Sri Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha -- a short sketch
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha is the second highest saint in the Mâdhva hierarchy, being next only to Srimad Ananda Tîrtha himself, in the târatamya. He is widely regarded as being the incarnation of Lâtavya, a rju-tâtvika-yogi and the successor to Mukhya PrâNa. Therefore, even though he nominally had Sri Vyâsa Tîrtha as a guru, he acknowledges only Srimad Ananda Tîrtha himself, as his preceptor. He is an outstanding poet, a very pugnacious opponent, and a most ardent devotee. He is also responsible for creating the paryâya system of rotation, according to which each of the eight Udupi ashhTa-MaTha-s has a two-year spell "in office" at the Krishna temple in Udupi, with each getting a turn sometime during a sixteen-year cycle. By instituting this system, Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha changed the previous one of each MaTha getting a two-month term of administration, which had been started by Srimad Ananda Tîrtha himself, and that had started to degenerate. It is without a doubt that of all the saints in the Mâdhva hierarchy, only Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha had the stature to explicitly recast a system that had been formulated by Srimad Ananda Tîrtha himself.Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha's criticisms of countervailing philosophies and schools are carried out with a poet's flair, and always have a raw appeal even to the unschooled, because of their commonsense disguise -- he often uses very simple worldly concepts and experiences to make profound points, which is in sharp contrast to the usual style of presentation that generally tends to make all metaphysics look rather otherworldly and disjointed from everyday experience and understanding. While his poetry and prose writings in Sanskrit mark him to be an extraordinarily luminescent intellect, even in a paramparâ that boasts of many brilliant scholars, he does not make a highbrow rejection of the needs of the less scholarly, and has made significant contributions to the Hari-dâsa tradition, the vehicle to take Tattvavâda to the non-Sanskrit-literate masses, and has translated Srimad Ananda Tîrtha's Mahâbhârata-tâtparya-nirNaya into Kannada. Dr. B.N.K. Sharma writes: "In this respect, his work marks a new and necessary phase in the history of Dvaita Literature and breathes the spirit of a new age which produced other popular exponents of Madhva-Siddhânta, both in Sanskrit and in Kannada" (Emphasis as given by author). Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha is also well-known as the creator of many stotras, quite a few of them distinctly hortatory, that explain sophisticated concepts in relatively easy terms, and encourage the seeker to give up the bondage of material desire and seek the shelter of Vishnu.
It is said that in a previous birth, Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha served Krishna in a very special way, by acting as RukmiNî's messenger to Him, just before she eloped with Him as per her own request.
Biographies on Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha include the Vâdirâja-guruvara-charitâmrta, and the autobiographical work Svapna-vrndâvana-âkhyâna. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha lived a long life of 120 years, all but eight or so of them as asanyâsî. He is said to have, in his early days, been a native of the village of Huuvinakere, Kundâpur Taluk, in modern Karnataka state, but as in the cases of many other saints, a detailed account of his childhood seems to be unavailable, perhaps because it is considered of secondary importance as compared to his achievements as a grown-up.
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha wrote many works, not all of which have survived, unfortunately; and of those that have, not all are in print. Among the ones that are in print, the best known and most often read and cited is the Yukti-Mallikâ, which is a humongous treatise that conducts a threadbare logical analysis of different philosophical systems, with the author professing to proceed on the basis of strict rationality, with no fond or hateful preconceptions, and finding, at the end, that Madhva's view is the right one:
Notice the definitive usage "ante siddhastu siddhânto," and the use of 'Tattvavâda,' rather than anything else, to name the doctrine which he finds right. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha uses his unique blend of wit, sarcasm, and poetic aptitude, to underscore many of the points made by Srimad Ananda Tîrtha and other scholars before him; he communicates with his audience very effectively, by using pithy language peppered with down-to-Earth metaphors. In the Yukti-Mallikâ, we find detailed expositions of Mâdhva positions, as enshrined in the Vishnu-tatva-vinirNaya and other works, on the futility of atheism, the bheda interpretation of the so-called Mahâ-vâkyas, etc. He also refutes the Brahma-Suutra-bhâshya of Shankara, and gives quotes and interpretations not previously employed by Mâdhva scholars.
Other works by Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha include the Mahâbhârata-Prasthâna, an independent detailed commentary on the Mahâbhârata of Veda Vyâsa. This, in fact, is the only authoritative detailed commentary on the Mahâbhârata by a Mâdhva scholar, as Srimad Ananda Tîrtha's Mahâbhârata-tâtparya-Nirnaya does not offer a line-by-line commentary on the epic. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha also wrote a commentary on the Mahâbhârata-tâtparya-Nirnaya, and a translation of that work into Kannada (which has already been alluded to).
Among the other extant works of Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, two stand out: the RukmiNîsha-Vijaya and the Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna. The former is considered to be the greatest work of poetry ever written, and was written in response to a work called "Shishupâla-vadha," which described the encounter between Krishna and Shishupâla, and its background. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha objected for several reasons, among them the one that the work, whose title literally means "Shishupâla's killing," is inauspiciously named and does nothing to signify Krishna's greatness. He then promised that he would obtain a new grantha within nineteen days, one that would cover the same subject the way it ought to be. He then authored the RukmiNîsha-Vijaya within that period.
The Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna was authored in a very special way. There was a deaf-mute and illiterate brâhmaNa, who served Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha in menial ways. Years after Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha's Brndâvana-pravesha, he appeared in the deaf-mute man's dreams over a period of several weeks, and gave him the Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna. Every next day, the deaf-mute man would go to the pontiff of the Matha, and recite whatever he had heard in his dream encounter with Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha the previous night. All that was written down, but could not be made sense of. Finally, many years later, the same man was reborn, and became a sanyâsi in Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha's own line and came to head his Matha, and he then himself wrote an exposition on the Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna that he had received previously. A fragment of the Svapna-Vrndâvanâkhyâna called the Anu-Vrndâvanâkhyâna is regularly recited by devotees of Srî Vâdirâja.
In addition, Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha composed many devotional songs in Kannada; unfortunately, few of these have survived to the present. We are luckier with respect to his stotras: manuscripts of a few dozen of those have made it to our day, the better known of them being the Dashâvatâra-stuti, the Shrî-Krishna stuti, the Hayagrîva-sampadâ-stotra, the Haryashtakam, the Nava-graha stotra, etc. (see the complete list).
Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha's MaTha is one of the eight Udupi MaTha-s, and is headquartered at Sode, on the banks of the Shâlmali, and very near the Trivikrama temple that Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha himself installed in the year 1582. Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha's Brndâvana is there also, and he will stay there for the rest of Kali Yuga, protecting devotees who would otherwise be annihilated by evil.