SRI JAYATHEERTHA


THE GREAT COMMENTATOR


Sri Jayatheerthara Moola Brundavana, Malkheada, Sedam Taluk, Gulburga

Brief Sketch:

Acharya Madhva enunciated Thathvavada philosophy as the only correct purport of the beginningless Vedanta philosophy. He was succeeded by four ascetics ordained by him - Sri Padmanabha, Narahari, Madhava and Akshobhya who took charge of the new burgeoning Madhva family from 1317 - 1365 AD. In selecting his successor Sri Jayatirtha, Sri Akshobhya gave the greatest contribution to the secure establishment of Thathvavada as the last widely accepted school out of the Trinity of the Vedanta schools. Sri Jayatirtha gave final shape and forms to its concepts and categories, standardised their definitions in the light of contemporary logic and philosophy. Acharya Madhva's compositions are characterised by extreme compression of thought and brevity of expression. While some explanatory commentaries on his works were composed by his immediate disciples, who would have also had the advantage of being taught by the master himself, there was a definite need for definitive explanatory commentaries which would remove doubts and explain difficult concepts, specially in those cases where several valid interpretations were being conveyed by the Sutra like statements of the Master. The criticism of rival doctrines which was thorough, exquisite and total in Madhva's texts needed a detailed presentation with references to the sources and logical defects shown. Sri Jayatirtha and Vyasatirtha (who came a century later) have performed this task so efficiently that no one who wants to study Tatvavada in depth can avoid going along the path blazed in the orderly detailed commentaries of these great scholars. Sri Surendranath Dasgupta who has written "A History study of Indian philosophy" has said "In my opinion Jaya-tirtha and Vyasa-tirtha present the highest dialectical skill in Indian thought".

The life history of Sri Jayatirtha is given by an account composed by his own disciple, ShriVyasatirtha (earlier and different personality than the Rajaguru of the Vijayanagara Empire) and a later one by Chalari Samkarshanacharya. (1700 AD). Many incidents in his life have been embellished with time and it is difficult to decide the core stuff and weed out the chaff. How ever, the following facts seem to be undisputed. His name before being ordained was Raghunath Deshpande. He was married to Janaki at an early age and was actively assisting his father who was a minor chieftain having allegiance to the Yadavas of Devagiri. Once when young Raghunath mounted on horseback waded into the river Kagini to assuage his thirst and drank water directly without dismounting, he met Sri Akshobhya who was camping on the bank. Sri Akshobhya had some premonition about this meeting and soon found that the young prince was made of different stuff altogether than what appeared on the surface. He was ordained as an ascetic at his own request inspite of protestations from the family and soon completed his education under the tutelage of his teacher. He says humbly that he was taught like a Parrot by Akshobhya tirtha. He offered penance in a Durga temple in a village near Pandarapura, when he was blessed by her with an areca fruit and a steel Kanthi (sharp tipped instrument) to write on palm leaf pages. Most of his major works were composed in a natural cave adjoining a temple of Mukhya Prana near Yergola village. Such was his austerity that during this period he was having some maize powder given to his disciples as his food.

There are accounts of a visit of Sri Vidyaranya of Vijayanagara empire to Yeragola cave and his appreciation of the young ascetic's genius leading him to offer to arrange his own elephant to carry him in procession. The actual procession was how ever done with the compositions of Acharya Madhva. Some doubts have been expressed about this incident as Vidyaranya was an actual contemporary of the teacher Akshobhya and Sri Jayatirtha does not find any mention in his Sarvadarshana Samgraha. A miracle is also attributed to Jayatirtha, when a handful of consecrated soil offered by him closed the breach of tank under construction in Yeragola village. He is also reputed to have cured the son of Sultan of Delhi leading to great honors being shown to him. There is no doubt how ever that Sri Jayatirtha visited the various places like Udupi, Sri Ranga, Kumbhakona, Rameswara, Kashi, Prayaga etc. There is belief in the orthodox that Sri Jayatirtha was earlier born as a Bullock carrying the compositions of Acharya Madhva and had listened to the compositions of the Master directly. Though the bullock was poisoned, he survived due to the recitation of Dvadasha Sthothra. Be that as it may, there is no doubt that all these stories illustrate the profound harmony between the original compositions of Acharya Madhva and Jayatirtha's commentaries there on. It is noteworthy that all commentaries written after him have invariably taken his work as authoritative, accurate and a correct expression of Acharya Madhva's concepts.

Twenty-two works are ascribed to Sri Jayatirtha. These include such famous works as Nyayasudha, Tatvaprakashika, Teekas on Bhashyas on Upanishaths, Geetha, Rigbhashya, and the special short compositions of Acharya Madhva such as khandanaThraya, Thathvasamkhyana etc. He has also written three independent works on Pramana Paddhathi, Vaadaavali and Padymaalaa. His monumental work Nyayasudha is considered as such a first rate, superb classic commentary that Madhvas believe that studying it is a superior achievement than becoming a king! It may not be an exaggeration if it is said that its original Anuvyakhyana and Nyayasudha represent an epitome of studies of Shasthra after which one is considered as truly learned. Sri Jayatirtha has introduced a systematical methodology in his commentaries, by examining the logical flow of ideas from one section to the next, clear and specific initial positions (poorvapakshas), logical analysis and conclusions (Siddhantha). He is extremely polite with his opponents usually referring to them by impersonal pronouns or some times by the appellation Mayavada when referring to Advaitha, the chief opponent. He also shows how all possible alternative options open to the opponent are considered in each case and he is literally driven by force of logic and Pramanas into accepting a conclusion which is absurd. Apart from total objectivity and fairness, one gets convinced that Tatvavada is finally upheld by merits and not by blind faith or spurious tricks. His own devotion to his teachers, his total lack of vain glorious pride and conviction which is transparently visible in each word or turn of phrase coupled with extraordinary competence in the subject, clarity of thinking, encyclopedic memory and sincerity of thought and words make a study of his works an intellectual feast and gives complete satisfaction to the earnest seeker of the great Truths of Vedanta. The following words of the learned scholar Prof. B N K Sharma indicate very expressively his personality. "The style is through out marvelously sustained. The eloquence is superb yet absolutely unsimulated. There is no straining after effect. There is moderation in embellishment. The author shows himself to be a perfect master of all the Shasthras. He discourses on the grammatical and linguistic issues called forth by the exigencies of the context. He has laid almost all the leading works of the various systems of thought studied in his days, under contribution. His disquisitions on problems of metaphysics, psychology and theory of knowledge show a good deal of insight into things and vast powers of analysis and argument". His grasp of the total picture is so clear and meticulous that one really starts understanding his words in Nyayasudha - "Anuvyakhyana naline chanchareekathi me manah" - words which show the extraordinary depth and wealth of meaning of the original composition coupled with his own total understanding of the mind of the Master and crystal clear expression.

Sri Jayatirtha completed his enormous achievements in only 23 years of asceticism and entered his final resting place in Malkheda on the banks of the Kagini river, by the side of his teacher, Sri Akshobhya on Ashada Krishna Panchami during 1388 AD. There is a school of thought that his final resting place - Vrindavana is also located in Navabrindavana, adjacent to those of Sri Padmanabha Tirtha and Sri Vyasaraja. This subject is not relevant for discussion here.

Sri Vyasaraja describes him thus:

Chithraih padaishcha gambhiraih vakyaih maanairakhandithaih
Gurubhaavam vyanjayathee bhaathi shri Jayatirtha vak.