Vyasatirtha | Wikipedia audio article

Vyasatirtha | Wikipedia audio article


Vyāsatīrtha (c. 1460–c. 1539), also called
Vyasaraja or Chandrikacharya, was a Madhva scholar and poet belonging to the Dvaita order
of Vedanta. As the patron saint of the Vijayanagara Empire,
Vyasatirtha was at the forefront of a golden age in Dvaita which saw new developments in
dialectical thought, growth of the Haridasa literature under bards like Purandara Dasa
and Kanaka Dasa and an amplified spread of Dvaita across the subcontinent. Three of his polemically themed doxographical
works Nyayamruta, Tatparya Chandrika and Tarka Tandava (collectively called Vyasa Traya)
documented and critiqued an encyclopaedic range of sub-philosophies in Advaita, Visistadvaita,
Mahayana Buddhism, Mimamsa and Nyaya, revealing internal contradictions and fallacies. His Nyayamruta caused a significant stir in
the Advaita community across the country requiring a rebuttal by Madhusudhana Saraswati through
his text, Advaitasiddhi. Born into a Brahmin family as Yatiraja, Bramhanya
Tirtha, the pontiff of the matha at Abbur, assumed guardianship over him and oversaw
his education. He studied the six orthodox schools of Hinduism
at Kanchi and subsequently, the philosophy of Dvaita under Sripadaraja at Mulbagal, eventually
succeeding him as the pontiff. He served as a spiritual adviser to Saluva
Narasimha Deva Raya at Chandragiri though his most notable association was with the
Tuluva king Krishna Deva Raya. With the royal patronage of the latter, Vyasatirtha
undertook a massive expansion of Dvaita into the scholarly circles, through his polemical
tracts as well as into the lives of the laymen through devotional songs and poems. In this regard, he penned several kirtanas
under the nom de plume of Krishna including the classical Carnatic song Krishna Ni Begane
Baaro. Polticially, Vyasatirtha was responsible for
the development of irrigation systems in villages such as Bettakonda and establishment of several
Vayu temples in the newly conquered regions between Bengaluru and Mysore in-order to quell
any rebellion and facilitate their integration into the Empire. For his contribution to the Dvaita school
of thought, he, along with Madhva and Jayatirtha, are considered to be the three great saints
of Dvaita (munitraya). Scholar Surendranath Dasgupta notes, “The
logical skill and depth of acute dialectical thinking shown by Vyasa-tirtha stands almost
unrivalled in the whole field of Indian thought”.==Historical Sources==
Information about Vyasatirtha is derived from his biography by the poet Somanatha Kavi called
Vyasayogicharita and inscriptional evidence. Songs of Purandara Dasa and traditional stories
yield important insights too. Though Vyasayogicharita is a hagiography,
unlike other works in the genre, it is free of embellishments such as performance of miracles
and some of its claims can be corroborated with inscriptional evidence. Somanatha mentions at the end of the text
that the biography was approved by Vyasatirtha himself, implying the contemporary nature
of the work. While some scholars attest the veracity of
the text to the claim that Somanatha was a Smartha hence free of sectarian bias, others
question the claim citing a lack of evidence..==Context==
The philosophy of Dvaita or Tattvavada was an obscure movement within Vedanta in medieval
India. Philosophically, its tenets stood in direct
opposition to Advaita in that its progenitor, Madhva, postulated that the self (Atman) and
god (Brahman) are distinct and that the world is real. As Advaita was the prevailing sub-sect of
Vedanta at the time, the works of Madhva and his followers came under significant attack
and ridicule. Madhva deployed his disciples to promulgate
the philosophy across the country, which led to the establishment of a small and diffuse
network of mathas, or centres of worship, across the subcontinent. The early years of Dvaita were spent spreading
its basic tenets including participating in debates with the Advaita scholars.Philosophical
improvements were pioneered by Padmanabha Tirtha and subsequently perfected by Jayatirtha. Dasgupta contends that the latter’s contributions
brought Dvaita up to the standards of intellectual sophistication set by Advaita and Visistadvaita. By imbuing the nascent philosophy with structure
and expanding upon Madhva’s terse texts, he reinforced the intellectual position of Madhva
and set the standard for Dvaita literature through his seminal work, Nyaya Sudha (‘Nectar
of Logic’). Subsequent authors such as Vishnudasacharya
