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Studies on Madhva's Visnu Tattva Nirnaya

Studies on Madhva's Visnu Tattva Nirnaya
Item Code: NAN986
Author: Roque Mesquita
Publisher: Aditya Prakashan
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9788177421545
Pages: 308
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.5 inch X 6.5 inch
weight of the book: 735 gms
About the Author

Madhava was an enigmatic personality in the Indian intellectual world of the early thirteenth century, not least because he developed a new sif-contained Vedantic System which had no links to any existing Vedant traditions. Visnutattvanirnaya is one of the and greatest in length among Madhava's ten works (dasaprakaranagranthas). It enjoyed a high status among the works of Madhva and most probably belonged to his last written texts. As such it displays Madhva's fully developed and mature teaching. Studies on Madhva's Visnutattvanirnaya gives an analytical outline of the text's literary composition providing a survey of the topics discussed therein and furnishing at the same time the background of these topics. The purpose of these studies is to draw the attention of English-speaking scholars and students to the philosophical and theological system of Madhva, which in close accordance with the idea of analogia entis is intimately based on a twofold nature, namely on the concept of svantra and paratantra.

About the Author

Roque Mesquita is a retired Professor of Indian Philosophy at the Institute for South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, Departement of South Asian Studies, University of Vienna/Austria. He has published several books on Madhva's works in German and English (Madhva's Quotes from the Puranas and the Mahabharata. An Analytical Compilation of Untraceable Source-Quotations in Madhva's Works along with Footnotes. New Delhi 2008, The Delhi 2007, and Madhva's Unknown Sources. Some Observations. New Delhi 2000 were published by Aditya Prakashan).


Madhva was an enigmatic personality in the Indian intellectual world of the early thirteenth century, not least because he developed a new self-contained Vedantic System which had no links to any existing Vedanta traditions. My first studies on Madhva's work Visnutattvanirnaya were published, along with a German translation of this text together with detailed notes, in the Publications of the De Nobili Research Library, Vienna 2000. The present English version does not include the English translation of the text itself, I but it gives an analytical outline of this literary composition providing a survey of the topics discussed therein and furnishing at the same time the background of these topics with the help of several footnotes supplied in the German translation of the text, as well as, in my previous inquiries into Madhva's philosophy.

The original plan for these studies has accrued from my prior longstanding engagement with the philosophy of the Visistadvaita-school which has very close philosophical and theological affinities to Madhva's system of ideas. As a matter of fact, not only are both of these schools intimately con- nected to the Paficaratra teachings, but they also share several common doctrines, as underlined by Sayana Madhava in his Sarvadarsanasamgraha (= Purnapra j fiadarsana).

Visnutattvanirnaya is one of the best and greatest in length among Madhva's ten works (dasaprakaranagranthasi. It enjoyed a high status among the works of Madhva and most probably belonged, together with his other texts like Vada (also known as Tattvodyota) and the subcommentary to BSu, namely Anuvyakhyana, to his last written texts. As such it displayed Madhva's fully developed and mature teaching.

The purpose of these studies is to draw the attention of English-speaking scholars and students to the philosophical and theological system of Madhva, which in close accordance with the idea of analogia entis is intimately based on a twofold nature, namely on the concept of svatantra and paratantra. For a detailed explanation of this concept I have attempted to use the world of ideas found in the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, which I have been familiar with since my youth. For this reason readers will now and then be confronted with parallel passages in the works of St. Thomas Aquinas (1255-1274), a contemporary of Madhva (1190-1279), in order to demonstrate the intellectual affinity between these two scholars.

Madhva holds the prevailing Indian view that philosophy is closely associated with religion and that it is not autonomous or purely theoretical. A philosophy devoid of soteriological motives is unknown in classical India. However, it is the combination of a philosophical system with prophetical thinking which renders Madhva's approach so innovative. He attributes the ultimate validity of his teaching to the uniqueness of his appearance as an avatdra of Vayu 'Son of Visnu', and he sees himself as a divinely appointed teacher with a mission to refute false doctrines, to annihilate the reign of terror of asuras / daityas.' and to proclaim the ultimate supremacy of Visnu. In order to substantiate his claim that he is avatiira he cites numerous sources and quotations. All of these, however, are unknown and in fact turn out to be fictitious," as for instance the reference alluding to Balithasukta (Rgveda I 141,1-3) as a prophecy heralding the arrival of Madhva as amsii- vatdra of Visnu (vaticinium ex eventu), a prophecy after its fulfilment," None of the famous ancient authors in India before him had dared to claim to be an incarnation of God. It was left to their disciples to honour and adore them as avatdras.

