Followed by Brahma Madhava Sampradaya : One of the 4 authenticated sampradayas

Acharya Madhva’s line of thought gave a new turn to the tradition of Indian philosophy. This has been called by the name “Tatvavada” in ancient works. In later times, when the unphilosophical trend emphasizing only conflict became prominent for recognizing Vedic schools of thought, this came to be called the “dvaita” or “dualistic school”.

Sriman Madhva was born around 1238 A.D., in a village called Pajaka, about eight miles southeast of the modern town of Udupi, in the Karnataka State. He lived for 79 years and preached Dvaita-vada  (Dualism).

Sriman Madhva evolved a dualistic system of Philosophy from the Prasthana-Traya Granthas . It is unqualified dualism.  Sriman Madhva made a study on “Pancha-Beda”, which is often named as “Atyanta Bheda Darsanam”. It is classified as five distinctions:

1. The distinction between Supreme and the individual soul

2. The distinction between Supreme and non living matter

3. The distinction between the individual soul and non living matter

4. The distinction between one individual soul and the other

5. The distinction between one material thing and another.

The Atyanta Bheda Darsanam has been further categorized as ‘Padartha’ or objective reality, i.e.

a. Independent (Svatantra)

b. Dependent (Paratantra)

The Svatantra is one who is independent in total – meaning God, The Supreme and the Reality. Whereas the ‘Soul’ (Jiva) and the ‘World’ (Jagat) are the dependents (Paratantra) of the Supreme. Hence God rules them. The Supreme is the Independent and cannot be further classified, whereas the dependents are further classified as Chetana and Achetana. The positive signs are the ‘Chetana’ (intellect) i.e. Conscious souls and ‘Achetana’ (ignorant – unawareness or unconscious) that of ‘matter and time’. Unconscious entities are either eternal like the Vedas or eternal and non-externals like ‘Prakriti, time and space’, or non-eternal like the products of ‘Prakriti’.

Before defining the unconscious entity, Sriman Madhvacharya explains about the Svatantra and Paratantra which is Nitya-Mukta i.e. eternally free from Samsara. In this study the ‘Svatantra’ is Maha Vishnu, Who is intelligent and Who is the Governor of the world and Whose Nitya-Mukta or the energy or power is Lakshmi. Vishnu can be realized through various group forms (Vyuhas) and Avataras (Divine incarnations). Likewise, the foremost ‘Paratantra’ is Lakshmi(Lakshmi is not jiva tattva ), the energy or power of Vishnu, Who is co-eternal and Who can assume various forms without a material body. She is not affected by pain or sorrow. Their sons are Brahma and Vaayu.

Note: Lakshmi is said to be paratantra as the theory of Madhava stresses on distinction  aspect only though similarity is not rejected directly . How lakshmi is not to confused with jiva tattva.

Prakriti (Pra = Supreme + Kriti = created/creation):-

It is believed in the philosophy of Sriman Madhva that Creation is different from Him. Based on this study he said that Vishnu is the efficient and the material or the cause of the world. God energizes Prakriti through Lakshmi and makes its evolution into the visible world. Prakriti is the material cause as all the objects, bodies and organs are made by Prakriti. The three aspects of Prakriti are presided over by the three powers – Lakshmi, Bhu (Saraswati – earth) and Durga. Avidya (ignorance) is also a form of Prakriti that hides the Supreme from the vision of the individual soul.

Sriman Madhva believed that the world made of Prakriti is not an illusion but a reality, distinct from God. It is not also a transformation of God as that of curd out of milk nor is it a body of God. Hence it is unqualified and absolute dualism.


Sriman Madhva accepted the classification of souls made by Srimad Ramanuja as:

a) Nitya – the Eternal (like Lakshmi)

b) Mukta or jiva already liberated (after performing bhakti)

c) Baddha or bound ones(not yet liberated )

Sriman Madhva added two more to these: Those who are eligible and not so eligible for Moksha

(i) The completely surrendered ones, even though Baddha are eligible for Moksha.

