The criterion of reality according to Madhva is that it should be unsuperimposed (‘anaropitam’) and given as an object of valid knowledge, as existing at some point of time and in some place. These two ideas are complementary and are implicit in Madhva’ s definition of Reality (‘tattvam’) given by him as ‘prameyam’. Reality in the ordinary sense of the term may consist in one or more of the three aspects of existence, consciousness and activity.

Though existence is thus ‘reality’, Madhva recognizes that its highest expression must be metaphysical independence of every other form of existence in finite reality, in respect of its being, powers and activity. Everything in finite reality is therefor e grounded in the Independent Reality, known as Brahman and needs it for its being and becoming.

While existence in space and time is thus reality and is possessed by the world of matter and souls, there must be something more than mere existence, having metaphysical independence or substantiality in its own right which may be designated as the hig hest real or the philisophical Absolute which would be the ultimate expression of all else. Such independent reality should be immanent in the universe, whence the latter could derive and draw its sustenance. Without presupposing such a basic and transcen dental reality that would have to be immanent in the world, there would be chaos and disorder in the universe.

However, Madhva’s chief ontological classification of ‘being’ is into principles viz. ‘svatantra’ (Independent Reality) and ‘paratantra’ (Dependent Reality). The term ‘Reality’ represents three primary data: the thinking self, a world of external realiti es and indications of an Infinite Power rising above them.

In Madhva’s conclusions of Dvaita metaphysics reached by the evidence of ‘pratyaksa’ ‘anumana’ and ‘sabda pramana’ this infinite power is that Supreme and Independent Principle which does not depend on any other for its own nature and existence, self-awa reness or for becoming an object of knowledge to the thinking selves for the free and unfettered exercise of its own powers. This ‘svatantra-tattva’ (independent principle) is called God or ‘Brahman’or ‘Isvara’. Though Brahman can do very well without pra krti or purusa (Dependent Realities), it prefers, in its infinite glory and inexorable will, ‘to do with them’. Such dependence (apeksa) of Brahman on things which are in themselves dependent on It, is no mark of inferiority or limitation.

The dependence of the world of matter and the souls on Brahman is in the sense that both are functioning at His will, which is the essential condition and sustaining principle that invests them with their reality and without which they would be but void names and bare possibilities. The dependent reals (as Madhva admits the plurality of the selves), by their very nature, can have no absolute or unlimited jurisdiction over one another and are distinct from Brahman. The individual souls and their material enviornment are not independent. Madhva brings these eternal and uncreated substances under the power of Supreme Being i.e., God as ‘svatantra’, occupies the central position, with existent realities like matter and souls keeping their legitimate position under Him. Thus ‘svatantra’ and ‘paratantra’ are the fundamental presuppositions of Madhva’s philosophy which aim at understanding the metaphysical dependence of all finite reality comprising the ‘cetana’ and ‘acetana’ world upon One Infinite, Indepenten t Reality. Here Madhva points out that we have no right to deny reality to the world of matter and souls, simply because they are not independentor do not always exist in the same form. But they are there, have been there and will be there though ever cha nging and depending on Brahman.

Sri Madhva puts forward the idea of ‘bimba-pratibimbabhava’ (Original and Reflection) to illustrate the true nature of the relationship between ‘svatantra’ and ‘paratantra’. The relationship of these two is of unilateral dependence of all finite reality on the Independent principle, for its existence, knowledge, knowability, and activity (‘satta’, ‘pratiti’, and ‘pravrtti’). The relationship is not unreal or reciprocal dependence rather the world cannot exist without God as it owes its very power of exis tence, functioning etc., to God and derives them from Him. The (symbolic) relation of bimbapratibimbabhava as conceived by Madhva would be permanent and true of all states of the jivatman and not merely as passing one, true of samsara alone. There will be no destruction of the pratibimba so long as the contact of upadhi is intact. The function of an upadhi (medium) is to manifest the pratibimba. In the present case, it is the pristine nature of the ‘jivasvarupa’ itself as ‘cit’ that would suffice, accordi ng to Madhva, to manifest itself to itself in its true nature of metaphysical dependence on Brahman and of being endowed with a measure of similarity of attributes (as part of the meaning ofthe word (‘pratibimba’) with its Original (Brahman) without calli ng to aid the services of any external medium (‘bahyopadhi’).

Doctorine of Difference:

It shown that matter, souls and God constitute the three major realities of Madhva’s system. The number of souls is unlimited and the modifications of matter are numerous, in various states. These three are conceived as distinct entities. The reality of God is of the independent grade. That of the rest is depedent. Between matter and souls, the former is of a lesser grade of reality. It is only in this sense that the ‘degrees’ of reality is explained in this system. The reality of things is space and tim e involves the differences in name, form, attributes, relations, and tendencies. These manifold differences are generally classified under these heads: (1) sajatiya or difference of one thing from others of its own kind, (2) vijatiya or difference from th ose of another kind, and (3) svagata or internal distinctions within “an organic whole”. The last one is notadmitted by Madhva in its absolute sense. In the sphere of other two differences he has given a scheme of “five-fold difference” (‘Pancabheda’)

(1) the distinction between Isvara and jiva (2) the distinction between Isvara and jada (prakrti) (3) the distinction among the jivas (4) the distinction between the jiva and the jada (5) the distinction among the jadas i.e, distinction between one inanimate object and another.

This fivefold difference is collectively spoken of by Madhva as “pra-panca”. It is real and eternal.

Epistimology (The theory of pramana):

As the philosophical enquiry aims at acquiring information regarding Reality, of which definite and valid knowledge is possible, all our experience of truth (reality) has to be ascertained on the basis of some objective standards by which they are judged . Because human experience being at times vitiated by illusions, it becomes necessary to define truth in experience so as to enable us to distinguish it from the false. Epistimology deals with an investigation into the means of such valid knowledge viz., the quest for an ultimate basis of certainty of all experience and knowledge.

The philosophical inquiry is the testing of truth in the light of proofs.

Madhva accepts in his theory of knowledge three pramanas or means of valid knowledge. “A pramana is what comprehends an object of knowledge as it is” or is the means of such comprehension. pramana, according to Madhva, is not merely the means of correct knowledge but “truth” itself. He defines pramana, compactly and comprehensively as `yathartham’. This definition covers both valid knowledge and the means thereof.

There are three means of valid knowldege: prathyaksa, anumana, and sabda.

