The Great Madhva Acarya
Page 2 – Writings and Theology
The writings of Madhvacarya comprise thirty-seven works, collectively called the sarva-mula. They are divided into four groups. The first group includes his commentaries on the Upanisads, Bhagavad-gita and Vedanta-sutra. In this group there are ten Upanisad commentaries, two Gita commentaries and fourVedanta-sutra commentaries. The second group includes ten short works called the Dasa-prakaranas that outline the basic principles of Madhva’s theology and demonstrates his refutation of key aspects of advaita theology. The third group is Madhva’s commentaries on the Bhagavata-purana, theMahabharata and the Rg-veda. The fourth group is his miscellaneous works that includes important poems, writings on rituals, image worship and rules for the ascetic order.
Madhva’s writing style is straightforward, unembellished and terse. Were it not for the explanations of his later commentators, especially Jayatirtha in the 14th century, Madhva’s theology may have remained obscure due to its extreme brevity. Never does Madhva engage in long discussions like his predecessors,Sankara or Ramanuja. It was left to the work of his followers to bring forth the subtlety of his thoughts.
There is a controversy that hangs over Madhva’s writings. His works are filled with a great number of corroborating sources that are no longer extant. Consequently, the authenticity of his sources has been called into question. Madhva has even been accused of inventing many of his references. Over the centuries this has been an important issue for Madhva scholars. It is known that Madhvacarya had an extensive library of manuscripts and it has been argued that his references have been drawn from this collection of manuscripts. B. N. K. Sharma has elaborately discussed this criticism.
A Brief Synopsis of Madhva’s Theology
The school of theology that Madhva founded is commonly called the DvaitaSchool. It is also known as tattva-vada, the doctrine of categories. The worddvaita means duality. According to this view, reality is composed of only two basic principles: the independent (sva-tantra) and the dependent (para-tantra). God or the Supreme Being is the only independent reality. Everything else, soul (jiva), matter (prakrti), time (kala), action (karma), etc. are dependent realities. Although these dependent realities are eternal and distinct in their own right, they only exist through the consent and sanction of God.
Stated as tattva-vada, Madhva says that reality is composed of three basic categories (tattvas): God (isvara), soul (jiva) and matter (prakrti). All three of these categories are real and distinct, but with one essential qualification, soul and matter are dependent on God.
The idea of two orders of reality, one independent and the dependent, and the real differences that exist between the various categories of reality are the hallmarks of Madhva’s dvaita. Madhvacarya is often depicted in a sitting posture with his hand raised showing two fingers. The gesture of two fingers indicates duality (dvaita). Madhva’s theology is based on a strict realism. For Madhva the differences that we see in this world are real and not due to illusion (maya). Madhva’s duality, therefore, greatly contrasts Sankara’s theology of oneness, advaita.
In fact Madhva describes five basic differences: the difference between the soul and God, the difference between matter and God, the difference between one soul and another, the difference between matter and the soul, and finally, the difference between one element of matter and another. Suffering in this world is the result of improperly understanding these differences. One who correctly understands these five differences has attained knowledge and is fit for moksa (liberation).
Another notable feature of Madhva’s theology is his tripartite classification of souls. According to Madhva there are an infinite number of souls that can be divided into three groups. Some of them qualify for liberation, some are condemned to eternal hell, and others are subject to eternal rebirth. Madhva’s tripartite classification of the soul is unique in Hindu theology, but one that he and his followers maintain can be substantiated from Vedic scripture.
Hierarchy of Devatas According to Madhvas
1. Sri Visnu (Read Sri before all names)
2. Laksmi devi
(Please note that all of the following represent ‘posts’ and not
3. Brahma, Mukhya-prana , All Rjus [200 in number in every creation]
4. Sarasvati, Bharati, Rjus-patnis
5. Garuda, Sesa, Rudra
6. Krsna’s San-mahisis:
7. dharmapatnis of #5
Sauparani, Varuni, and Parvati
8. Indra, and Kama (includes their avataras like
Arjuna, Vali, Pradyumna, Bharata, etc.)
9. Ahankarika prana
10. Svayambhu Manu, Daksaprajapati, Brhaspatyacarya, dharmapatnis of # 8 ÐSachidevi, Rati and Aniruddha (Son of Kama).
11. Pravaha Vayu.
12. Vivasvan nama surya, Candra and Yama
Satarupi (dharmapatni of Svayambhu Manu).
15. Bhrgu, Agni, and Prasuti (dharmapatni of Daksaprajapati)
16. a. Brahma-putras: Marici, Atri, Angirasa, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasista, and b. Vaivasvata Manu and Visvamitra
17. Mitra Nama Surya, Nirrti, Pravahi (dharmapatni of Pravaha Vayu) Tara(dharmapatni of Brhaspatyacarya).
18. Visvaksena, Ganapati, Asvini devatas, Kubera, and Sesa satasta devas (6 Adityas (out of 12) except Devasarma, Urukrama, Varuna, Mitra, Vivasvan and Parjanya), 47 Maruts (out of 50), 7 Vasus (except Agni), 10 Rudras (except Parvati pati), 10 Visvadevas and Asvini Devatas
19. Karmaja Devatas: a long list including Prahlada, Dhruva, Jayanta, Kasyapa, 11 Manus, 7 Indras including Bali, great Cakravartis like Dusyanta, Prthu, Mandata, Haricandra, Bharata, etc.
20. a. Parjanya Nama Surya (Meghabhimani),
b. Ganga (dharmapatni of Varuna)
c. Sajj-a (dharmapatni of Vivasvan Surya).
d. Rohini (dharmapatni of Candra).
e. Usa (dharmapatni of Vayu’s son Aniruddha).
f. Samala (dharmapatni of Yama)
21. Kurmadi Devatas
22. Svaha (dharmapatni of Agni. (Mantrabhimanini)
23. Budha (Jalabhimani).
24. Devaki, Yasoda and Usa, the Namabhimanini (dharmapatni of AsviniDevata‘s).
[I am not sure of the numbering below, but the order is the right one]
25. Sanaiscara and Dhara Devi
26. Puskara (karmabhimani)
27. Ajanaja devatas
Dasgupta, Surendranath. A History of Indian Philosophy. 4 Vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1975.
Tapasyananda, Svami. Sri Madhvacarya, His Life, Religion and Philosophy. Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1981.
Sharma, B. N. K. History of the Dvaita School of Vedanta and its Literature.Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981
Copyright © SRI Publications 2002
Madhvacarya is generally shown with two fingers upraised. This indicates his philosophy of dvaita or duality.
|Murti of Madhvacarya located outside of the Krsna Deity at the Mutt in Udupi.