Disputation between Sri Akshobhya Tirtha and Sri Vidyaranya


Generations of Madhvas have always sincerely believed that in the early days of Vijayanagara Kingdom there was a famous disputation between the two stalwarts of Advaita and Dvaita, Sri Vidyaranya and Sri Akshobhya Tirtha, where the famous Vishishtadvaita scholar Sri Vedanta Desikar was the neutral umpire and victory was wonby Dvaita. Apparently there was no rejection of the very existence of the event in earlier days, even by such great Advaita stalwarts like Sri Ananthakrishna Shastri or any other pontiffs. In recent days, however Advaita has predictably reacted adversely and has offered many arguments to support their own position that such a disputation never took place.

The confusion has been actually compounded by many fancy stories written much later about the so called disputation/victory where extreme positions have been offered by both sides – including a victory for Advaita. Therewere also a very few Madhva scholars who supported the view that the account was fictitious. The issue is considered as a question of prestige of the two schools and it is difficult to sift out the truths and realities from the fanciful accounts and blind loyalties towards one’s own system inherited from birth.

I am attempting here to put together all the facts known or can be derived from evidence, some estimate of probabilities of the events and my own assessment of the Truths.

I am fully open to constructive criticism and even correction where I have gone wrong, as I have no illusions that what I am saying here is the final truth. But, it is time that all of us belonging to all schools try to discard the fancy packaging and embroidering that is attempted by unscrupulous persons just to “prove” a predetermined result – and thereby close the doors to dispassionate debate with open minds and accepting a result only on the basis of hard facts and probabilities.

It is not at all unusual that such conflicting pictures exist of past events – in the case of such debates in Acharya Madhva’s time, there are clearly delineated events involving him and Advaita scholars in Sumadhva Vijaya, while there is complete blankness about the latter in Advaita circles, even with a well-established Shringeri matha known to be in existence.


There is a very unusual situation in the present case, as those who hold that the debate did not take place, have to allege collusion between respected Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita scholars to foist a false story against a noted Advaita scholar like Sri Vidyaranya – which was perpetuated over centuries, without serious attempts to rectify the situation on his part, in spite of his being in a commanding position politically and power/influence-wise. It should have been quite easy to destroy such a canard for someone like Sri Vidyaranya. Ascribing amuch later origin to the story brings in new problems as will be discussed later.  

The issue needs to be discussed under the following headings:

  1. Contemporariness of the three scholars and possibility of such debates taking note of their recorded life histories.
  2. Origins of the story and arguments offered in favour of or against the disputation.
  3. Examination of evidence available and assessment of hard facts/events that can be derived therefrom.
  4. The most probable scenario of events which might have been the basis of the present day beliefs.

Whether the periods, character and life records of the three scholars are such as to rule out such an event?

The periods generally assigned to the three scholars are as follows:

  1. Sri Vidyaranya –  1331 – 1385 AD (period of Sannyasa) as per Sringeri records – only last 5 years in Sringeri Peethaand rest as Bidi Sannyasi)
  2. Sri Vedanta Desika – 1260-1369 AD.
  3. Sri Akshobhya Tirtha - 1350 – 1365 AD (in thepontificate).

There is a clear slot of 1350 – 1365 AD, the entire Peetha period of Sri Akshobhya, when all were contemporary, whenSri Vidyaranya was guiding the fledgling Vijayanagara kingdom in Hampi, Vedanta Deshika was in Mysore-Coimbatore-Tirupati and was able to return to his spiritual home at SriRangam only after its liberation from Muslims by Gopanna Udaiyar of Vijayanagara Kingdom in 1360 AD. His presence at the reopening of the SriRangam temple after its sacking with a long gap of 30 plus years has been recorded. The reason usually ascribed to the procedure of recording the debate in writing and sending it to Sri Vedanta Deshika is also well justified as the last named was in his late nineties even at that time.

One difficulty that has been pointed out is the identity of the Vidyaranya who debated with Akshobhya.  There are 3 distinct Madhavacharyas in early Vijayanagara history, only one of whom became known as Vidyaranya, the well known Guru of the founders of the kingdom. There is some dissonance even about the basic belief in the guiding spirit role of Vidyaranya, as has been highlighted by Rev. H Heras in 1929 AD, according to which Shringeri Matha came to be associated with the kingdom a few decades later after its founding in 1335/6 AD and some fake history of its association earlier was manufactured. An extract of his book is enclosed to show that there are some substantial grounds to support this conclusion, which may not have however found general acceptance.But his decades long association as the royal preceptor of King Bukka, (successor to the his brother and first king Hakka), who took over in 1355 AD, after his brother’s death and his supervising the historic project of resuscitation of the Vedic culture is undeniable. I am reproducing these quotes from the book downloaded by Google search only to show that arguments used to rule out the debate on grounds of incompatibility of time periods are worthless and in fact support the feasibility of such a debate.



BY THE REV. H. HERAS, S. J., M. A. Professor of Indian History^

Director, Indian Historical Research Institute,St. Xavler's College, Bombay.


Two lectures delivered at the University of Mysore during the Dassera Holidays of 1928 form the subject of this book. Bombay, June 24th, 1929.




In any case the difficulties arising against this connection

of Vidyaranya with the foundation of Vijayanagara are historical rather than epigraphical or palaeographical. From not having considered these difficulties several authors have taken for granted the historicity of this story, as Sewell, Krishnaswami Aiyangar, Krishnamacharlu, KrishnaSastri, Suryanarain Row, etc. In one of my previouspapers, I also referred to Vidyaranya as the great helper of Harihara in the foundation of Vijayanagara. I now acknowledge my mistake.

The objections against this story are the following:-

1. Prescinding from the inscription published by Mr.Suryanarain Row, the authenticity of which is very doubtful,there is no contemporary epigraphical record stating the participation of Vidyaranya in the foundation of Vijayanagara. The earliest inscriptions mentioning this fact seem to be dated during the third dynasty.

2. Madhava, called also Vidyaranya, according to an inscription of 1347, was the minister of Marapa, the fourth brother of Harihara I, at Chandragutti, the capital of the Banavasi. Had he been the founder of the city of Vijayanagara and rendered such great help to Harihara in settling the affairs of the kingdom (as the tradition seems to suppose), one can hardly believe that Harihara should have parted with him in order that he should become the minister of his brother.

3. The tradition supposes that Madhavacharya was at the time of the foundation of Vijayanagara, not only an ascetic, but the guru or head of the Saiva math at Sringeri.Yet, in the year 1346 Harihara I with his four brothers, his son-in-law and others paid a visit to the Sringer! math, and

made a grant to Bharatl-tlrtha-srlpada, and his disciples.Now this Bharatl-tirtha-Sripada, alao called Bharati Krishnatirtha, is the immediate predecessor of Vidyaranya in the succession list of the Jagad-gurus of the Sringeri math. Hence it is evident that at the time of the foundation of Vijayanagara, Vidyaranya was not the guru of Sringeri-

Moreover the inscription does not mention Vidyaranya at all*a thing that would appear incredible, had he been the great benefactor of Harihara and his family.

4. In 1356 Bukka I visits Sringeri and makes a grant toVidyat!rtha-sripada, but neither the stone inscriptions recording the fact, nor the fringed plates of Harihara II, that mention the same event, say a word of Vidyaranya or of his activities in Vijayanagara.

5. Sometime after 1356 Bukka I wrote a letter to Vidyaranya, who was then at Varanasi (Benares), requesting him to return toVirupaksha-(Vijayanagara). Bukka enclosedin his letter an order of the senior Snpada (Vydyatlrtha) to the same effect. This order he gladly obeyed; as he had

great reverence towards that guru.

6. Sometime after, Bukka pays another visit to Sringeriin company of Vidyaranya, to whom he makes a grant, without any reference to the supposed help rendered to his brother Harihara.

7. An inscription of the year 1368 speaks at length ofthe excellent qualities of Madhava, who is called the minister of Bukka, and nothing is said about the foundation of Vijayanagara.

8. In the Sringeri copper-plates of Harihara II of theyear 1380, "Vidyaranya's feats are stated to be more wonderful than those of Brahma seeing that he can make the eloquent dumb, and the dumb, the most eloquent". Similar things are said of VidyaTirtha and of Bharatitirtha, but the foundation of Vijayanagara is not mentioned at all in order to

extol Vidyaranya over the other two gurus.

9. In another set of copper-plates of Harihara II, of theyear 1384, it is said that "by the grace of Vidyaranya-munihe (Harihara) acquired the empire of knowledge unattainable by other kings" This was the proper place to say that Harihara II acquired the empire of knowledge from Vidyaranya,

just as Harihara I obtained from him the empire of the world.

Yet nothing of the kind is said.

11. In 1386 Vidyaranya dies at Hampi (Vijayanagara)according to a Kadita at Sringeri 1 '. No mention is made of Vijayanagara as founded by him.

12. In the same year Harihara II makes a grant of lands,under the name of Vidyaranya-pura, to the Sringeri math, to commemorate the death of Madhava Vidyaranya. The foundation of Vijayanagara is also totally overlooked here.

13. Another unfinished inscription of Harihara II of thesame date contains the following praises of the great guru: "May the wonderful glances of Vidyaranya, which resemble showers of camphor dust, garlands of the kalhara flower, rays of the moon, sandal paste and waves of the milk ocean,

and which shower the nectar of compassion, bring you happiness! Can he be Brahma? We do not see four faces. Can he be Vishnu? He has not got four arms. Can he be Siva? No oddness of the eyes is observed. Having thus

argued for a long time, the learned have come to the conclusion that Vidyaranya is the supreme light incarnate".Inspite of this great eulogy Vidyaranya's share in the foundation of Vijayanagara is passed over in silence.

14. Harihara II’s son, Prince Chikka Raya, who was ruling the kingdom of Araga, had granted several lands to Vidyaranya, without mentioning any of his supposed achievements in Vijayanagara i

Hence it is clear that the contemporary inscriptions, which mention Vidyaranya, and could know of his participation in the early affairs of the Empire, and had splendid opportunities to narrate it, do not mention such participation at all. While the only documents that refer to this event are some very posterior inscriptions and chronicles, and some fabricated

lithic records. After considering all this, it may be affirmed thatthe foundation of Vijayanagara by Madhava Vidyaranya, and the abisheka ceremony of Harihara I performed by the same guru are wholly groundless fables. Mr. Gopinatha Rao had independently arrived at the same conclusion: "Again Vidyaaranya, who rose to prominence only in the reign of Bukka and his son Harihara II, cannot be the person who advised Harihara I to construct the city of Vijayanagara”.

