Few seers, cutting across streams of thoughts and even religion, are held in as high esteem as Vyasa Raja or Vyasa Theertha (1447-1539). A renowned philosopher, he ranks next only to Madhwacharya and Jayatheertha in the Madhwa Parampare.
B.N.K. Sharma, one of the best known scholars, rates Vyasa Theertha as the “prince of the Dialecticians” in the Dwaita system. Vyasa Theertha, he says, carried forward the work of his distinguished predecessors: Madhwa, Jayatirtha and Vishnu Dasa and explored and exhausted all the technical and Shastric possibilities of making the doctrines and interpretations of his school, impregnable and invulnerable to attacks from any quarter. Another scholar Dr Dasagupta says “the logical skill and depth of acute dialectical thinking shown by Vyasa Theertha, stands almost unrivaled in the whole of Indian thought.”
Vyasa Theertha has given us an enlarged vision of Madhwa shastra and each of his work is a precious gem throwing new light on the dualism that Madhwa preached.
His Tatparya Chandrika is an unparalled commentary and interpretation of the Brahmasutras. What sets him aside from other Madhwa seers is that by his scholarship and deep knowledge, he ensured the ascent of Dwaitha Siddantha in the whole of south India.
One of India’s greatest Emperor, Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagar, revered Vyasa Raja and called him his Raja Guru. He conferred on this Raja Guru his vast Kingdom for a day and the seer returned it the next day after a danger to the King and the Kingdom had passed, thanks to his effort.
The streams of mysticism and philosophy, Sahitya and Sangeetha perfectly blend in this seer and he founds two distinct yet interconnected systems-the Dasa Sahitya or Koota and the Vyasa Koota. If the first is meant to teach the ordinary people the greatness of Hari, the second is more profound and it is aimed at philosophers, saints and intellectuals. If Vyasa Raja trains Purandara Dasa, Kanaka Dasa and Belur Vaikunta Dasa to carry forward the Dasa Koota, he prepares Vadiraja, Vijendra Theertha, Sudhindra Theertha, Srinivasa Theertha and Rama Theertha to teach and preach.
Both these schools of thought attain their peak during the life and time of Vyasa Raja. Very few know that Vyasa Raja, like Sripadaraja too, underwent an inner turmoil which he describes beautifully in one of his suladis called Namasmarana.
Vyasa Raja had gained insight into music, thanks to Sripadaraja who taught him everything he knew. Sripadaraja inculcated in Vyasa Raja a love for music and Vyasa Raja often wrote under the Ankita Krishna, which he subsequently amended to Sri Krishna.
The Namasmarana, Vyasa Raja seems to give us a hint of the trials and tribulations that he underwent and the conflict in him between the worldly and saintly life.
His suladi is quiet clear on how the temptations came his way and how Hari helped him get over them. He says Samsara tempted him and he was attacked by its vices. He says it is only in his old age that he became conscious of his defects and he seeks pardon from Hari.
Now, comes the most interesting part.
Vyasa Raja touches upon the concept of rebirth and Karma. He openly says that when he is born again (He does not use the word if but says when born again), he wants to be a Madhwa with all the holy marks of the Gopichandana on his body, including the Gopi mudra on his forehead and the twelve marks on the various angas of the human body.
Asking for the sectarian marks of a Madhwa, Vyasa Raja subtly makes it clear to us that he is going to be reborn again and he does so less than sixty years after he gave up his portal body as Raghavendra Swamy.
Vyasa Raja says in this suladi that he craves for the necklace of Tulasi around his neck, the Sudarashana mark on his right shoulder and the mark of a Shanka mark on the left. “Bestow upon me such a Vaishnava life of manifestations and rejoicings”, he says.
Vyasa Raja says he unequivocally accepts the Pancha bedas or five fold differences enunciated by Madhwacharya and also the concept of Taratamya or gradation of gods.
Was Vyasa Raja here hinting that he would be reborn again as a Vaishnava and as one who enjoyed first the fruits of being a householder and then transform into a savant of Hari.
A close look at the suladi makes it clear that Vyasa Raja was hinting at the family life that he would have to undergo in life and the temptations that he would encounter before he would pass on to become a Sanyasi.
He says Samsara would cast its net on him and make him one of its adherents. He says “If the offering a bride is a means of pleasing Thee, then even Kamsa had offered his daughter to Jarasandha. Similarly, if prosperity can be a means a winning Thee over, then even the wicked Duryodhana was also full of it. If I want to join Thee by the force of Brotherhood, then I find that Shishupala had done so.” This shows that there is none equal to you and onl;y you can give me shelter. These lines clearly indicate that Vyasa Raja was aware of the dangers of Grihasta and life before Sanyasa.
Vyasa Raja also touched upon the dangers of becoming a Sanyasi only in name. “If Sannyasa be a means of realising Thee, even the wicked Ravana also had become a Sannyasin”, he says.
He then implores Hari to save him and says it is only at his feet he will find the world.
The suladi thus shows the remarkable writing prowess of this great saint-philosopher and the uncanny knowledge that he had that he had to pass through another timeline on Earth. He prepares himself for battling the forces of evil and implores Hari to help him spread his teachings. This is precisely what Raghavendra Swamy did in his life time and what he is doing now two centuries and more after he entered Brindavana.