma siddantha – One who does a kriya (karma) does not get the fruit, but the fruit goes to the person for whom the kriya is done. Similarly, based on one’s characteristics the jivas reach different ultimate states based on their respective characteristics and attributes (Nichochabavangatha). He also said: equal treatment of unequals is discrimination. Equal treatment of equals and unequal treatment of unequals is non-discrimination.
- He also preached, in philosophy there is no caste system, but only Varna (Swabhava– characteristics and attributes) system. The caste system might be important only in society and not in spirituality. He also emphasized that Varna is there only for the jivas who are satvic (Moksha yoga jiva), and not in jivas who are rajasic and tamasic. He said that Varna system is not based on birth; it is based on one’s characteristics (Moksha yogya Brahman, Moksha yogya kshatriya, Moksha yogya vysya, and Moksha yogya shudra).
- Jiva as gender characteristics (both male and female), he said that can jada (non living things) have gender, it can get only when it is in contact with the jiva.
- There are several other concepts like svatantra-paratantra, bimba-pratibimba bhAva (relation between Jivas and brahman) which he developed and used in his works. There is a five-fold (Pancha Bedha) difference between God, living things, and non-living things.
The above text is a transcript of my understanding of the lecture made by Guru Shri Bannanje Govindacharya.
The transcript might have some information that are not as per the lecture made by Guru Shru Bannanje Govindacharya.
To learn about Sree Madhwacharya’s life and Philosophy, click here. The linked document was published by Vishva Madhva Sangha.
You can also see a video on Madhvacharyara life history, click here.