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Sripada Madhvacharya

Śrīpāda Madhvācārya took his birth at Uḍupī, which is situated in the South Kanaraḍā district of South India, just west of Sahyādri. This is the chief city of the South Kanaraḍā province and is near the city of Mangalore, which is situated to the south of Uḍupī. In the city of Uḍupī is a place called Pājakā-kṣetra, where Madhvācārya took his birth in a Śivāllī-brāhmaṇa dynasty as the son of Madhyageha Bhaṭṭa, in the year 1040 Śakābda (A.D. 1119). According to some, he was born in the year 1160 Śakābda (A.D. 1239).
In his childhood Madhvācārya was known as Vāsudeva, and there are some wonderful stories surrounding him. It is said that once when his father had piled up many debts, Madhvācārya converted tamarind seeds into actual coins to pay them off. When he was five years old, he was offered the sacred thread. A demon named Maṇimān lived near his abode in the form of a snake, and at the age of five Madhvācārya killed that snake with the toe of his left foot. When his mother was very much disturbed, he would appear before her in one jump. He was a great scholar even in childhood, and although his father did not agree, he accepted sannyāsa at the age of twelve. Upon receiving sannyāsa from Acyuta Prekṣa, he received the name Pūrṇaprajña Tīrtha. After traveling all over India, he finally discussed scriptures with Vidyāśaṅkara, the exalted leader of Sṛṅgeri-maṭha. Vidyāśaṅkara was actually diminished in the presence of Madhvācārya. Accompanied by Satya Tīrtha, Madhvācārya went to Badarikāśrama. It was there that he met Vyāsadeva and explained his commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā before him. Thus he became a great scholar by studying before Vyāsadeva.
By the time he came to the Ānanda-maṭha from Badarikāśrama, Madhvācārya had finished his commentary on the Bhagavad-gītā. His companion Satya Tīrtha wrote down the entire commentary. When Madhvācārya returned from Badarikāśrama, he went to Gañjāma, which is on the bank of the river Godāvarī. There he met with two learned scholars named Śobhana Bhaṭṭa and Svāmī Śāstrī. Later these scholars became known in the disciplic succession of Madhvācārya as Padmanābha Tīrtha and Narahari Tīrtha. When he returned to Uḍupī, he would sometimes bathe in the ocean. On such an occasion he composed a prayer in five chapters. Once, while sitting beside the sea engrossed in meditation upon Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he saw that a large boat containing goods for Dvārakā was in danger. He gave some signs by which the boat could approach the shore, and it was saved. The owners of the boat wanted to give him a present, and at the time Madhvācārya agreed to take some gopī-candana. He received a big lump of gopī-candana, and as it was being brought to him, it broke apart and revealed a large Deity of Lord Kṛṣṇa. The Deity had a stick in one hand and a lump of food in the other. As soon as Madhvācārya received the Deity of Kṛṣṇa in this way, he composed a prayer. The Deity was so heavy that not even thirty people could lift it. Madhvācārya personally brought this Deity to Uḍupī. Madhvācārya had eight disciples, all of whom took sannyāsa from him and became directors of his eight monasteries. Worship of the Lord Kṛṣṇa Deity is still going on at Uḍupī according to the plans Madhvācārya established.
Madhvācārya then for the second time visited Badarikāśrama. While he was passing through Maharashtra, the local king was digging a big lake for the public benefit. As Madhvācārya passed through that area with his disciples, he was also obliged to help in the excavation. After some time, when Madhvācārya visited the king, he engaged the king in that work and departed with his disciples.
Often in the province of Gāṅga-pradeśa there were fights between Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus were on one bank of the river, and the Muslims on the other. Due to the community tension, no boat was available for crossing the river. The Muslim soldiers were always stopping passengers on the other side, but Madhvācārya did not care for these soldiers. He crossed the river anyway, and when he met the soldiers on the other side, he was brought before the king. The Muslim king was so pleased with him that he wanted to give him a kingdom and some money, but Madhvācārya refused. While walking on the road, he was attacked by some dacoits, but by his bodily strength he killed them all. When his companion Satya Tīrtha was attacked by a tiger, Madhvācārya separated them by virtue of his great strength. When he met Vyāsadeva, he received from him the śālagrāma-śilā known as Aṣṭamūrti. After this, he summarized the Mahābhārata.
Madhvācārya’s devotion to the Lord and his erudite scholarship became known throughout India. Consequently the owners of the Śṛṅgeri-maṭha, established by Śaṅkarācārya, became a little perturbed. At that time the followers of Śaṅkarācārya were afraid of Madhvācārya’s rising power, and they began to tease Madhvācārya’s disciples in many ways. There was even an attempt to prove that the disciplic succession of Madhvācārya was not in line with Vedic principles. A person named Puṇḍarīka Purī, a follower of the Māyāvāda philosophy of Śaṅkarācārya, came before Madhvācārya to discuss the śāstras. It is said that all of Madhvācārya’s books were taken away, but later they were found with the help of King Jayasiṁha, ruler of Kumla. In discussion, Puṇḍarīka Purī was defeated by Madhvācārya. A great personality named Trivikramācārya, who was a resident of Viṣṇumaṅgala, became Madhvācārya’s disciple, and his son later became Nārāyaṇācārya, the composer of Śrī Madhva-vijaya. After the death of Trivikramācārya, the younger brother of Nārāyaṇācārya took sannyāsa and later became known as Viṣṇu Tīrtha.
It was reputed that there was no limit to the bodily strength of Pūrṇaprajña, Madhvācārya. There was a person named Kaḍañjari who was famed for possessing the strength of thirty men. Madhvācārya placed the big toe of his foot upon the ground and asked the man to separate it from the ground, but the great strong man could not do so even after great effort. Śrīla Madhvācārya passed from this material world at the age of eighty while writing a commentary on the Aitareya Upaniṣad. For further information about Madhvācārya, one should read Madhva-vijaya, by Nārāyaṇācārya.