Pratyaksa or sense perception is defined as the knowledge produced by the right type of contact (‘sannikarsa’) between “flawless” sense organs and their appropriate objects.

Flawless reasoning is defined as anumana. Inference is based on the rememberance of vyapti (concomittance) between hetu (probans) and sadhya (probandum).

Flawless word, conveying valid sense, is “agama” or sabda. This sabdapramana is divided into pauruseya and apauruseya. The Vedic literature is regardes as ‘apauruseya’ and the smritis, Puranas and other works based on Vedic authority are accepted as pau ruseya agama.

The term flawlessness (‘nirdosatva’) applies to every pramana. It refers to specific conditions under which alone the pramanas become valid means of knowledge. In the case of pratyaksa, the right kind of rapprochement between the sense-organs and the obj ect as well as other conditions of suitable distance, angle of observation, adequate light and so on are meant to be conveyed by the term ‘nirdosa’. These conditions are applicable to the object, the sense organs and their contact as well. Perception beco mes faulty through excessive remoteness, nearness or smallness of objects or of intervening obstructions or being mixed up with things similar or through being over shadowed by them. Knowledge, arising when all these conditions of flawlessness are fulfill ed, is bound to be true and valid: ‘yathartham’.

Other pramanas like ‘arthapatti’ (presumption) which shows a way out in cases of apparent conflict between two facts (for eg., given that Mr. X is alive, if he is not at home, he must be presumed to be out somewhere), upamana, a means of establishing sim ilarity between two things, anupalabdhi (non-apprehension) is a means by which non-existence of an object is known etc. are not considered as seperate pramana but brought under inference, perception, or verbal testimony, according to the conditions of each case.

Memory is admitted as a pramana or souce of valid knowledge, by Madhva. He brings memory under pratyaksa and considers it as a direct perception by the mind (‘manasa-prathyaksa’). Its validity cannot, he says, be treated as merely inferential. Memory is defined as the direct apprehensions of mind penetrating into past.

The Theory of Validity:

Pramanas give rise to valid knowledge of things “as they are in fact”. Validity is genrally defined in terms of corespondence with objective reality. Thus ‘pramana’ means ‘yathartham’; or what comprehends a thing as it is. Knowledge carries its own proof.

The Theory of Saksi:

Though Madhva accepts that validity is intrinsic to pramana, defined as ‘yathartham’, he does not rule out the possibility of error in experience. Under ideal conditions, error will have no chance. But the actual conditions of life being what they are, e rror cannot altogether be eliminated.

Sense organs (being materially constituted), when vitiated by flaws, give rise to invalid knowledge or misapprehension of knowledge. Our experience shows that we do not become convinced of the validity of every kind of knowlege that comes to us through t he sensory and mental channels (‘vrtti-jnana’) and which are also at times open to error. As knowledge, by itself, is ‘jada’ (insentient) as a modification of the ‘antahkarana’ and therefore incapable of self-revelation, the necessity of some other princi ple by which the knowledge itself and its validity could be intuited, should be admitted. Such a principle is ‘saksi’ or ‘svarupendriya’ of the “knowing Self”, which being ‘Caitanyarupa’ (conscious by nature) is capable of being both ‘svaprakasaka’ and ‘p araprakasaka’. Both knowledge and its validity are, thus grasped by the saksi, in the ultimate analysis. The fact that some of our apprehensions are found to be correct and others erroneous could only be explained on the basis of the acceptance of saksi. Saksi (truth-determining principle) is equipped with an inherent capacity to know the true from the false. The verdict of saksi is flawless and must be regarded as true and valid for all time, because the perception and judgements of the saksi are of the essence of pure consciousness and therefore self-luminous and flawless in regard to their nature and content of validity. In other words, the validity of knowledge is, like the fact of knowledge, apprehended by saksi itself, directly. Madhva establishes t he infalliability of saksi in respect of its judjements of validity. If, however the direct experiences of the saksi are proved to have been illusory experiences, either by scripture or by some sort of transcendental perception, later it would simply mean that the saksi has been mistaken in its earlier judgment about their factual reality.

Thus Madhva makes two points (1) that in all cases of knowledge, the fact of the knowledge is established not by the knowledge itself; but by the evidence of saksi. The reason for this is that all vrtti-jnana (mental and sensory) is material i.e., insent ient in sessence and has no power to reveal its own existece.; (2) that such vrtti-jnana can by no means, manifest its own “validity to itself”. Therefore it necessitates a non-material form of knowledge to do this. Here is where saksi comes into picture, which is not something other than the Atman. saksi in Madhva’s epistemology, is the name of the spiritual sense organ (‘svarupendriya’) of the Self through which it intuits its experiences. The saksi, as an instrument of knowledge and validation is not s omething extraneous to the knowing self or pramata. The distinction of saksi into ‘svarupa’ and ‘indriya” (self and organ) is only one of reference and not of essence.

Madhva thus postulates a new principle of truth-determination in epistemology in the form saksi, as the the ultimate criterion of truth which is infalliable and intrinsically valid. Its reasons are:

(1) that it alone can be the ultimate guarantor of the validity of all pramanas, (2) that is the logical fulfilment and culmination of any really really self-complete theory of knowledge, and (3) that it is the only means of intuitive perception of certain supersensuous categories like Time, Space, the nature of self and its attributes, the mind and its modes, all knowledge of pleasures and pain, etc.

The Concept of Visesas:

This deals with the problem of the relation betaween substance and attribute. Madhva contributes the idea – the concept of visesas – to the treatment of this philosophical problem. He accepts a relation of ‘colourful identity’ (‘savisesabheda’) in respec t of coessential attributes and difference-cum-identity (‘bhedabheda’) in the case of transient attributes.

He made a stiking effort to rise above the ‘dualism’ of substance and attribures and combine them into a homogeneous whole that admits, however, of logical, conceptual and linguistic distinction, wherever necessary, through the self differentiating capac ity of substances themselves, to be known as “visesas” or relative particulars.

