Vyasaraya and Vyasaraja Swami, as we briefly mentioned, he was the
disciple of Brahmanya Tirtha. Born around 1460 AD in the village of Bannur in Mysore district, his father's name was Rallanna Sumati and his gotra was Kasyapa. As previously stated, he took his birth by the blessings of Brahmanya Tirtha. Altogether, Vyasatirtha's parents had three children, a girl and two boys. In his childhood Vyasatirtha was known as Yatiraja. At the age of five he underwent the vidyarambha samskara to begin his formal education, starting with writing the alphabet, and at seven took upanayana (the sacred thread.) He stayed at gurukula for only four years after that. At eleven he went to his home and continued his studies of poetry, drama and grammar for about five years. Before Vyasatirtha's birth, his father promised his second son to Brahmanya Tirtha. He gave the boy the name Yatiraja to indicate his future as a renunciate, and in due course he was given to Brahmanya Tirtha as an assistant. After some time, however, Yatiraja, being unsure of Brahmanya Tirtha's intentions, slipped away and ran into the forest and headed for the direction of "home," away from the hermitage. One night whilst sleeping in the forest under a tree, Lord Visnu came to him and told him what to do. The teenager returned to the asrama hermitage that very same day and shortly after this, upon proving his dedication to his guru, young Yatiraja was formally initiated and given the name Vyasatirtha.

Some time shortly after the two year famine of 1475 and 1476 Brahmanya Tirtha, his guru, left this world. Vyasatirtha came to the Vedanta Pitha about 1478 in his late teens. Due to his young age and little time spent with his guru, he didn't really know the conclusions of the Madhva sastras very well, so he went to Kancipuram to study, where, after a very short time, he became a renowned pandit. Whilst in that area he was entrusted with the worship of Srinivasa (Lord Visnu) at Tirupati. Vyasatirtha's Mutt is still at Tirupati on the hill (Tirumala). Before leaving that place, after about twelve years of being there, he gave the worship over to his disciples.

In local history corresponding to the time, it is mentioned that the King of Bisnaga used to listen daily to a great Madhva Vaisnava sannyasi who had never married or touched a woman in his life. Though his name is not directly mentioned, history infers that this was Vyasatirtha.

From Kancipuram he went to Vijayanagar and became known for his radical statements regarding Brahmanism, Vaisnavism, varnasrama, and who was worthy to worship the Lord. It was at this time and place where he was challenged to a debate by brahmana pandits from all over India. The pandits were led by the learned brahmana Basava Bhatta of Kalinga (Orissa). They all pinned their challenges to the pillars of the palace. After a thirty day discussion, Vyasatirtha emerged triumphant and his reputation earned him the respect of King Krsnadevaraya (1509) who regarded him as guru and gave him all honors. He awarded him the order of the camel on a green flag and a drum on the back of a camel as a mark of respect. This is still kept by the Vyasaraya Mutt at Gosale. Once the flag was taken by King Nrsimha in his attacks against the Muslim sultans who caused threats and violence to devotees and temples in South India, but between Krsnadevaraya, Sivaji and others, the sultans were stopped before getting very far.

There are many nice stories telling of the great King Krsnadevaraya, who ruled the Vijayanagar kingdom on the Tungabhadra River in Karnataka in connection with his guru. Vyasatirtha gave the King formal initiation and then out of gratitude and love for his guru, Krsnadevaraya had made beautiful Deities of Vitthala (Krsna) and Rukmini and established the fine Vitthala Rukmini temple which still stands there today. On the temple wall there are inscriptions giving the date 1513 AD and refers to Vyasatirtha as the guru of Krsnadevaraya. There is also mention of Vyasatirtha ceremonially bathing Krsnadevaraya at his initiation, following in the method of Madhvacarya's puja manual entitled "Tantrasara" (Chapter 2.10-11), in which the Tantrasara points out that the ceremonial bathing (abhiseka) of a disciple by the guru adds to the glory of the disciple. As we can see by the next brief story, this did make him glorious.

Once a Gajapati King of Orissa tried to humiliate Krsnadevaraya by sending Advaita Mayavadi philosophical points to him to try to catch him out, but on the instructions and potency of his guru Vyasatirtha, Krsnadevaraya was, as usual, victorious. Out of gratitude Krsnadevaraya gave the village of Bettakonda to Vyasatirtha in 1526, and a huge lake was dug for the pleasure of guru called Vyasa samudra. The dates vary from 1523, 1524 and 1526 by various records, but all the points are substantiated by the writings of devotees of the time, including Purandara dasa. It is also recorded that Krsnadevaraya literally bathed Vyasatirtha in jewels as well, performing "Ratnabhiseka" (bathing him in jewels). Generally to install a person, an abhiseka is done with ghee, milk, yogurt, gaur, honey, sugar-water and tender coconuts in this part of the country, but this was done with priceless gems. After the death of Krsnadevaraya in 1530, Acyutaraya continued to honor Vyasatirtha for a few years until Vyasaraya's demise. Krsnadevaraya, by the way, is always referred to as probably the most spiritually enlightened of the Vijayanagar dynasty. He established many fine temples and Deities in this area under the guidance of Vyasatirtha. To this day there still stands the Deity of Laksmi Nrsimha standing twenty five feet tall in the banana fields. The Deity was carved from one stone under Krsnadevaraya's instructions. After his demise, the invading Muslims smashed many temples out of their envy of Vaisnava culture. Many Deities like Vitthala Rukmini and Krsnaswami were moved further south, but although the Muslims tried to smash the Deity of Lord Nrsimha, still He stands, though His temple lies in rubble around Him. This old and sacred place is the old Kiskinda mentioned in the Ramayana where Hanuman was born and where Rama killed Vali and put Sugriva on the throne.

