The Essence of Madhva Philosophy
− tatvavaada or dvaita
Author: Padmashri Bannanje Govindacharya
Publisher: Poornaprajna Vidyapeeta, Bengaluru
Acharya Madhva's line of thought gave a new turn to the tradition of Indian Philosophy. This has been called by the name 'tatvavaada' in ancient works. In later times, when the un- philosophical trend emphasizing only conflict became prominent for recognizing Vedic schools of thought only in terms of Dvaita-Advaita etc., this came to be called the 'Dvaitamata' or 'dualistic school'. But from the standpoint of True Vedic tradition, this is not a name that can be fully justified
In the philosophical system of Acharya, tatvas or categories of reality are primarily two:
(i.e. Independent reality and dependent reality).
God who creates the universe is the Independent reality; the entire universe created by him is the dependent reality.
Lord Narayana alone is the Supreme Independent God-head. The entire Veda hymns only His praise by various epithets such as Agni, Indra and Varuna. Monotheism alone is thus the quintessence of Vedic literature and not polytheism.
All names (of God) are only epithets; God is the Ocean of all qualities or excellence. Hence any name is good enough to invoke God.
All names designate only God. Not only Vedic words, not only Sanskrit names, whatever the word may be, in any language wherever in the world, every name will designate Him alike. For, there is no sound or word, in any language of the world, which is not essentially a name of God.
Though God is one, divinities are many. These divinities are not Gods: they are only souls that have realized God and risen to a high state by acquiring siddhi or divine power. These siddhas or realized adepts can serve as gurus to guide the jiva or soul who is still a sadhaka or religious seeker.
If God is 'bimba' or the original substrate, jivas or souls are His pratibimbas or images. The image is always dependent on the original substrate; it can never become identical with it.
One original substrate can have many images. Even so the souls can be many. Each soul has its own distinct individuality, different from another. So many souls, as many varieties. Along with all these differential gradations, these souls are all entwined in the single thread of similarity to God in their knowledge-aspect.
Just as souls, the inanimate substances too that go into the creative apparatus of the universe are innumerable. Thus the soul (jiva), who is at the center in the triple categories of God-soul inanimate world, becomes involved in the meshes of samsara or bondage when he leans towards one side; becomes liberated if he leans to the other side.
There is one important point to be noted here. Mukti or liberation does not mean any cessation of the World itself. It is not any disappearance of a World falsely held as real. Liberation means release from the bondage of the world.
The world, does exist even after release; but there is no bondage. Earlier, the soul being unaware of its power of self-consciousness, was ignorant of the original substrate, (viz. God); and had become a tool in the hands of the inconscient, searching in vain for the original. But now (in release) he has conquered inconscient Nature; for he has now become conscious of God, who is his original and also the First Cause of the entire universe.
The inconscient world is five-faceted; five elements, five elemental essences, five sheaths, five sense-organs etc. That is why it is designated as "pra-pancha" or a 'perfect pentad'. In this pentad intermixed in a five fold manner, the principle of prana or life is also a five-fold entity of prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana.
Moreover, it is being controlled all the time by God who also assumes five forms, viz: Aniruddha, Pradyumna, Samkarashana, Vasudeva and Narayana.
Thus one might distinguish a five-fold difference too in this world;
1) difference between one inconscient and another inconscient;
2) difference between inconscient and the soul;
3) difference between the inconscient and God;
4) difference between one soul and another;
5) difference between soul and God.
This difference is neither temporary nor merely practical; it is an invariable and natural property of everything. For such is the law of nature: One is not two; two is not one.
Acharya effected a synthesis and integration between several self-contradictory notions which had accumulated by his time regarding God, devotion and the universe. We might refer here to some of the important ones among them:
God is both endowed with forms and is formless; both qualified and unqualified.
He is endowed with forms because He has a body of knowledge and Bliss.
He is formless because he has no body within the reach of our finite thought.
He is qualified because He possesses in perfection all good or auspicious attributes.
He is unqualified also because He is devoid of all material adjuncts.
When viewed from the right standpoint, it will be realized that all modes of utterance express varied aspects of the only truth. The Vedic literature will not open out its secrets to one who is not having this synthetic vision.
The World is not a magic show improvised by any magician. It is ultimately true. From another standpoint, it is untrue also. But then the word ‘untrue’ does not mean ‘false’, it means 'dependent reality'. Its truth is restrained by God; hence it is untrue.
Similarly, there is no truth in the objection that the Vedic religion is tainted with iconolatry or image-worship. For, it does not worship icons; it worships only God symbolized by the icons. Is not the all-existent God existing in the icon?