These visesas are ubiquitious and are not confined to material substances. They exist among sentients as well, including the Supreme Being. In sentient beings, these visesas, whether manifested or not, are identical with their substrata; while in regard to insentients, attributes which are co-eval would be identical with the substances (and distinguishable by visesas); while changing or impermanent ones would be different-cum-identical with their substances. The whole question has been very clearly expou nded by Jayatirtha: “visesa also is of two kinds as pertaining to sentient beings. Some of these are ‘produced’ and some are ‘eternal’. Though the visesa as constituting the nature of a sentient person is eternal, it is spoken of as being ‘produced’ by re ason of its becoming manifested at times and remaining unmanifested at other times. In the same way, visesas pertaining to insentient things are also two fold in their nature. The substance as such is the material cause of the visesas in an insentient thi ng. Though the visesas co-exist with the substance, as partaking of its nature, still a distinction can be made of them. In respect of insentient reals some visesas are produced as effects and some others last as long as the thing itself lasts.

visesa is thus the peculiar characteristic or potency of things which makes description and talk of difference possible, where as a matter of fact only identity exists. Visesas should not, be mistaken for new or additional attributes of things; it is the power of things in themselves” which, through an underlying identity of essence, enables us to distinguish (i) a particular from its universal; (ii) a quality from its substance; (ii) motion or power or energy from things possessing them; (iv) the svaru pa from the svarupin and svarupatvam.

Madhva holds the view that it would be impossible to establish any adequate theory of the relation between substance and attributes without invoking the aid of visesas, which are also called ‘svarupavisesas’ in order to show that they are not “other than ” the substance. There are three possible ways in which the relation of substance and attributes is generally conceived viz. (i) that they are “different” from each other (‘atyantabhinna’), (ii) “absolutely identical with each other” (‘abhinna’), (iii) “both identical and different” (‘bhinnabhinna’). But, Madhva holds a fouth view of ‘savisesabheda’ (identity based on visesa) as only accepted view while rejecting the above three. Difference between substance and attributes must be accepted not as being absolutely identical with the terms but “identical with a qualification” (‘savisesabheda’).

The function of visesas, in Madhva’s philosophy, is not merely to distinguish, but to unify the part and the whole.

Conclusion: The purpose ‘visesa’ which is introduced in Madhva’s system is to explain ” the appearance of ‘bheda’ where there is none”. This concept distinguishes a quality from a substance and a part from the whole. Between a substance and its quality o r between a whole and its parts there is no difference. The difference appears on account of ‘visesa’. For example, one cannot perceive any difference between the cloth and its whitness, but he do percieve the ‘visesa’ (particularity) of the cloth. If the re where difference between cloth and whiteness, then there would be difference between the difference and cloth, and between difference and whiteness, and so on “ad infinitum”. Visesa of Madhva, characterises the eternal as well as non-eternal substance. In case of God, the principle of ‘visesa’ is employed to reconcile his unity with plurality of his qualities and powers(‘saktis’), and the plurality of His divine body, divine dress, divine abode, and the like.

Definitions: Brahman:

As already pointed out, Brahman, the only Independent Real is the highest ontological principle of Madhva’s philosophy. Brahman is possessed of all adequate and unrestricted powers in regard to the cit and acit and who is all knowing. He is the One who c ontrols the cit and acit (sentient and insentient reals) which are of different nature from Him. The Independent Being must, necessarily, be infinite in Its attributes because an Independent Being Being cannot be finite and limited in any sense.

(i) Brahman as a person: The Supreme Brahman is a Person who has a character of His own. The term personality as applied to Godhead denotes, according to Madhva, not merely the existence of self-consciousness so conceived, but also that the entire univer se is to be thought of as an experience and not as an abstract content. This Divine Personality is endowed with the faculties of cognition, conation and activity. God has His own body and limbs – a spiritual Form with its own instruments of knowledge and activity which is all one of knowledge and bliss. Madhva identifies Brahman with Visnu and adore Rama and Krsna as His incarnations but do not show any inclination for the worship of Gopala-Krsna and Radha.

(ii) Attributes of Brahman: Madhva’s conception of God emphasises two aspect of Divinity-the perfection of being (‘sarvagunapurnatvam’) and freedom from all limitations (‘sarvadosagandhavidhuratvam’). These two aspects cover and exhaust all that is great and good in the idea of God. He is Infinite (‘purna’), of perfect bliss, the real of reals (‘satyasya satyam’), eternal of eternal (‘nityo nityanam’), the Sentient of all sentients (‘cetanascetananam’), the source of all reality, consciousness and activi ty (‘sattapratitipravrttinimittam’) in the finite. The attributes and actions of Brahman are the same as itself. They are not different. There is no mutual difference, either, among them. He is all pervasive and (a-tata) and all perceiving (matr). All the several attributes partake which the nature of Brahman are inseperable from Him and from one another.

(iii) Cosmic activities of Brahman: The cosmic powers of the Supreme are eight in number: creation, preservation, dissolution, control, enlightenment, obscuration, bondage and release.

Madhva holds that the Supreme Being itself (identified with Visnu) acts through the instrumentality of other gods (of limited jurisdiction over particular aspects of cosmic activities) to conduct the cosmic activities. It is Isvara Himself who directs pr operly, the various potencies of Nature and of the souls for production, growth, development, etc., which are always dependent on Him. The prakrti, purusas and their respective capacities, their very presence, cognizability and functioing, – all these are controlled by Isvara, eternally, through His eternal power. Just as non-eternal things are ordained by the eternal will of Isvara to be non-eternal, similarly, eternal substances too are ordained by His will, be eternal. The jivas, their karma, categorie s, kala, sruti, kriya etc., all these exist, function and are cognized only by His will and pleasure. They have existence in His despite. Hence, the very reality, existence, etc., of prakrti and other entities depend on His control. He enters into prakrti and energizes it to transform in various ways and assumes many forms to control such modifications.

(iv) Manifestations of Brahaman: The Supreme Lord puts on a multiplicity of forms to evolve the univere through different stages. These forms, though innumerable, are nevertheless identical with one another, save for their numerical distinction. The fir st in the order of Divine manifestations is the quaternion of Vasudeva, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and Sankarsana, popularly known as the (catur) vyuha, credited with redemptive, creative, sustaining and destructive functions. The Supreme further differentiates itself into ten (familiar avatars) or twelve, hundred, thousand and so on. These personal manifestation of the Lord are spoken of as suddha-srsti, in ‘Pancaratra’ terminology. They are also designated as vyuhas in a general sense.