Ref>>Srila Prabhupada Vani.

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History of Adi Shankaracharya

Regarding Śaṅkarācārya, it is understood that he was born in the year 608 of the Śakābda era, in the month of Vaiśākha, on the third day of the waxing moon, in a place in South India known as Kālāḍi. His father’s name was Śivaguru, and he lost his father at an early age. When Śaṅkarācārya was only eight years old, he completed his study of all scriptures and took sannyāsa from Govinda, who was residing on the banks of the Narmadā. After accepting sannyāsa, Śaṅkarācārya stayed with his spiritual master for some days. He then took his permission to go to Vārāṇasī, and from there he went to Badarikāśrama, where he stayed until his twelfth year. While there, he wrote a commentary on the Brahma-sūtra, as well as on ten Upaniṣads and the Bhagavad-gītā. He also wrote Sanat-sujātīya and a commentary on the Nṛsiṁha-tāpinī. Among his many disciples, his four chief disciples are Padmapāda, Sureśvara, Hastāmalaka and Troṭaka. After departing from Vārāṇasī, Śaṅkarācārya went to Prayāga, where he met a great learned scholar called Kumārila Bhaṭṭa. Śaṅkarācārya wanted to discuss the authority of the scriptures, but Kumārila Bhaṭṭa, being on his deathbed, sent him to his disciple Maṇḍana, in the city of Māhiṣmatī. It was there that Śaṅkarācārya defeated Maṇḍana Miśra in a discussion of the śāstras. Maṇḍana had a wife named Sarasvatī, or Ubhaya-bhāratī, who served as mediator between Śaṅkarācārya and her husband. It is said that she wanted to discuss erotic principles and amorous love with Śaṅkarācārya, but Śaṅkarācārya had been a brahmacārī since birth and therefore had no experience in amorous love. He took a month’s leave from Ubhaya-bhāratī and, by his mystic power, entered the body of a king who had just died. In this way Śaṅkarācārya experienced the erotic principles. After attaining this experience, he wanted to discuss erotic principles with Ubhaya-bhāratī, but without hearing his discussion she blessed him and assured the continuous existence of the Śṛṅgeri-maṭha. She then took leave of material life. Afterwards, Maṇḍana Miśra took the order of sannyāsa from Śaṅkarācārya and became known as Sureśvara. Śaṅkarācārya defeated many scholars throughout India and converted them to his Māyāvāda philosophy. He left the material body at the age of thirty-three.

Ref>>Srila Prabhupada Vani.

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What is Brahma Samhita?

The Brahma-saṁhitā is a very important scripture. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu acquired the fifth chapter from the Ādi-keśava temple. In that fifth chapter, the philosophical conclusion of acintya-bhedābheda-tattva (simultaneous oneness and difference) is presented. The chapter also presents methods of devotional service, the eighteen-syllable Vedic hymn, discourses on the soul, the Supersoul and fruitive activity, an explanation of Kāma-gāyatrī, kāma-bīja and the original Mahā-Viṣṇu, and a detailed description of the spiritual world, specifically Goloka Vṛndāvana. The Brahma-saṁhitā also explains the demigod Gaṇeśa, Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, the origin of the Gāyatrī mantra, the form of Govinda and His transcendental position and abode, the living entities, the highest goal, the goddess Durgā, the meaning of austerity, the five gross elements, love of Godhead, impersonal Brahman, the initiation of Lord Brahmā, and the vision of transcendental love enabling one to see the Lord. The steps of devotional service are also explained. The mind, yoga-nidrā, the goddess of fortune, devotional service in spontaneous ecstasy, incarnations beginning with Lord Rāmacandra, Deities, the conditioned soul and its duties, the truth about Lord Viṣṇu, prayers, Vedic hymns, Lord Śiva, the Vedic literature, personalism and impersonalism, good behavior, and many other subjects are also discussed. There is also a description of the sun and the universal form of the Lord. All these subjects are conclusively explained in a nutshell in the Brahma-saṁhitā.

