Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The first disciple of Madhwacharya

He is universally regarded as the first disciple of Madhwacharya, the saint-philosopher who pioneered the Dwaitha concept. He is also the first Adwaitha scholar to have been converted to Dwaitha system by Madhwacharya himself.
He has several other distinctions as he is the first person ever to write commentaries on several works of Madhwacharya. He is also ranked as among the first to propound the Dwaitha Siddantha and the first Madhwa seer to ascend the Dwaitha peeta after Madhwacharya disappeared from view in Udupi.
He is also the first to enter Brindavana and the second after Madhwacharya to give deekshe to another Madhwa saint to found a new Madhwa matha. A high ranking minister in a kingdom in Andhra Pradesh which covered present day Godavari and surrounding areas, he was essentially a Telugu speaking Brahmin. But after accepting Madhwacharya as his guru, he spent all his life in Karnataka and spread the gospel of dualism throughout the State. 
On several occasions, he expounded the doctrines of the Vedas before a galaxy of scholars and among those in the audience was Madhwacharya himself. His commentaries on the many works of Madhwacharya, particularly the Bhashya, helped scholars and people of the times in understating the hidden meaning of the works.
These commentaries remained the only sources for people and scholars to interpret Madhwacharya till Jayatheertha or Teekacharya came up with his erudite interpretations and they supplanted the works by this seer.
This seer is none other than Padmanabha Theertha, one of the leading lights of the Dwaitha movement and a close disciple of Madhwacharya. He was born as Shobana Bhatta, an Adwaitha, and he took to Dwaitha when he was defeated in a debate by Madhwacharya himself.
Born in a small town on the banks of the Godavari, he quickly rose to become a minister on the Kingdom of Raja Mahendra. However, his place of birth near the Godavari is disputed by the renowned scholar BNK Sharma who says he was a Kannadiga.
BNK Sharma says Madhwacharya met Padmanabha Theertha, then called as Shobana Bhatta, when he was returning to Udupi from a pilgrimage to north India. This was sometime in 1265. Padmanabha Theertha was not only a leading scholar of his times but also an eminent logician. He was an expert in fourteen arts and he was silenced in fourteen seconds by Madhwacharya. References to this debate between Madhwacharya and Shobana Bhatta can be found in Madhwa Vijaya  by Narayana Panditacharya. This is a biography of Madhwacharya.
By the way, Hrikesha Theertha, another disciple of Madhwacharya talks of Padmanabha Theertha in his work, Sampradaya Paddathi, as “the teacher of good folk of Karnataka and others”. Another work, Gurukarya, clearly stats that he was a native of Uttara Kannada.
The reason why he is associated with a region close to Godavari is because of a reference in the Madhwa Vijaya by Trivikrama. It is in this work that Padmanabha Theertha is said to be a native of a country near Godavari.
Scholars and researchers say Padmanabha Theertha wrote 15 works but most of them are lost. He is also the author of commentaries on all the ten Prakaranas or the Dasa Prakaranas of Madhwacharya.
His Sannyayaratnavali is the precursor of Nyaya Sudha of Jayatheertha who has quoted from this work as has Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha in his Chandrika.
Jayatheertha in his Nyaya Sudha gratefully acknowledges his debt to Padmanabha Theertha by saying,

“Sa padmanAbhatIrthakhyagogaNostu dR^ishe mama
na tattva mArge gamanaM vinA yadupajeevanam.”

The Sannyayaratnavali is considered to be one of the biggest works of  Padmanabha Theertha and it runs into 5304 granthas.
Madhwa Matha sources place his period as the Mathadipathi for seven years. He handed over the reigns of the Dwaitha Matha to Narahari Theertha before entering Brindavana in Nava Brindavana near Hampi in 1325.
Padmanabha Theertha also handed over the reigns of a matha in Mulabagal near Kolar which he established to Lakshmidhara Theertha and this later came to be known as Sripadaraja Matha. This was sometime in 1324. The idol of Gopinatha that the matha has today was the one which Madhwacharya gave to Padmanabha Theertha who in turn handed it over to Lakshmidara Theertha.
Some of his works include Geetha Bhashya Teeka, Mayavada Khandana Teeka, Sattarka Deepavali, Tatvaviveka Teeka, Upadhi Khandana Teeka (Nyaayavali), Ananda Mala, Prapancha mityatvanumana Kandana Teeka, Katha Lakshana Teeka, Geetha Tatparya Nirnaya Teeka,  Tatvodyota Teeka, Tatvasankyana,  Teeka,  Pramanalakshana Teeka, Karmanirnaya Teeka,  
Vishnutatva nirnaya Teeka and Vayuleela vistarana.
The aradhana of  this great saint as held at Nava Brindavana on November 11.

There is a Mrithika Brindavana of Padmanabha Theertha in the Sripadaraja Matha in Mulabagal and also at the Vyasa Vittala temple near Rajarajeshwarinagar in Bangalore.  

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