Hence the historical events of the life of Vidyaranya connected with the history of Vijayanagara are only the following:

1346. Vidyaranya was not yet the Jagad-guru of the Sringeri math.

1347. Vidyaranya is the minister of Marapa Voieyar in the kingdom of Banavasi Twelve-thousand.

1356. Vidyaranya was not yet the Jagad-guru of Sringeri.

1356. Vidyaranya, residing at Benares, is invited by Bukka I and ordered by Vidyatirtha Sripada to come back to Vijayanagara.

1368. Vidyaranya is said to be the minister of Bukka I. Another inscription calls him Mahapradhana (Prime Minister) and states that he is ruling the Banavasi Twelve-thousand, as a subordinate of Bukka I.

1380. Great eulogy of Vidyaranya in an inscription of Harihara II. He seems to be already the guru of Sringeri. (In fact his predecessor Bharati Krishna-tirtha seems to havedied that year) *.

1384. Harihara II confesses to have acquired muchknowledge from the teachings of Vidyaranya.

1385. By this time Prince Chikka Raya, son of HariharaII and governor of the kingdom of Araga, makes a grant of lands to Vidyaranya.

1386. Death of Vidyaranya at Hampi (Vijayanagara).Harihara II makes a grant of lands to the Sringeri math to commemorate his death. Another inscription of the same king contains a kind of funeral eulogy of the learned guru.

It is unnecessary for the issue of Vidyaranya’s participation in the founding of Vijayanagara to be discussed here, as the dates of Sri Vidyaranya, the Rajaguru of King Bukka/Harihara II are quite clear. The first King and founder of Vijayanagara kingdom was Harihara (Hakka) and it is known that one Sri Kriyashakthi was his Guru. As Akshobhya’s period was 1350-1365 and Sri JayaTirtha’s was 1365-1388 AD, we can limit our view of Sri Vidyaranya’s availability forthe period 1350 – 1386 AD only, when he passed away.  There is no doubt even from the above account that Vidyaranya had returned from Benaresafter 1356 AD, and had taken up an important role as an advisor of the King in the work of preserving and rejuvenating Hindu culture. He appears to have been fully active in Hampi itself, till the death of Sri BharathiKrishna of Shringeri Math, whom he succeeded in 1380 AD. He might not have been able to travel much after this, both due to his religious responsibilities and age. The encounters if any, with both Sri Akshobhya and JayaTirtha must necessarily have taken place in the time period – 1356 – 1380 AD.

Sri Lakshminarasimha Shastri in his book on Sri Vidyaranya in Kannada explains that Vidyaranya also named Madhava along with a brother named Somanatha left home (some place in Karnataka) and became the disciples of Sri Vidyashankaraof Shringeri, as Vidyaranya and Bharathi Tirtha. Bharathi Tirtha succeeded his Guru first, while Vidyaranya was sent to Hampi. Three other brothers, who were perhaps cousins, Madhava (second), Sayana and Bhoganatha also took active part in the monumental work of preservation of Hindu culture. There was one more Madhava (third) who was a minister in Goa and who was a disciple of Kriyashakthi. Some people have even considered that Kriyashakthi and Vidyaranya are the same person. As this issue is irrelevant to the debate and the one who took part in it from the side of Advaita was the Vedic scholar who succeeded to the Shringeri Peetha later, I have no wish to go into more details on the identities of the many Madhavas referred to above, except the one associated with the establishment of Vijayanagara kingdom and the Rajaguru of Bukka. It is certainly not Kriyashakthi or his disciple as they were not strictly Advaitha Gurus. The second Madhava, the administrator was perhaps never initiated into asceticism and hence is not the one called Vidyaranya known as the Guru of Shringeri peetha.But all the references to Vidyaranya during Bukka’s period pertaining to the preservation of the Vedic culture obviously pertain to the sage Vidyarnya who was his Guru.

Some more detailed analysis is necessary to narrow down the periodfurther for possible dates of the debates, taking note of the movements of the three scholars as well as political developments. This will be done in later sections. For the present, let us accept that they were really contemporaries for the purpose of this discussion.

Origins of the Story:

With regard to the origin of the story of the disputation, I am using the detailed study carried out by Sri G R Patil and published in his book in Kannada – Akshobhya vijaya vibhrama. As the title suggests, the author argues against the event having taken place and is trying to establish how this story began and belief grew into a  generally accepted event, by both the followers of Madhva and Ramanuja, It can not be ruled out that future independent verification could possibly disclose earlier references to this event in the literature of both Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita, than those considered by Mr. Patil.

Let us look briefly at the steps as outlined by Mr. Patil:

  • The story is first found only in the composition by Chalari Samkarshana-acharya in his JayaTirtha Vijaya,though earlier similar compositions on the same subject of the Life story of Sri JayaTirtha by Sri Vyasatirtha, his direct disciple do not contain any such event description, nor is it described by Sri Teekacharya himself in his eulogies of Akshobhya Tirtha. This book is dated 1675 AD approximately based on an estimate by Sri Jayatirtha Rajapurohitha and accepted by the author, The occurrence of the event is also supported by another JayaTirtha Vijaya composed by Sri VyasaTirtha Srimatccharana, whom the author considers as different from the disciple of Sri Teekacharya and from Sri Vyasaraja of Vijayanagara fame, and is also a later work to that of Samkarshanacharya. This issue will be discussed later.
  • The Chalari description of the event at this stage mentioned the following:

There was agreat scholar(Vidyaranya) who had studied many different schools of Vedanta and who had no one (equal) similar to him in those and had defeated opponents like a very strong elephant would disperse sheep and had also composed the commentaries on the Vedas. Akshobhya Tirtha, the doyen of ascetics who was invincible by others and was like a Lion which breaks the strong heads of elephants (in fighting) in disputations, defeated this Vidyaranya, by using as a sword the interpretation of the shruthi words “Tatvamasi” which convey in actual meaning, the (intrinsic) Difference between the souls and the Para (Supreme Being).

The above description (translated into simple English) is by no means derogatory of Sri Vidyaranya, whose excellence is also stated explicitly and also clearly identifies him with the commentaries on the Vedas. One also notes that the words SatTatvamasi used by the author indicates the conventional reading of the Upanishad by Advaita, though the other meaning “ATatvamasi” also commented by Acharya Madhva is an alternative reading according to grammar. There is no mention of Sri Vedanta Deshika’s umpiring here, norof any other circumstances like the place of disputation, role of a king etc. The allusion to the Lion breaking the heads of the elephants is in the same words as those used by Sri JayaTirtha in his gloss on Madhva’s Brahma Suthra Bhashya, named Tatvaprakashika. This shows that this shloka is elaborating what the genteel JayaTirtha had mentioned briefly and indirectly in his sthothra of Sri Akshobhya. The same words are repeated by Chalari in the next sholka – Durvadividaranakrithyadakshah – clearly indicating the source of his thoughts.  The question whether the entire disputation was imaginary as alleged by the author of Vibhrama, which in effect accuses a number of other authors respected in their own groups as frauds has to be examined based on the totality of evidence as well as the natural anxiety of an Advaita scholar to reject any possibility of his own revered ancestor being found at a disadvantageous position.

  • Sri Rajapurohitha, a Dvaita scholar hadalso theorised that, after 22 years, (1697 AD), Srinivasa MahaSuri also known as Doddaiyya-charya wrote his Sri Vedanta Deshika Vaibhavaprakashika sthothra, in which he added an additional original concocted contribution to the story of the non-existent disputation, by which Vedanta Deshika was named as the neutral umpire of the disputation. Earlier biographical sketches of Vedanta Deshika did not contain this story, but only had the story of his composing Vairagya Panchaka. Sri Patil has accepted this theory as also, the determination of the period of Doddaiyacharya as (1697 AD), later than 1675 AD of Chalari Acharya. This leads him to the suggestion that probably the Vishishtadvaita scholar made use of the fertile invention of Chalari Acharya already circulated earlier, to glorify his own Ikon – Sri Vedanta Deshika, as someone who sat in judgment over such a major disputation between the two rival schools! One wonders whether a revered person with a unsullied fame like Vedanta Deshika would need this kind of embellishment of his fame at all, as by all accounts, he was the second most important pontiff to the founder of the school – Sri Ramanuja and was widely respected for his learning, piety, devotional compositions and extremely austere life. Sri Doddaiyacharya himself is the author of many works and there is a serious discrepancy in his period – which goes against the assumption that he came after Chalari Acharya.
  • Some reliable data is available on the periods of these Vishishtadvaita scholars in the “History of Indian Philosophy” by SN DasGupta (Vol III). After the founder Sri Ramanuja (1017 – 1137 AD), the next most prominent scholar  - Venkatanatha – original name of Vedanta Deshika,  was born in AD 1268 AD, from Ananta Suri and Totaramba, sister of Atreya Ramanuja. He studied with Vatsya Varada, author of many Vishishtadvaita compositions pertaining to Nyaya shastra. He lived by Ooncha Vritthi, receiving alms in the streets, and spent his entire life in rigorous religious and philosophical activities, with numerous compositions to his credit. He lived till 1369 AD and was the leader of Vadakalai section. The invasion of SriRangam by Malik Kafur in 1326 ADand the consequent pillaging of the temple caused him to flee the place to go to adjacent Mysore (perhaps Melkote near Mandya, where Sri Ramanuja had established a new temple), from which he went after some years to Coimbatore, where he wrote his Abhiti Stava and could only return back after SriRangam was restored by Vijayanagara kingdom towards the last few years of his life. It is not unlikely during this phase that he had met Akshobhya Tirtha, Madhva Pontiff (1350-65 AD), whose activities seem to have been confined to Karnataka/Mysore areas, noting the stories of temples established by him in Mulabagilu etc. Though it is generally believed that Vedanta Deshika and Vidyaranya were fellow students in Kanchi, there is no evidence that the former ever went to Vijayanagara (Hampi) and taking note of his life style and extremely austere attitude towards getting any help. In fact, the Vairgaya Shathaka story is believed to be his reply to a generous invitation to the King’s court by Vidyaranya.  The Das Gupta book also records in a foot note, that Srinivasa Suri of Sri Saila lineage, who “lived probably in the fifteenth century” had composed a Eulogy called Vedanta Deshika Vaibhava Prakashika. Vedanta Deshika himself wrote a large number of compositions on various subjects and his authority as commentator on Ramanuja is unsurpassed by others and is comparable to that of Teekacharya on Acharya Madhva. Srinivasa Mahasuri alias Doddaiyacharya (“who lived probably in the fifteenth century”) also wrote “Parikara Vijaya” referred to in Mahacharya’s works, coming later.

