Fundamentals of Madhvacharya’s Philosophy

Madhwacharya Philosophy

Tattvavada and Different Movements inspired by Madhva’s philosophy

Madhvacharya’s Tattvavada, embodies the most powerful Vedantic philosophy about the nature of the world. It also describes a world which lies beyond this one, determining it as the underlying metaphysics of the creation process. His philosophy has consistently refuted the Vedantic monism as propounded by Adi Shankara. His philosophical genius has shaped front-rank thinkers like Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha.

It has used the philosophical penetration that is possible through the Sanskrit language. Madhva’s philosophy influenced the thought of Chaitanya and his followers in distant Bengal. It gave birth to a Devotional movement of Haridasa in the North which in its turn has enriched literature of one of the major languages of South India.

Tattvavada has become the living faith of a large section of Indian people, speaking seven different languages of present-day India.

Recognition of Madhva’s Philosophy

Madhva’s system deserves much more attention than what is given to it by our modem scholars and writers. They have done an injustice by classifying it under minor religious systems. People call his philosophy as half-baked, orthodox religious framework rather than a full-fledged philosophical development framework of India. Every system of philosophy in India, not excluding the Advaita, has its own religious basis and development. It is an error of judgment to suppose that religious and theological aspects have overshadowed the philosophical, in Madhva’s system.

Difference between Ramanuja and Madhva’s approach

Ramanuja’s system, attempts at a harmonious combination of absolutism with personal theism. It is a combination of the Vedantic monism of Shankara and dualism as propounded by Madhwa in later years. Ramanuja’s beautiful stories about the spiritual world is delivered with immaculate confidence.

This confidence can be linked with the fact that he is an incarnation of Lord Shesha.

He is none other than the eternal servitor of Lord Vishnu and thus, present at the time of creation. Therefore, his statement oabout the universe cannot be false for he has personally assisted at the origination of the world.

However, one is bound to meet up with inconsistencies in his philosophy while trying to reconcile the realities of this world which is apparently distorted and the other world which is idealistic.

Ramanuja tries to draw parallels between this world and the other and that is the problem for common folks to understand.

Is the spiritual world independent of the material world?

As per Madhwa, the other world exists and yet largely divorced from the sadness and sorrowful state of this world. Madhwa begs to draw attention to the fact that the other world and this world are completely different and can have nothing in common.

This saves the philosophical rantings of trying to find commonalities between divergent worlds. By following his philosophy man remains grounded in reality and is forced to accept the fact that this world has no similarity with the spiritual world.

Madhva’s philosophy is for modern-day man

There is as much of substantial philosophical thought in Madhva’s system as there is in those of Shankara and Ramanuja. Therefore, philosophy can find true meaning with the acceptance of the philosophy offered by the trio, Madhwa, Vyasatirtha and Jayatirtha. Modern philosophers and writers, selling out there philosophy in the market that probably contradicts the original meaning of philosophy are staking the minds of common folks.

Such people are misguiding mankind. The progress of philosophy is generally due to a powerful attack on current traditions. It compels man to go back upon received opinions and raise once more the fundamental questions which their predecessors had. Those questions are raised by newer generations for they were unanswered in the past. Predecessors adopted a philosophy which was available.  They sought no need for change in philosophy.

But, the movement of thought initiated by Madhwa constitutes a new era in Vedantic thought, in India. It is a philosophy for us, the modern man. It re-laid the foundations of philosophy at a much deeper level of philosophical certainty. It is open to man — like the philosophy of Saakshi (eternal witness).

Therefore, it opens up a new line of reconciliation between authorities and experience: Shruti and Anubhava. For this reason, this philosophy deserves careful study by all lovers of thought. A seeker must have a fresh adventure of the philosophical spirit.

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Branches of Madhva’s Philosophy

Freedom of opinion and independence of thought stoke the birthright of every philosopher. In opposing Shankara’s philosophy, Madhwa has but exercised this right of a philosopher. There is no point in accusing Madhwa for his vehement disapproval of Shankara’s philosophy.

Madhwa’s philosophy however lies restricted today, to the TattvaVadins of Udupi. A heavily watered down version of his observations is adopted by the Gaudiya Version of the Sampradaya that is prevalent in Bengal. ISKCON and the Gaudiya Matts are proponents of the non-Tattvavadi sects of the Madhwa school of thought.