(ii) Those who are not eligible for salvation are classified as

(a) Nitya-Sansarins i.e bound by the cycle of Samsara and

(b) Those whose destiny is hell – the region of blinding darkness (Tamoyogya).

Based on this classification the individual soul (Jiva), a distinct entity becomes plurality of souls. It is believed, as based on the classification, no two jivas are alike in character. As soul (Jiva) is different from God and matter (Prakriti), it depends on God for guidance. The Lord impels the Jivas to action in accordance with their previous conduct. Because of the past deeds the Jiva has to undergo sufferings and pains by which its impurities are removed, it attains salvation and skips the cycle of life and death and enjoys the blissful and true nature of a Jiva. Although the Jivas are graded and the classes of souls in the realm of bliss are various, as such there is no discord among them as they are aware of Brahman and have no faults. But the soul does not attain equality with God. They are entitled only to serve the Lord. Through nine types of devotion {Nava vidana bakthi} souls attain salvation with the grace of God.


He took a stand different from Sri Sri Shankara on Brahman and constituted nine most famous statements (Prameyas).

The Shloka that lays out the nine prameyas is

SrIman Madhvamate

harih paratarah, satyam jagat, tattvatho bhedho jIvagaNA, hareranucarA, nIchoccabhAvam gatAh |

muktir naijasukhAnubhUtir, amalA bhaktih tatsAdhanam, hyakshrAdi tritayam pramANam, akhilAmnAyaikavedyo harih ||

1) Harih Paratarah

Hari is the Supreme Lord and there is none superior to Hari. Hari is the One and Only Independent Reality.

2) Satyam Jagat

The world is real. According to Sriman Madhva the reality is very much that we live in this world which is not a dream . In context to Sri Sri Shankara calling this materialistic world as a dream, Sriman Madhva says that we are not yet awakened from the dream to say that this is a dream. Hence what is happening at this moment is to be considered as real .

3) Tattvatho Bhedho Jivagana

Difference in beings according to their virtues. Every follower of the Madhva school firm believe in the Pancha-bheda—five real and eternal distinctions— Atyanta Bheda Darsanam or Pancha-bheda:

A) Jiveshvara bheda

The difference between Supreme Being and the Individual Soul {God and Living things}

B) Jadeshvara bheda

The difference between Supreme Being and the Non Living Matter {God and Things}

C) Jiva-Jiva bheda

The difference between two individual Soul. Within the category of trees there are apple trees and there are lemon trees. {If this has been misinterpreted for division in caste then it is NOT the mistake of the Acharya. It may be the difference of two individuals of same family also like two brothers having common parents}

D) Jada-Jiiva-bheda

The difference between individual Soul and Non Living Matter {There is the category of trees and there is the category of hills. Trees and hills belong to different categories.}

E) Jada- Jada bheda

The difference between Non Living Matter. Within the category of books there are religious books and there are friction books.

4) Hareranucaraha

Having talked about difference due to distinction, Sriman Madhva concludes all are followers and servants of Hari.

5) Nichoccabhavam Gataha

There is gradation among the beings. Some are superior; some are inferior. The law of karma at work. Because of their past karma, there are differences or gradations, taratamya among jivas. We have ripe apples as well as row apples in a basket. If this gradation were not to be there we would not have sentenced a criminal to jail.

6) Muktir Naijasukhanubhutih

Moksha is the realization of innate happiness of the self. Ones life has a worthy meaning if it has mukthi (salvation).

7) Amala Bhaktih Tatsadhanam

The means of achieving moksha is uncontaminated and unconditional Bhakti (devotion). Here Sriman Madhva emphasizes on Bhakti alone. There is no mention of Jnana (knowledge).

8) Hyakshsraditritayam Pramanam

Sriman Madhva while talking of mukthi says it can be achieved through Bhakti alone. Bhakti towards Hari and the jnana (Knowing about Hari) is already available through perception, inference, and scriptural testimony, ie. Pratyaksha, Anumana, and Sabda.

Pratyaksha (perception):

There are jivatmas who have got the vision of the Supreme at some point of time. Like as we could let us say see “Fire”.

