The divine assuming the human form, though rare, is a possibility that is alive in Sanatana Hindu Dharma. Vayu (the Wind God) has incarnated thrice so far on planet earth. Hanuman, Bheeshma and Madhvacharya are the three incarnations of Vayu. This article attempts to highlight a few aspects from the life and teachings of Madhvacharya.
Madhvacharya made his appearance on planet earth in 1238 as the son of a pious Brahmin couple. Prior to his birth, his parents, with the intention of giving birth to a pure son, had done 12 years of devoted service to Lord Ananrasana in Udupi. His horoscope showed all 32 auspicious signs and said that this boy is none other than the scheduled avatar of Vayudeva. His given name was Vasudeva.
Vasudeva had an extraordinary childhood, full of miracles and rare accomplishments. At three, he went on a tour of temples and when he came back home on his own, told his parents that Lord Narayana had escorted him, and therefore he was not alone. He had a beautiful physique and excelled in field games and studies. Due to this, people gave him the nickname as Bhima. At four, he defeated a famous puranic narrator Siva Madinya (Madikullaya) in a debate. At five, he had his Upanayanam. He became well versed with Vedas and Upanishads. He could master anything just by listening to it once. At 11, he took to the life of sannyas on Vijaya Dashami day. He was initiated into sannyas by Brahma-sampradaya guru Achyutapreksha, of the Ekadandi order. His sannyas name was PurnaPrajna.
Madhvacharya has been attributed with countless miracles. Some of them include:
- Walking on water
- Carrying a 300-ton boulder
- Becoming heavy such that no one could move even his toe
- Becoming so light that a boy could carry him
- Using his danda (stick) to strike the earth and produce water to quench the thirst of a pregnant lady. This place is now a pilgrimage site called DandaTeertha
- Stilling the waves of the ocean when he went to take bath
- On Malpe beach, saved a drowning ship by using his power to move matter from a long distance. The sandalwood block gifted by the ship’s captain had the murti of Krishna that was installed by Madhvacharya in Udupi Temple.
Madhvacharya extensively travelled in both South and North India. He debated and won over many learned pandits. During his visit to upper Badari (Badarinath), after a prolonged penance, he learnt the import of the Vedas, Brahma Sutras, Mahabharata, and Pancharatra directly from Vedavyasa. He had darshan of Shri Narayana and received eight shaligrams from Shri Narayana.
Madhvacharya has delivered 37 bashyas (commentaries). He recited them and his disciples wrote them down. These commentaries were on Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas and independent writings.
Teachings – Dvaita Philosophy
Madhvarcharya teachings were meant to rid human beings of their suffering and bondage. He declared that grace of Lord Vishnu and Bhakti to him leads to liberation. He taught that meditation on the form of Vishnu is critical to obtain his grace. He extolled the virtues of learning from a guru and meditating on Vedas and Upanishads.
Madhvacharya established a philosophy that he termed as tattvavada (articulation of reality). This is commonly known as Dvaita school of Hindu philosophy. He took on the existing schools of philosophies such as Advaita and Vishishtadvaita and through his original thinking, established Dvaita as a philosophy. Dvaita postulates the world as real unlike Advaita. It also states that no two jivas are the same unlike Vishishtadvaita.
At the core of the distinction between these three philosophical systems is the postulation of what constitutes reality.
Advaita, as established by AdiSankaracharya looks at reality as comprised of only one component. He states “Brahmsatyamjagatmitya”, meaning Brahman is the only reality, the world we perceive is only an illusion.
Visishtadvaita, as established by Ramanujacharya admits to many forms, but states that their essence is the same. There is no difference between the essence of God and the essence of what is the in-dweller in all other beings.
Dvaita of Madhvacharya differs from these schools from the point of view that God and World are both real (unlike Advaita). Their essence is fundamentally different (unlike Vishishtadvaita). Though there are two independent and irreducible substances (atman and brahman), one is completely dependent on the other (unlike western understanding of dualism).
Independence and Dependence
Madhvacharya’s philosophy states that God is the only independent entity (svatantratatva); jiva and all other finite realities experienced are dependent entities (paratantratatva). These two orders of realties (one independent and the other independent) is the underlying thought current of the philosophy of Madhvacharya.
Eternal Fact – Five Differences
Madhvacharya noted that the following five differences are eternal facts:
- Jiva (individual soul) and Ishwara (God) are different.
- Ishwaraand Jada (inanimate things) are different.
- Jiva and Jada are different.
- Jiva and another Jiva are different.
- Jada and another Jada are different.
The following is the roadmap laid by Dvaita philosophy to exit the world of suffering:
- Vishnu is the highest God and is the independent tatva.
- The world is real.
- The five-fold differences are an eternal fact.
- All jiva and jada are dependent on Vishnu for their existence and their becoming.
- Moksha (liberation) lies in jiva experiencing its intrinsic ananda.
- Moksha can be attained only by the means of love towards Vishnu that comes from the knowledge of understanding His greatness.
- Senses, inference and scriptures are means of knowledge.
- Vishnu is to be perceived only through the apaurusheya (authorless) scriptures.
- All such sacred scriptures only sing His glory and the means to achieve His lotus feet.
Krishna Temple in Udupi
Madhvacharya established the Krishna Temple in Udupi and the eight Mathas(monasteries) around them. Each Matha takes turns every 2 years to perform traditional services in the temple.
Closer to his eightieth birthday, after teaching a vast gathering of his pupils on Upanishads, he physically disappeared from vision in the year 1317. Hanuman served Lord Rama, Bhima served Lord Krishna, Madhvacharya serves Lord Vedavyasa. Being an eternal seeker, Madhvacharya continues to sit at the feet of Vedavyasa and learn eternally from his Lord in upper Badri.