Madhva accepts four kinds of manifestaions of God (though he does not use this nomenclature):

1. vyuhas 2. avataras 3. Transcendent (‘para vasudeva’) 4. Immanent

In Madhva’s view these various manifestations are absolutely on a par with one another. There is no gradation among them in respect of powers or potentialities. Madhva is vehemently opposed to the idea of making any invidious distinctions among these man ifestations of God or putting some on a higher pedestal than others. “There is no room for ‘svagatabhededa’ in the Supreme” (neha nanasti kincana). It is the same Infinite in every manifestation. The avatars are on a different footing and are concernd wit h specific functions like ‘bala karya’, ‘jnana karya’ etc. Their number exceed ten as commonly recognized. There are avatars like Hamsa, Datta and Hari, not included in the popular list of ten. To Madhva all avatars are of equal merit and status. There is no question of degree of fulness among them, no “partial” and “complete” avataras. He takes his uncompromising stand on the authority of the Upanisads and Pancaratric texts and rejects the commonly acceptd interpretation of the ‘Bhagavata’ text: “krsnast u bhagavan svayam” as inappropriate on philosophical and syntactic grounds. He has thus no partiality or preference for any particular avatar of God and treats all of them as equal in rank, attributes and powers”.

Jivas (Atman):

Souls are conceived in Madhva’s system as finite centres of conscious experience, each with a unique essence of its own. The essence of individuality is that one finite centre of experience cannot possess, “as its own immediate” experience, the experienc e of another. It is this non-transferable immediacy of experience that distinguishes one self from another, inspite of their possessing certain similar characteristics. Each has a specific content of consciousness, reality and bliss and constitutes a foca lization which is nowhere exactly repeated in nature. The nature of the souls is to be one of unalloyed bliss and pure intelligence. It is essentially free from any kind of misery or pain; though subjected to a natural gradation of intelligence and bliss in cosmic hierarchy of selves and subject always to the Supreme, in bondage “and in release”. The sense of misery, which is bondage, is external to their essence and is brought about by a “real” though “misplaced sense of independence of initiative and co nduct” The jivas are reflected counterparts (‘pratibimbamsa’) of Brahman (Visnu). The bodies of the jivas, eternally present in Vaikuntha, the celestial abode of Visnu, are transcendental (‘aprakrta’). Hence, they are called unconditioned-reflected-counterparts (‘nirupadhika-pratibimbamsa’) of Visnu. The bodies of the jivas of the material world are matierial; therefore, they are called conditioned-reflected-counterparts (‘sopadhika-pratibimbamsa’) of Visnu.

(i) Plurality of selves: Madhva holds the doctrine of multiplicity of selves. The basis for this is the intrinsic diversity of their essences, which he shows to be “inevitable presupposition of the theory of karma”. It is accepted that the inequalities o f individual equipment and endowment are regulated by one’s pastlife and its karma. But, by its very nature, the karma theory would be powerless to explain the why of such inequalities, in the remotest past, without recourse to the hypothesis of an intrin sic peculiarity (‘anadi visesa’) that is uncaused. It is this ‘anadivisesa’ or ‘svabhavabheda’ says Madhva, that distinguishes one soul from another. This is the decisive contribution which Madhva has made to the interpretation of the problem of life and its diversitis. He has thus gone beyond the principle of karma, unerringly, to the ” svabhavabheda” ( intrinsic or essential differences in the nature of the beings). Similarly, the uniqueness of each individual experience, which forms the content of per sonality, is sufficient reason, according to Madhva, for the acceptanc of ‘jiva-bahutva-vada’ (plurality of souls) and the distinctiveness of each individual.

The theory of svarupabheda of souls elaborated by Madhva is, thus, the only solution of the problem of plurality of selves, their freedom and free will.

(ii) Tripartite classification of souls: Madhva’s doctrine of the Soul insists not only upon the distinctiveness of each soul but also upon an intrinsic gradation among them based on varying degrees of knowledge, power, and bliss. This is known as ‘tarat amya’ or ‘svarupataratamya’, which comes out all the more clearly in the released state, where the souls realize their true status. ‘Jiva-traividhya’ or tripartite classification of “unreleased souls” into (1) ‘muktiyogya’ (salvable), (2) nitya-samsarin ( ever-transmigrating) and (3) ‘tamoyogya’ (damnable) are the allied doctrines of ‘svarupataratamya’ of souls. This theory of Madhva, is intended to justify and reconcile the presence of evil with divine perfection.

Sri Madhva also speaks about the intrinsic differences existing among the “released” souls. Hiranyagarbha among the released (and in samsara too) occupying a privileged position as jivottama. His accepts innate distinction among (released) souls into dev a, rsi (pitr, pa) and naras. The devas are ‘sarva-prakasa’ (fit to realize God as pervasive), the sages are ‘antahprakasa’and the rest ‘bahihprakasa’.

The doctrine of intrinsic gradation among souls would follow as a matter of course, once the principle of their plurality is admitted. Many philosophical topics related to the law of karma, the problem of good and evil, behaviour of free-will displayed i n the case of individual jivas etc. can be solved only by the acceptance of the above theories of Sri Madhva.

The recognition of special class of souls called ‘nityasuris’ (as in the system of Ramanuja) and the class called ‘nityasamsarins’ will be inexplicable without the acceptance of an intrinsic gradation of souls into ordinary and “elect” and so on. The hig her position of sesitva assigned to “Sri” in respect of nityasuris also points to a natural gradation among souls. Similarly the existence of nityamuktas like Visvaksena, Garuda, Ananta etc. who always remain free from samsara (accepted by the Visistadvat ins) and the high place assigned to Brahma among the gods (by Vedic and Puranic literature) are to be highlighted in this connection as their spititual excellence and superiority over other souls.

Gods and men are not equal in their basic nature and powers, or in the innate tendencies for good or bad, which determine their future development. The doctrine of intrinsic gradation of souls is thus a resoned and reasonable hypothesis of human nature a nd destiny, suggested by the moral law and supported by reason, revelation and experience. Madhva holds that it can not be satisfactorily accounted for the presence and continuation of evil in a world created and ruled by a most perfect Being unless it is taken to be natural to some as goodness is to others. Without such a fundamental division of human nature, the disparities of life reflected in the seemingly unfair distribution of pleasure and pain and oportunities for moral growth are not satisactorily explained. The law of karma cannot satisfy the quest for an ultimate explanation of such bewildering enexplicabilities. It cannot explain why given two alternatives of good or evil, certain persons show a marked preference or tendency towards the one and others to the opposite. Moral worth, knowledge, works, experience, heredity, opportunities, culture – none of these explanatons of diversity solves the riddle pushed to its staring point; The final solution can only be found in the ingerent nature of bei ngs.