With regard to criticism of Madhva doctrines by Sri Vaishnavas, the main focus of their criticism was Advaita (Sankara and Yadavaprakasha) and Bhaskara schools. Vedanta Deshika himself has written a small pamphlet called Vadithrayakhandana in this regard. Das Gupta observes in the section called “Dialectical criticism against the Sankara school” - “Madhva and his followers were also opponents of Sri Vaishnavas, but there were some who regarded the philosophy of the Madhvas as more or less akin to Sri Vaishnava thought. There wereothers, however who strongly criticized the views of Madhva, and Mahacharya’s Parasarya-vijaya and Parakala Yathi’s Vijayindra Parajaya may be cited as examples of polemical discussions against Madhvas”. Their chief opponents were however Sankara and his followers.Venkata Natha’s Shathadushani – 100 refutations along with a commentary of Mahacharya alias Ramanujadasa has 66 refutations, as available and printed today. The encyclopedia of India Philosophies by Karl Potter mentions the dates of two entries bearing the name Ramanuja Dasa (Mahacharya) as 1590 and 1600 AD. This shows that Srinivasa Mahasuri could not have lived after this date, as Mahacharya was a commentator of his work. This rules out decisively the idea that Doddaiyacharya/Srinivasa Mahasuri picked up any text from Chalari Acharya’s Vijaya composition, which must have been composed after a century or so (1675 AD). So much for the proposal of Sri Rajapurohitha. A Google search produced the following life account of Mahacharya:

               During the course of writing about Sri VaradarAjaSthavam of Swamy KurEsar, adiyEn came acrossthe text of the five slOkams (VaradarAja Panchakam)composed by MahAchAryaa/DhoddayAchAryA (1509-1591 C.E)in Sri VaradarAja GuNAmrutha Vaibhavam monograph.               adiyEn will post a few articles on this Panchakam It is a combination of the celebration of the Lord'sGarudOthsavam and a salutation to His exalted Tatthuvams. 
               This great AchAryan , who wrote a scholarly commentary on Swamy Desikan's SathadhUshaNi ( VyAkhyA- ChanDamAruthaa"was a native ofChoLasimhapuram/GhatikAchalam , which isknown today as Sholingur , one of the 108 dhivya dEsams.His father name was also MahAchArya (VaathUla MahAchAryaa).The Junior MahAchAryaa was a contemproary of Pancha-matha-Bhanjana Thaatha Desikan , the father of Koti KanyakA DhAnam,Sri Lakshmi KumAra Thaatha Desikan , Sri RangarAmAnuja Muni, the Sixth Jeeyar of AhObila Matam , Shashta ParAnkusa YathIndhra MahA Desikan (AasthAnam 1499-1513C.E))and Appayya Dikshithar , who wrote a commentary on Swamy Desikan's YaadhavAbhudayam.
  • According to Mr. Patil, there were subsequent embellishments on the false story – of a bout of non-existent angry exchanges between Vidyaranya and Vedanta Deshika on the issue of Vairagya Shathaka, which resulted in mutual criticism of one another of the latters’s works – Shatha dushani.
  • After several decades, (in 1744 – 1783 AD), the time of Sri Sathyabodha of Uttaradi matha, Daivajna Bhimacharya wrote his Sri Poornabodhaguru-vamsha-katha-kalpatharu (SPVKK), where he spelt out clearly the disputation event and the verdict of Sri Vedanta Deshika, spelled out in the shloka quoted in the present form. .
  • In 1803 AD, Rama Yogindra (An Advaitin) in his book Manimanjari bhedini wrote the same story with a diametrically opposite ending – that both the Madhvas and Ramanujeeyas ran away in the night and Vidyaranya was victorious.
  • A Victory Pillar with inscription is also claimed to record the event in Mulabagilu, also quoted by the famous archeologist B L Rice.

Now, let us examine these critically on the basis of available evidence.

After the encounters of Madhva with Advaita protagonists already stated in Sumadhvavijaya, there is no recorded event of any disputations between his immediate successors – Sri Padmanabha, Narahari and Madhava Tirtha with Advaita scholars who have been named specifically. This is not difficult to understand considering that coinciding with the last decade of Madhva’s period ending in 1318 AD,there were repeated destructive invasions and change of rulers almost over the whole of southern India – as stated belowfrom recorded history:

The  period 1296 - 1388 (including the last two decades of Madhva till the Vrindavana pravesha of Sri JayaTirtha) was full of political events. Delhi Sultans of Khilji and Tughlaq dynasties led many campaigns of war against South India and destroyed the then existing and flourishing south Indian Hindu Kingdoms as a policy. In fact, it was the period in which the ruling Muslim kings at Delhi and their governors followed a policy of conversion, repression, murder, mayhem, rape, destruction of Hindu temples, holy places, scriptures and persecution of Hindus in India. Particularly in the period of Ghaiyasuddin (1320 - 1325 AD), the Deccan area was subject to repeated massive invasions from Delhi Muslim forces – 1318, 1322 and 1324 AD. Even Sri Padmanabha Tirtha’s native area in Northern Andhra (Rajahmundry etc – there is a suggestion that he was in the court of Warangal) was severely disturbed in the continuous fighting.

The invasion of the Southern part of India by Delhi based Muslim rulers first started in the time of Alauddin Khalji (1296 – 1316 AD). His earliest campaign was against Gujarat’s Hindu kingdom ruled by Karna, in 1298 AD. The famous Somanath temple in Saurashtra was captured, plundered and its deity destroyed at this time. The well known capitulation of Ranthambor fort with the Jauhar of the ladies and final suicidal battle which killed all the defenders took place in 1301 AD. Allauddin attempted to subjugate the Kakatiya ruled kingdom of Telingana, with its capital at Warangal for the first time in early 1303 AD and failed, Next, came the battle for Chitttor in Rajasthan and its destruction. Alauddin had also to fight and repel repeated Mongol invasions during this period – the last being in 1306 AD.

Alauddin next sent his army to Warangal (which he had failed to subdue in 1303 AD), in 1309 AD. He reached Devagiri and got the assistance of is King and even some forces and attacked Telingana. His army reached Warangal in 1310 AD, looting and killing on the way, and besieged it with a smaller force than the defenders. King Prathaparudra however failed to defend his city-fort perhaps due to undue defensive approach and finally sued for peace. The peace deal included huge tributes of Gold, Jewellery as well elephants and horses (possibly even the Kohinoor Diamond). With the gates to the South wide open, in November 1310 AD, Alauddin’s army turned its attention to Ma’bar (called as such by Muslim historians) in the deep south (capital Madurai).

This invasion in 1311 AD took the western route through Rajaputana and reahed Devagiri, where the reigning king Ramachandra gave all help and support to go further south to Dvarasamudra, ruled by Ballala III, the Hoysala king. Unfortunately for the latter, he was himself in Ma”bar area (South Tamilnadu) intervening in a civil war between two Pandya brothers – Sundara and Veera pandya, trying to recover some areas from them. When he heard of the attack on Dvarasamudra, he hurried back with his army also taking the help from the Pandyas. But, he soon lost confidence in his ability to challenge the invading army and accepted submission paying tributes and gave away a great deal of wealth to them. The Muslim army went down further south to Ma”bar. But, here the Pandya princes did not shut themselves up in forts but harassed the invaders in hit and run tactics. In this trip the Muslims sacked and destroyed the Temple towns at Chidambaram, SriRangam, Madurai and went possibly even up to Rameswaram. The invaders captured a large booty of Gold as well as elephants, horses etc. They took a son of Ballala III to Delhi, who was later returned. Though this trip was primarily for loot of wealth rather than territory, it paved the way,due to loss of morale in the rulers of the Hindu kingdoms, for subsequent Muslim invasions from the North followed by establishment of Muslim ruled states such as the Bahamani, Ma’bar sultanate etc. It also exposed a weakness in the political leadership of Hindus who would not unite even against an external aggressor and frittered away large resources in wealth, military strength, individual heroism as well popular support by allowing the enemy to adopt a strategy of Offense, surprise and fast action. It is also astonishing that even when ancient temples of the Hindu tradition were being sacked and looted along with destruction of the emblems and Ikons, the Hindu kings who had supported the aggressor did not wake up to the reality that they had let loose a monster of total destruction of their own culture by their own actions.

There was a second expedition of Allauddin’s army in 1313 AD, when Devagiri, Dvarasamudra and Telingana were subjugated. But the entire yadava Devagiri kingdom could not be subjugated as the small Hindu kingdom of Kampili (Bellary, Raichur and Dharwar) asserted its independence. Devagiri re-asserted its independence again in 1315 AD. In 1318 AD, Mubarak Shah invaded Deccan again defeating Warangal and trying to occupy Ma’bar. His son Khusrav was defeated in the battle for Delhi by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq in 1320 AD. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq ruled only for 5 years – 1320 – 1325 AD. In 1322 AD, the Muslim army attacked Devagiri and Warangal again, but the expedition failed to conquer Warangal. Next year, one more expedition was sent and was only partly successful, as Prathaparudra continued in Warangal. But, there are indications that the Delhi army continued south to conquer the Pandya kingdom based on Madurai. Rajahmundry was won by the Sultan in 1324 AD, but Bhanudeva II of Kalinga (Orissa) repelled their further progress there. The son of Ghiayasuddin was the famous/notorious Muhammed Bin Tughlaq, who ruled for 27 years – 1325 – 1351 AD.

The period following Madhva’s disappearance 1318 – 1336 AD (till Vijayanagara kingdom was founded) under Mohammed Bin Thughlaq would have been extremely difficult for Hindus all over south India except the South-west Canara coast, where Madhva stayed.  Certainly the area above the Krishna river, ruled from Devagiri renamed Daulatabad by him, would be totally hostile. This corresponds to the periods of Padmanabha Tirtha and Narahari Tirtha (1318 – 1333). The last important king of Warangal, Prathaparudra was ruling during the same period.  The calamitous invasion by Tughlaq took place when Narahari Tirtha was in the pontifical seat, when the kingdoms of Warangal and Devagiri were destroyed and virtually taken over by Muslims from the Delhi Sultanate. Sri Narahari Tirtha’s who had held an important political position/ruled Kalinga (Orissa) 1264 – 1293 AD, and perhaps rejoined Madhva after that period, may have confined his activity to Orissa and South Karnataka after his return, till he also attained the Feet of the Lord in 1333 AD.

