During the Bhakti movement, Madhava was one of the significant philosophers. His followers worship him to be the third incarnation of Vayu, aka Mukhyaprana, after Hanuman and Bhima. Madhvacharya has imprinted his pioneering quality in many ways, going against standard conventions and norms.
Life of Madhavacharya
Madhvacharya, as he is esteemed to be the avatar of Bhima, took birth to destroy the daityas in Kali Yuga while others conceptualize him as Vayu, whose life mission is to defeat the followers of Mayavadi philosophy. This eminent persona was born on Vijaya Dashami day of 1238 CE at ‘Pajaka’, a very small village near Udupi, Karnataka. He was born in the very exalted Brahmins family. At birth, h e was named ‘Vasudeva’. His qualities as something extraordinary are being shown from his early childhood. He performed many awe-inspiring pastimes, such as; with the big toe of his left foot simply he killed a huge serpentine demon named ‘Maniman’. Only at his 8 years, Madhava received spiritual initiation and at the age of 12 he accepted the Sanyasa order from Achyuta Prajna and began to travel the length and breadth of India. At the time of his initiation into sanyasa, the preceptor Acyuta Prajna gave the boy Vasudeva the name of ‘Purnaprajna’.
Little Purnaprajna, a trifle over a month later, is said to have won a victory over a group of expert scholars of Tarka (logic) headed by Vasudeva-pandita. Achyuta Prajna was very much overjoyed at his intelligent talent and sanctified him as the head of the empire of Vedanta and conferred upon him the title of ‘Anandatirtha’. He enjoyed a long life of sturdy and strong health. In his youth, he was engaged in various forms of sport and physical exercise, such as wrestling, swimming and even mountaineering. He kept these to the very end. He had a deep resonant voice and good musical talent, which he used in Vedic recitation and in singing the emotional melodies of his own devotional compositions and in giving open air discourses on the Bhagavata Purana, with its rolling melody of verses.
Madhavacharya visited several places of pilgrimage like Anantasayana, Kanyakumari, Rameswaram and Srirangam and preached his Tattva Vada to the people. After returning to Udupi, he went forward to write his statement (Bhasya) of the Bhagwad Gita. This South Indian tour gave him great tenacity to set out on his first tour of North India. Madhavacharya was eagerly desirous to go to Badrikasrama from where he received personal inspiration during his visit to the asrama of Vyasadeva. Madhavacharya was inspired to go to the hermitage of Vyasa after staying 48 days at Badrinath, fasting, praying, meditating and dedicating his Gita Bhasya to the Lord.
While journeying through Bihar, Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka, Madhavacharya challenged many eminent scholars of the day like Swami Sastrin and Sobhana Bhatta, known as masters of the six systems of philosophy, on his way back from Badrikasrama.
Teachings of Madhavacharya
After returning home from his second tour, the Acharya took to initiating social reforms in and around Udupi. Trivikrama Panditacharya, the royal preceptor of the time, became a disciple himself and went on to write a commentary called Tattva-dipika on the Acharya’s Brahma Sutra Bhasya. Madhvacharya inducted his brother, Sri Vishnutirtha into the monastic order nearing his 70s. Thus he became the first head of the present day Sode Matha and Subramanya Matha. Several disciples got their induction into sanyasa from the Acharya from various regions of the country. Nine disciples chose to stay on in Udupi as supreme heads of different mathas; namely:
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)
9. Padmanabha Tirtha (Desastha-matha)
The disciples of the Acharya carried on his tradition with earnest ardour. This school of thought has produced several outstanding writers. ‘Tattva Vada’, Madhavacharya philosophy, of which he has composed many works, eventually gave rise to the Haridasa cult, which applauded the Bhakti Movement. To him the soul of man is potentially divine; but man, has lost his soul to his body in the ignorance of his true status, and its intense desire. Man needs to be awakened by God himself or His devotees.
To him ‘the cause of bondage is the divine will of the Supreme and ignorance of the soul. The process of release is through whole hearted devotion, study of the Vedas and detached karma. The goal is to gain release from samsara and restoration of one's own individual form’. The Haridasas also contributed in the fields of Music and literature. The 8 monasteries or Ashta Mathas of Udupi have been following his philosophy since then; namely Krishnapura, Pejavara , Puttige, Sodhe, Kaniyoor, Adamaru , Shirur and Palimaru. Madhvacharya himself has established the main icon in Udupi of Lord Krishna.
Works of Madhvacharya
The Works of Madhvacharya are many in number and include commentaries on the Vedas, Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras. He also composed the literary work ‘Krsnamrtamaharnava’. Madhavacharya disappeared from vision and transferred himself to Badrikasrama after dispatching many commentaries and original learned works, founding prominent Mathas and sending out well-chosen veterans to preach and disseminate his Siddhanta all over the country. He disappeared while seated during a shower of flowers.
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Madhavacharya, Indian Saint