There are numerous glories of Srila Vyasatirtha to be sung. It is not unintentional that I have said "sung" in his connection, for the highly controversial and powerful preacher, the third moon of the Madhva line, was always absorbed in harinama sankirtan. Many say this was due to the influence of his teacher, Sripadiraja Swami, who is renowned for his poems and songs glorifying Lord Sri Krsna. Some say he was the instigator of the Hari dasa or Dasakuta Movement. Anyway, during his life Vyasatirtha established 732 temples of Hanuman all over South India and composed poems and songs based on the Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Ramayana.

One day after composing his famous work called "Krsna Ni Begane Baro" which, for the last four centuries has become a Bharat Natyam dance repertoire, a strange thing happened.
Vyasatirtha was taking a little rest when Lord Sri Krsna appeared in his dream and proceeded to address him. "You are a sannyasi, you do not have any wife or children. On the other hand, I am very much married and leave a large family - so why is it that you only call Me Krsna?" From that day on in any further compositions, Vyasatirtha always referred to his Lord as Sri Krsna.

Once Vyasatirtha was sitting upon the pitha amongst his many, many disciples, when out of nowhere one low-born farmer happened to come into the assembly requesting mantra diksa initiation from Vyasatirtha. The farmer humbly begged, but in his humility he was persistent. The many other disciples, who were mostly brahmana stock, viewed him as being completely unqualified due to his birth and education, or rather lack of it - not being born in a brahmana family like all the other disciples. Vyasatirtha however, being pure and free from bodily conceptions of birth, etc. was of a different mind and to everyone's amazement Vyasatirtha told the farmer to chant the name of Yamaraja's bull. Going away and coming back after some time after chanting that name, the farmer's voice was again heard. "Swamiji, Swamiji, he is here," the farmer exclaimed. When the devotees peaked outside the Mutt, to their surprise there was Yamaraja's bull Mahisa, big as a mountain, right there outside the door of the Mutt. "Now what shall I do Swamiji?" the farmer inquired from Vyasatirtha. Vyasatirtha instructed him to take the bull to the river where there was one huge boulder that hundreds of men couldn't move. The farmer went to the river and requested the bull to move the boulder out of the main stream of the river to allow the water to flow to reach the crop irrigation areas downstream. That rock, which was in itself like an island amidst the river, the bull submerged beyond sight simply with the lifting of his hoof and resting it upon it. To the delight of everyone the water again began to flow. Soon after this incident the bull returned to Yamaraja, his master. The farmer then asked Vyasatirtha for more service. Vyasatirtha, who was always compassionate, then engaged him in looking after the Mutt's gosala.

Not long after that, an annual festival for the Deity came around on the calendar, and a huge festival was put on for the Lord. The high point was the abhiseka bathing ceremony in which the Deity was to be bathed in many different auspicious by-products of the cow. However, just as the bathing commenced, the Deity of Udupi Krsna suddenly disappeared right in front of everyone's eyes. Everyone was very confused except for Srila Vyasatirtha, who asked all the assembled devotees to conclude as to what had happened. The debating took some time and the disciples came to their conclusion that due to the offense of allowing the low-born farmer to look after the cows and procure the milk, yogurt, ghee, etc. for the puja, the Lord had disappeared.

Indirectly they were blaming their guru, saying that this was his offense, for they were still on the bodily concept of life, thinking themselves as brahmanas and he a mere vaisya farmer.

Vyasatirtha very tolerantly tilted his head and asked everyone to follow him for a moment. Everyone went to the gosala headed by Vyasatirtha. As they looked into the gosala they saw the farmer scrubbing down the cows, brush in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. In his total absorption of serving the Lord's cows, the farmer didn't even notice that the Deity had manifested His Gopal form and was standing beside him holding the bucket for him. Needless to say, all of his disciples were amazed that Udupi Krsna personally served this non-brahmana farmer, but Srila Vyasatirtha explained that, "No, the Lord had come to serve His pure devotee. Previously he came for Acarya Madhva to have him glorified and now he has found another worthy soul." Srila Vyasatirtha later formally initiated the farmer as his disciple.

Vyasatirtha passed away at Vijayanagar on the caturthi (fourth) day in the dark fortnight in the month of Phalguna (Jan-Feb), corresponding to Saturday 8th March, 1539 AD. His tomb remains on the island of Navavrindavanas in the Tungabhadra River, half a mile from Anegondi (Hampi).

Vyasatirtha was, as some say, almost the second founder of the system of Madhvacarya, after the great Madhvacarya. Vyasatirtha influenced many, including the aristocracy, and many of his disciples traveled north preaching his glories to places which included Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Maharastra, and even Rajasthan and Uttara Pradesh.

According to Kavikarnapura in his Gaura Ganoddesa Dipika, Vyasatirtha wrote the famous book, "Sri Visnu Samhita", and had a disciple by the name Laksmipati Tirtha who was originally from North India.

The following is a story in connection with the disciple of Vyasatirtha who was given the name Laksmipati Tirtha, and who became the next to be recognized as the acarya in the line in which we follow.



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