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Dvaita Vedanta, Philosophy

The Life of Madhvacharya

Madhvacharya, the main exponent of dvaita philosophy was born in southern Karnataka in a small village of Paajakakshetra near Udipi in the Tulunadu area to a Shivalli Brahmin family. Majority of what is known about Madhvacharya are through a hagiography named Madhvavijaya, the victory of Madhva composed by his devotee and follower, Narayana Panditacharya. Although the biography is highly polemical I will rely on the Madhvavijaya as my source of reference

According to traditional narrations, Madhva was born in response to twelve years of prayer by Madhyageha Bhatt and Vedavati to Lord Ananteshvara. Lord Ananteshvara ordered his chief aide Vayu[1] to incarnate on earth a third[2] time to fulfil the desires of the couple and re-establish Dharma against the false and illusionist philosophies prevalent at the time.

The common consensus regarding the birth of Madhva is 1238 A.D. and in appreciation and gratitude to Lord Ananteshvara they named the child Vasudeva.  According to Madhvavijaya, young Vasudeva showed extraordinary miracles and exceptional ability in studying Sanskrit and various other sciences. From a young age Vasudeva knew his calling was for establishing Dharma and expressed the desire to take renunciation, being the only son the request was swiftly refused by his parents. Nevertheless the young boy persisted for acceptance for a number of years finally being granted permission after Vedavati gave birth to another child.

Vasudeva was granted permission at the age of eleven and had left home in search of a spiritual teacher. Vasudeva was then accepted by Achyuta Preksha as a disciple and was formally ordained as a renunciate named Purna Bodha. Achyuta Preksha knowing the suitability of young Purna Bodha commenced the study of ‘Ishta-Siddhi’, an advaitic text; however Purna Bodha was dissatisfied with the explanation of Ishta-Siddhi in elucidating Vedanta and found thirty-two mistakes and flaws in the text. His Guru being staggered by the observations questioned his disciple regarding various matters with perfect responses in return from the young prodigy explaining his objections and demonstrating the imperfections of the Advaita position. Being in admiration for the intellectual knowledge of young Madhva, Achyuta Preksha conferred on him the title of ‘Ananda Tirtha’, the place of bliss.

Under the request of his teacher and various others, Ananda Tirtha commenced his commentaries on the canonical Vedic treatises[3]. His first commentarial work was on the Bhagavad-Gita. After which he travelled to Badari to study Vedanta and wrote a commentary on the Brahma Sutras under the tutelage Veda Vyasa. The chronology of Madhva writing the Upanishads is fairly vague but it seems safe to suggest that the upanishadic commentaries came subsequent to the Bhagavad-Gita and Brahma Sutras.

Between the ages of eleven and seventy nine, Madhva give discourses on Vedanta, partook in debate, religious congregations, performed miraculous feats and re-established sacred temples. Whilst writing other philosophical treatises and composing many devotional hymns in praise of Lord Vishnu, he established eight monasteries[4] instructing his direct disciples[5] to undertake and manage.

According to Narayana Panditacharya, Madhvacharya disappeared at the age of seventy nine whilst honoured with a shower of flowers from heavenly deities. According to Madhva tradition, Madhva did not die but is considered to be alive and residing in Badrinatha in the Himalayas with his teacher and Lord, Vyasa.

[1] The wind God
[2] Hanuman, Bhima and Madhva
[3] Bhagavad-Gita, Brahma Sutra and the main upanishads
[4] Palimaar(hrishikesha tirtha), Adamaar(narashima tirtha), Krishnapur(janardana tirtha), Putige(upendra tirtha), Sirur(vamana tirtha), Sode(vishnu tirtha), Kaanur(srirama tirtha), Pejaavar(adhokshaja tirtha)
[5] Hrishikesh, Narasimha, Janardana, Upendra, Vaaman, Vishnu, Adhokshaja

The copyright of the article The life of Madhvacharya is owned by the Jigyasa Team. Permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

About Makwana

A student of Sanatan Vedic Dharma


2 thoughts on “The Life of Madhvacharya

  1. Fine stuff

    Posted by Harihar prasad satapathy | November 14, 2013, 4:33 pm


  1. Pingback: Definition of duḥkha/Sorrow « jigyāsā - June 28, 2012

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