further expanded upon these texts and authored commentaries branching into diverse fields
such as Mimamsa and Navya Nyaya, a tradition which would continue for centuries. Despite the intellectual growth, due to the
turbulent political atmosphere of India at the time, penetration of Dvaita into the cultural
collective of the subcontinent was limited. It was not until Sripadaraja, the pontiff
of the matha at Abbur, who aligned himself with the Vijaynagara king Saluva Narasimha
Deva Raya and served as his guru, that Dvaita would receive royal encouragement and a certain
degree of power. But the Smartha brahmins , adhering to the
principles of Advaita, and Sri Vaishnavites, following the Visistadvaita philosophy of
Ramanuja, controlled the Shiva and Vishnu temples respectively, thus limiting the influence
of Dvaita.==Early Life==Vyasatirtha was born Yatiraja to Ballanna
and Akkamma in a hamlet called Bannur. According to Vyasayogicharita, the childless
couple approached saint Bramhanya Tirtha, who granted them a boon of three children
with the condition that the second child, who would turn out to be Yatiraja, be handed
over to him. After Yatiraja’s upanayana, Bramhanya Tirtha
assumed guardianship over the child. Bramhanya was genuinely surprised at the precocious
intellect of the child and intended to ordain him as a monk. Yatiraja, anticipating the ordination, decided
to run away from the hermitage. While resting under a tree, he had a vision
of Vishnu, who urged Yatiraja to return, which he did. He was subsequently ordained as Vyasatirtha. Indologist B.N.K Sharma contends that Vyasatirtha
would have been 16 years of age at this time.After the death of Bramhanya Tirtha during the famine
of 1475–1476, Vyasatirtha succeeded him as the pontiff of the matha at Abbur and proceeded
to Kanchi, which was the centre for Sastric learning in South India at the time, to educate
himself on the six orthodox schools of thought, which are: Vedanta, Samkhya, Nyaya, Mimamsa,
Vaisheshika and Yoga. Sharma conjectures that the education Vyasatirtha
received in Kanchi helped him to become erudite in the intricacies and subtleties of Advaita,
Visistadvaita, Navya Nyaya and other schools of thought. After completing his education at Kanchi,
Vyasatirtha headed to Mulbagal to study the philosophy of Dvaita under Sripadaraja, whom
he would consider his guru, for a period of five to six years. He was subsequently sent to the Vijayanagara
court of Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya at the behest of Sripadaraja.==At Chandragiri==Vyasatirtha was received by Saluva Narasimha
at Chandragiri. Somanatha speaks of several debates and discussions
in which Vyasatirtha emerged triumphant over the leading scholars of the day. He also talks about Vyasatirtha giving spiritual
guidance to the king. Around the same time, Vyasatirtha was entrusted
with the worship of the Venkateshwara idol at Tirupati and undertook his first South
Indian tour (a tour entailing travelling to different regions in order to spread the doctrines
of Dvaita). After the death of Saluva Narasimha, Vyasatirtha
remained at Chandragiri in the court of Narasimha Raya II until Tuluva Narasa Nayaka declared
himself to be the de-facto ruler of Vijayanagara. At the behest of Narasa, Vyasatirtha moved
to Hampi and would remain there for the rest of his life. After the death of Narasa, his son Viranarasimha
Raya was subsequently crowned. Some scholars argue against the claim that
Vyasatirtha acted as a spiritual adviser to Saluva Narasimha, Narasimha II and Vira Narasimha
due to the lack of inscriptional evidence.==At Hampi==At Hampi, the new capital of the empire, Vyasatirtha
was appointed as the “Guardian Saint of the State” after a period of prolonged disputations
and debates with scholars led by Basava Bhatta, an emissary from the Kingdom of Kalinga. His association with the royalty continued
after Viranarasimha Raya overthrew Narasimha Raya II to become the emperor. Fernão Nunes observes that “The King of Bisnega,
everyday, hears the teachings of a learned Brahmin who never married nor ever touched
a woman” which Sharma conjectures is Vyasatirtha. Sharma also contends that it was around this
time that Vyasatirtha had begun his work on Tatparya Chandrika, Nyayamruta and Tarka Tandva. After the accession of Krishnadeva Raya, Vyasatirtha,
who the king regarded as his kuladevata, greatly expanded his influence by serving as an emissary
and diplomat to the neighbouring kingdoms while simultaneously disseminating the philosophy
of Dvaita into the subcontinent. His close relationship to Krishnadeva Raya
