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INTRODUCTION TO OUSELVES


   Sri Vyasaraja Seva Samithi is privileged to present a brief history of their great tradition in this new website being inaugurated on the holy occasion of the Aradhana of Shri Sheshachandrikacharya (1700-1755 AD) being celebrated in Bangalore (28 June 2009), by Shri D Prahladacharya, an internationally respected scholar and (retd) Vice Chancellor of Rashtriya Samskritha Vidya prathishtana, (A Deemed Unversity) at Tirupati and recipient of numerous awards including Medals and prizes from the Honourable President of India.

The samithi which came into being as a registered body in 2005 as a spontaneous protest against the repeated gross violations of the sacred oaths and duties and Shasthraic injunctions by the last Peethadhipati of Sosale Vyasaraja Matha - Sri Vidyavachaspathi Tirtha, which made our revered Matha into a laughing stock, has grown not only as the only representative body of the devotees of Shri 1008 Vyasaraja, spread over all states in Southern India, who are trying their best to stop and reverse the complete ravaging of the Matha assets by the family of the last pontiff and at the same time trying to make up for the shortcomings and failures of the Matha in various duties normally expected from such an institution. The achievements of the samithi have been listed separately.

Here, we would like to recall our glorious past - the Matha of great scholars, who have been adjudged as the best thinkers by well known students of Indian Philosophy, the Matha which encouraged and built up glorious institutions like the Lokapavana Vishva-vidyanilaya in Hampi/Vijayanagara, the Matha which was headed by great multifaceted personalities who not only helped the spread of Tatvavada philosophy widely all over India, but also played an active role as respected Gurus to Kings and emperors and was gifted large properties meant for social upliftment and maintenance of scholars in society with new dignity.

In their efforts to undo the damage to our reputation and morale done by the Matha administration, we have undertaken review and publication of informative books on the great achievements of our revered Gurus. The first such publication titled Shri Rajendra tirtha gave a brief account of the first Pontiff of the Purvadi Matha (1402-1440 AD), which described the start of the lineage of the Matha, known from its inception as a Vidya matha - meant for spread of knowledge. The second publication of the life history of one of the revered Peethadhipatis - Sri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha (1935 - 1969 AD), the 37 th in the line, along with some useful information regarding his immediate predecessors - Sri Vidyarathnakara Tirtha and Sri Vidyavaridhi Tirtha was done in 2007. Thanks to complete neglect over generations, the Matha has not cared to preserve authentic records of various historical achievements of its Pontiffs in the recent past and what ever had been maintained earlier appears to have been irrevocably lost. Even now, there is a serious lack of publication of information about the great personalities who have brought luster and greatness to the lineage by their spotless character, sublime principles, divine dedication to their duties and responsibilities and deep devotion to God and their Gurus. The unfortunate decay of values in our Matha for the last 50 years should not be taken as representative or permanent, but should be seen only as a passing phase, like the dark clouds obscuring the Sun. The Samithi would seek the cooperation from all Shishyas of the Matha, to gather together and publish systematically similar life histories of all our ascetics, as is the practice in other Mathas and similar institutions. Awareness of these stories will foster pride and faith in our younger generation and result in encouraging their nobler instincts and ideas, towards the universally acclaimed goal of "Sarve Janah sukhino bhavanthu", which is the hall mark of Shri Vyasaraja's life. All readers are therefore requested to communicate any additional authentic information, with suitable references where called for review and to complete all the available information about our revered Gurus.

Tatvavada or Dvaita or School of Realism in Vedanta was founded by Acharya Madhva (1238-1317 AD). He ordained numerous ascetics, many of whom were noted Advaita scholars of his day, who lost in debates with him and accepted his system. His foremost disciple who inherited his large following was Shobhana Bhatta from Godavari area, who was named Shri Padmanabha Tirtha (1317- 1324). He was succeeded by Shri Narahari Tirtha (1324-1333), Shri Madhava Tirtha (1334-1350) and Shri Akshobhya Tirtha (1351- 1365). The very short periods for which Acharya Madhva's successors held their position is attributed to the fact that they were all ordained by Acharya Madhva himself and were contemporaries to him in varying ages. These early Madhva pontiffs have contributed various Teekas (commentaries) to his works which have had the additional weightage of knowledge based on personal teaching by him along with discussions and clarifications. Acharya Madhva himself had a unique style of writing which has been described as "Balasanghamapi bodhaydbhrusham, durniroopavachanam cha pandithaih" - (It could be understood even by children, but could not be fully delineated in their entirety by scholars). He is extremely brief, very terse and precise with almost Suthra style writing and with a large number of quotes from various authorities, most of which were possibly not commonly available even at his time. Naturally enough, there were hostile reactions from others especially Advaita, which Acharya Madhva had stoutly opposed and rejected. For the further spread of the school there was need for a systematic and fully ordered presentation, which could be followed by all. This need was brilliantly supplied by Sri Jayatirtha (1365-1388 AD).

