Shri 1008 Raghunatha Yathi

Popularly known as Sheshachandrikacharya (1700 - 1755 AD)

Sri Raghunatha Theertharu (Seshachandrikacharya)


The Tatvavada philosophy was founded as the only correct interpretation of Vedanta philosophy and clearly defined by the 37 monumental works of Acharya Madhva (1238-1317 AD). The Sarvamula compositions could be broadly divided in three main groups - Suthra Prasthana (based on the Brahma suthras composed by Vedavyasa), Geetha Prasthana (based on Bhagavadgeetha) and Upanishad Prasthana (based on the Upanishads). In addition, Acharya Madhva also composed several Nirnaya works on the Ithihasa and Purana (Mahabharata and Bhagavata), Polemical works on specific issues called Prakaranas such as Khandana Thrayas, Epistemology and Ontology, Rituals, comprehensive primers for study of his system like Vishnutatvanirnaya. He had also composed an illustrative commentary on the interpretation of the Vedas - Rg Bhashya. It is remarkable and unique that a founder of a new school could compose all the definitive works of the new system, taking on uncompromisingly, well entrenched and fully defined systems like Advaita and Vishishtadvaita, entirely on the strength of his own work and the prevailing authoritative compositions. It is for this reason that the Sarvamula compostions have served as the final arbiters and defining authority of all philosophical questions pertaining to the school for the 800 years that have elapsed since. Unlike other systems, different variants with differing interpretations of a few key sources have not surfaced in Tatvavada of Madhva, and all his successors have invariably demonstrated by their explanatory Teekas and Tippanis, the holistic view, total internal consistency and complete agreement with all the recognized authorities of Acharya Madhva's statements. It is a measure of his own depth of scholarship and encyclopedic knowledge base, that a complete understanding and analysis of all his works has never been claimed even by some brilliant minds, who graced the pontifical seats that he and his followers have founded. In his own time, he was described as Vedapravachanacharya, Poornabodha, Sarvajna etc by erudite scholars who held debates with him and lost.

The very vastness of the field of knowledge covered, not only in Vedas, Vedangas, and Pancharathras, but in Mimamsa, Nyaya, 18 main Puranas and Upapuranas of equal number, Mahabharata and numerous authoritative texts quoted such as Brahma Tharka and taking note of all the definitive compositions of his predecessors of different schools has meant that Acharya Madhva's compositions are virtually beyond the capacity of persons with adequate knowledge of Sanskrit and without a teacher to guide them. But on the other hand, a rudimentary understanding was also possible, with the promise of great depths to be sought by diligence, industry and faith. The Teekas of Prachina teekakakaras like Sri 1008 Padmanabha Tirtha, who had listened to Madhva's original expositions and clarified their questions with him directly are also very brief and to the point. It is Sri 1008 Jayatirtha who gave a complete and comprehensive coverage of all the important compositions of Sarvamula, which has now become virtually inseparable with the originals for study, as they have made it possible to understand in greater measure Acharya Madhva's compositions. His Teekas also gave the background of each Siddhanta proposition, identifying the opposing view points at issue (Poorva paksha), the supporting authorities, Logical principles for determination of the purport of the texts etc. Eventually, supplementary commentaries (Tippanis) were also composed by succeeding ascetic saints to help a clear and complete understanding of Tatvavada.

Quite naturally, the new school also attracted criticism from others, which needed reasoned rebuttals. A time came, when the total picture had to be fully clarified, and defended against opponents. It was Sri 1008 Vyasaraja who took up this formidable task and made the three monumental compositions - Vyasathraya - Tatparya Chandrika, Nyayamruta and Tharkathandava. This was itself an elaborate effort as all criticism already raised and likely to arise in future had to be taken into account, answered fully, the defects in the opponent's view points shown, based on his own premises and final conclusions drawn. It needed complete knowledge of not only Tatvavada, but of the other systems also, the epistemological and ontological differences and their effects on the conclusions, the accepted authorities, the Mimamsa doctrines accepted by the contending schools and above all a global picture of the issues involved. Perhaps nothing like it has been attempted any where else and one but Shri Vyasaraja could do it. Scholars generally accept that study of Vyasathraya is even more difficult than the direct study of Acharya Madhva's compositions, along with its supporting texts and Teekas. Surendranath Dasgupta in his magnum opus - "A history of Indian Philosophy" has this to say - "In my opinion, Jayatirtha and Vyasa-tirtha present the highest dialectical skill in Indian thought. ... The logical skill and depth of acute dialectical thinking shown by Vyasa-tirtha stands almost unrivalled in the whole field of Indian thought" .