This shakes the very basis of the Madhwa thought that is strongly based on the Bheda Shastra. It originally propounds the differentiation aspects of Vedic Literature.

Characteristics of a Valid Philosophy

There are no people who could be impervious to the demands of this world. People do require an explanation of its apparent chaos and contradictions. But, as a matter of fact, only an all-embracing explanation of life can satisfy the quest of man. The explanation must be consistent with experience and that is, man’s highest instrument for regulating life.

For this reason, philosophy cannot be a mere exercise of the intellect or a pursuit for sheer aesthetic interest or curiosity. It must have a spiritual reason that satisfies all of man’s spiritual needs and his compulsion to exist. Philosophy must deal with problems which force themselves on our thought. It must offer solutions for realities in disguise of questions like: what man is, why he is conditioned as he is, what his goal is and how he is to attain it.

The question is not, therefore, merely one of philosophy or no

What is philosophy and what is not?

Philosophy; but one of good philosophy or a bad one, capable of answering all his queries backed by personal evidence. Every rational being, then, has a philosophy of his own, whether he knows it or not. It is the business of an earnest aspirant to go through the entire process of thought, under proper spiritual guidance. A seeker finds a solution for problems which vex him. The Sastras are there to guide him on right lines.

Philosophy asks for an imaginable unity in place of the mysterious multiplicity. But neither a pure abstraction of being nor a mere totality or aggregate of beings can give us true unity.

Relationship of Man and God in Madhva’s philosophy

The question is how little would suffice. It seems clear that either each must be connected with all, in at least one way; or that all must be connected with someone. There must be a universal principle directly relating all. Another way can be that of a Supreme Individual whom all of us are related in some manner or the other.

This is common logic. It would be fair to say that one is more distinctly connected with a Supreme Being than obviously we are with other beings. Because, there exists dissimilarities in various levels of human existence. We differ from each other in many different ways, either from thought, word or deed.

Our interaction and connection therefore arises because we aren’t much related to each other directly but we are indeed commonly connected with another Supreme Entity.

Our lives are governed more or less very individually or personally compared to the rest of us. This governance of life is less within our control and more in the hands of that invisible one who is termed as the Supreme or Brahman by the Shastra.

Madhwa finds such a principle of unity in the unity of government, sustenance and control of the Universe, by Brahman, the Supreme Being. He finds this idea tellingly expressed in the Shruti.

The Supreme and Independent Brahman is not so much the cause in time of the dependent realities as the logical and metaphysical explanation of all else that is. Hence the definition of the principle of Independence in Madhva’s system is expressed thus.

What are the 3 types of data received by the mind

Reality presents, to an inquiring mind, three primary data. They are: 1) the thinking self, 2) a world of external realities and 3) indications of an Infinite Power, situated above them. Though these three data are commonly postulated as distinguishable essences, terms like ‘reality’, ‘substance’ or ‘ existence ‘, they are not applied to all of them, in the same sense, by all persons.

Every person has a different conception of these 3 primary data. Because, every person differs spiritual or philosophical development. It has happened time and again in the history of Philosophy, both in the East and in the West, that one gets more prominence that the other.

Such shifting of emphasis has led to the emergence of several forms of Materialistic, and Monistic heresies which, in the history of speculation, are quite familiar.

The self is the prime reality

Justifications for each point of view could easily be found. The Self is the immediate starting point of all experience. It is so borne in upon us as to easily usurp the place of honor. The existence of things outside of us in time and space exist till the time we are conscious. Things outside are lit by the light of our self. Existence of a Deity are, after all, secondary.

They can be experienced only through acts of private consciousness. If not, they may be illusory or at any rate may not be so irrefutably real as the self. Only through the lens of the self, can the reality of the independent deity be experienced. This is the crux of Madhva’s philosophy.

From an opposite point of view, matter the tangible substance can be fiddled by consciousness.

It could be set up as a sterner reality than God or soul. An untamed consciousness seems to shrink God into shadowy abstractions. To the Mystics, on the other hand, the Infinite Being alone, conceived as all-absorbing. God is described as to the sole reality of all that there is or can be.