Shri JayaTirtha used most of his pontifical period for the composition of numerous Teekas or commentaries which rendered the 37 compositions of Acharya Madhva on diverse subjects fully understandable by a serious student. He used the various statements of Madhva made in different contexts both in each major subject group like Brahma suthras, Geetha and Upanishads pertaining to different propositions of philosophy suitably linked and grouped for easy understanding. He explained in greater detail the abbreviated statements of Acharya Madhva, often making ordered and explicit presentation of the Doubts and contrary propositions usually based on other schools, the logical basis and Pramanas for resolution of the conflicts of fact and authority and the final conclusions (Siddhanta). This step by step delineation is very essential to avoid confusion or misunderstanding of the tenets of the school. It also brought out the precise reasons for rejection of other schools convincingly. Sri JayaTirtha also known as the Teekacharya covered all the important Prasthanas covering the philosophical foundations and superstructure of the Tatvavada system.

Shri JayaTirtha was succeeded by Shri Vidyadhiraja (1388-1402 AD), who wrote a couple of works on Vishnusahasranama etc. During his time, the single main Matha which was organized by Acharya Madhva and which had also provided the resources for the satisfactory maintenance of Udupi Krishna temple in the beginning, got bifurcated into two. Shri Rajendra Tirtha was his first disciple, who was a great scholar who had taught the famous Nyayasudha of Teekacharya nine times to a bevy of brilliant scholars such as Shri Vibhudendra, Shri Vishnudasacharya etc. Shri Vishnudasacharya (1390-1440 AD) has composed Vadarathnavali considered as the forerunner of the famous Nyayamrutha of Shri Vyasaraja. The Illustrious Shri Vibhudendra ( -1470) was the Guru of Shri Sripadaraja, who himself gave Sri Vyasaraja to the world.

Shri Rajendra Tirtha and Sri Jayadhwaja who succeed him were brothers who were both ordained by Shri Vidyadhiraja and sent to the North of the country for spreading the message of Tatvavada to the entire country. Their names are enshrined in the records of the Bengal school of Vaishnavas, though there has been some dilution and changes in the pristine pure philosophy due to local developments of interaction with other schools and lack of continuous interaction with the main Parampara, located in the south, subsequent to the two stalwarts. Shri Rajendra Tirtha and Shri Jayadhwaja Tirtha did come back and entered into their Vrindavanas in Yeragola in 1440 and 1448 AD respectively. It is very unfortunate that due to neglect by the Matha even the Vrindavanas of these pioneering saints can not be identified today. Shri Jayadhwaja was succeeded by Shri Purushotthama Tirtha, who was followed by Shri Brahmanya Tirtha, who were both great scholars and godly ascetics. They upheld the high traditions of the Matha. Shri Brahmanya Tirtha (1460-1467 AD) who entered his Vrindavana in Abbur, near Channapatna, Karnataka gave Shri Vyasaraja to the world.