Among other significant contributions of Acharya's Tatvavada, vyakti-vishishtavada or unique individuality of every soul and svabhavada or theory of unalterable natural law governing humanity deserves notice. The following is a summary statement of it:
There is no object like another.
There is no person or jiva like another.
No man's nature is like that of another.
Underlying everything and every individual person, there is a unique individuality or specialty. The all-round and complete development of this special personality is indeed the goal of human life. Human life of bondage (samsara) is none other than a practical workshop that helps the individual soul to attain the perfect development of his personality in dependence upon God.
Mukti or release is only a state of perfection or enjoying the bliss of such a perfect development of one's own personality. Each one's attainment is commensurate with one's effort. Our development is in keeping with our personality.
The sea is full; the tank is full; even water-pots may be full (of water). But that fullness is not identical in all these. The volume varies according to the variation in size. Everything is full; yet it is full of variation also.
There are no two things in this creation which are identical. Even any two leaves of the same tree are not exactly identical. Hence the idea that all become one or all become identical ultimately, is only a sugar-coated sop. It is an idea opposed to scriptures. It is an idea going against the very law of Nature.
The development of an individual takes place strictly in accordance with his inner nature. The environmental factors only help manifest what is already rooted in one's inner nature.
Thus inner nature is the spontaneous way of life for a Jiva. It is an innate characteristic rooted firmly in the jiva from time immemorial. No amount of effort can alter its course.
A sattvika or pure-hearted man cannot become a tamasa or evil minded one. Nor can a tamasa turn into a sattvika.
One's attainment of perfection is nothing but a complete manifestation of one's unique individual nature.
The idea of chaturvarnya or "four colors" in the Gita vindicates this view only. The Gita idea of "four colors" is quite distinct from the idea of "four castes" prevalent today. It is an idea that relates only to the soul's inmost nature or personality-trait. The true color of the soul needs to be discovered. That indeed is a right social order.
In such a social order, the son of a low-born (shudra) may be a nobleman (brahmana); on the contrary, a bramana's son may also be a shudra. For, varna of 'color' is not something which is transmitted hereditarily; it is something quite personal; something which is determined by the individual's own personality traits.
Only one who knows God can know the secret of the universe. It is impossible to know the universe completely by scientific research into matter. Hence one should know God Himself. It is only by knowing the root that one can tackle a tree. This indeed is the pathway of knowledge (Jnanayoga).
The principle that unites the soul to God like a thread is called prana-tattva or the "vital principle". It is the one principle that embodies all souls and is also termed "jivottama-tattva" or the "principle of perfect jiva-hood".
Acharya says about himself that it is an aspect of this supreme principle that incarnated itself in human form as Madhva in order to lay bare the Supreme Truth.
The pathway of Jnana-yoga or knowledge supreme is not opposed to Karma or action. The very dichotomy that the pathway of action is for the ignorant, while that of knowledge is for the adept, is absurd.
Knowledge without action is an impractical intellectual exercise.
Action without knowledge is but blind orthodoxy.
Knowledge is necessary; knowledge-full action too is necessary. At the same time, an understanding of God's infinite glory is equally necessary.
Having understood God's greatness, it is necessary to love him devotedly. The world also deserves to be lived, since the wonderful universe is just His creation in sport (lila)".
Denying the world is as good as denying God's own infinite greatness. We should all dedicate ourselves to our duty in the following spirit: "We are all subjects in the kingdom of God; rendering assistance to those who are in distress is the tax we owe to God Himself, our king"".
Such an integral synthesis of the pathways of knowledge, action and devotion becomes a perfect pathway for one's life.
The physical eye is not enough for the development of knowledge. The inner eye has to be opened; one has to turn inward.
There are only two ways in which that goal can be realized; one is direct personal experience; and the other is the word of wisdom bequeathed to us by sages who were "seers" of the Veda. Their word is a torch to illumine our way. In the light of that torch and along that way alone we should walk on and discover Truth.
Thus when both the word of scripture and our own immediate experience coincide, it becomes the highest criterion confirming our conviction.
In order to achieve it, a continuous process of hearing, cogitating and realization of the scriptures is called for. Not even scriptural statement is to be accepted if it is against one's own conscience.
An awakened conscience can discover the integral unity underlying all Vedic statements. It is in order to demonstrate this synthetic essence of the Vedas that the Brahmasutras, Bharata, Pancharatra and Puranas have been written. These alone are primary authorities.
Texts of smrti (moral code), written by sages like Manu, are acceptable as authorities only when they are in conformity with the essential message of the Veda. They are not at all ultimate authorities.