The methodology, basic principles, analytical approaches and dispassionate conclusions adopted by Sri Vyasatirtha has also been appreciated by his opponents, who have opined that his work Nyayamruta is an excellent, reliable and unbiased source text helpful for understanding Advaita itself, gathering matter scattered over several books and different sources. It became the forerunner of a series of polemical books starting with Advaita siddhi of Sri Madhusudana saraswati. Unfortunately, Vyasaraja who had lived a full life of 92 years, out of which 72 years were as a head of his Matha could not complete the Thathparya Chandrika after the first two chapters in his life time. When he was asked about it, he replied that it would be done by a successor, who would be of equal competence and who would be tenth in line after him. The person concerned who completed this unique and matchless work of writing the Chandrika compostion on the lines of the great Vyasaraja himself, was Sri 1008 Raghunatha Tirtha, also known as Shesha Chandrika Acharya. He has done it without blemish, following the foot steps of his predecessor and introducing some improvements of his own and has thus placed Tatvavada itself in an impregnable position. The other works of Sri Raghunatha Yathi are as follows:

1. Padarthaviveka - only name is known by references else where
2. Thatvakanika - published. Deals with Tanthrasara or rituals
3. commentary on Karma Nirnaya of Madhva
4. commentary on Brihatheesahasra.
5. commentary on Ishavasyopanishad bhashya

In all these works, he is shown to be thoroughly familiar with all the compositions of his own school and those of other schools up to his time, and takes up issues of grammar where called for. He quotes from many Mimamsa and Nyaya sources as well as very apt illustrative examples to help easier understanding. His classification of Adhikaranas into Petikas (Smaller sets dealing with one aspect at a time) along with his practice of summing up his points in Purvapaksha and Siddhantha in short shlokas is exceedingly useful as an aid to recapitulate and memorise the evolution of the logical principles and successive derivations of the philosophical issues. His analysis is specially useful in his showing how each word of Teekacharya's commentaries is significant in reproducing the correct interpretation of Acharya Madhva's statements in different compositions on the same subject as in Anuvyakhyana, Nyayavivarana, Suthra Bhashya and Anubhashya. He demonstrates clearly how Madhva's position is consistent, homogenous and without any logical contradiction in all his works.

It is unfortunate that unlike Vyasaraja, no biographical data has been preserved of this great scholar. It is believed that he was born in Gudibande of Kolar district of Karnataka state. He studied in Kashi and became a acompished scholar at any early age. His very long stay in the pontifical seat for 55 years and painstaking works of literature suggest that he must have taken Sannyasa very early, perhaps as an young lad, like Vyasaraja. His predecessor, Shri Lakshminarayana Tirtha bears the same name as the Vidyaguru of Shri Vyasaraja - Sripadaraja, was also Lakshminarayana Tirtha. His successor Shri Jagannatha Tirtha seems to have been with him for several decades and must have been his Vidya Disciple also, as he has also made a major contribution in writing BhashyaDipika. It is believed that while he spent most of time, in the pontifical seat in Kumbhakonam, towards the end of his life he came to Srirangapattana and Bannur to see the Ranganathaswamy and Mukhyaprana installed by Shri Vyasaraja. He reached Thrimakuta kshethra near Mysore, where the three rivers Kaveri, Kapila and Sphatika mingle, a couple of days before his end. This place was already noted for the Brahmashwatha tree, the temples of Gunja Narasimha Swamy, and Agasthyeswara, the last named being next to the confluence of the rivers. He decided to leave his mortal body and entrusted his seat to the most deserving Jagannatha Tirtha and on Ashada Shukla Chathurthi, left for his heavenly abode.

There was a curious incident after his Vrindavana pravesha. The premises of Agasthyeswara was under the control of Shaivites and a few Advaita followers. When his Vrindavana was installed there, near the river bank, they objected and gave a complaint to the ruler Hyderali of the erstwhile Mysore state, who gave a peremptory order that it should be shifted away. The local Amildar, how ever did not react immediately. The next day, Hyderali saw a dream, where his son Tippu was drowning in a flooded Kaveri river. None of his servants were prepared to get into the swift currents to save him. He saw the big Aswatha tree and a saint sitting beneath meditating. Hyderali begged him to save his son, in his own Urdu language. The saint did so effortlessly, by swimming in the fast river currents, and brings the young boy back to the shore. Next day, he sent for Poornaiyya, his dewan and asked him about the significance of his dream. Poornaiyya knew about the greatness of Sri Sheshachandrikacharya already and explained that this saint of Hyderali dream was none other than the famous ascetic. Poornaiyya also explained that he had not intervened in the earlier dispute about his Vrindavana location as the Nawab should not consider him as partisan to his own sect. finally Hyderali rescinded his earlier order and instead allotted the adjacent land to the Vrindavan itself and got a small Mantapa constructed next to it for use of worshippers. Recently, at the time of Shri Vidyapayonidhi tirtha, the vacant place was used to construct a big hall where the Vrindavana is housed along with other Vrindavanas of Srinatha Tirtha and Shri lashmivallbha Tirtha and installation of Mukhya Prana.

His Charama shloka reads:
Sarvasarvamsaheshanassabhasu jithavadirat
Sarvadasarvada bhuyath raghunatha muniswarah"

There is also a sthothra composed by Shri Vidyarathnakara Tirtha with 18 stanzas, describing his achievements. It is seen that performance of Sevas at the location by aspirants gives the desired results in the same manner as in Manthralaya or Navavrindavana.