Sri Vyasaraja (1442-1539 AD) was perhaps the greatest philosopher-statesman in recent history with a scintillating intellect and multifaceted personality which is not often fully appreciated. Without his contribution, the very edifice of Tatvavada would have been weakened by the onslaughts of clever philosophical opponents. The entire Dasa Koota, with its bevy of great musician-teacher-reformers, which had the widest reach into common people, may not have even come into being. The scholars who were fostered by him in various ways - in Vidyapeetas in his time or by providing them a worldly living, while pursuing their main vocation or by settling inter-sect disputes to maintain harmony or by getting due recognition to them in society - have been the vanguard of spread of true knowledge of Vedanta and its absorption in the minds and hearts of the common people. It is for this reason, that the great group of ascetic-scholars, as well as Acharyas in public life who owed their allegiance to our Matha is unmatched in numbers and quality of output, even without counting his Vidya Shishyas from other Mathas. An apt assessment of Sri Vyasaraja and his disciples has been given by Shri Anantha Krishna Shasthri, a reputed Advaita scholar in the Nineteenth century - his words spoken in Sanskrit are summarized below: "In the debates on Dvaita and Advaita, the various propositions and supporting proofs scattered in different authoritative compositions for Advaita have been fairly, precisely and neatly summed up by Sri Vyasatirtha in his compositions. Thus, we, who follow the Advaita school, should also be grateful to him. Sri Vyasaraja who was gifted with extraordinary abilities and is the repository of all Vidyas and with a peaceful and pleasant disposition, still lives on (in spirit) in the Sri Vyasaraja Matha, where even a child will be like Brihaspathi and a dumb man will become a great orator". The Purvadi matha of Rajendra Tirtha became known after Shri Vyasaraja by his name.

After Sri Vyasaraja, this tradition of great scholarship was continued till the 18 th Century, with great authors like Sri Kambaluru Ramachandra Tirtha, Sri Raghunatha Tirtha and Sri Jagannatha Tirtha composing unrivalled authoritative works, on Tatvavada, which are accepted as great all over. Even later, the bias for supporting scholars either as Peethadhipatis or as office holders in the Matha such as Dharmadhikaris etc continued till recently. The appellation "Vidya" used for the Matha and in the names of its Peethadhipatis was thus fully justified. Though there were many cases of close relatives succeeding the Peethadhipatis, there was no practice of "gifting" of the authority to a direct descendent, like grandson, as it was forbidden by Shasthras. In most cases, how ever, the process of consultation with qualified Shishyas, ensuring adequate standards of Sadachara, Jnana and devotion to God and Gurus was followed. Thus, even if some of the Peethadhipatis were not highly learned scholars themselves, they acquired the necessary status gradually and the regard which the Shishyas had for the Peetha was not damaged.

There were other revered Peethadhipatis who are remembered for special incidents involved with them. For instance, Shri Lakshmikantha Tirtha (1584-1594) is remembered for the story that even after his Vrindavana pravesha, his Vrindavana has been the location of prayers by numerous supplicants for solution of difficulties or acquisition of special blessings. Several hundred years after his departure, it is stated that a Railway line under construction passing through the area was diverted as per his instructions to the persons undertaking the work. Similarly, Kamabaluru Ramachandra Tirtha is also known as a scholar par excellance, who has many compositions to his credit. He was also a great saint with special attainments, who ordered a stone dropped on his head by his enemies to stop in Midair - which it did, as long as he wanted it. This stone was placed on top of his Vrindavana later. Both Sheshachandrikacharya and Bhashyadipikacharya have written monumental works comparabale with the best in Tatvavada. Their Vrindavanas are the objects of prayers by supplicants of many faiths. For details refer to the individual histories of the Swamijis. The Sampradaya of the Matha has been laid down by Shri Kambaluru Ramachandra Tirtha and is followed even today.

The stories of the three Peethadhipatis covered in the books mentioned above clearly illustrate the true face of the Matha. Sri Vidyarathnakara Tirtha was known for his scholarship, devotion and his renunciation. Though he has not composed major works, he has composed a large number of smaller treatises and sthothras, in Sanskrit, which demonstrate his great scholarship. In addition he has also composed around 70 Devara Namas, in Kannada, many of which are sung even today. Sri Vidyavaridhi Tirtha was known for the zeal with which he built up the resources of the matha while continuing the good practices set up by his predecessor. Sri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha has composed a large number of Devara namas (around 400), which are very popular and sung in music concerts along with many other socially relevant compositions. Being a great scholar, he has also composed monographs about Jiva kathruthva, Vaikunta Varnane, Badarikashrama Varnane and Madhvavijaya sarasamgraha. He has helped many social causes affecting Madhvas, Brahmins in general and the entire populace and had been an effective and vocal representative of Vedanta philosophy in his time. One of his pioneering achievements is the establishment of Akhila Bharatha Madhva Mahamandala, which he presided over for many years. As proper authentic life histories of most of our Guru Parampare, except that of Shri Vyasaraja have not been composed, the material here has been gathered from earlier booklets and accounts of events of direct witnesses, who are alive today. The book Vedanthakusuma published in 1947 on the occasion of his 12 th anniversary of ascending the seat by Sri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha, a small booklet on the Devaranamas composed by Sri Vidyarathnakara Tirtha and "Sri Vidya-Payonidhi" published on the occasion of Sri Payonidhi Tirtha's 22 nd Chathurmasya have provided useful information. We intend to publish similar monographs about other great scholars of our Matha with the cooperation of all Shishyas.

