Sri Vyasaraya - Sri A.P.Karmarkar & Sri N.B.Kalamdani  E-mail
                                       SRI VYASARAYA
(Article extracted from the work : Mystic Teachings of the Haridasa of Karnatak
by A.P.Karmarkar, M.A.,L.L.B, N.B.Kalamdani
Published in : 1939
Published by : The Golden Jubilee Publication,
Karnatak Vidyavardhak Sangha, Dharwar)

I. Age of Vyasaraya

1. It is a wonderful phenomenon, indeed that there are definite periods of thought-currents which work
simultaneously in the history of the world. They have got a beginning, development, and decline. In
fact, the different periods of the Indus Valley civilization, the Vedas and the Upanishads, or King
Ashoka and the Gupta Emperors, or of Sankara and Madhva, or of Vyasaraya and Ekanatha, have really
proved themselves as land-marks in the history of the thought-waves in ancient and medieval India.
And, it should be a matter of absorbing interest, indeed, to find out parallels in the history of
the other nations in the world, and examine how far these thought-currents have worked simultaneously
and effected an altogether a new change in the atmosphere. However, we shall turn our attention to
the period of Vyasaraya.

The age of Vyasaraya (sixteenth century) was a fruitful age of Reformation and Renaissance in the
history of the whole world. Under the cool shelter of the regime of the Elizabeth in the West, or
under that of Krishnaraya of Karnatak, and other emperors and kings in the East, we find that
various poets and playwrights, saints and philosophers flourished, and produced works of wonderful
merit in the field of literature. Besides this, we find that a Reformation was taking place in
the field of religion also. Not to mention the work of Martin Luther in the West, we find that in
India the great Vyasaraya and Chaitanya, Kabir and Tulsidas and Vallabha and Ekanatha, effected
a great change in the Religious ideas of the time by giving a great prominence to the doctrine of

In Karnatak the far-sighted saint Vyasaraya started a new School of Bhakti called 'Dasakuta', which
included some of the most famous personages of the day i.e. Purandaradasa, Vadiraja, Kanakadasa,
and Vaikunthadasa. This School has done an immense sacrifice in the cause of religion; and by
performing Kirtana and Bhajana or by singing songs of devotion at the doors of others as mendicant
singers, the Haridasas have done a great Service to their motherland.

But the main credit of removing the prejudices of caste and creed should go to Vyasaraya first. Though
himself adorning the ponitifical throne of Madhva, he allowed Kanakadasa in the fold of the Dasakuta,
inspite of the great objections raised by the orthodox Brahmins of the day. Ah ! enough if one can just
imagine the cool shelter of the Vijayanagar Emperors, under which these saints of Karnatak sat together,
thought, and deliberated upon topics, which are beyond the purview of ordinary intelligence ! Further,
of an equal interest the scenes should be : the great Vyasaraya, adorning the pontifical throne of
Madhva, and, as the President of the Dasakuta, preaching the main doctrines of Madhva philosophy,
chatting with his disciples without the least idea of caste and creed in the cause of devotion, and
performing miracles - these scenes are really meant for a painter, or an architect, or a sculptor.
Even then, one cannot remain without a keen suspicion in his mind, whether they also could have equally
depicted the spirit behind the same.

However, it should also be a matter of sad remembrance, that with the retirement of this group of
Haridasas, we gind the glory of Vijayanagar Empire also begins to wane. In fact, just within two years
after the death of the great Purandara (1564 A.D.), the battle of Rakkasa-tangadi (better known as
the Battle of Talikot) takes place. However, the wave of Bhakti again revives in the time of Vijayadasa
as we shall see later on.

II Life - Story

2. Vyasaraya, later known also as Chandrikacharya, was born at Bannur, situated on the banks of the river
Kaveri (Mysore Province), on 22-4-1447 A.D. As Belur Keshavadas has very beautifully put it, 'Vyasaraya may
be said to have been the main cause for the rise and development of the Vijayanagar kingdom.' He was a
spiritual adviser to the Rayas of Vijayanagar, and is also said to have ruled the Vijayanagar kingdom for
about 12 years. A version us current that he saved the life of KrishnarAya from the Kuhuyoga. He was a
great patron of learning, and made many grants and endowments ot the learned.

Besides this, Vyasaraya was an eminent Sanskrit Scholar. In fact, his three works Tarka-tandava, Nyayamrita
and Chandrika, still remain popular in the first of Sanskrit literature. He has also composed a number of
devotional songs in Kannada, thus serving the cause of the language of the country in which he lived.

In his boyhood, he was brought up under the careful guidance of Brahmanyatirtha. Later on, he received
initiation at the hands of Sripadaraya.

Sri Krishna Chaitanya or Gauranga of Bengal, is said to have been the disciples of Vyasaraya. The disciple of
Chaitanya count themselves as the followers of Vyasaraya-Math even to this day.

Vyasaraya had amongs his disciples some of the famous personages of his day e.g. - Purandaradasa, Kanakadasa,
Vijayendra-Swami, Vadiraja and Vaikunthadasa. It should also be noted in this connection, that the main
distinction between Dasaru and Vyasaru came into vogue in the time of Vyasaraya.