Madhva and his commentators have cited many texts from the Vedic and post-Vedic literature ( from Gita 16.3, 5, 6, 18, 20; 8.2; Bhag. 6.14.5; Isa. Up 3 etc.), in support of the acceptance of the traividhya among jivas who are entangled within the samsara . An intrinsic divergence of nature and faith into ‘sattvika’, ‘rajasa’ and ‘tamasa’ which is rooted in the core of individual nature (dehinam svabhavaja) as stated in the Gita, is the ultimate basis of this theory according to Madhva. This theory is deve loped from the doctrine of trividha-sraddha in the Gita. The term sattvika, rajasa, and tamasa are applied to the jivas in their tripartite classification, according to Madhva, ha reference to their basic nature of Caitanya going beyond the play of prakrt i nad its gunas: “yo yac chraddhah sa eva sah” (Gita 17.3). This is clear from Madhva’s comment on the above verse, where he interprets the term “sattvanurupa” as “cittanurupa”.

(iii) Self-luminosity of souls: The individual soul, as a sentient being, is admitted by Madhva to be self-luminious (‘svaprakasa’). It is not merely of the form of knowledge (‘jnanasvarupa’) but is a knower (‘jnatr’). The conception of self as a conscio us personality is the same as it is in respect of God, expect for the fact that even the self-luminosity of the jiva is dependent on the Supreme, which makes bondage possible.


Madhva admits the reality of the world experience on the basis of perceptual, rational and scriptural grounds. The material universe, according to Madhva, is neither a transformation (‘parinama’) of Brahman nor a production. It is merely an actualization of what is in the womb of matter and souls by the action of Brahman. The creation of the universe is a continuous process – a constant dependence of the world on the Supreme for all its determinations.

Madhva’s theory of the constitution of matter and the evolution of the world is based on the ‘sankhya’ metaphysics of Upanisads, the Epics and Puranas. He quotes profusely from Mahabharata, the Bhagavata and other Puranas and other Puranas and from the v ast literature of the Pancaratras.

He accepts the doctrine of evolution of matter (prakrti) as a follower of the Epic Sankhya. He accepts prakrti as eternal insentient primordial stuff dependent on Brahman on the authority of Upanisadic, Epic and Puranic Sankhya cosmology. It is directly and indirectly the material cause (‘upadhana karana’) of the world. It is the direct material cause of time and the three qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas and indirectly of mahat, ahankara etc. It is both eternal and pervasive; but not unlimited. The three gunas are supposed to be differentiated at the begining of creation, in the ratio of 4:2:1. The evolution of other forms of matter takes place on account of the disturbance in their equipose which gives rise to the 24 principles commonly recognized, viz. mahat, ahamkara, buddhi, manas, ten sensory organs, five sense-objects and five great elements. Mahat is the first and finest evolute of matter and energy. Ahankara is the principle of individuation, buddhi that of discrimination, and manas of thoug ht. The principle of ahamkara is divided into three classes of vaikarika, taihjasa, and tamasa. From taijasa the ten sense organs are produced, and the five sense objects (‘visayas’) and the elements are the products of tamasa-ahamkara. The ‘tanmatras’ st and for qualitatively distinct and irreducible sense-qualities with a definite leaning towards their appropriate objects.

These 24 evolutions of prakrti are the constituents of the microcosm and the macrocosm of the entire brahmanda. Madhva gives a proper reorientation to this theory of material evolution by linking it up with a systematic hierarchy of presiding deities fro m top to bottom. It is under the constant supervision and guidance of these “Abhimani-devatas” (or “Tattvabhimanins”) that all material transformations and psychophysical functions are carried on. The Supreme Brahman itself ultimately behing all these act ivities and of each and every one of them.

The 3 forms of matter, viz. sattva, rajas and tamas, are specially controlled by the 3 aspects of cetana prakrti, viz. Sri, Bhu and Durga.

Involution (dissolution) takes place by the merger of the effects in their causes in the reverse order of evolution. This applies to the tattvabhimani-devas also, both in samsara and in release.

Bondage (of jivas in samsara ):

Madhva points out that the reason for the bondage of the souls is due to the divine will of the Supreme. Even though the bonds and impurities of the souls are not their essential nature (‘svarupa’), the bonds of the souls are real. He gives a very purpos eful explanation of the rationale behind God’s putting the souls in bondage and through the necessary process of transmigration. Madhva calls his theory of the origin of bondage as “svabhava-ajnana vada” or the theory of the souls’ ignorance of their own true nature and of their dependence on the Supreme Brahman. Madhva contends that even though the jiva is a self-luminious being, still, it is not inconceivable that he should be subject to ignorance of his own true nature and of the nature of God and of h is true relation to Him, as he is a dependent and finite being. Since jivas, by definition, “dependent” and also endowed with aspects (‘sa-visesa’) it is very reasonably contendented that while “some aspects” of the self (such as his existence) are “not o bscured” yet others like the manifestation or experience of its ‘svarupananda’ (essential bliss) “remain obscured” in samsara. Thus bondage is of the nature of ignorance.

As jiva’s nature is one of knowledge (‘jnanasvarupa’), this ignorance which, in spite of his self-luminosity (‘svaprasatva’) , is able to obscure a portion of that knowledge etc., of his own nature and of God cannot be treated as penetrating his very nat ure. Yet, if it is external to him, how does it obscure his svarupa, at least in some respects? To explain this knotty point, Madhva introduces the will of God or his inscrutable power (‘acintyadbhutasakti’) which is also called by the name of ‘maya’ (or His maya) of which the entanglement in prakrti is only next stage.

Thus, according to Madhva, the obscuration of the soul leading to bondage is, in the last analysis, to referred to the inscrutable power of God, who actuates the latent power of prakrti known by various names such as maya and avidya in the sastras. Thoug h it is in the nature of maya to obscure, yet the intervention of the Lord is “necessary” for its functioning as a principle of obscuration, in so far as prakrti and its powers are insentient (jada) and therefore “asvatantra” (incapable of independent ini tiative). This obscuration of the essential nature of jivas cannot be ascribed due to the influence of kama, karma, etc. alone; for these are themselves the effects of earlier causes and thus are “dependent principles” and there is no reason why the soul should have succumbed to their attraction, surrendering his self-luminosity. In any case, they would not be an adequate explanation of the obscuration of the self, felt even in susupti and pralaya, when there is no operation of kama or karma, vasanas, etc . Hence, it is obivious that there is some other principle (over and above all these) that is preventing the self from realizing its true nature, in full, here and now. This is the principle of prakrti (jada) which presses down jivas from beginningless et ernity and obscures their natures at the will of the Lord and not by its own power, as already explained. Thus, Madhva finds the ultimate explanation of the bondage of souls in the power of prakrti controlled by the inscrutable and mysterious will of God. This is in complete accord with the views of great theistic scriptures like the Gita (7.14), about origin of bondage.