Anumana (inference):

Some times at the circumstantial evidence we have got to conclude the presence of the Supreme. Like if there is smoke on a hill we conclude that there must be fire at the bottom of the smoke. Even though fire is not visible from the foot of the hill. Let us suppose there is water in a vessel we immediately conclude it to be hot by seeing the vapors. The earth is rotating on its own axis; there must be some power to spin this huge ball. What is that power which makes this earth rotate?

Sabda (sound from Sruthis):

The testimony of the scripture. This is same as Srimad Ramanuja felt that the destiny has proclaimed at the crown of the all scriptures that Vishnu  is the Para Brahman.

9) Akhilamnayaikavedyo Harih

Hari, and Hari alone, is praised in all the scriptures.


Basic doctrine :

Sriman Madhva has hypothesized (based on Vedic texts and Yukti) that souls are eternal and not created  by God, as in the Semitic religions. Souls depend on God for their very “being” and “becoming.” Sriman Madhva has compared this relationship of God with souls to the relationship between a source (Bimba) and its reflection (Pratibimba).

Madhava  divides souls into three classes, one class which qualify for liberation, Mukti-yogyas, another subject to eternal rebirth or eternally transmigrating due to samsara, Nitya-samsarins, and significantly, a class that is eventually condemned to eternal hell or Andhatamas, known as Tamo-yogyas.

Sriman Madhva followers cite authorities such as Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 17, verses 2. “There are three types of inclination, which are the self-same natures of the souls, these being satvika, rajasa, and tamasa,”
Chapter 16, verses 19-20, “These cruel haters, worst among men in the world, I hurl these evil-doers into the wombs of demons only. Entering into demoniacal wombs and deluded, birth after birth, not attaining me, they thus fall, Oh Arjuna, into a condition still lower than that,” for their concept of eternal damnation.

Sriman Madhva was the second after Srimad Ramanuja in the recent years who revived the timeless Vaishnava tradition. There were 21 different Bashayas (commentaries) before Sriman Madhva. He was the first to establish the facts of trio-patriate classification of souls. By contrast, most Hindus believe that souls will eventually obtain moksha, even after millions of rebirths.

The Supreme Being is Vishnu or Narayana. He is the personal first cause. He is the Intelligent Governor of the world. He lives in Vaikuntha along with Lakshmi, His consort. He and His consort Lakshmi are real. Brahma and Vayu are two of His sons. One can know His nature through the study of the Vedas. He manifests Himself through various Vyuhas or group-forms, and through Avataras (divine incarnations). He is present in the sacred images. He is also the Antaryamin or the Inner Controller of all souls. He creates, maintains and destroys the world.

God is free from Doshas or faults. He is endowed with all auspicious qualities. He is omnipresent or all-pervading and independent. He is beyond time and space. He is greater than Lakshmi. There is no other who is greater than Lakshmi. She is the foremost of the dependents on Lord(Lakshmi is not jiva tattva). Lakshmi is the Lord’s Sakti or energy. She is the personification of His power or creative energy. Lakshmi can put on various forms without a material body. She is co-eternal with Vishnu and all-pervading. She beholds the glory of Her Lord through eternity. She is Nitya-Mukta, i.e., eternally free from Samsara. She is not affected by sorrow and pain. She is intelligent.

Sriman Madhva espoused a Vaishnava theology that understands Brahman to be endowed with attributes and a personal God, Vishnu. By Brahman, he referred to Vishnu, as per his statement “brahmashabdashcha vishhnaveva” that Brahman can only refer to Vishnu. Sriman Madhva states that Vishnu is not just any other deity, but is rather the singular, all-important and supreme one. Vishnu is always the primary object of worship, and all others are regarded as subordinate to Him. The deities and other sentient beings are graded among themselves, with Vayu, the god of life, being the highest, and Vishnu is eternally above them.