In one of his songs Vijayadasa has given a beautiful lifesketch of Vyasaraya. Further, one Somanath of Chinglepet
Dist. has written a complete biography of Vyasaraya e.g. Vyasa-Yogi-Charite, in the year 1535 A.D. Vyasaraya retired
from this world in the year 1539 A.D. His Samadhi is situated in the little island which is surrounded by the river
Tungabadhra near Anegundi (near Hampi).

III Heart-rendings of Vyasaraya

3. In India the two domains of philosophy and mysticism overlap each other, in so far as, the Philosopher
is at once the religious reformer of the land also. The particular methods which he adopts for the attainment
of the highest goal, as he imagines it to be, indicate his role as a religious teacher. Therefore, along
with the enunciation of the main tenets of his doctrine, the religious side of the philosopher is also
equally important to a student of Indian philosophy. This is much more so in the case of the Haridasas
and other philosopher-saints. They are expected to preach whatever they themselves practise in life.
Eventually, while frankly admitting their own defects and heart-rendings, or their woes and sufferings,
or even their miseries and disappointments, they have not failed to tell us the ways and methods which
they practiced for the realisation of the highest goal after a complete purification of the mind and body.
Therefore, it is this personalistic element, which happens to be an absorbing interest in the lives of
the Saints. However, we shall turn our attention to the writings of Vyasaraya in the light of the above

4. Like Sripadaraya, Vyasaraya also passed through the Dark Night. In fact, after he became conscious of his
own defects and the wrongs committed by him in the past, a spirit of repentance seems to have soon overpowered
him. He says :

" My body became crumbled, but the desire for money did not come so. My eyes and ears have become feeble,
but the longing for woman and land has not vanished. My legs and hands have become powerless, but the
craving for worldly pleasures has not faded. My surrounding people are displeased owing to my old age
and its diseases, but I do not feel disgusted with such a body. I have committed crores of sins, but have
not felt the least repentance for the same. Alas ! life is almost spent up ! I do not know (anything)
about the future. But, Oh God, I am Thine from time immemorial. Are not my sorrows Thine own ? Therefore,
bless me with devotion (towards Thee) and come to my succor kindly".
- Namasmarana Suladi p. 81

5. The poet fully recognises his extreme helplessness and implores God for protection:

" I was attacked by the devil called Samsara. Oh, the enemy of Kamsa, protect me. Just as sheep, which is being
carried for slaughter, grazes the leaves (tied to its neck), so also I became very proud without understanding
the aweful death approaching me. Just as a moth knowingly falls into the fire, even so, I embrace with full
knowledge the most hateful objects. As a wife, having her husband by her side, makes love to others, even so,
when Thou art my resort, I am seeking for protection (else-where). As if six tigers pounce on a hair, the
Shadripus are dragging me hither and thither. Just as an elephant throws dust from the ground on its own temple
after a bat, so also have I become ignorant. Oh, Father Krishna, kindly protect me." (28)

6. Thou Thyself dost protect me: Knowing fully well the defects and shortcomings, the devotee is unable to find
out the means to win over God. The poet remarks that mere bathing, fasting, meditation, embracing Sannyasa or any
other means, without obtaining the grace of God, are of no avail. Therefore, his only request is :

"Thou Thyself dost protect me, Oh Hari ! As for me, I do not find any means for that. If I want to win Thee
over by means of bathing, a frog always does it. If I want to win Thee over by meditation, the crane does it
always. If I have to win Thee over by counting beads, my mind is not within my power. If I say that fasting
alone is the means of securing Thee, a serpent observes it always. If Sannyasa be a means of realising Thee,
the wicked Ravana also had become a Sannyasin. If the offering a bride is a means of pleasing Thee, then
Kamsa had offered his daughter to Jarasandha. If prosperity be called as the means of winning Thee over,
then the wicked Duryodhana also was full of it. If I want to join Thee by the force of Brotherhood, then I find
that Shishupala had it. " (8)

7. There is none equal to Thee: The poet feels the mighty power of God and finds that there is none equal to Him.
He says :

"Oh God, there is none equal to Thee, and I have no other shelter except Thyself. There is none to give Judgement
to Thee or to me. Having resided in the same nest, without being seperated even for a moment, I have ever belonged
to Thee. (Then) is it proper that Thou shouldst act as a blind man, having handed me over to the sensual pleasures.
If I am desirous of others wives, Thou may fix up different hells for me. But all this lust for others' wives is
of Thy making. Oh, my Lord, I bow down to Thee. Only having been afraid of Thy Universal Lordship, I am to obey
thy commands. It is by thy insinuation only, that I perform all kinds of actions. So, do not count my sins. " (10)

8. The poet, being a Madhva, makes a request before God, that, he in all the future births, be endowed with all the
sectarian marks as well as with the knowledge of Madhva philosophy :

"Bestow upon me this much in my future births. Thou art void on any motive, so favour me ( with this much) kindly :
The most prominent Gopi-mark (on the forehead), the twelve marks (on my body), the garland of Tulsi in the neck,
the Sudarashana mark (on the right shoulder) and the Shanka (mark) in the left. Bestow upon me such a Vaishnava
life of manifestations and rejoicings. Give me the holy understanding in every birth - that the world which is
perceived consists of gradations, that the five main Distinctions (Pancha-Bhedas) are real, and that Rudra and
others deities have taken shelter at Thy feet eternally. (Let me have) love for all the learned and the best
of men; and (let me possess) the idea of the Chief - Preceptorship in Sukha-Tirtha (Madhvacharya). Oh Sri Krishna,
the Bestower of Salvation, favour me with the nine kinds of devotion, void of impurities. " (12)

IV Sri-Hari is the All-in-all.