Since the soul’s bondage is, in the last analysis, to be referred to the Divine will obscuring the intrinsic self-luminosity of jivas, its removal and the illumination of the souls is also ascribed to the Divine will, in the ultimate analysis, in Madhva’ s system.

[But, Madhva on the basis of scritures (Brahma-sutra 2.3.33) ascribes jiva the title of “doer” or ‘karta’. He maintains that the human soul is the real agent in all its actions eventhogh he is not an absolutely independent agent. The jiva derives his abi lity to do things, metaphysically, from the creator. For, God merely “enables” the jiva to pursue a couse of action, not arbitrarily, but in relation to his former life and disires. He does not “interfere” with the jiva’s decision in any way. He sustains but never constrains (Gita 18.63). The jiva chooses out of his free will a particular line of action for good or for bad with sufficient foreknowledge of its moral worth and has himself to thank for the consequences. He cannot, therefore, blame anyone, le ast of all God, for the unpleasant consequences of his acts, should he have chosen wrongly.]

The need for sadhanas follows from the very fact that the bondage of souls in samsara has been continuing from time immemorial. This bondage is continuing because of transmigration of souls. The aim of metaphysical inquiry is the attainment of release th rough Divine grace. Therefore one has naturally to think of the means of earning it. The sastras describe them as leading to one another, in the following order: freedom from worldy attachment (‘vairagya’), devotion to God (‘bhakti’), ‘sravana'(study), ‘m anana’ (reflection), ‘nididhyasana’ (meditation) and ‘Saksatkara’ (direct realization).

Vairagya is defined as the non-attachment to the body and bodily pleasures and cravings. This is the first step and primary requisite of a true aspirant. It constitutes the essence of spiritual life.

Sravana is defined as the acquisition of the sense of the sacred texts under the instruciton of competent teachers. It dispels ignorance about the subject-matter (‘ajnananivrtti’).

Manana is the systematic employment of the canons of textual interpretation and logical examination with a view to arriving at a firm conviction that the final interpratation of the sastras thus arrived at is alone the correct and unimpeachable one. Manana removes doubts (‘samsaya’) and misapprehension (‘viparyaya’) and confirms the true import of the sastras (‘paroksatattvaniscaya’).

Nididhyasana or dhyana (continious meditation) leads to direct realization (‘darsana’). Sravana and manana are thus subsidiary (‘angabhuta’) nididhyasana which is the chief means (‘angi’) if saksatkara.

Role of guru: Madhva discusses the importance of a ideal guru and the importance of his grace in the final flowering of the spiritual personality of the aspirant (‘sadhaka’). He emphasizes the point that instruction and guidance of a competent guru and h is grace (‘prasada’) are absolutely necessary for sravana and manana to bear fruit. He further says that of the two viz., individual effort and the grace of the guru, the latter is to be deemed the more powerful factor and therefore indispensable for one’ s spiritual realization. The emphasis of guruprasada doesnot mean that individual effort and the deserts of the aspirant do not count. They are the foundations of one’s spiritual progress; but guruprasada is the crowing point of this development.

A seeker is allowed to change his guru if he secures another with a superior spiritual illumination, provided the latter is able and inclined to impart the full measure of grace and illumination that may be required for the self-realization of the discip le. Where both the gurus happen to be of equal merit and disposition to grant the full measure of their grace, qualifiying for illumination to the aspirant, the permission of the earlier guru shall have to be obtained before receiving instruction from the other one. Different Spiritual Disciplines:

The most prominent forms of Spiritual discipline are those going by the names of karmamarga, jnanamarga and bhaktimarga.

Karma yoga, according to Madhva is the enlightened spiritual activity (‘niskamam jnanapurvam karma’) by all, which cannot be binding in its consequences. On the basis of Gita he establishes that it is neither ‘pravrtti marga’ (faithful performance of the round of Vedic sacrifices and ritualistic rites prescribed by the Srutis and Smrtis with the expectation of their rewards in this or in the next world and the adherence to the duties of varna and asrama) nor ‘nivrtti marga’ (abandonment of all karma) but= performance of karma in a spirit of devotion and vairagya is more important. Even this type of performing ‘niskamakarma’ is not to be admitted as anything more than an accessory to spiritual realization. It is to be pursued for the purpose of acquiring mental purufication. The reason why karma cannot be treated as an independent means of release is that it is by nature, irrepressibly found to be enexhaustible by the enjoyment of fruits.

The help of jnana is, therefore, indispensable to destroy or neutralize the latent effects of past karma (Gita 4.37). Such a power of destroying the accumulated load of past karma, or rendering it nugatory is ascribed to the actual vision (‘aparoksajnana ‘) of God, through ‘dhyana’ (meditation). Madhva, therefore, regards enlightened activity (‘niskamakarma’) merely as contributing to such knowledge through vairagya. Madhva is, thus, clear that disinterested activity carried on in a spirit of devotion t God is a powerful incentive to the acquisition of knowledge which alone is the highest means of realease. Karma and dhyana and others are just accessories to it.

Conception of bhakti: Madhva has given a unique place to Divine grace in his system, in making it the ultimate cause of self-realization. To attain the grace of the Divine the sadhaka has to appease the Lord. This can only be done by bhakti as the deepes t attachment to the Lord, deep-rooted and based on a clear understanding of His greatness and majesty. Bhakti is, thus, the steady flow of deep attachment to God, impregnable by any amount of impediments and transcending the love of our own selves, our kith and kin, cherished belongings, etc. and fortified by a firm conviction of the transcendent majesty and greatness of God as the abde of all perfections and free from all blemish and by an unshakable conviction of the complete metaphysical dependence of everything else upon Him. When one is flooded by such an intensive and all-absorbing love he gets comp letely immersed in blissful contemplation of Him and is lost to all his surroundings. Such bhakti is necessary to manifest the natural and intrinsic relationship of pratibimbatva of the souls to God, which lies dormant in the state of bondage.