A special feature of Madhva's school is the originality of its teaching which, independent of a guruparampara, goes back to the otherworldly authority of Madhva. The doctrine or message of Madhva thus appears like a revealed religion. It is clear from Madhva's statements that he is sincerely convinced of his mission to proclaim all canonical works in the name of Visnu in the Kaliage by virtue of divine charisma (visnuprasadat). And on the basis of this conviction, Madhva can directly attribute to Visnu the authorship of his unknown sources" or of the quotations he adduces to substantiate his peculiar doctrinal tenets (satsiddhantah); he even attributes the argumentation (yuktayah) used to prove these tenets to Visnu himself (proktah svayam bhagavataiva), as well as the unknown sources introduced by Madhva, like tattvanirnaya, as 'visnukrte tattvanimaye'.

Regarding the unknown source-quotations referred to by Madhva in order to prove his various tenets, I have selected in my studies only the most im- portant passages. In face of the huge number of these quotes on the same topic, available in almost all of Madhva's several works, it would have been troublesome to reproduce them in their whole length, since they are rarely congruent in all their contents, although they are adduced as a proof for a particular teaching. Apart from some common features, these quotations sometimes exhibit complementary but also contrary or even contradictory elements. For this reason, in some of the cases one and same quote needs to be discussed twice in different contexts of the study. I have underlined the title of the sources in order to make it easier for the readers to identify the unknown or fictitious source-quotations. Almost all the quotes have been translated, but some of them remained untranslated when their contents were clear from the context.

The above issues have been discussed for the first time in R. Mesquita, Madhva und seine unbekannten literarischen Quellen. Einige Beobachtungen, Vienna 1997 (Publications of the De Nobili Research Library 24) - also available in English (Madhva's Unknown Literary Sources. Some observations, New Delhi 2000 [Aditya Prakashan]) - and subsequently also in R. Mesuita, Madhva: Visnutattvanirnaya. Annotierte Ubersetzung mit Studie, Vienna 2000 (Publications of the De Nobili Research Library 28). Another crucial theme in connection to Madhva's dualistic system which is presented in the latter book is the discussion of the position of 'God, Man and the World,' following the thought pattern of analogia entis (see Mesquita2000: Transl. n. 304; ibid. Study n. 608 and 648; and also Mesquita 2003) and implying the concept of creation ex nihilo (see below n. 669 and 681).

Madhva's philosophical system is known in the Indian tradition as the teaching of "dualism" in which being has a twofold division, namely "a being acting independently" (autonomous) (svatantra = ens a se), that means "the highest God Visnu," and a heteronomous being (paratantra = ens ab alio) – i.e. the created material world and the eternal material or immaterial being.


This study is based exclusively on those statements of Madhva which are not only in the light of dispute with his adversaries but which also are under consideration of other doctrinal traditions, especially those of the Vedanta Schools. Besides, the study is incorporated into the results of my monograph on Madhva's unknown literary sources. The results achieved there are not a mere working hypothesis, but a definite finding with regard to Madhva's authorship of the unknown sources based on several individual observations and on Madhva's decisive self-statements. The philological scrutiny of the individual fictitious quotations has shown that Madhva not only composed new literary passages, but also that he has reshaped, enlarged, and interpolated the existing ones, for instance, textual passages from the Puranas.

Under these conditions, the present study differs basically from the literary compositions of Mme. Siauve, as far as her arguments are based on a thoroughly wrong evaluation of Madhva's literary sources. Beyond that, she mixes up the proper opinion of Madhva himself with the doctrine of later Madhvites, who are referred to by her as 'les madhvas.'Despite these and other weaknesses, I must acknowledge with gratitude that her different treatises on Madhva in many ways were very helpful to my present studies.