While each thing is unique, Dvaita philosophy notes five categories of difference (Bheda):

Between the Lord (Isvara) and the self (Jivatman)
Between innumerable selves
Between the Lord and matter (Prakriti)
Between the self and matter
Between phenomena within matter
Despite these differences, there exists a clear and distinct relationship:

Under Dwaita Vedanta (Tattvavada), the soul upon liberation does not lose his distinct identity, which is different from Vishnu, nor does he become equal to Him in any respect. While the mukta does become free of all suffering, his enjoyment is not of the same caliber as His, nor does said mukta become independent of Him.

The mukta experiences the joy which is his own nature, in mukti; whereas in daily life, joy derives from the contact of senses with sense-objects and is therefore transitory and mixed with suffering (which is also caused by the contact of senses with sense-objects), joy in mukti is due to the jiva’s own immutable nature. And because such joy is the jiva’s own nature, it does not fluctuate or end, and it is not mixed with pain. Since the nature of the jiva is different from that of Ishvara, his joy is also of a different nature than His, even upon mukti. Even the joy which is intrinsic to the nature of the jiva can only be realised due to the grace of the Supreme being.

Because a mukta, or liberated person, should not even be physically present in the material universe(He goes to the abode of Lord), unlike the un-liberated. A person who is living in the world cannot be said to be free of sorrow born of material contact, and also cannot be said to experience the joy of his own nature at all times. The very act of living in a gross material body entails things such as eating, sleeping, pleasure and pain, etc., which cannot be accepted in a mukta.


Sadhana Marga :

Srimadacharya’s injunctions for the right procedures to followed in a day from morning to night by a Vaishnava is detailed by him in his work sadacharasmruti .  A Vaishnava should, as soon as he wakes up pray to Lord Vishnu, and at the close of the day, before retiring to bed, should pray to the Lord.  In between ,he should observe austere practices. The procedure for washing the teeth, taking bath (preferably in a river or natural source of water) by reciting ‘purusha sukta’,’Aghamarshana sukta’ etc. have been clearly stated in this work. Then follows ‘sandhyavandana’, ‘pooja’ , taking food,study,teaching,rest,evening pooja etc. which have all been clearly stated for the guidance of his followers  by Srimadacharya in simple language in about forty slokas. If anyone is fortunate to be able follow the procedures and ausreities stated in this work, he shall be following Srimadachaya’s exhortation in the ‘dvadasastotra’-  SANTATAM CHINTAYET ANANTAM ANTAKALE VISHESHATAH, and that is the duty of a true Vaishnava.

Kuru bhuksva cha karma nijam niyatam
Hari pada vinamradaya satatam
Harireva paro Harireva gurur
Harireva jagat pitrmatr gatihi.
Tadalam bahuloka vichintanaya
Paravanam kuru manasa misa pade  -Acharya Madhva in Dvadasha-stotra

“Do your duty without any desire as worship to the lotus feet of Lord Sri Hari. Sri Hari is the sustainer, He is teacher, He is the father and mother of this whole world. Stop the worldly cares which are endless, Pin thy mind at the Lord’s feet boundless!”


Similarity of Madhava’s teachings and the teachings of Sri Krishna Chaitanya mahaprabhu

Sri Madhva Acarya has established bhakti as we see from his Sutra-bhasya (3.3.53): bhaktir evainam nayati bhaktir evainam darsayati bhaktivasah puruso bhaktir eva bhuyasi iti matharasrutah.

In sutra 3.3.45 he writes, varahe ca  guru-prasado balavanna tasmad valavattaram/ tathapi sravanadis ca karttavayo moksa-siddhaye:

The mercy of Sri Gurudeva is more powerful than anything else for attaining the perfection of liberation in the form of service to Visnu’s lotus feet. Yet it is still more necessary in engagement in the limbs of sadhana-bhakti such as sravana and kirtana.

In his text Mahabharata-tatparya-nirnaya (Defining the Purport of Mahabharata) the position of bhakti is seen throughout: sneho bhaktir iti proktastaya muktir na canyatha (1.105) and bhaktyaiva tusyati harih pravanatvam eva (2.59). there are other references also .