Since the function of bhakti is to manifest the true relation of jiva to Brahman, it must naturally be properly informed about that true relation, which presupposes a right knowledge of the majesty and greatness of God as the one svatantra. Hence, bhakti has to be enriched by study, reflection and concentration. Bhakti is, thus, not a mere wave of sentimentalism or emotionalism, to Madhva. It is the outcome of patient study (‘sravana’) and deep reflection. Madhva also demands a high degree of moral perfe ction from the true devotee of God. He affirms that there can be no ture devotion to God without a real sense of moral purity, sincerity of purpose and detachment to worldly pleasures. One cannot serve two masters. True devotion to God would impossible wi thout the cultivation of a natural distaste for the pleasures of the world. It is one of the constituent elements of true devotion. Acara or purity of life, in all respects is thus the only means of true devotion and knowledge. Devotion without such purit y will be a travesty. Complete control of the passions of the flesh, calmness of mind, impartiality of conduct and love of God are emphasized by Madhva as the prerequisites of devotion and knowledge. This positive approch to God in its final accomplishmen t i.e., love of God free from all traces of erotic manifestations, which dominate in certain forms of North Indian Vaisnavism like Jayadeva, Caitanya and Vallabha. Madhva’s conception of bhakti avoids these emotional excesses and remains at its exalted in tellectual and spiritual level of firm philosophic devotion to the Supreme Lord of the universe who is to be worshipped with loving attachments as the bimba of all pratibimbas (jivas). But it is no on that account lacking in intensity of fervour and feeli ng. For Madhva has recognized in the clearest terms that bhakti is in essence an ineffable blending of the emotion and the intellect. He gives expression to the intensity of his love of God in its sublime and rapturous aspects in the opening and concludin g stanzas of his works. The possiblities of erotic devotion, as a means of contacting the Divine, are not unknown to him. In his view, kama-bhakti or erotic devotion is the special privilege of “apsarases and ought not to be practiced by others”.

Madhva speaks of 3 different types of devotees: (1) uttama bhaktas, (2) madhyama and (3) adhama, according to the nature and intensity of devotion characteristic of them.

‘Taratamya’ in bhakti: Taratamya or gradational approcach in the practice of bhakti is a necessary element of the doctrine of bhakti as propounded by Madhva. The devotional homage to the gods and the sages in the spiritual hierarchy is not a matter of co urtesy. It is a “must”. The devas occupy special position in the government of God’s universe as tattvabhimanis’ with special cosmic jurisdiction delegated to them. The role of these devas on the implementation of the sadhanas by human beings have been br ought in Madhva’s commentary on the Upanisads and from the fading sources of Pancaratra and other literature. On the basis of these materials, he holds that devotion to God depends crucially on the grace of the devas who are His first greatest devotees. T hey are the highest order of jnanayogis and our direct superior, protectors, guides and gurus. We cannot think of God without their grace. It they who inspire our minds along right lines and turn them Godward and enable us to know and worship Him by their presiding activity over the sense organs, mind, buddhi etc. and bring our sadhanas to fruition.

Stages of bhakti: Madhva distinguishes 3 stages of bhakti: (1) that a which “precedes” paroksajnana (meditate knowledge of the Deity), (2) one that “follows” it, and (3) a third that comes “after direct realization” (‘aparoksajnana’) and wins the absolut e grace (‘atyarthaprasada’) of the Lord. It this final stage of bhakti that fully manifests, by the grace of God, the true relationship that exists between the jiva and Brahman and completes the fulfilment of realization viz. the full manifestation and en joyment of the intrinsic bliss of one’s own self and the majesty of the Lord. The last one is an end in itself, this is the sublime nature of bhakti. Thus in Madhva’s system there are two distinct phases of bhakti, one operating at the sadhana or “prepara tory level” and the other sadhya or the fundamental level of moksa itself. Pleased with the initial bhakti of the jivas, the Lord bestows on them firm knowledge of His nature and attributes. He then reveals Himself. Thereafter He inspires them with still more intensive devotion and after showing Himself to the bhaktas He cuts the knot of their prakrtic bondage. In the released state also, the jivas remain under the Lord’s control imbued with unalloyed devotion to Him.

Place of grace in redemption: According to Madhva, this knowledge of God is not a mere intellectual realizataion of the Deity. It is more a feeling of deep attraction and attachment arising from the knowledge of bimbapratibimbabhava between God and soul and sustained by sense of spontaneous attraction and affection flowingfrom it. Hence, in bhakti, there is the element of knowledge and attachment combined. In the last analysis, then, it is not pure knowledge that puts an end to the bondage of souls, but the grace of God in gracious acceptance of the soul’s “surrender”. “It is Divine grace that plays the most decisive role in the final deliverance of the souls, according to Madhva”. Not by karma, or jnana or even bhakti can remove the veil of ignorance w ithout the grace of the Lord withdrawing His obscuration of jiva.

Aparoksa-jnana or God-Realization: In this final stage of sadhana the sadhaka receives a direct vision of the Supreme Being. The sadhaka is face to face with the object of his meditation and intuits the Divine Form, whichis his archetype (bimba). This is technically termed ‘bimbaparoksa’, which is the highest form of spiritual perception without which no one can hope to be released. However this final stage of vision of the Lord is different from vision of dhyana wherein the form of Brahman is built up i n the mind of the sadhaka. In dhyana one sees only the reflection of Brahman in the ‘citta’. By its presence in the reflection the Supreme Brahman confers the fruit of meditation on the aspirant. The meditation of this reflected form of Brahman, is like t he worship of an image. It leads (gradually) to the actual vision of the Lord, by His own grace.

Aparoksa-jnana is something which by its nature, defies any more explict description. It is a flash-like revelation of the Supreme at the furtiom of a long and arduous process of ‘sravana’, ‘manana’, and ‘nididhyasana’, in the fulness of absolute self-su rrendering devotion to the Lord, as our bimba. Ultimately, it is He that must choose to reveal Himself, pleased by the hungering love of the soul. The pratibimba (soul) must turn in and see his bimba in himself. This is aparoksa.

