The Great Madhva Acarya
Page 3 – Followers
In the last 700 years there have been many great scholars and saints in the tradition of Madhvacarya. Here is a short biography of just a few of the earliest:
Jayatirtha (c.1388). After Madhva himself, Jayatirtha is the most important theologian in the dvaita tradition. During his time he wrote 22 works including many commentaries on Madhva. He is to Madhva what Vacaspati Misra was to Sankara. His depth of scholarship can be credited with raising the fledgling Dvaita School to a position of scholastic equality with advaita and visistadvaita. Jayatirtha’s most important work is hisNyaya-sudha, which is an exposition of Madhva’s Brahma-Sutracommentary, Anu-vyakhyana.
Vyasatirtha (Vyasaraja Svami) (1460 – 1539) Together with Madhva and Jayatirtha, Vyasatirtha is considered the third of the three founders (muni-trayam) of dvaita-vedanta. His writings include commentaries on the works of Jayatirtha and Madhva. He was the guru and spiritual advisor to the famous Krishnadevaraya and played an important role in the Vijaya Nagar Empire. He is credited in writing nine works, the most important of which is his Nyayamrta. Not only did his writing include polemics on Sankara’s advaita, but also an exhaustive refutation of the Nyaya-vaisesika school of logic in his Tarka-tandava. Vyasatirtha is also known for his involvement in the Hari-dasa order of itinerant singers.
Vadiraja Tirtha (1480 – 1600) Along with Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha, Vadiraja Tirtha is considered the senior-most scholar of the Dvaita School. He was a prolific writer with more than a 100 works to his name. Using a less demanding writing style, it was Vadiraja who brought the beliefs ofdvaita to the general reader. His writings include a number of commentaries and well-known stotras. His most important work was the Yukti-mallika, which is a defense of the dvaita system. He also translated Madhva’sMahabharata commentary into Kannada, and has composed numerous devotional songs in that same language.
Purandara Dasa (1494 –1564) This saint among the Madhvas is widely renowned as the father of Karnataka music. He was also one of the founders of the Hari-dasa tradition that sought to spread the doctrine of dvaita through music and in the language of the ordinary people. He was a disciple of Vyasatirtha and a contemporary of Vadiraja Tirtha. He is regarded by Madhvas as an outstanding scholar and devotee. Purandara Dasa and his followers, the Hari-dasas, did in Karnataka what the Alvar movement did in Tamil Nadu. Purandara Dasa was a great musician and composer of popular songs that embody the devotional flame lit by Madhva.
Raghavendra Tirtha (c . 1671) Over forty works have been attributed to Raghavendra Tirtha. Most are commentaries on the works of Madhva, Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha. Chronologically he is the last of the major commentators of the early school of dvaita. His writings cover the widest range and the most variety of topics. Although he ranks as one of the greatest scholars of dvaita, he is most known and worshipped by the masses as a source of solace in times of crisis.
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.
The late Vidyamanya Tirtha performing arati.
Copyright © SRI Publications 2002
The late Vidyamanya Tirtha sitting on the pitham in the simhasanasala in Udupi, c. 1986. He was the Palimar Swami and also head of Bhandakere Mutt.