It is no surprise that the scope and opportunity for Dvaita/Advaita polemics and debates was severely constrained in those critical times, when Hinduism itself was in danger.The first such major event coming into record as one between Sri Vidyaranya and Akshobhya after 1350 AD, when the new Vijayanagara kingdom had been securely established and Hindus could have a measure of political support and their organised religions could function normally in most of South India – is not at all a surprise. A major factor in this situation was the systematic revival of the ancient culture, religion and ethos by Vijayanagara Kingdom spearheaded by Sage Vidyaranya himself, during the time of Bukka’s rule (1356 – 1377 AD). It was also during this very period that the ignominy and deep emotional wounds of the earlier sacking of the major Hindu temples in Tamilnaduat SriRangam and Chidambaramwas healed and state patronage to Hindu religious institutions revived.

The author of the AVV, Mr. Patil has spent a lot of time and energy (amounting  to several dozen printed pages) criticising various Madhva and SriVaishnava scholars as well as others who have supported the truth of the disputation based on THEIR assumptions of the periods assigned to each of the three leading scholars of the three sects. Most of the criticism, while it looks justified superficially, is irrelevant, if one considers theiractual periodsgiven earlier – based on valid evidence, such as eventspertaining to Sri Narahari Tirtha, the direct disciple of Acharya Madhva indicated in shasanas of SriKurmam and Simhachalam and the periods of the reign of the successors of Acharya Madhva (Refer to my Historical antecedents papers). Sri Vidyaranya’s and Sri Vedanta Deshika’s periods are similarly decided by the historic events of the founding and initial guidance of the Vijayanagara kingdom as well as the sacking/renovation of the famous temple complex in SriRangam.Therefore a detailed discussion on other proved-to-be-incorrect assumptions of periods is meaningless.For instance, Sri Rajapurohitha, the Dvaitha scholar, whose conclusions are quoted approvingly by Mr. Patil assumes that Sri Akshobhya’s demise was in 1212 Shaka era (1290 AD) and there is no possibility of Vidyaranya, who was still a young boy at that time having this debate (Anubandha 2 of the book). This date is obviously incorrect, based on the latest and correct determination of Madhva’s dates, based on which Akshobhya’s demise was in 1365 AD. Further,one argument offered in pages 17/18 of the book is that Vidyaranya came to the pontifical seat only 5 years earlier to his demise in 1385 AD.And as such, the event is time-barred due to Sri Akshobhya’s demise earlier in 1365 AD. A similar argument attributed by the author to Sri Shathavadhani Ganesh (a current day well known Advaita scholar) uses the date of 1277 AD for the ascension of Sri Vidyaranya – well after the demise of Sri Akshobhya. This argument based on use of the name Vidyaranya,inspite of his not gracing the Shringeri pontiff’s seat during the period of Akshobhya Tirtha,in the shlokas giving an account of the event, is easily seen to be frivolous as the name of Sri Vidyaranya was the one given to the ascetic in 1331 AD itself, by his Guru – Sri Vidyashankara, who had his demise (by disappearance) in 1333 AD itselfas per records of the Shringeri Matha. There is no tradition of another name given to him (apart from Madhava in Poorvashrama)or his having been initiated by anyone else than Sri Vidyashankara. Thus, the ascetic named “Vidyaranya” was fully available in the area and was also in a prime position as the spiritual advisor of the King Bukka, during almost the entire period of Akshobhya Tirtha’s reign (1350-65 AD). It would be quite proper for the latter to challenge him as a champion of Advaita and a noted scholar, who wrote many works like Sarvadarshanasamgraha (which mentions the Tatvavada school of Madhvacharya also), Shankaravijaya etc and was also supervising the preservation and compilation of the Hindu cultural and religious literature along with his “brother” Sri Sayanacharya. This is only circumstantial evidence of the possibility of such a challenge by Dvaita to Advaita school, which still occupied the central vantage position for religious revival with helpful and productive connections of Shringeri Matha with the rapidly growing Hindu Vijayanagara. If one discards the story of Vidyaranya, the ascetic who became the guiding spirit in the founding of the Kingdom and Hindu revival, either by postulating that this was another Madhavacharya, the brother of Sayana, who did so or alternatively, he did all the pioneering and crucial work related to Vijayanagara in his Poorvashrama days (also as Madhavacharya, which was his name), the important feature of Sri Vidyaranya, the ascetic being generally accepted by historians and the Shringeri Matha as the concerned individual is totally lost. The interest and indirect participation of Vishishtadvaita, which was an equally vigorous opponent of Advaita in such polemics is also quite natural. Such a contest, if it did take place, must necessarily be at a highly visible and authoritative level for the challenge to be effective.  Thus both the feasibility of such a contest as well as its necessity, at least from the Madhva point of view is apparent. But, we would now need to examine, whether the evidence for its happening or otherwise is itself conclusive. In doing so, we should discard the embroidering and exaggerations of the stories, many of which are quite absurd and are traditionally repeated blindly as an act of faith. We have encountered such stories in many other occasions such as the rule of Sri Narahari Tirtha in Kalinga kingdom, where historic facts of his long stay as a political person for more than three decades in Orissa/Kalinga have been forgotten and a fancy story of the royal elephant garlanding him as the person selected to rule the country as a regent is offered as a substitute!.

Let us next examine other literary evidence of a contemporary nature:

As there is no direct history of Sri Akshobhya, the history of Sri JayaTirtha, his famous disciple as well his compositions could provide some clues.

The specific eulogistic shlokas composed by Sri JayaTirtha on Akshobhya are reproduced below:

Tatvaprakashika (gloss on Madhva’s Brahma Suthra Bhashya)



akshObhyatirthamrugarAjamaham namAmi”

This shloka clearly refers to Sri Akshobhya’s single-minded commitment, extra-ordinary competence and success in destroying all the “Durvadis” and his having humbled the pride of all opponents.

The other prime composition Sriman Nyayasudha refers to him as -

“PadavAkyapramAnajnAn prathivAdimadacchidah

SrimadakshObhyatirthakhyAn upathishte Gurun mama”

This shloka also refers to Sri Akshobhya having humbled the pride of his opponents.

The fact that these appellations to the Guru are not routine and superficial is indicated by the following:

  1. Sri Teekacharya does not formally offer his specific obeisance by name to his ordaining Guru, Sri Akshobhya in every one of his numerous Teekas. For instance, in Pramana Lakshana and Geetha Bhashya Teekas, he makes an omnibus prayer to all his Gurus headed by Acharya Madhva. In Geetha Tatparya, he does so to the Pracheena Teekakara – Sri Padmanabha Tirtha only. Thus his reference to His own immediate ordaining Guru in the two compositions dealing with the Suthra Prasthana clearly has an implied context of the Guru’s own personality and achievements in the context of the works where he is being praised.
  2. Even a casual study of Sri JayaTirtha’s compositions would show that his words are never wasted, inexact or superficial. His precision of thought processes and expression of analytical reasoning is astounding and completely beyond reproach. Thus, the above mentioned features are not just an accident of composition without specific intent.
  3. In Prameya Dipika, Sri JayaTirtha also refers to his having been instructed by Sri Akshobhya like a Shuka (Parrot). He thus acknowledges his debt to his Guru for the profound learning in depth that is evident by the fact that his works are virtually accorded supreme authority comparable to Madhva’s own primary sources and have attained universal acceptance by all other scholars.  It is apparent that the special mention of his ordaining Guru Sri Akshobhya in the two major compositions of Suthra Prasthana – Tatvaprakashika and Nyayasudha must have been in the context of some events where the interpretation of the Brahma Suthras had been called into question and his Guru’s total domination over all contending schools was approvingly praised by Sri JayaTirtha, the greatest scholar after Madhva  himself.
  4. The so called Mahavakya Tatvamasi occurs in Chandogya Upanishad 6 th section. It is considered as stating the absolute identity of the soul with the Supreme Being in their essence as signified by the words Thath and Thvam by Advaita and along with a few other similar texts like Aham Brahmasmiin Brihadaranyaka are used by Advaita to uphold their interpretation of Brahma suthras. Without going into the subject of the polemical exchanges here, it is clear that its interpretation is crucial in any debates as to the true purport of Vedanta philosophy. Madhva’s Bhashya on the Brahma Suthras takes up the discussion on this specific subject under the suthra – Aum Bhedavyapadeshaccha aum (1.1.17). Just earlier, the identity of Anandamaya of Thaitthiriya Upanishad is identified with Vishnu by quoting various pramanas and the natural question of Identity of Vishnu with the soul also which arises is rejected by this Suthra. Thus, all texts which seem to uphold such identity have to be examined and their true purport decided.Apart from the various pramanas quoted by Madhva in the Suthra Bhashya, the texts are examined in detail in the Bhashya on Chandogya Upanishad itself, where nine illustrations have been given to define the relationship of the Soul and God. Madhva shows that the illustrations are incompatible with the absolute identity of the soul with God and the Upanishad text must necessarily be interpreted with the idea of the Difference between them being basic and in essence and hence unbridgeable ever. As both sides would consider that these texts are crucial to their own positions, it is quite likely that the subject would have been an important issue in the disputation.

The choice of the specific Chandogya text for the debate is well justified from the point of view of both Advaita and Dvaita sides. The former would argue that it is an unequivocal statement of Identity – Thath and Thvam being identical in essence and many of the 9 illustrations given in the Upanishad itself seem superficially to uphold this position.  Sri Vyasaraja in his Nyayamrutha has examined the text critically in the 28 chapter of his Second Pariccheda, based on the logical analysis available in the Madhva Bhashyas and Teekas of Sri JayaTirtha. He has shown conclusively, that even if one sticks to the wording as Tatvamasi only, it is not possible to postulate identity – with Thath and Thvam and an indirect connection (Lakshana) needs to be considered. Similarly, the use of the “identity” can be understood by various mutual relationships between the soul and God – for instance – absolute dependence of the former on the latter, eternal coexistence with the latter as the controlling entity etc. While these comments show that the over-simplified concept of absolute Identity of the soul and God which seems to be conveyed by a superficial understanding is totally impossible, the words may convey a sort of absolute dependence and control of the soul by God. Madhva and JayaTirtha have also argued with great effect in the Chandogya Upanishad Bhashya and Vishnutatvavinirnaya that the actual text should be read as Atatvamasi – Thou art NOT that, which fits in better with the illustrations given, which show Difference of an unbridgeable and permanent kind between the two in their very essence. A brief summary of these arguments has been given in the end of this study as an annexure. 