The query of the unknown literary sources is followed up throughout the present study in the sense that the analysis of VTN is set up in such a way that it displays not only the organic structure of the discussions, but also show their close connection and harmony with the contents of numerous different sources of Madhva. The analysis particularly serves to differentiate between genuine and fictitious source-quotations (indicated with an under- line and a distinguishing mark **). On the basis of this one text alone, the present study will provide arguments corroborating and supplementing my thesis that Madhva himself has composed ad hoc, in accordance to his concern, unknown sources or fictitious quotations, which he ascribes to well- known classical literary books in order to substantiate his peculiar teachings, interpretations, and argumentations. This study also discusses the relevant themes debated in VTN which likewise employs several fictitious sources and which Madhva adduces also in his other books in order to substantiate his doctrine.

The fact that Madhva sometimes adduces fictitious sources side by side with well-known and identifiable source-quotations has the purpose of raising Madhva's unknown sources to the rank of sources accepted by all eminent wise men (sistah). The fictitious source-quotations which in VTN are ascribed by Madhva to well-known texts are spread out as follows: Brah BrahVP (1x); Branp (4x); MBh (3x); Narp (1x); Shap (3x); Varp (2x); iti ca-quotes (16x). The rest of the quotations is ascribed to unknown or fictitious sources: Katyayanasruti (1x); Mahopanisad (4x); Narayanasruti (2x); Paingisruti (4x); Paramopanisad (4x); Paramasruti (7x); Pappaladasruti (1x); Sauparnasruti (1x); Vatsasruti (1x). Apart from these, there are five further unidentified sruti-quotations. The identified references to known sources (see below 'Analytical Outline') amount to approximately 67, namely AiAr (2x); BAU (5x); ChU (passin); Gi (6x); IsU (1x); KathU (4x); MahaU (1x); MaiU (3x); ManU (1x); MBh (3x); MuU (9x); Rg (14x); SvU (2x); TaiAr (2x); TaiBr (1x); TaiU (6x).

Thus work, as the title suggests, is devoted to the theological proof of the sovereignty of Visnu and in the process it also renders the whole doctrinal system of Madhva. According to Madhva, Visnu is identical with Brahman, Vasudeva, and Narayana. Narayana is accepted by Madhva as the favourite name (priyam nama).

The first section of VTN contains epistemological presuppositions. The proper proof – which is kept very short with a series of untraceable quotations – is articulated in the second and third section (see Analytical Outline of VTN). But the main purpose of the book – the absolute sovereignty of Visnu (visnoh sarvotkarsah / sarvottamatvam) – is a line of reasoning connecting like a thread running through the story and thus is present also in the first section. It is remarkable that Madhva's VTN does not polemize at all against the saivites. This is a very conspicuous behaviour, at least compared to analogous studies of the authors of Visistadvaita in which such debae involving dispute is a fixed point of discussion since the acceptance of Siva as the supreme God rescinds the supreme sovereignty of Visnu. Much more fierce is Madhva;s polemic against the Advaita-school, namely against their point of view that the individual soul is identical with the supreme God Brahman/Visnu, as it runs counter to the sovereignty of Visnu. Taking all of these points into consideration, VTN is really a polemical work. Madhva does not mention his Advaita-adversaries by name, however their identitication ensues either on the ground of their doctrines refuted by him or on the basis of tother relevant hints. For instance, he refutes the teachings of Vimuktatman and Saravajatman. There are also other relevant indicators such as the art of controversial discussion, like his polemic against the opinions of Anandabodha, Citsukha, and Sriharsa. Madhva also polemize against the Carvakas, Buddhist, and the Prabhakara-school. However, his adversaries remain the Advaita-authors.

The definition of the work title 'Visnutattvanirnaya' acts as a sketck for the structure of the study. First the study will deal with the inquiries about Madhva's doctrine of the means of right knowledge (=nirnaya). The second part will then discuss true nature of Visnu (=visnutattva), which is the basis for a proof by reasoning of the true nature of all other beings (tattvavada).


Analytical Outline of Visnutattvanirnaya17
Part One: Theory of Means of Right Knowledge
1The Hierarchical Dichotomy of Knowledge29
2Saksin - The Eye-witness and the Infallible Guarantor of the Vailidity of Knowledge53
3The Subordinate Means of Knowledge - Anupramanani74
Part Two: The Real Nature of God Visnu
1The Threefold Infinity of Visnu185
2The Absolute Unity and Indivisibility of Visnu's Nature199
3Visnu's Absolute Self-Dependence222
Selected Bibliography295

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