In the Madhva Sampradaya, love of Bhagavan is the only sadhya. Although Sriman Madhva Acarya has accepted moksa as the goal in some places, his definition of moksa is, visnav-anghri labhah mukti: “Liberation is the attainment of service to the lotus feet of Visnu.”

Thus, the Sri Madhva Sampradaya accepts the definition of mukti spoken by Srimad-Bhagavatam, muktir hitvanyatha rupam svarupena vyavasthitih: “The jiva carries the conception of I and mine arising from the gross and subtle designations which are accomplished by the action of maya. Mukti means to be released from this false identity and to be established in rendering loving service to Bhagavan in one’s pure constitutional form.

Madhva Acarya’s mukti is not the sayujya (merging with Brahman) spoken of by Sankara. Rather, it is based on love of Bhagavan. Nowhere has he accepted sayujya in the form of the oneness of Brahman and jiva. On the contrary, he has refuted it in every way. Madhva is well known as a bheda-vadi because he accepts the jiva and Brahman as being different both in the stage of bondage and of liberation “abhedah sarva-rupesu jivabhedah sadaiva hi”

Although Sriman Madhva emphasises bheda (difference), he does not at all disregard srutis which indicate abheda (non-difference); instead he has accepted their compatibility.

In other words, we find a hint of the acceptance of acintya-bhedabheda, as Srila Jiva Goswami has suggested in his Sandharbha literature. According to Vedanta-sutra, “sakti saktimator abhedah:” The potency and the potent are not different. An indication of acintya-bhedabheda is found in a statement of Brahma-tarka which Sri Madhva supported.

visesasya visistasyapy abhedas tadvad eva tu
sarvam ca cintya-saktitvad yujyate paramesvare
tac chaktyaiva tu jivesu cid-rupa-prakrtavapi
bhedabhedau tad-anyatra hy ubhayor api darsanat (Brahma-tarka)

Thus there is no particular difference between Madhva Acarya and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu regarding sadhya and sadhana. Whatever slight difference is evident is only mutual vaisistya (specific distinction).

There is a very specific similarity between the Madhva and Gaudiya Sampradayas. The sannyasis presiding over the eight mathas of the tattva-vadis in Udupi perform bhajana in the mood of the gopis under the guidance of Sri Krsna’s eight beloved nayikas (heroines) in Vraja.

On this subject, Sri Padmanabhacari, the author of Sri Madhva Acarya’s biography, has written, “The monks who take charge of Sri Krsna in rotation are so many gopis of Vrndavana who moved with and loved Sri Krsna with an indescribable intensity of feeling, and are taking rebirths now for the privilege of worshipping Him” (Life and Teachings of Sri Madhva Acarya by C.M. Padmanabhacari, Chapter XII, page 145).

Even today, the service of Yasodanandana Nrtya-Gopala is seen in the prominent matha in Udupi. Srila Madhva Acarya has praised his istadeva Nartaka Gopala Sri Krsna in this way in the fifth verse, chapter six of his Dvadasa stotram.

devakinandana nanda-kumara vrndavananjana gokulacandra kandaphalasana sundara-rupa nanditagokula vanditapada

Similarly, in the Sri Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya, service to Sri Krsna under the guidance of the gopis has been ascertained as the sadhya in the writings of Srila Rupa, Sanatana, Raghunatha, Krsnadasa Kaviraja Gosvami and others.

Though the followers of Madhavacharya considers Sri Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu like Sri Sampradaya . However Nimbarka Sampradaya , Rudra sampradaya and Brahma Madhava Gaudiya Sampradaya accept Sri Krishna as purnatam Bhagavan.Similar is the faith of Ramanandi sampradaya, a sub branch of Sri sampradaya who worship Lord Rama as the absolute truth.

From the view of material people it might appear as a fight between sampradaya or thinking about the crediblity of the acaryas but it is not so.It is for establishing the faith of the followers of that particular sampradaya.   These 4 sampradayas are authentic and accepting any of these teachings and initiation from them will lead one to the Spiritual planets after liberation .There is no difference between different forms of Vishnu tattva though the abodes may differ like Vaikuntha , Ayodhya, Mathura , Dwaraka , Goloka.

References :



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