It is therefore quite reasonable that JayaTirtha was fully aware of these intricacies when he composed the Charama shloka of Sri Akshobhya Tirtha, his Guru in 1365 AD,and his words signifying Akshobhya’s victory over all disputants like a Lion destroying the hardened and strong head of an elephant could well refer to his victory over Vidyaranya. Sri JayaTirtha would also be well aware, being a contemporary of Vidyaranya, about his great service to Hindu culture and religion as well as the latter’s fair rendering of Madhva’s Tatvavada in his Sarvadarshanasamgraha.All these factors lead one to consider the alternative that the debate was conducted in a friendly atmosphere between two great scholars, with no hostility and the victory referred to was also academic, but a great morale booster for the Madhvas.   

In the light of these remarks, interpreting these quoted referencesof Jaya Tirtha as being general with no individual connotation is unjustified. It is far more probable that Sri Teekacharya is making references to major victories won by Sri Akshobhya in his period.The words Akhila (All) and Darpa vidarana (humbling of the Pride) repeated in two major compositions, one of which is considered as the hallmark of expertise of the scholars in Madhva school (Nyayasudha) also clearly imply the high status of the opponents leading the school, so humbled. Two major Madhva Mathas - Uttaradi and Manthralaya have been using a charama shloka for Akshobhya which isa derivative of the shloka stated to have been written by Sri Vedanta Deshika, confirming Akshobhya’s victory. Sri Vyasaraja matha uses the shloka from Tatvaprakashika also as the Charama shloka for Sri Akshobhya. The most conservativeview of all these facts could thus bethat the shlokas quoted here are non-decisive on the subject of the debate, but concluding,as the non-believers of the story do, that Sri JayaTirtha did not make any reference to such a major event like the victory of his own Guru with a major scholar of Advaita at that time, as there was no such event is clearly unjustified. On the other hand, it is far more likely that the gentle mannered and scholarly JayaTirtha has referred to the specific incident indirectly, without taking names (in the context of his definitive compositions dealing with Tatvavada) but left the recording of the incident proper to other devices such as the Charama shloka composed by himself later. Otherwise, emphasis on the issue of victories in all debates specifically shown by the wordingsused by Sri Teekacharya would not be taken into account.

The composition “Sri JayaTirthavijaya composed by Sri VyasaTirtha, his direct disciple is often referred to as a strong basis for refuting the very reality of the debate by opponents, such as Sri Patil.This composition is quite short with 34 shlokas only (it is called Anu-JayaTirthavijaya) and unlike the Chalari composition, coversonly the story of Sri JayaTirtha. The references to Sri Akshobhya Tirtha are limited to the following:

Shlokas Nos 6-14:–story regarding the initiation of Sri JayaTirtha by Sri Akshobhya after he was transformed in his mindset due to the discerning words of the latter referring to his previous Life.

Shloka 15 – Sri JayaTirtha being conferred the position of successor to the Peetha and his listening to the teachings of Madhva shastra.

Due to the very limited scope of the work, it is not correct to conclude that the alleged incident pertaining to Sri Aksobhya did not really take place on the simplistic argument of its non-mention there. On the other hand, this work contains a detailed account in 3 shlokas of Sri Vidyaranya seated on an elephant and accompanied by a large group of his disciples visiting Sri JayaTirtha who was staying in his cave, in Yeragola, after having composed his commentaries on Madhva’s works. After Sri Vidyaranya was shown the detailed commentary on Pramana Lakshana of Madhva, whose text he had casually dismissed as childish earlier, he became ashamed and honoured Sri JayaTirtha by a ceremonial ride on the elephant accompanied by scholars.  This transparently straight story written almost in contemporary time and which does not involve any disparaging of Vidyaranya butactually showing him in good light, due to his broadmindedness in honoring a rival after he was duly imparted the knowledge on Pramana Lakshana,  is also not usually included in stories concerning Vidyaranya written by his admirers. This also supports the view that the debate between the two – Akshobhya Tirtha and Vidyaranya was carried forward in a scholarly manner without rancor or animosity (and the written records submitted to Vedanta Deshika for his final opinion) – as has been the practice for a large number of such debates from the remote past.In such cases, there is usually no change of allegiance to the school or transfer of assets including rewards and titles earned to the winner.

Consistency in the stories regarding the disputation:

I am indebted to the Kannada book by Sri Patil for the valuable quotes in his book, which will be examined here:

Samkarshana tirtha’s Jaaytirthavijaya (1675 AD):

:Akshobhyatirthayathirad akhilairabhedyo


SatthathvamasyAbhidavagasinaa sma

vidyaranyam bhinatthi parejeevavibhedinaa tham. – Sarga 2 – shloka  23

One should keep in mind the following points:

The author Chalari Acharya is depicting events concerning Sri Jayatirtha and his guru (1350 -1388 AD) after approximately 300 years. He could have either referred to existing records if any, or reduce in writing stories prevalent in his time about past events. Such a practice is nothing unusual as Sri Vidyaranya himself has written a Shankaravijaya of Sri Adishankara after a time interval much greater than this. If one attributes lack of real data and excessive imagination in one case, it could be equally applicable to the other.

Some data about the writer may be pertinent in this context. He belonged to a village near Malakheda(the Manyakheta, ancient capital of the Rashtrakootas). The Vrindavana of Sri Askhobhya Tirtha was located here and later shifted to the river bank. It had been  a place of worship for Madhvas for along time, with a Vrindavana of Sri JayaTirtha himself (believed by some as a Moola Vrindavana), and others, including those of Sri Vyasa Tirtha, the author of Anu-Jayatirtha vijaya and Sri Raghunatha Tirtha, accepted as their Moola Vrindavanas. Thus, this place is most likely to have been a senter of the Matha in continuous usage, the place wherethe stories and anecdotes of the past would have been preserved by word of mouth, by the families of the persons looking after the sacred relics. One cannot also rule out the possibility of some written records available earlier having been lost due to decay or damageover the centuries. The Chalari family is a noted one of well versed scholars, with the other brothers also being well known commentators on Shasthra compositions. This composition itself is of a high literary standard. This JayaTirtha vijaya has been accepted as authentic by Madhva devotees for recitation etc. For all these reasons, the events described there cannot be just lightly brushed aside – as Sri Patil has done – as self-createdwithout any basis and became the seed from which sprouted all the further developments.It has also been shown earlier the actual account in the Vijaya about Sri Vidyaranya accepts fully his great fame and achievements and is totally non-derogatory. The suggestion that Chalari Acharya invented the story (as made in page 29 of Mr. Patil’s book) imputing his dishonesty is certainly unworthy of a serious effort of research, as there is absolutely no basis for this allegation, except the author’s prejudice – because it assumes that the story is false before the proofs have been enunciated, and takes away much of the claim for honest and dispassionate analysis as claimed by the author..

There is another very strong evidence to show that Sri Chalari Acharya did NOT invent this story. Dr. B N K Sharma points out in HDSV, in the context of the composition of PGVKK by Daivajna Bhimacharya etc, that a composition called Gurucharya in Sanskrit was (updated) compiled during the time of Sri Sathyanidhi of Uttaradi Matha (1648 AD), which is still available today. In fact, he quotes some sections of the book in HDSV. “The Gurucharya, a hagiological work on the pontiffs of the Uttaradi Mutt down to Sathyanidhi Tirtha (d. 1648 AD), says that these floating traditions of the Mutt came to be defined and recorded during the days of Sripadaraja (1460 - 1502 AD), and Raghunatha Tirtha (1444 – 1502 AD).´ This work in sanskrit is perhaps the oldest available, which describes the lineage, periods, and important events of the earlier single Matha and subsequent branches till it was recorded finally up to date in around 1630/48 AD. The book itself says that the events were narrated by Sri Vibhudendra Tirtha who was a senior contemporary of the two ascetics, to Sri Raghunatha, which the latter got recorded with great reverence, comparing it with the recital of Bhagavata by Sri Shukacharya, not only in its importance, but also in getting the Punya in its being listened to. Thus it is a composition actually initiated in the time of Sri Raghunatha and Sri Vibhudendra as an official history of the Uttaradi Matha. It has also been relied upon by all Madhvas in many respects for determining the relative seniority of the ascetics, when the two divisions of the original matha took place etc, even though many events are apparently having time discrepancies or undue emphasis on UM ascetics at the cost of others.  But, in the events pertaining to the original members of the lineage, where there is no possibility of any bias, there is no reason to reject its usefulness in determining the truth of the events.

The part pertaining to Sri Akshobhya Tirtha in this work clearly mentions his attempt to have a disputation with Vidyaranya first in Shringeri, when he was prevented from even entering into the village, and his next attempt to do so, with the help of the King of Ikkeri. The Disputattion was then carried out and the victory of Akshobhya was recorded by Sri Vedantha Deshika. Another encounter between Sri Teekacharya (JayaTirtha) in his Yeragola cave and Vidyaranaya is also recorded under another section. The description of the events themselves etc need not be analysed here, as the accounts given in the more detailed Vijaya Granthas may be more reliable. But the two disputations between Sri Vidyaranya and the two successive stalwarts of Madhva Parampare who were his contemporaries has been recorded in this composition believed to be a sort of official history of the Uttaradi matha l;ineage, preceding the time of Chalari Acharya. Obviously Chalari wrote his own Kavya based on this source and never invented a false story as alleged by Mr. Patil.  :      

 The places Malakheda, Yeragola etc associated with Akshobhya and JayaTirtha were parts of the Muslim ruled Bahamani kingdom established in 1347 AD, whose early record of tolerance to Hindus was besmirched by some very cruel rulers and whose border disputes with the neighbouring Hindu Vijayanagara were almost perpetual till the latter kingdom was destroyed completely. The prevalent stories of the past pontiffs were recorded for the first time in the time of Sri Raghunatha Tirtha(demise - 1504 AD), which was the basis for the Gurucharya. Thus it is incorrect to assume that Chalari Acharya produced a story of the contest between Sri Akshobhya and Vidyaranya out of his hat for the first time. Such wild, baseless and unfair charges can be made against anyone, including Sri Vidyaranya himself, for having compiled Shankara Vijaya and are should thus be dismissed with the contempt that they deserve. The wide spread havoc and destruction wrought by Muslim invaders from Delhi like Malik Kafur as well as the home grown varieties like the Madurai sultanate and some kings of Bahamani had decimated Hindu culture and institutions badly and it is not accidental that many of the works being discussed in the context were dated during the 16/17 centuries – after the holocaust and complete wiping out of Vijayangara, which contributed to the loss of Historical connectivity of the data.