Sri Vidyarathnakara Tirtha was an example of the perfect Peethadhipati - being the repository of Jnana, Bhakthi and Vairagya. He had a very difficult family life in his Poorvashrama days having lost 7 babies and his first wife at an early age. His second marriage to Smt. Sathyabhamamma at the instance of Sri Vidyashrisindhu Tirtha also appeared to do no better, as he again lost 3 more babies born to her. It was only great austerities and Seva performed to the deity Namagiriamma, which stopped this total disaster, when he finally had three daughters and a son, who survived. He did not allow the family tribulations to affect his life as a scholar in the least. He had no fascination for worldly honours declining them politely, when they were offered by the King of Mysore state. He did not also accept the position of Dharmadhikari for Mysore palace along with perks like a house and regular income even in his Poorvashrama days. When his own Guru, offered him the position of his successor, he declined, preferring the life of the free lance scholar. He had to be persuaded repeatedly by his Guru along with the specific commitment by the Dewan of Mysore, that the state will look after all the assets and administration of the Matha, leaving him free to devote all his time to Svadhyaya, and his religious duties. To finally get his acceptance, even Lord Gopalakrishna had to tell him in a dream -"you must take over my worship". What a contrast to the present day! His attaining the Lotus feet of the Lord was also the unusual and difficult Yogic departure from the body, through the Brahma randhra - he never lost his asceticism till the very end by incapacity to perform his prescribed duties and to observe the purificatory rituals for eating etc. by taking medical treatment or staying in a hospital. On the other hand, he was listening to Brahma suthra shravana till the very end. It is not very surprising that his lone Poorvashrama son, who was Sri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha, emulated his example, by refusing to get himself admitted to a hospital, in spite of a Leg affected by Gangrene, and performed his duties as an ascetic till the very end. Such steadfastness of keeping the sacred vows, selflessness and nobility of character and total acceptance of what ever God chooses to bestow with complete equanimity are no doubt rare qualities these days - but they are expected to be present in those, who seek to sit in the seats occupied by the great sages of the past.

One very important aspect of Sri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha's period was the great compassion he showed towards the less fortunate Shishyas of his Matha as well as his broad vision about the role of the Matha in society. There was complete confidence in his stewardship of the Matha amongst the public, which was amply demonstrated by the numerous gifts received by the Matha in his time. The fact that he kept his Poorvashrama family completely away from the Matha affairs and ensured transparent dealings in property and the precious jewelry of the Matha was well received and fully supported by all. His emphasis on helping poor students to get education and get well settled in life has left behind many happy families, who are grateful for his timely help. He was an effective spokesman for the Hindu culture and ethos whose words were appreciated by Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyer, chairman of the Commission appointed by the Government of India for recommending the draft of a uniform legislation for monitoring Hindu religious Institutions with these words: "If all the religious leaders of Brahmin community were like Sri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha, the entire community would be an abode of peace and prosperity". His address in English on the occasion of the Madhva philosophic conference in 1960 was replete with suggestions for the progress of the community. He also addressed a gathering of scientists in the Karaikudi Institute of Technology in a manner that evoked appreciation from the audience.

The further period of the two Pontiffs following Shri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha has seen decline in moral values, involvement of the poorvashrama families in the running of the Mathas and lately a cynical and totally corrupt administration which has brought the Matha on the brink of ruin. Therefore, we would not even like to mention these stories in the present context.

There is no doubt that the principles of devotion to God and our Gurus, Sadachara, selflessness, transparency in dealings, social service, an attitude of trusteeship over the Matha properties and total freedom from nepotism of any sort are as relevant today as they were earlier. We need the reincarnation of the divine personalities who gave our Matha the great image of the past, like Sri Vidyarathnakara tirtha. As the self imposed discipline and standards of Sadachara are apparently lost in our system, we would also need to develop systems to correct errant behaviour without taking shelter on false notions of blind acceptance, on the basis of its holy origin and attributing every thing to the divine will.