Another means of valid knowledge besides perception and scripture is inference or reasoning. Although it is an instrument of valid knowledge, it is not an independent instrument. Hence it is spoken of only as "anu-mana" ( ... anuusari pramana) or 'ancillary instrument of knowledge'; it can be developed only as a supplementary instrument to the other two, i.e., perception and scripture.
It is important to note that in supra-sensory matters, nothing can be established by inference or reasoning independently. For, anything one desires can be established by reasoning. Those who do not possess this awareness can establish nothing by the strength of their reasoning.
Therefore in regard to supra-sensory facts and especially, in regard to God, there is no use in one's surrendering oneself to reasoning.
One should surrender oneself only to God.
One should surrender oneself to the voice of hoary sages and wise men who realized God; that is to say, to the Vedic words.
One should know through word of sages, and having known, one should experience it; having experienced, one should see; having seen, one should succeed; having succeeded, one should gain.
And for that,
one should surrender oneself to God;
one should know through surrender;
and knowing, one should again surrender.
This awareness is the key to bliss.
This is broadly the sum and substance of Acharya's spiritual viewpoint.
Acharya has discovered several unique facts about the physical world, the order of creation and the basic principles that govern creation. Some of them may be mentioned here:
1. The material ethereal sky that is one of the five elements filling this universe is that which suffers destruction along with the universe. It is permeated by a super blue color, beyond the reach of the bare eye. But there is another sky that fully pervades the universe, within and without; which transcends the universe and is eternal. It is called ‘auyakarta-akasha’ or ‘undifferentiated space’.
2. The atoms which are the micro-elements of physical matter are not at all ultimate and indivisible entities. In every atom too there are innumerable subtle particles.
3. There is life movement in plants, herbs and creepers too. That vegetation-life too can respond to the actions of man. There are plants that thrill to the melody of music and yield sprouts, flowers and fruits.
4. No matter is completely destroyed. Destruction is another name for only a change in form. We say that the body is destroyed. But really speaking, the body is not destroyed; it has become ashes; that is all. Thus existence and non-existence are two sides of the same coin.
5. From the microcosm to the macrocosm, the entire universe is completely interfused. To understand any one thing completely, a complete knowledge of the entire universe becomes necessary. By knowing one, all can be known. One who does not know all, does not know even one.
6. Enclosed within the fifteen fences of name, lordship, thought, speech, action, strength, food, mind, sense organ, earth, water, fire, air, sky and faith, the sixteenth jiva- kala or soul's particle lies hidden.
When these fifteen inconscient fences are broken, the soul gets self-awareness. This is called self-realization. To one who has attained self-realization, the way beyond to God-realization becomes easy.
First, the realization is of the ‘I’ principle. Next comes the realization of the ‘He’ principle. This is the secret of the realization of “So’ham”, the Ultimate Truth. One who is unaware of his own self, or one who mistakes such awareness of self itself as ultimate realization, can never progress in the pathway of God- realization.
On the whole, Acharya Madhva's life-message is this:
kuru bhumkShva cha karma nijam niyatam
haripAda vinamradhiyA satatam |
harirEva parO harirEva guruH
harirEva jagat pitRumAtRugatiH || Dwadasha Stotra 3.1 ||
Do thy duty allotted by God to thee, And eat what comes to thy share!
Hari is the Supreme God, Hari is the 'Teacher great', Father and Mother too is Hari, beware!
tadalam bahuloka vichintanaya
pravaNam kuru maanasam Eesha pade
Stop then thy worldly cares endless, Pin thy mind at the Lord's feet boundless!
- Madhwa Vallabha
- Hari Sarvottama Vayu Jeevottama
A very warm welcome to the blog of Madhwa Brahmins community.
We, Madhwa Brahmins are followers of Jagadguru Sriman Madhwacharya. We originally hail from places in Karnataka and the neighboring states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Our main dialects are Kannada, Tulu, Marathi, Telugu and Konkani.
A brief background of Jagadguru Sri Madhwacharya:
prathamO hanumAn nAma dviteeyO bheema Eva cha |
pUrNaprajna tRuteeyastu bhagavat kAryasAdhakaH ||
As the above shloka from khila vAyustuti explains, Sri Madhwacharya (also known by the names Poornaprajna and Anandateertha) is the third incarnation of Lord MukhyaprAna Vaayu, after Lord Hanuman and Lord Bheemasena. He is the chief proponent of TattvavAda, popularly known as Dvaita. He was born on Vijayadashami day of 1238 CE at Paajaka Kshetra, a small village near Udupi. He is the 22nd commentator on the Brahma sutras of Lord Sri Veda Vyasa.
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