It may also be noted that Sri Chalari Acharya’s shloka also contains “Durvadivaranavidaranakesareendrah” – an almost exact reproduction of the shloka of Sri JayaTirtha in Tatvaprakashika and charama shloka of Vyasaraja matha quoted above. He seems to have included the instance of the Vidyaranya debate to justify the first part of the shloka, obviously based on tradition and Matha records. If he can be accused of dishonesty on this basis, even Vidyaranya himself would be found guilty of the same regarding many similar stories in Shankara Vijaya composed by him, which are not found elsewhere in other works on the same subject, with even less connection to recorded history.Far from being an inventor of non-existing stories Sri Chalari Acharya turns out to be a person putting into record in an organised basis of a poetic Kavya, a set of events pertaining to the two great pontiffs of the early Madhva lineage. This is not to claim any infallibility to what he has written, but to repudiate the baseless implied charge of dishonesty. The story is not his personal invention or contribution, but is the record of the entire Madhva community, as represented by its Matha structures adopting the incident as true as indicated in the charama shlokas.

. According to Mr. Patil, the next link in the chain is that of Sri Srinivasa Mahasurialso called as Doddaiyacharya, who included the following passage in his work – Sri Vedantadeshikavaibhavaprakashika sthothra.

“Kadachidakshobhyamuneshcha vidyaranyascha jaatham bahulam vivaadam

Vilikhya bhupo vibhudaaya yasmai sampreshayaamaasa thamashrayeham (76)

Tatvamasinaasinaa tham vidyaranyam munisthadaa akshobhyah

Acchinadithyavadadyastham seve tatvanirnaye chathuram.(77).

This Vishishtadvaita scholar has been openly charged with embroidering (gave an attractive form according to the author) the earlier story propagated by Chalari Acharya, by introducing additionallythe issue of the neutral judgement by Vedanta Deshika, on the feebleground that an earlier eulogy of Vedanta Deshika in “Guru Parampara” does not include this story, but includes the story of Vairagya Panchaka.  The latter story is entirely unrelated and is based on an invitation sent by Vidyaranya to him to give material assistance, which Vedanta Deshika proudly declined due to his complete renunciation of worldly attachments.This argument is astounding. It is known that there are many compositions written long after the periods of the subject personalities, where the authors try to express their devotion in new interesting ways, sometimes introducing folk lore, not found in earlier efforts in that direction. This does NOT make them either dishonest or frauds. The fact of the matter is that a lot of past information is held in people’s memories as hearsay either due to no one getting around to write it down or past written efforts having been lost. To allege a conspiracy is not fair to the system which is almost universal – and as mentioned earlier, best illustrated in Sri Vidyaranya’s Shankara Vijaya itself. How can the Vishishtadvaita scholar be simply accused of dishonesty and even collusion with a Madhva composition without any valid basis? It is not even that, the first Madhva statement he might or might not have come across was already mentioning the part of Vedanta Deshika and he endorsed it in attractive poetry. He has actually brought in a revered name whom he is eulogising in abig sthothra and he cannot just pick up some convenient reference to a dispute between two other schools and thrust his guru’s name into it dishonestly without any basis. In fact it amounts to pushing in and getting a piece of the cake as it were, by associating the name of his revered Guru in a hitherto unknown battle between Madhvas and Advaita Guru – as a neutral empire. Unless both sides had made prior agreements, this effort could produce a backlash from both Madhvas and Advaita, which no sensible person would deliberately invite.  Obviously, Mr. Patil has a very low opinion of the integrity of scholars in general and of non-advaita scholars in particular, due to the sacrilege of talking about a possible defeat of Sri Vidyaranya!

It is also seen that in reality, there was already a reference to Sri Vedanta Deshika’s sitting in judgment in the matter in Gurucharya, which would have been a public document available widely from Madhva sources and perhaps even in the stories prevalent in Vishishtadvaita circles owing allegiance to his lineage..

The construction of the shloka of Sri Srinivaasa Mahasuri shows that he was only trying to eulogise his own Guru’s stature in two counts.

  1. The King/Ruler considered that he was the fittest person who could be approached for giving a fair decision on a matter where two eminent personalities had arguedextensively(note the words– Bahulam, Vibhudaaya in the first shloka).
  2. The wise and intelligent Guru (Chathuram) with expertise on deciding the correct interpretation of Pramanas (Tatvanirnaye) gave his verdict in favour of Akshobhya’s victory over Vidyaranya – also mentioning the subject of dispute – Interpretation of “Tatvamasi” of the Upanishads – by using a rhyming expression that the very words of the Upanishad were the means of destroying the opponent’s position. Note the words (Asi – sword, Aranya – impenetrable forest, acchinath – destroyed.

Thisscholar has nottaken sides in the dispute and was only praising Sri Vedantha Deshika, his own revered Guru. Sri Akshobhya’s victory in the disputation was only a real event which was used to show Vedanta Deshika to advantage and even some moral elevationas a judge over the others mentioned. Such anunbiased historically proven statement cannot be blithely negated by an obviously biased present day observation accusing the scholars of dishonesty. It is also interesting that such state of denial of the entire story did not come up in the historic past or immediately after the event, but is coming up now after centuries of the existence of the story in the public domain. It is interesting that another later Advaita scholar  Rama Yogindra wrote another version of the disputation in 1803 AD, where the victor and vanquished were interchanged.  This would have been far more credible if it did not come as a belated reaction to the earlier stories of Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita scholars – because it accepts the fact of the disputation and only tries to modify the ending.  Thus, till Mr.Patil’s heroic, but misdirected efforts to do his analysis, all the camps had accepted the reality of the dispute. But, I must still caution that, one cannot certify with absolute certainty that it did take place, until all other issues raised pointing out some discrepancies are also resolved satisfactorily.  

Much has been made by Mr. Patil of subsequent authors having changed the wordings and the expression of Vedanta Deshika’s verdict to prove his “fabricated story” theory. The exact words written by Sri Vedanta Deshika are not available from any source directly. The Charama shloka of Sri Akshobhya likely to be normally uncorrupted should have been composed by his successor Sri JayaTirtha at the time of his Guru’s Vrindavana pravesha and thus the oldest record. If we consider this as accurate, the two Mathas (and the previous combined matha before they split) have been saying:

The Charama shloka of Uttaradi and Rayara mathas for Sri Akshobhya is; 

“Yo vidyaranyavipinam tatvamasyasinaa acchinath

Srimadakshobhyatirthaya namasthasmai mahathmane”

If we take the shloka quoted in Gurucharya as the first version closest to the Deshika’s words, it reads as follows:

“Asina tatvamasina paratatvaprabhedinaa

Vidyaranyamaharanyam akshobhyamuniracchinath”

The change in wording is clearly due to the context – which has changed from the Charama shloka which is eulogising Sri Akshobhya, to the simple statement of his victory in debate. Note the continuity of meaning conveyed regarding the subject as well as the opponent in the debate. Both do not mention Vedanta Deshika, as to the Madhvas his role was only that of a neutral umpire to ensure that the debate was properly conducted and the Pramanas properly recorded. Any other learned scholar would have to give the same verdict based on evidence presented.

If one considers what Doddaiyacharya has included in his eulogistic shloka of Vedanta Deshika (quoted earlier)

Tatvamasinaasinaa tham vidyaranyam munisthadaa akshobhyah

Acchinadithyavadadyastham seve tatvanirnaye chathuram.

It seems to quote what Vedanta Deshika said (Ithyavadath) that “Thadaa Munih Akshobhyah tham Vidyaranyam achinath with the sword of (asina) Tarvamasi. Note the complete similarity of expression conveyed by the words which are common in the three versions – showing a common origin of not only the story, but its source – most probably the Charama sholka composed by Sri JayaTirtha in 1365 AD, which was acceptable to Sri Doddaiyacharya also as far as this subject was concerned..

The expression now quoted by different writers is identical to the Gurucharya version except for the replacement of the Paratatvaprabhedina with Parajivabhedina:

“Asina tatvamasina parajivabhedinaa

Vidyaranyamaharanyam akshobhyamuniracchinath”

Even if we take the shloka of Vyasaraja paramparegiven above, as discussed earlier, the event of this importance is implied and not specifically stated. The words Asina, tatvamasina and acchinath seem to be a common part of all the versions right from Gurucharya, Samkarshanacharya, Srinivasa Suri, Charama shlokaand even the Advaita scholar. It is clearly seen that the subject of discussion must have been the Shruthi – Tatvavamasi –which Advaita takes as parama pramana as a Maha Vakya, which is relied upon (amongst others) to establish their interpretation. It is well known that Acharya Madhva has dealt with this shruthi interpretation extensivelyto show that the illustrations given there to explain the nature of the relationship between the soul and the Supreme Being do not support Advaita and on the other hand, show their distinct and intrinsic difference and thus the purport of this shruthi is Duality or Dvaita. It has always been a good subject for disputation between the two schools and it is notsurprising that Sri Akshobhya and Vidyaranya could have debated the issue.

There are some other interesting points that emerge from the shloka formats:

  1. The words Durvadivaranavidarana of Samkarshancharya is the same as from Tatvaprakashika of JayaTirtha. This simile represents the strongest animal Elephant which is defeated by the legendary lion and indicates a corresponding trial of strength in the disputation – establishing the kingship of the Lion as well the strength of the contender.
  2. Sri Samkarshanacharya is also implying the difficulty of having a disputation with Vidyaranya, for others as he is an Aranya (Dense Forest). To make any progress there, one needs a sword to cut across the obstructing foliage and creepers. The later version of the shloka strengthened the simile further by calling Vidyaranya as Maharanya – a great forest, perhaps using his ascetic name – Vidyaranya or forest of knowledge. It is also noteworthy that though this appellation has been used for one or two others, it is not common to other pontiffs or well known ascetics and certainly is a pointer to the specific person who was the Guru of Bukka Raya. Questions such as how swords are used to deal with elephants etc are meaningless as the two metaphors are separate and are meant to be understood in their context. Sri Acharya has not mentioned the methodology used to decide the victor as his emphasis was entirely on Akshobhya’s victory. But keeping the Madhva view point in focus, he has used the words Para-Jiva Vibhedina – the instrument (sword) which divides the soul and God (shows their intrinsic difference).
  3. The second shloka of Srinivasa Suri clearly brings out the seriousness of the debate (Bahulam Vivadam), involvement of the King (Bhupo Vilikhya) and sending it to Vedanta Deshika in written form (as he was not present at the location). All these points are missing in Samkarshana Acharya’s shloka.The integrity of Vedanta Deshika’s statement – Aksobhya Muni Vidyaranyam tatvamasina asinaa acchinath is preserved in his second shloka and is essentially the same as that of Samkarshana Acharya..
  4. The words Parajivavibhedina and Maharanyam seem to be later additions to the decisive shloka and have been borrowed from Samkarshanacharya.