9. As Dr. S.N.Dasgupta, in his work 'Hindu Mysticism', has beautifully put it (page 141 - 142) " .... in the new
school of Bhakti the conception of God as creator, supporter, lord and master, or as the ultimate philosophical
principle, is subordinated to the conception of God as the nearest and the dearest .... (In fact) He may be
the greatest, highest, loftiest and the most transcendent, but yet He has made His home in our hearts and has come
down to our level to give us His affection and love." Thus, it is this idea of 'nearest and the dearest' that makes
the poet think that Sri Hari is the all-in-all in the Universe. Vyasaraya gives a beautiful description of Hari :

"Mother is Sri Hari to this world, because, it is He who has created this world from within His body in the
beginning. Father is Sri Hari to this world, because He begot Brahma and others. Master is Sri Hari to this
world, because He is protecting it by His Rama and other forms. Lord is Sri Hari to this world, because, He
gave knowledge through Vyasa and others. The highest Truth (Para-tatva) is Sri Hari, because, He is the only
one that bestows the highest Bliss. The summum bonum of life is Sri Hari, because, He bestows blessings upon
those that remember Him. Everything is Sri Hari to this world, because, He is all-pervading. Krishna alone
is the all-pervading power." (Upasana-Suladi)

V Worship of the Inner-dwelling God

10. Here is a beautiful description of the combination of the doctrine of Dualism and the Mystic character of
the Saint. The poet worships the inner-dwelling God by surrendering every limb of his body or every action in
his life to Him :

"I am worshiping my inner-dwelling image of God with whole-heartedness everyday. My body is His temple.
My heart is His Mantapa. My eyes are the big lights and the hands are the Chouries. My pilgrimage is the
act of circambulation. The act of sleeping is prostration (before Him). The talks of praise are His mantras.
All the words I utter are the flowers. All my walks are dances (before Him). All my raiments are different
kinds of clothings (for Him). The ornaments I wear are the ornaments for Sri Hari. The Sri-gandha paste
applied to my body is the scented paste for His body. The flowers worn on my head form the garland (for Him).
Our permanent friendship is His Buddhi. The food taken in remembrance of Him is his Naivedya (offering). The
reflected form is His looking-glass. The five functions of mind are His Kingdom. My utterance of the Name of
Hari is holy pond. In this temple-innermost is His throne. (Such being the case) why should any other means
be resorted to ? Why is any other image required? Why any recitations and actions needed ? When all the means
are full in me, I can worship Sri Krishna completely." (11)

VI Importance of Name

11. Like all the mystics of the world Vyasaraya reveals the importance of the Name of God. He says :

"So, when there is the union of Sri Krishna, why sould there be the misfortunes or any dread of hell ?
What if the servants are fierce? What, if the mode of punishment of Yama would be very severe ? What,
if the torture of Hell be extreme ? Is there any fear to the servants of God ? The servants of Yama flee
away at the order of their ruler-in-chief. He, whose mind refuses to remember Achyuta, whose head does
not bow down before the punisher of Bali, whose tongue does not utter the name of the Lord of Laxmi,
such a wretched soul goes to hell. The devotees of Krishna go to Vaikuntha. Let that be with mocking,
or let that be with pride - when standing or studying, or when touching, or at any other time, if
one invokes 'Sri Krishna' successively - that becomes the sound of the drum at the time of the marriage
with Salvation. To those, who remember Thy name always - give them the more at the time of their death,
Oh Sri Krishna ! " (81)

VII. An Ideal Bhakta

12. As we have remarked elsewhere, the Haridasa have always tried to delineate their own ideas regarding the
qualifications of an Ideal sage. Here is a psalm wherein Vyasaraya gives a beautiful description of Ideal
Bhakta :

"When one is born as a man, there ought to be the name of Hari on his tongue. He should be kind to all
and wipe off all sins. He should utter the name of Hari for every word. He should have calmness (of mind);
should have love towards the holy path; and should foresake lust and anger. He should foresake egoism as
also the affection for kith and kin. He should be in the company of the gentle; should read the Vedas and
Shastras, and should understand the tenets of philosophy. He should unceasingly remember Madhva; should
obtain the favour of Father Krishna; should be satisfied with whatever he gets; and should live in the
world with contentment. " (3)

13. Besides this, Vyasaraya has dealt with various topics i.e. females, general words of wisdom, spirit of
humiliation and others. But we need not go into the detail, especially in view of the fact, that we have
given a survey of his main Teachings.