is corroborated by inscriptions on the Vitthala Temple at Hampi and accounts by the Portuguese
traveler Domingo Paes.Vyasatirtha was also sent on diplomatic missions to the Bijapur
Sultante and accepted grants of villages in newly conquered territories for the establishment
of Mathas. Stoker conjectures that this was advantageous
to both the king and Vyasatirtha as the establishments of mathas in these newly conquered regions
led to political stability and also furthered the reach of Dvaita. Somanatha writes of an incident where Krishnadeva
Raya was sent a work of criticism against Dvaita by an Advaita scholar in Kalinga as
a challenge. After Vyasatirtha retaliated accordingly,
Krishnadeva Raya awarded Vyasatirtha with a ratnabhisheka (a shower of jewels) which
Vyasatirtha subsequently distributed among the poor. The inscriptions speak of grants of villages
to Vyasatirtha from Krishnadeva Raya around this period, including Bettakonda, where he
developed large irrigation systems including a lake called Vyasasamudra. This period of Vyasatirtha also saw the establishment
of Dasakuta (translated as community of devotees), a forum where people gathered and sung hymns
and devotional songs. The forum attracted a number of wandering
bards (called Haridasas or devotees of Vishnu) such as Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa.==Later Years==There was a period of “temporary estrangement”
from the royalty due to internal political friction, during which Vyasatirtha retreated
to Bettakonda. After the death of Krishnadeva Raya, Vyasatirtha
continued to advise Achyuta Deva Raya. Inscriptions speak of his donation of a Narasimha
idol to the Vittala Temple at Hampi indicating he was still an active figure. His disciples Vijayendra Tirtha and Vadiraja
Tirtha furthered his legacy by penning polemical works and spreading the philosophy of Dvaita
into the Chola and the Malnad region, eventually assuming pontifical seats at Kumbakonam and
Sodhe, respectively. He died in 1539 and his mortal remains are
enshrined in Nava Brindavana, near Hampi. He was succeeded by his disciple, Srinivasa
Tirtha.==Works==
Vyasatirtha authored eight works consisting of polemical tracts, commentaries on the works
of Madhva and a few hymns. Visnudasacharya’s Vadaratnavali, a polemical
treatise against the tenets of Advaita, is considered to have significant influenced
him. By tracing a detailed, sophisticated and historically
sensitive evolution of systems of thought such as Advaita, Vyakarana, Nyaya and Mimamsa
and revealing internal inconsistencies, McCrea contends that Vyasatirtha created a new form
of doxography. Ramanuja’s Visistadvaita as well Nagarjuna’s
Madhyamaka is dealt with in Nyayamruta. This style of polemics influenced Appayya
Dikshita, who authored his own doxographical work titled Śātrasiddhāntaleśasaṃgraha.===Nyayamruta===
Nyayamruta is a polemical and expositional work in four chapters. Advaita assumes that the world and its multiplicity
is the result of the interaction between Maya (sometimes also characterized as avidya or
ignorance) and the Brahman. Therefore, according to Advaita, the world
is nothing more than an illusory construct. The definition of this falsity of the world
(called mithyatva) varies within Advaita with some opining that the world has various degrees
of reality for example Appayya Dikshita assumes three degrees, while Madhusudhana Saraswati
assumes two. The first chapter of Nyayamruta refutes these
definitions of reality.In the second chapter, Vyasatirtha examines role of pramanas in Dvaita
and Advaita. Pramana translates to “proof” or “means of
knowing”. Dvaita assumes the validity of three pramanas:
pratyeksha (direct experience), anumana (inference) and sabda (agama). Here, Vyasatirtha argues that the principles
of Dvaita can be supported by the relevant pramanas and demonstrates this by verifying
Madhva’s doctrine of five fold difference accordingly. Subsequently, the Advaita concept of Nirguna
Brahman is argued against. While the third deals with the critique of
the Advaita view on the attainment of true knowledge (jnana), the fourth argues against
soteriological issues in Advaita like Moksha, specifically dealing with the concept of Jivanmukti
(enlightenment while alive). Vyasatirtha asks whether for an Advaitin,
the body ceases to exist after the veil of illusion has been lifted and the unity with
the Brahman has been attained. Nyayamruta caused a furore in the Advaita
community resulting in a series of scholarly debates over centuries. Madhusudhana Saraswati, a scholar from Varanasi,