After aparoksa state: Aparoksa marks the preliminary stage of release. The journey’s end is now fairly in sight; but not yet fully attained. The aparoksajnani, in Madhva’s system corresponds to the “jivan-mukta” of other schools. But there is no destruct ion of avidya or prakrtic bondage yet. To the aparoksajnanin, the prospect of moksa is now “assured”. But until the subtle body of sixteen kalas, known as “linga-sarira”, is disintegrated, the jiva is not freed from prakrtic bondage. This comes at the end of the working out of a portion of his “prarabdha-karma” (that portion of the accumulated load of all past karma, which has begun already to go through) by “bhoga” (not necessarily pleasant). Madhva holds out also a very assuring prospect of the possible “upakarda” mitigation of the effects of some portion of “even” the prarabdha karma by the grace of God and release in its full sense speeded up. The term prarabdha karma includes obviously the good and the bad (‘punya’ and ‘papa’). Madhva introduces a su btler distinction in the former, from the point of view of aparoksa-jnanin, as ‘ista’ (desirable) and ‘anista’ (undesirable). The former is what conduces to deeper and deeper manifestations of innate bliss in moksa. The latter is whatever is likely to pro long the onset of complete release.

Thus, there is no hard and fast rule that final release should take place at the destruction (by death) of that particular body in and through which aparoksa-jnana was attained. It depends on prarabdha-karma. If its effects have been workd out (in that b ody) there is no more delay; but if they have not been, then he must pass through some more ‘lives’ to work them out. This is the position of sastras on the point. But since law of karma is not independent of the Lord’s will, Madhva interposes a saving cl ause in respect of God’s will, which nothing can limit. This may be called the “Vetoing power” (‘upamarda’) of the Lord excercised in His own grace.

Here, the “upamarda” or devitalizing of the effects of prarabdha karma refers to all evil karma and such of the punyakarma (or punya-prarabdha) that will delay or retard moksa, by producing agreeable dffects for enjoyment in future lives. But such punya, as will enhance the ‘anandanubhava’ in moksa, is “credited to the account” of the aparoksa-jnanin. This emphasizes that nothing can possibly stand against God’s will. Though normally not interfering with the law of karma, there are occasionsin the career s of souls when He benevolently intervenes to scoth individual karma as such, when He feels that it has had its day. this again brings out vividly the place and importance of the concept of Grace in the Theism of Madhva. This is how Madhva understands the statement that God grants His grace to man and it is through grace alone that we can deserve to be saved from samsara. To get God’s grace upon oneself is greater than to know God intellectually. bhakti is emotional sublimation in God. When intellectual p erception melts into devotion we have bhakti. When such final stage of bhakti is reached, after aparoksa-vision, God intervenes to neutralize a portion of prarabdha even, and ushers in final moksa.


The doctorine of salvation is determined by the conception of of the nature of souls and God in any philosophical thought. Since Madhva establishes bhakti, not as a means to an end, but as an end itself, it follows that the relation between the individua l soul and the Supreme Being is not something that is snapped in release. For, this relation is not something that is extrinsic to the nature of the soul but something that is rooted in the very nature and being (‘svarupa’) of the soul. Its destruction wo uld mean destruction of the jiva. It is a unique relation, a spiritual bond which is indestructible. There fore mukti is merely the shaking off what is extrinsic to one’s nature and reposing in one’s own intrinsic nature. The intrinsic spiritual relation between the human spirit and God is so dynamic in its magnetism that the attraction of the latter becomes more fully manifested in release than in samsara. Indeed, it breaks through and finds expression there in a thousand ways which are beyond our unders tanding and analysis from ‘here’.

Madhva maintains that the realization of truth does not mean the abolition of the plurality of life or the peresonality of selves, but only the removal of the false sense of separateness and independence which is at the root of samsara. The attributes of the jiva is inviolable in the same sense as the atman itself is indestructible. Moksa would not be worth having, if atman does not survive as a self-luminious entity there. Therefore Madhva lays great stress on the survival of every individual personalit y, as such , in moksa (‘muktirhitva anyatha rupam svarupena vyavasthitih’).

In the positive aspect of the view of moksa, Madhva holds it as a state of supreme bliss. The first and foremost fact about moksa is that it is accepted, by common consent, as the highest “purusartha” of man. For this reason, it must be a state of unallo yed bliss; and this bliss must be “manifested” i.e., capable of being actually felt and enjoyed with a full consciousness of being “so enjoyed”. This would natuarlly presuppose the survival of the one who is to enjoy the experiences of this blessed state.

The supreme bliss in moksa is not a stagnant state. Madhva, says that there is scope for activity and full play of capabilities for everyone according to one’s ablities. Some of the released may rest in the contemplation of their own blessedness, like Ad vaitic brahman. Some may contrast their present with their past and feel thankful for their deleverance. They may adore the majesty of God and sing His Praises or worship Him in a thousand ways. Some may offer sacrifices, if they wish to – the only differ ence being that “nothing is obligatory there”. There is no “prescribed round of activites” or code of conduct in moksa, which means there is unlimited scope for spontaneous, creative work of every kind.

Ananda taratamya in moksa: or a hierarchic gradation in the nature, range, quality, intensity etc., of ‘svarupa-ananda’ or innate bliss enjoyed by the released souls, is a logical deduction from the theory of svarupa-bheda of souls accepted by Madhva. Si nce moksa is only the discovery of one’s selfhood and experiencing what is there in it (muktirhitva…….), there is no possibility of exchanging one’s experience with another’s or its transference to another, whether wholly or in part. Each released sou l rests fully satisfied (‘purna-trpta’) in the enjoyment of “his own svarupa-ananda”. Madhva uses the argument based on the obvious disparity in the sadhanas of different orders of beings to reinforce the docrine of anandataratamya in moksa.

There is natural gradation among the released souls as also disparity in their sadhanas. The difference in the nature and quality of sadhanas must necessarily have a relationto the result. The existence of such a gradation in moksa is established by reas on and revelation. Just as vessels of different sizes, the rivers and the Ocean are “full” of water according to their respective capacities, even so, in respect of the jivas, from ordinary human beings to Brahmadeva, their fulness of bliss attained throu gh sadhanas is to be understood with reference to their varying (intrinsic) capacities The sadhanas practiced by them such as bhakti, jnana etc., are nothing more than an expression of their intrinsic potentialities, which are the core of their being – go ing back to their beginningless eternity. Those with limited capacities are satisfied with limited bliss and those with comparatively greater capacities reach fulfilment with still more. But each one’s satisfaction would be “full” and “complete” in itself – having reached its ‘saturation point’.