Sri Madhvacharya: Incarnation of Mukhya Praana

January 24, 2007

Picture: RK’s Archives

In the first of a 3-part series, Vani Rao writes about Sri Madhvacharya’s childhood and his philosophy.

Formative Years
Sri Madhvacharya is believed to be the incarnation of Mukhya Praana and was born in 1238 AD as Vaasudeva to Madhyageha Bhatta (father) and Vedavati (mother) at Pajaka in Udupi District in Karnataka.

He was a brilliant child endowed with prodigious memory and could grasp lessons at one sitting. Most of the time he used to spend time in sports and games of the period like trekking, wrestling, weight lifting and swimming. He out beat his contemporaries in all and was known to be fearless. He had a resonant, pleasant voice and people flocked to listen to his chanting shlokas and discourses in the temple.

He had spiritual leaning from a young age and sought his father’s permission to become a monk. The parents were very sad because Vasudeva was their only surviving child and they had nobody to look after them in their old age. Hence Vasudeva waited till a brother was born.

Vasudeva underwent rigorous training under a great guru named Achyutapreksha. But he had doubts about interpretation of earlier scholars on the nature of God. He evolved his own theory of dualism (dwaita). He undertook countrywide tour of India, from Kanyakumari in the South to Badari in the Himalayas to propagate his teachings. As was the tradition, every new exponent had to give new interpretation to the sacred texts and establish its superiority in the assemblies of the learned. Vasudeva who by now had assumed the name Madhvacharya succeeded wherever he went due to his clear thinking, oratory, debating skills and earned not only fame, but distinguished disciples as well.

Madhva distinguished himself in physical exercises and field games. He had a wonderful physique. He could wrestle, run, jump and swim. So people gave him the nickname Bhima.

His Philosophy
Madhvacharya Propounded the Dwaita School of thought.

Dvaita (also known as Tattvavada and Bheda-vada), a school of Vedanta , stresses a strict distinction between God (Vishnu) and the individual living beings (Jivas). According to Madhvacharya, souls are not ‘created’ by God but do, nonetheless depend on him for their existence.

Madhvacharya states that Vishnu is not just any other deity, but is rather the singular, all-important and supreme one. Vishnu is always the primary object of worship, and all others are regarded as subordinate to Him. The deities and other sentient beings are graded among themselves, with Vayu, the god of life, being the highest, and Vishnu is eternally above them.

Dvaita asserts that the difference between the individual soul or Jiva, and God, (Ishwara or Vishnu), is eternal and real. Actually, this is just one of the five differences that are so stated — all five differences that constitute the universe are eternal.

Madhvacharya’s interpretation of the Caste System
Madhva interprets the concept of Varna mentioned in the Vedas (Purusha Sooktha) as not being defined by birth, but by the nature of a Soul. For example a Soul having the nature of a Brahmin could have been born as a Shudra and vice versa. The caste system decided by birth is actually Jaati and not Varna. The Varnas simply define the disposition of the Soul, for example a Soul classified as Brahmana Varna is disposed towards learning, a Kshatriya Soul is disposed towards administration and a Shudra Soul is disposed towards performing Service.

He gave new interpretation to caste system prevailing during his times. (Actually he was nearer to Vedic seers in this aspect.) The caste was related more to one’s nature than his/her birth. Birth was not important to determine caste. It signified one’s behavior or nature. A spiritually enlightened chandala (outcaste) was better than an ignorant Brahmin.”

(To be contd.)

Part Two: Sri Madhvacharya: Chief proponent of Tattvavāda
Part Three: Today is Madhva Navami

12 Responses to “Sri Madhvacharya: Incarnation of Mukhya Praana”

  1. M O H A N Says:

    Good work Vani pls continue and keep up the good work.

    Bellur sir, as usual thanks to you for hosting the same.

  2. Excellent, specially the last line.. Will quote this somewhere during some discussion.
    Vani Rao avare, enri nimma knowledge, what is that ‘apratima’, ‘adviteeya’…

    eshtondu gnaana koTTa namma aacharyarige, andre shankara, ramanuja, madhwa , basavanna & such dharmika leaders ge naavella avamaana maadthideevi ansalva. namma nammalle smartha, madhwa, jangama, aaradhya etc., anno sub caste gaLanna create maadi.
    CET booklet last page nalli caste list nodi naanu sustu, this list was created by govt to help people identify which GROUP they belong to if they want to claim the OBC etc., idella idiya nijavaaglu antha ?

    Monne kallaraLi hoovagi cinema nodutiddaaga ushakka told me that some categories are non-brahmins & they are the representations of the kayaka they do.. I think this is what the actual sense of the c-system which is now interpreted according to once convinice….

    ps – naanu ee field nalli nirakshara kukshi..:-) nanna anubhavakke banda maatugaLu ivella.. ashTe!

  3. usha Says:

    Good info vani , in a very simplified manner . Look forward for other part of the info. Thx Bellur.

  4. Vijayeendra Says:

    Good Information Vani! Excelent, Infact I was not aware about few things which were explained by Madhvacharya regarding Casts. Good Info!!!!

    YES! I have read that, everything depends opon our Karma, ie., the person is/Was recognised by the work he do in ancent days and the same was decided as a cast.
    But later I think the loop of understanding some where got disconnected and started mis-understaidings with thiese . I dont know where………..

    We have to open the books advised by Acharya’s and Scholars and unite our nation with the explainations to save our culture.

    You have done a Good Job!


  5. […] Sri Madhvacharya: Incarnation of Mukhya Praana […]

  6. […] Sri Ramanujacharya: The great Philosopher and Social Reformer « Rambling with Bellur on Sri Madhvacharya: Incarnation of Mukhya Praana Sri Sankaracharya: Adi Jagadguru of Kaliyuga « Rambling with Bellur on Sri Ramanujacharya: The […]

  7. […] One: Sri Madhvacharya: Incarnation of Mukhya Praana Part Two: Sri Madhvacharya: Chief proponent […]

  8. vadiraj Says:

    by seeing this site i felt very happy.
    very good collection what you had.

    keep on add the information

    maddvas should feel proud on this site.

    if any new information is there you can send mail to my mail id
    thanking you for creating this websit

    bye bye


  9. B.M.Manjunath Says:

    Excellent summary of Sri Madhavacharya’s principles. Well we should unite by highlighting such commanalities of Hindus.

    Many of the ignorant brahmins have destroyed hindus. These political brahmiins have forced many of the hindus to convert to other religions.

    Malasiya/Indonesia was once a majority hindu nation. I fear India to going towards the same.


  10. samaganam Says:

    “He gave new interpretation to caste system prevailing during his times. (Actually he was nearer to Vedic seers in this aspect.) The caste was related more to one’s nature than his/her birth. Birth was not important to determine caste. It signified one’s behavior or nature. A spiritually enlightened chandala (outcaste) was better than an ignorant Brahmin.”

    superb!!no words!!

    • Virat Says:

      The problem here is why to treat one caste superior to another. Whatever it may be by birth or by nature ,if one caste(or Varna whatever) is treated superior over another then there is a big problem. “A spiritually enlightened chandala (outcaste) was better than an ignorant Brahmin”. This is a horrible statement.

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