Sri Madhvacharya was born in the year 1238 A.D, on the Vijayadashami day of the month of Aswayuja in a village about three miles from Udupi in South Canara. His father was a pious brahmin belonging to Bhagavata Sampradaya and a pauranic by profession. Sri Madhvacharya was born at a late period in his father’s life after constant prayer and dedication of vows to Ananteswara in Udipi.
Madhyageha Bhatta, the father, was therefore happy and proud in no ordinary degree in his son whom he christened Vasudeva. Boy Vasudeva was very precocious and his father taught him the three Rs in the privacy of his house. Not even had the boy attained his teens, when he felt an inner urge he could not resist, to taking to the holy orders and took sanyasa under Achutaprekshacharya in Udipi.
Achutaprekshacharya had been brought up in the then current Adwaita school of thought but the philosophy of that school did not appeal to the new sanyasi. Achutaprekshacharya was somewhat displeased with his new disciple but he was however very much impressed with the earnestness, and scholarship of his disciple whom he had named as Purnaprajna. Purnaprajna thereupon began to preach his own philosophy according to which the world is real, the individual souls are different from Brahman, and Vishnu is the Highest Entity in the universe. Many a pandit and scholar of other schools came to him for debate and went back defeated by his keen and irrefutable logic. Purnaprajna, in order to propagate his faith undertook a pilgrimage to various shrines in South India and the pilgrimage was also an opportunity to meet opponents of other schools in the different places. Immediately after he returned from the pilgrimage Purnaprajna wrote the commentary on BhagavadGita. The Gita Bhashya (commentary on the Gita ) is the first work of the Acharya.
Seven years after he took to holy orders Purnaprajna commenced a pilgrimage to the North where he touched Benares, Allahabad, Dwaraka, Delhi and other places and reached the famous Badrikshetra. He composed the Brahmasutra Bhashya at this place and went further North alone, all by himself, to the depths of Himalayas, where Sri Vedavyasa is said to have his abode.. On his return journey Purnaprajna came to the banks of Godavari and had debates with two eminent and scholarly pandits Sobhana Bhatta and Samasastry belonging to Adwaita school.
The Pandits were defeated in the debate and with the conviction of the truth of the school of philosophy expounded by Purnaprajna, both of them became his disciples taking up Sanyasa. Shobana Bhatta became the famous Padmanabhatirtha who succeeded to the pontifical seat of Purnaprajnacharya. Samasastry became Narahari Thirtha and at the behest of the acharya stayed behind to obtain the images of Mula Rama and Sita from the treasury of the local prince. Padmanabha Tirtha followed his master and was greatly devoted to him.
After his return to Udipi Purnapragna began to write various works establishing the new system of philosophy which has come to be called Dwaitasiddhanta. The cardinal point which distinguishes his system from others is the essential difference between Brahman who is Independent and all else which are dependent. This system has therefore come t be called Dwaitasiddhanta (the philosophy of Basic difference), Purnaprajnacharya declares himself at the end of many of his works to be an avatar of the Wind God Vayu and says that his avatar as Purnaprajna has been foretold in the srutis where he has been called Madhva. Purnapragnacharya is therefore popularly known as Sri Madhvacharya. The Acharya founded the Sri Krishna temple at Udipi and established eight mutts, the sanyasis of which has to worship the image by rotation. The system of rotation has continued until the present da at Udipi. Sri Madhva wrote commentaries or Bhashyas on the ten principal Upanishads, the special treatises called Prakaranas ten in number, the Gita Tatparya and other works during this period.
Sri Madhvacharya under took the second tour to the north again. He met Jalaluddin Khilji at Delhi and seems to have conversed with him in Urdu. After returning from North he spent the rest of his life in Udipi occasionally visiting a place called Vishnumangala near Udipi. During one of his visits to Vishnumangala he had to meet a reputed champion of the Adwaita school by name
Trivikramapanditacharya. The debate between them seems to have extended to fifteen days and covered all the different systems of philosophy like the Bauddha, Sankhya, Nyaya and Adwaita.
In the end Trivikramapanditacharya has to admit defeat. He was very much impressed with the Acharya and became his disciple having renounced Adwaita and accepting the Dvaita sidhanta. The conversion of Pandita Trivikrama was a great moral victory for the Acharya and many were the new adherents to his system. Trivikrama Panditacharya became so devoted the Acharya He wrote the commentary known as Tatvapradipa on the Brahmasutra Bhashya of Sri Madhwacharya. At his request Sri Madhvacharya wrote a metrical commentary on the Brahmasutras which is famous as Anuvyakhyana.
Sri Madhvacharya had many disciples belonging to the Sanyasa ashrama and many disciples who were house holders. He vanished from the sight of men in his eightieth year in the month of Magha on the 9th day of the bright fortnight while he was teaching the Aitareya Upanishad Bhashya to his disciples. A shower of flowers is said to have rained on him and he vanished from the sight of men in the shower of flowers.
Sri Madhvacharya has written in all thirty seven works. and they are collectively called Sarvamula. Four of his works are on Brahmasutras, two on Bhagavad Gita, ten are the commentaries on ten Upanishads, one on the Mahabharata and one on the Bhagavata in order to determine their import and ten are the prakaranas. The Rigbhashya is a commentary on the Rigveda (for a few typical Riks). Seven of his works are of the Stotra type. Nobody can fail to be impressed by his works. His method is very brief and simple. His logic is infallible and energetic. The depth of his scholarship is seen in the profuse ness range and variety of quotations from various religious texts. His familiarity with the Upanishadic, puranic, tantric and other literature is in ample evidence in all his works. He is singularly free from the use of alankaraprayoga and he is very matter of fact in all his arguments.
The Brahmasutra Bhshya of the Acharya possesses in full measure the characteristics a Bhashya should possess. (A words in which the meaning of the sutras is explained by words similar to those in the sutras and in which the author explains his own words is called a Bhashya.) Accordingly the Brahmasutra Bhashya of the Acharya of Sri Madhvacharya is a very brief and precise composition in contrast with the Bhashyas of the Acharyas of the other systems. Sri Madhvacharya however reserves polemical treatment of the Brahmasutras to be effective in Anuvyakhyana. The commentaries on the Upanishads are peculiar and philosophical hosts in themselves. Sri Madhvacharya invariably quotes appropriate puranic and Vedic literature and samhitas with purport to to explain the Upanishadic passages.
The direct disciples of Sri Madhvacharya, viz. Padmanabha Tirtha, Narahari Tirtha, Trivikramapanditacharya and others have written commentaries on his works. These are called Prachina tikas. They were followed by the brilliant commentaries of Jayatirtha who is famous as Tikacharya. Jayathirtha has written commentaries on almost all the works of Sri Madhvacharya. In particular the commentary on Anuvyakhyana called “Nyayasudha” is famous as a commentary of the highest merit. The works of Jayathirtha have been commented upon by many later scholars of whom Vyasarja and Raghavendra Tirtha are well known.
Sri Hari Sarvothama Vayu Jivothama