Great Madhva Acarya
Page 2-Writings and Theology
The Writings of Madhvacarya
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 four Vedanta-sutra commentaries.
The second group includes ten short works called the Dasa-prakaranas that
outline the basic principles of Madhvas theology and demonstrates
his refutation of key aspects of advaita theology. The third
group is Madhvas commentaries on the Bhagavata-purana,
the Mahabharata 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
Madhvas writing style is straightforward, unembellished
and terse. Were it not for the explanations of his later
Jayatirtha in the 14th century, Madhvas 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 Madhvas writings.
His works are filled with a great number of corroborating
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.
Brief Synopsis of Madhvas Theology
The school of theology that Madhva founded is commonly called the Dvaita School.
It is also known as tattva-vada, the doctrine of categories.
The word dvaita 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
of reality are the hallmarks of Madhvas dvaita. Madhvacarya
is often depicted in a sitting posture with his hand raised showing
two fingers. The gesture of two fingers indicates duality (dvaita).
Madhvas 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). Madhvas duality, therefore, greatly
contrasts Sankaras 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 Madhvas 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. Madhvas 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
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
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
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
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
d. Rohini (dharmapatni of Candra).
e. Usa (dharmapatni of Vayu's son
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 Asvini Devata'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.