There is no inconsistency as such in the shloka and its purport, though later authors have modified it slightlyto convey the total purport from both Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita sources.

To be contd.

Now let us examine the arguments advanced to show that the debate is spurious and contrived by Madhva diehards to discredit a great scholar like Vidyaranya.

  1. Temporal discrepancies: - We have already examined this issue in some depth. As the periods of all the three major scholar-participants are since well established in their own settings and to the satisfaction of most of the scholar community, it is clear that there is no discrepancy of time in such an event having taken place during the period 1350-1365 AD, when Sri Akshobhya adorned his Peetha.
  2. “The event was spurious having been inserted without any previous basis, long after the periods of the scholars by Chalari Acharya in 1675 AD”. This theory has received a direct and destructive self-goals - first due to needless confusion in the period of Sri Srinavasa Mahasuri or Doddaiyacharya, a great and revered scholar of Vishishtadvaita of the 15 th century based on Vishishtadvaita history, who has thus preceded Chalari Acharya, at least by 150 to 200 years, being assumed to have followed him after 22 years according to some unexplained determination of his period and second due to his not havi9ng taken into account earlier Matha documents like Gurucharya, though he was aware of their existence. As the very original source of the story is shifted to Vishishtdvaita group, and to a person close to one of the participants – Sri Vedanta Deshika, in whose eulogistic Life history the event is mentioned with total neutrality towards the disputants and with the objective of glorifying the Vishishtadvaita Guru, the evidentiary value of this extract of his composition is impeccable and can not be lightly brushed aside.
  3. It has also been shown that as far as Madhva society was concerned the story seems to have been aprt of the folklore, codified much earlier to Samkarshana Acharya, based on the evidence in Gurucharya etc.
  4. It is also interesting that in Anubandha 7 (page 314) of the book by Mr. Patil, the following “reasons” are listed for the conclusion about the Chalari Acharya’s fraud.
    1. Non-mention by VyasaTirtha of the event in his AnuJaya-Tirtha vijaya-  This has been discussed earlier.
    2. The non-mention by Brahmatantra svatantra Jeeyar in Muvvayirappadi guruparampara prabhava, even if assumed to be earlier (around 1500 AD). Apparently, the mention is found in some copies and not in others leads one to consider that it is Prakshiptha (added later on – This is no proof. The non-mention/mention needs evaluation by editorial devices before coming to such conclusions.
    3. The time period of Sri Doddaiyacharya (Srinivasa Suri) is assumed as 16 th century AD by Dr.B N K Sharma. But, Rajapurohith assigns him1697 “beyonddoubt based on the writing of Mr. Hatti Krishna. Hence, he is coming after Chalari Acharya – This argument runs counter to the reference of Sri DasGupta quoted earlier. This issue needs greater clarity. There is no valid basis for Mr. Patil’s assumption which is also based on Mr. Rajapurohitha’s assumption
    4. The composition Gurucharya compiled in the time of Sri Vedanidhi Tirtha of Uttaradi Mutt was not accessible to Mr. Patil. But, he ”feels” that it does not contain any reference to this event. – The fact that he is concluding something without even looking at the book or at least quoting some one who had access to the book makes this conclusion worthless. He also guards himself against the possibility that the Book may have some mention, by saying that “even if it were there, this cannot be accepted without other strong evidence”.  Dr. B N K Sharma mentions the existence of this book in his HDSV, (a monumental work on history and evolution of Dvaita school) – as compiled during the period of Sri Sathyanidhi (1638-48), presumably because he had access to it. He says – “It is also of great chronological value”. Subsequent adaptations of this original sanskrit composition – Poornabodha- Guruvamsha-katha-kalpatharu in Sanskrit and Sathkatha in Kannada are based on the original Gurucharya. The Akshobhya-Vidyaranya event has been uniformly mentioned in all these sources and thus negates the theory that Chalari Acharya invented an imaginative story amounting to fraud. The poor scholar only included the story in his own composition of Sri JayaTirthavijaya, as he believed it to be authentic history.
  5. It is seen that the main “culprit” accused of such blatant fraud with a viewto damage the reputation of Sri Vidyaranaya and Advaita and glorify the fame of his own Guru Akshobhya Trrtha, if at all, could have only borrowed the story of the event from an ancient record. His own rendering is unexceptionable, as he has mentioned Vidyaranya with due regard to his own achievements (of all round scholarly learning as well as savior of the Vedic culture in the Vijayanagara setting) and has only claimed Akshobhya’s victory in the disputation, without even referring to the judgement of the neutral scholar. I think that in his anxiety to redeem Sri Vidyaranya’s reputation as a scholar, a great injustice amounting to character assassination has been done to him and to a lesser degree to Sri Srinivasa Mahasuri also. 


 Examination of Jiva- Brahmaikya doctrine of Advaita based on Agamas

One important text which Advaita uses to justify their doctrines is the section in Chandogya Upanishad in the sixth chapter where the conversation between Uddhalaka (father) and Shwethakethu (son) is recorded. This conversation is about Brahman who is the underlying and invisible substratum base of the entire creation. The son was directed by the father at an age of 12 years to study Vedas, which he faithfully and successfully did in another 12 years. He came back (from the Gurukula) well read, but arrogant and thinking too much of himself. The father asked him a question not only to test his knowledge, but also to show him that he was not as well read as he thought.  The question was simple: Do you know that, which when known, everything else is known?

The son had no answer and asked the father what would be the nature of that thing which should be known by which everything else would be known. The father gave three examples: By knowing a lump of clay, all objects made of clay are known, by similar properties. By knowing words in the original sanskrit, the words derived from them in Apabhramsha form in other Prakruth languages are known. By knowing a nugget of gold all that is made of gold are known. By knowing about a nail cutter made of Iron, all objects made of Iron are known.  The son admitted his ignorance and asked his father to teach him explaining the nature of the entity that when known, all else would be known. The father agreed and used the occasion to explain the primordial creation of the Universe by Brahman, The transformation of the five principle elements Prithvi etc into the parts and functions of the bodies and senses, the resting of the soul in deep sleep in the arms of the creator, etc. To explain the fundamental and intrinsic relationship between the creator and the soul, he used the words Atatvamasi (read as Tatvamasi by Advaita).  He used nine illustrations covering various aspects of the relationships and after each explanation was completed, Shwethakethu asked again – “Let it be so, please instruct me further”. (indicating that he needed more clarity in his understanding). Finally, after the Ninth illustration was completely explained, Shwethakethu exclaimed – I have understood, I have understood.  It is not possible to go into more details here, but the purpose of the vital question asked by Uddalaka was to show that when one understands the nature of the underlying cause or base/substratum and the manner of relating the primary and efficient cause to the Universe, all else is known by similarity, essence and importance. Advaita interprets the first part to claim that Brahman is an Upadana cause like Mud for making pots, Gold for making ornaments etc except that the objects produced are unreal in absolute terms and are only superimposed on the changeless and attribute-less Brahman (Vivarata-upadana). The nine illustrations used by the Upanishad thus become crucial in deciding the purport of the teaching – and by implication the very principle of Advaita Brahman as postulated by them. Thus Tatvamasi can be the bedrock or Nemesis of Advaitha and would be a fit subject for a disputation.

Acharya Madhva in his Anuvyakhyana comments that the so called Identity Shruthies are Savakasha (capable of more than one interpretation), rendering their evidentiary value less decisive as compared to the Shruthies which indubitably denote Difference between the Supreme Being and the souls, as their single purport. The former could be interpreted to state that Brahman is the sole independent entity on which all other souls are eternally dependent, or It Is special and unique among all chethanas, It is the locus or sole support of the souls, and the souls are but “images” of Brahman, which share many similar attributes, though not with complete similarity in kind or quantity.Tatvamasi being one of the Identity Shruthies is also subject to this basic observation.

            Shri Madhva declares in VISNUTATAVAVINIRNAYAthat there is no Agama espousing Aikya (Identity) but all Agamas espouse the doc­trine of Bheda (Difference) only. He takes up the wellknown shruthi texts quoted by Advaita, as the so called Mahavakyas one by one to prove his assertion – the very first being “Tatvamasi”, It is easy to understand why this text from Chandogya Upanishad gets the pride of place. Unlike others which are brief statements permitting differing interpretations such as Aham Brahmasmi, Neha nanasthi kinchana etc, this quote is very detailed giving complete information about the circumstances, the participants, and the objectives of the discussion. The serious conversation is between father and son – ruling out possibilities of frivolities or deliberate errors. The father is an Aptha to a superlative degree, while the son was also learned having completed his studies of the Vedas in full and being proud of it. The objective of the discussion was the most fundamental one of any system of philosophy – the nature of the relationship between the souls and the Supreme Being. The teacher/affectionate father Uddhalaka takes great care to convey his answers pregnant with meaning to his son answering all possible doubts and ensuring that no possible misunderstanding should arise. He gives as many as 9 illustrations, to explain his intent precisely showing his anxiety to make his son Shwethakethu correctly understand the relationship.  Uddhalaka was motivated by two main considerations – his conviction that his son was fully competent, raedy and anxious to learn the correct tenet but he had not understood the same by undue pride in having completed his learning of the Vedas as indicated by the words "Mahamana, Anuchana­mani, and Sthabdha" by the Upanishad, which needed to be corrected. Further, there was no repetition of ideas for hyperbole, emphasis or poetic embellishment, but each example given followed logically from the previous one to cover a possible doubt arising at each stage and the totality of the examples precisely defined the complete picture. An excellent analysis of all the examples is given in Vishnutatvavinirnaya by Madhva read with the elaborate commentary of Sri Teekacharya. The same is also covered by the Madhva Bhashya of Chandogya Upanishad. To avoid undue diversion from the main subject, the study is summed up very briefly here.  

            14.6.1 Chandogya Upanishath Text - "Athatthvamasi"

            The famous "Tatv­ama­si" passage is first analysed as "Atatvamasi" as a gram­matically acceptable alternative. All the 9 illustrations when analysed are seen to bring out that this passage supports Bheda only showing that this is the correct intended Padaccheda thus establishing that this "mahavak­ya" clearly supports Dvaita.