composed a line-by-line refutation of Nyayamruta titled Advaitasiddhi. In response, Ramacharya rebutted with Nyayamruta
Tarangini and Anandabhattaraka with Nyayamruta Kantakoddhara. The former criticised by Brahmananda Saraswati
in his commentary on Advaitasiddhi, Guruchandrika. Vanamali Mishra composed a refutation of the
Bramhananda Saraswati’s work and the controversy eventually died down. Stoker conjectures that the strong responses
Vyasatirtha received were due to the waning power of Advaita in the Vijayanagara empire
coupled by the fact that as an administrator of the mathas, Vyasatirtha enjoyed royal patronage.Vyasatirtha’s
disciple Vijayendra Tirtha has authored a commentary on the Nyayamruta called Laghu
Amoda.===Tatparya Chandrika===
Tatparya Chandrika or Chandrika is a commentary on Tattva Prakasika by Jayatirtha, which in
turn is a commentary on Madhva’s Brahma Sutra Bhashya (which is a bhashya or a commentary
on Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra). It not only documents and analyses the commentaries
of Shankara, Madhva and Ramanuja on the Brahma Sutra but also their respective sub-commentaries. The goal of Vyasatirtha here is to prove the
supremacy of Madhva’s Brahma Sutra Bhashya by showing it to be in harmony with the original
source, more so than the other commentaries. The doxographical style of Vyasatirtha is
evident in his copious quotations from the main commentaries (of Advaita and Visistadvaita)
and their respective sub-commentaries under every adhikarna or chapter. Only the first two chapters of the Brahma
Sutra are covered. The rest was completed by Raghunatha Tirtha
in the 18th century.===Tarka Tandava===
Tarka Tandava or “The Dance of Logic” is a polemical tract targeted towards the Nyaya
school. Though Vyasatirtha and his predecessors borrowed
the technical language, logical tools and terminologies from the Nyaya school of thought
and there is much in common between the two schools, there were significant differences
especially with regards to epistemology. Jayatirtha’s Nyaya Sudha and Pramana Paddhati
were the first reactions against the Nyaya school. The advent of Navya Nyaya widened the differences
between the two schools especially related to the acquisition of knowledge or pramanas,
triggering a systematic response from Vyasatirtha through Tarka Tandava. Vyasatirtha refers to and critiques standard
as well as contemporary works of Nyaya: Gangesha Upadhyaya’s Tattvachintamani, Nyayalilavati
by Sri Vallabha and Udayana’s Kusumanjali and their commentaries. The work is divided into three chapters corresponding
to the three pramanas, and a number of topics are raised, including a controversial claim
arguing for the supremacy of the conclusion (upasamhara) as opposed to the opening statement
(upakrama) of the Brahma Sutra. Purva Mimamsa and Advaita adhere to the theory
that the opening statement trumps the conclusion and base their assumptions accordingly. Vyasatirtha’s claim put him at odds with the
Vedanta community with Appayya Dikshita being his most vocal opponent. Vyasatirtha’s claim was defended by Vijayendra
Tirtha in Upasamhara Vijaya.===Mandara Manjari===
Mandara Manjari is the collective name given to Vyasatirtha’s glosses on three (Mayavada
Khandana, Upadhi Khandana, Prapancha Mithyavada Khandana) out of Madhva’s ten refutation treatises
called Dasha Prakarna and one on Tattvaviveka of Jayatirtha. Vyasatirtha here expands only on the obscure
passages in the source text.===Bhedojjivana===
Bhedojjivana is the last work of Vyasatirtha as it quotes from his previous works. The main focus of this treatise is to emphasise
the doctrine of difference (Bheda) in Dvaita as is evident from the title, which can be
translated to “Resuscitation of Bheda”. Sarma notes “Within a short compass, he has
covered the ground of the entire Monistic literature pushed into contemporary prominence
and argued an unexpurgated case for the Realism of Madhva”.==Legacy==
Vyasatirtha is considered to be one of the foremost philosophers of Dvaita thought, along
with Jayatirtha and Madhva, for his philosophical and dialectical thought, his role in spreading
the school of Dvaita across the subcontinent and his support to the Haridasa movement. Sharma writes “we find in his works a profoundly
wide knowledge of ancient and contemporary systems of thought and an astonishingly brilliant
intellect coupled with rare clarity and incisiveness of thought and expression”. His role as an adviser and guide to the Vijayanagara