  • The first example is the Shakuni (bird) tied firmly with a string, to a support and trying to fly around to the limits allowed by the string, and finding no support else­where comes back to rest on the support. In the same manner are all creatures (souls) tied to and resting on God and have no other resting place or solace than God. There is no possibility of unity between the support and the bird, either in the beginning or the end and the two are always different in essence.
  • The next example refers to the juices collected by the honeybees from different trees and flowers, and when they stay mixed together in honey, the juices do not cognise their individual original sources. The example of the juices in the honey illustrates the point that just as the individual juices cannot cognise their separate  existence and origin, but ident­ify themselves with honey, the living creatures are unaware of their existence as distinct from the body, and identify themselves with the body. Though the soul indwells in the body along with a number of Abhimani devathas which are responsible for its final character­istics, it thinks that it is alone in the body and identifies itself with the body as its master. Till the soul realises it's distinctiveness from the body and that it is brought into creation by God along with others at His own will and pleasure, it cannot escape the cycle of births and deaths.
  • The next example quoted is that of rivers born out of the sea through the agency of rains, which flow eastwards and westwards and finally reach it again. They (Abhimani devatas) have their identity as rivers when they flow on land, but are unable to distin­guish themselves, as to where their bodies are in the sea. This example given by Uddha­laka, to cover  a doubt that the previous example of the juices not knowing their indi­vidual identity in honey is not really applicable to souls (like him) as they are insensate. The rivers know of their individual separate bodily existence only on land, but their separate physical body is not realised by them when it merges with the sea. Simi­larly the souls do not realise that they have come from God and are dependent on Him. This example will be superfluous if we consider it as referring only to the inert matter (water) and not the Abhimani devatas, as the previous example already covers such a case.
  • The next example is that of a living tree, pervaded by a soul. If the great tree is cut at the root or branch, it releases juices from the cut but continues to live, absorbing nutri­ent and water from the ground and enjoying life. It dies only when life abandons any part, in that particu­lar part like a branch. In this example the words Jiva and Aathma have been used, which are ordinarily used to denote the soul. Superficially therefore the example indicates that the tree or its parts like a branch etc do not die even by violence against it, until the soul abandons the respective part. The continued existence of the soul in the body is essentially dependent on the will of the Lord who resides in the body along with the soul itself and not on external fac­tors as is normally thought. This brings up the question naturally, as to why one is not aware of the lord dwelling in the body along with the soul.
  • The next example of the Nyagrodha tree explains this.  Shwe­thak­ethu was directed by his father to bring the fruit of the tree and asked to break it into its components. When asked what he saw, Shvethakethu replied that he saw atomic sized particles. He was again asked by his father to take one and divide it further, and asked what he saw. He replied that he could see nothing (as he had divided it into such small parts as to be invisible to the eye). The father explains that just as the mighty Nyagrodha tree comes up out of the invisible particles, the indwell­ing God who is responsible for the life and existence of the body is extremely small and invisible.
  • The next example quoted is that of the presence of dis­solved salt in the water. Uddhalaka gives some salt to his son and asks him to put it in water overnight. Next morning he asks him to bring the salt which was put in the water. Shweth­akethu answers that he is unable to see any of the salt which he had himself put. Then the father asks the son, to taste the water from different parts of the vessel, top, middle and bottom etc. Though the salt was tasted as being present throughout the body of the water it was not seen. Similar­ly, though the display of the Lord's power is seen all over, He Himself cannot be seen.
  • The next example is that of a man from Gandhara who has been robbed, blindfolded and left in a lonely forest far away from his own place by robbers. This example answers the question as to how one can realise the invisible God Illustrated previously. The victim turns in all directions and asks for help and release from bondage till he is released from the blindfold and directed towards the Gandhara country by a wellwisher (a Guru/teacher). As he proceeds in the correct direction, he asks others on the way and becomes more learned and intelligent in finding his way back. This example illustrates that the Avidya and bondage is not only responsible for our being lost in the forest far away from our natural habitat but we are spiritually blindfolded and are unable to see our away till a teacher releases us from this stage and points out the cor­rect direc­tion. Even after this we seek guidance and learn the right path from other teachers on the way and finally go back to our own place.
  • In the next example, the dependence of the soul on the lord in the human body is illustrated. In a dying man, the speech (vak) merges in the mind (manas), the mind in life (prana) and life in energy (tej­as), the reference in the example being to the Abhimani deva­thas of these entities rather than the inert entities them­selves, consciousness gradually is lost in different stages but the man still lives on till the final dissolution takes place, when the energising principle God leaves the body. The Upanishad very realisti­cally pictures the scene round the man in the death bed, when he is asked by the rela­tives surround­ing him, "Do you know me". He will know them and answer them till the dissolution as described above takes place.
  • In the next example, the father Uddhalaka is answering a question from his son Shvethakethu, as to what is the result of know­ing the all-pervasive Lord, who energises all living crea­tures. In this example a suspected thief is caught and sur­rounded by the king's servants, who ask him to hold a red hot axe in his bare hands. If he is not guilty of the theft, the axe will not burn his hand otherwise, he will be badly burnt and it will be proved that he is indeed guilty. Even in this example the doctrine of difference only is illustrated.

                        The examples of bird, support and the string, the juices of different trees in honey, the sea and the rivers, the life giving principle and the parts of the tree, the invisible seeds and the mighty Nyagrodha tree, the dissolved salt and the water, the abducted person and Gandhara country, the dying man and the controllers of the various faculties of the living body, and the thief and stolen goods show that these are all different in their very essence from each other. The Upani­shad assures that dire conse­quences will flow from our not realising the difference underlying all these, in the form of inferior births in Samsara or the world, such as tiger. lion, insects etc. Thus the Upanishad does not preach the doctrine of Abheda or oneness between the souls and God. It cannot also be construed that if one re-enters a house after coming out of it earlier, he can be assumed to have merged with the house.

            Madhva goes on to quote a passage from the Param­opa­nishath which points out that all the illustrations are exemp­lifying Difference between the two entities God and the soul who have widely different charac­teristics. God who is the energiser of the entire world is not easily seen, as He is extremely fine. Only those who realise this difference between the two are liberated. Shwethakethu having studied all the vedas for 12 years had attributed to himselfwith great pride and ego the qualities of God such as independent control of intellect, mind and senses. His father teaching him Identity with God in his essence would not be the corrective desired to cure him of his mental aberration. The very mention of the words "Mahamana, Anuchana­mani, and Sthabdha" by the Upanishad is with the specific purpose of not only bring­ing out the context but also to indicate the nature of the lesson.

In Nyayamrutha Pariccheda 2 and in the section under the heading “Tatvamasi Vakyarthah” Sri Vyasaraja points out that according to Advaita, both the words Thath and Thvam are not being used here to refer to their direct meanings – “It” and “You” – Iswara and the soul. They are to be interpreted taking the indirect (Lakshana) meanings namely that the attribute-less chethana or Brahman which appears falsely as transformed by the superimposed variants of Avidya (which is itself not real in the absolute sense) into appearing as Iswara and the soul is the same – which is the one only real entity in Advaita. In Dvaita, only one of the words Thath or Thvam is used with the indirect meaning – which is more appropriate. Thath is translated as Thath-sahacharyath – one which is eternally bound to it, or sheltered in it or that which is born from it etc. An example will be:“India” played – which refers to persons who hail from India. Similarly Thvam can be understood as the immanent spirit which has made “you” what you are.  Identity between the forms of the Supreme Being who is the origin, energiser and immanent spiritof Shwethakethu and the very same spirit which is behind every action and entity in the Universe is easy to accept for any Vedanta scholar – Ishavasyamidam Sarvam. Obviously use of Lakshana meanings are only resorted to, when there is seperate evidence which makes the adoption of the direct meaning impossible – Ex. Devadatta is a Lion – does not mean that the human Devadatta is also a Lion, but he is a strong and heroic warrior successful in many battles. We already know by our direct knowledge that he is a human being and not a lion. Hence, we have to consider that the word Lion used apparently as his identity in a direct sense must instead refer to some of the relevant similar qualities of Devadatta (not all qualities such as the number of legs etc and not an absolute identity either).. If one does not have such knowledge in advance, use of such Lakshana meaning becomes arbitrary without any real basis and one is left with no means to state in what manner the Lakshana (in this case similarity of qualities) is to be understood. When both the words are to be taken with Lakshana meanings, there have to be strong reasons for it (wherein the direct meanings need to be discarded as not applicable and the similarity of some qualities or some features are already known by some OTHER evidence). – and when a simpler alternative with only one word being used in Lakshana is possible fully supported by other evidentiary texts,it would be more appropriate to accept it. It is not for the interpreter to choose his own preferred version of meanings, but to follow what the original words really mean, with the basic principle of ensuring economy of his own assumptions being followed.The Identity speaking verb Asi can also be interpreted to show complete subordination of the soul to the Lord, close similarity in certain respects, close proximity of simultaneous existence, ascribing all the doings of the soul to the immanent Brahman (as he is the All-doer), Referring only to the immanent person instead of the pervaded locus  etc.  All these are fully supported by Shruthi and Smrithi texts which would need to be reconciled, if the Identity concept of Advaita is adopted as the true meaning of the Upanishad.  Vyasaraja analyses all the statements in the Upanishad including the illustrations critically to show that the padaccheda of Madhva as Atatvamasi is the right one and has quoted numerous authorities to support his conclusions.

It is sometimes alleged that Madhva changed the traditional wording of the Upanishad to suit his own system The extensive analysis available in Suthra Bhashya, Anuvyakhyana etc and its commentaries as well the detailed Bhashya of Chandogya show that Madhva has shown all possible interpretations of Tatvamasi as well – “Svathanthre cha Vishishtathve, Sthanamathyaikya, Sadrushya” etc. But taking the entire passage into detailed consideration and the circumstances of the teaching by a father to his dearest son, Madhva holds that the alternative Padaccheda of Atatvamasi also sanctioned by Grammar and with similar examples elsewhere would be the most appropriate. It is noteworthy that Madhva was the first philosopher who showed the disparity between the apparent simple statement of Identity by accepting the Tatvamasi reading and the detailed description of the Illustrations in the Upanishad itself, along with the manner in which certain words have been used to convey the real purport of Difference in the Upanishad and suggested that the grammatically correct alternative of Atatvamasi would be the answer to all the disparities. Considering the intricacy of the interpretations involved and the very fundamental nature of the issues – Advaita or Dvaita as well as the popular belief that this Upanishad is a strong evidence to support Advaita, it is not at all surprising that this could have been selected as a subject of a disputation between the two sides at a paramount level – Vidyaranya and Akshobhya Tirtha and the adoption of a third essentially neutral great scholar/adjudicator for the issues framed and the arguments offered in the form of Vedanta Deshikar was accepted by both sides. The shloka purporting to have been composed by him is clearly indicative of the circumstances as mentioned and its very construction seems to support the nature of the event (precluding its being falsely originated by Madhvas with low level collaboration of some Vishishtadvaita scholars, as alleged now).

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