emperors, especially Krishna Devaraya, has been notable as well.===Spread of Dvaita===Sharma credits Vyasatirtha of converting Dvaita
from an obscure movement to a fully realised school of thought of philosophical and dialectical
merit. Through his involvement in various diplomatic
missions in the North Karnataka region and his pilgrimages across South India, he disseminated
the precepts of Dvaita across the sub-continent. By giving patronage to the wandering bards
or Haridasas, he oversaw the percolation of the philosophy into the vernacular and as
a result into the lives of the lay people. He also contributed to the spread of Dvaita
by establishing several Vayu idols across Karnataka. Vyasatirtha is also considered a major influence
on the then burgeoning Chaitanya movement in modern day Bengal. Stoker postulates that his polemics against
the rival schools of thought also had the effect of securing royal patronage towards
Dvaita.===Scholarly Influence===
Vyasatirtha was significantly influenced by his predecessors such as Vishnudasacharya,
Jayatirtha and Madhva in that he borrowed from their style and method of enquiry. He exerted considerable influence on his successors. Vadiraja’s Yuktimalika derives some of its
arguments from Nyayamruta, while subsequent philosophers like Vijayendra Tirtha and Raghavendra
have authored several commentaries on the works of Vyasatirtha. Vijayadhwaja Tirtha’s Padaratnavali, an exhaustive
commentary on the Madhva’s Bhagvata Tatparya Nirnaya, borrows some its aspects from Vyasatirtha’s
oeuvre. His influence outside the Dvaita community
is found in the works of Appayya, who adopted his doxographical style in some of his works
and in the works of Jiva Goswami.In his dialectics, Vyasatirtha incorporated elements from such
diverse schools as Purva Mimamsa, Vyakarana and Navya Nyaya. His criticism of Advaita and Nyaya led to
a severe scholarly controversy, generating a series of exchanges between these schools
of thought, and led to reformulations of the philosophical definitions of the respective
schools. Bagchi notes “It must be recognised that Vyasatirtha’s
definition of reasoning and his exposition of its nature and service really register
a high watermark in the logical speculations of India and they ought to be accepted as
a distinct improvement upon the theories of Nyaya-Vaisesika school”.===Contributions to the Haridasa cult===
The contribution of Vyasatirtha to the Haridasa cult is two fold: he established a forum of
interactions for these bards called Dasakuta and he himself penned several hymns in the
vernacular language (Kannada) under the pen name Krishna, most notable of those being
the classical Carnatic song Krishna Ni Begane Baaro. Vyasatirtha was also the initiator of social
change within the Dvaita order by inducting wandering bards into the mainstream Dvaita
movement regardless of caste or creed. This is evident in his initiation of Kanaka
Dasa , who was not a Brahmin and Purandara Dasa who was a merchant.===Political influence===
The political influence of Vyasatirtha came into view after the discovery of Vasyayogicharita. The court of Vijayanagara was selective in
its patronage thereby creating competition between the sectarian groups. Stoker contends that Vyasatirtha, cognizant
of the power of Smartha and the Sri Vaishnava brahmins in the court, targeted them through
his polemical works. Though his works targeted the philosophy of
Ramanuja, Vyasatirtha maintained a cordial relationship towards the Sri Vaishnavites,
often donating land and money to their temples.In his role as a diplomat, he interacted with
a variety of people including tribal leaders, foreign dignitaries and emissaries from the
North India. By establishing mathas and shrines across
the subcontinent, patronizing large scale irrigation projects at strategic locations
and forging productive relationship across various social groups, he not only furthered
the reach of Vaishnavism but smoothed the integration of newly conquered or rebellious
territories into the empire. In doing so, he exported the Madhva iconography,
doctrines and rituals into the Telgu and Tamil speaking regions of the empire. The establishment of Madhva Mathas, apart
from serving as a place of worship and community, led to fostering of economic connections as
they also served centers of trade and redistribution of wealth.==Notes====References====Sources====External links==
Biography of Vyasatirtha Bhedojjivana (Sanskrit text)
Tarka Tandava (Sanskrit text) Nyayamrta and Advaitasiddhi
Tatparya Chandrika (Sanskrit text)

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