Ref>>Srila Prabhupada Vani.

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Rameshwaram

The path from Mandapam through the ocean to the island known as Pambam consists partly of sand and partly of water. The island of Pambam is about seventeen miles long and six miles wide. On this island, four miles north of Pambam Harbour, is Setubandha, where the temple of Rāmeśvara is located. This is a temple of Lord Śiva, and the name Rāmeśvara indicates that he is a great personality whose worshipable Deity is Lord Rāma. Thus the Lord Śiva found in the temple of Rāmeśvara is a great devotee of Lord Rāmacandra. It is said, devī-pattanam ārabhya gaccheyuḥ setu-bandhanam: “After visiting the temple of the goddess Durgā, one should go to the temple of Rāmeśvara.”In this area there are twenty-four different holy places, one of which is Dhanus-tīrtha, located about twelve miles southeast of Rāmeśvara. It is near the last station of the Southern Railway, a station called Ramnad. It is said that here, on the request of Rāvaṇa’s younger brother Vibhīṣaṇa, Lord Rāmacandra destroyed the bridge to Laṅkā with His bow while returning to His capital. It is also said that one who visits Dhanus-tīrtha is liberated from the cycle of birth and death, and that one who bathes there gets all the fruitive results of performing the yajña known as Agniṣṭoma.

Ref>>Srila Prabhupada Vani.

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Madurai Temple.

Southern Madurai, presently known as Mādurā, is situated on the banks of the Bhāgāi River. This place of pilgrimage is specifically meant for the devotees of Lord Śiva; therefore it is called Śaiva-kṣetra, that is, the place where Lord Śiva is worshiped. In this area there are mountains and forests. There are also two Śiva temples, one known as Rāmeśvara and the other known as Sundareśvara. There is also a temple to Devī called the Mīnākṣī-devī temple, which displays very great architectural craftsmanship. It was built under the supervision of the kings of the Pāṇḍya Dynasty, and when the Muslims attacked this temple, as well as the temple of Sundareśvara, great damage was done. In the Christian year 1372, a king named Kampanna Udaiyara reigned on the throne of Mādurā. Long ago, Emperor Kulaśekhara ruled this area, and during his reign he established a colony of brāhmaṇas. A well-known king named Anantaguṇa Pāṇḍya is an eleventh-generation descendant of Emperor Kulaśekhara.

Ref>>Srila Prabhupada Vani.

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Whom “Rāma” refers to in Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra?

In the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.33) it is stated:
advaitam acyutam anādim ananta-rūpam
ādyaṁ purāṇa-puruṣaṁ nava-yauvanaṁ ca
The Lord is advaita, without differentiation. There is no difference between the forms of Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, Nārāyaṇa and Viṣṇu. All of them are one. Sometimes foolish people ask whether when we chant “Rāma” in the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra we refer to Lord Rāmacandra or Lord Balarāma. If a devotee says that the name Rāma in the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra refers to Balarāma, a foolish person may become angry because to him the name Rāma refers to Lord Rāmacandra. Actually there is no difference between Balarāma and Lord Rāma. It does not matter if one chants Hare Rāma referring to Balarāma or Lord Rāmacandra, for there is no difference between Them. However, it is offensive to think that Balarāma is superior to Lord Rāmacandra or vice versa. Neophyte devotees do not understand this śāstric conclusion, and consequently they unnecessarily create an offensive situation. In text 154 Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu clarified this in a very lucid way: īśvaratve bheda mānile haya aparādha. “It is offensive for one to differentiate between the forms of the Lord.” On the other hand, one should not think that the forms of the Lord are the same as the forms of the demigods. This is certainly offensive, as confirmed by the Vaiṣṇava-tantra:
yas tu nārāyaṇaṁ devaṁ
brahmā-rudrādi-daivataiḥ
samatvenaiva vīkṣeta
sa pāṣaṇḍī bhaved dhruvam
“A pāṣaṇḍī is one who considers the great demigods such as Lord Brahmā and Lord Śiva equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa.” (Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 7.117)
The conclusion is that we should neither differentiate between the forms of the Lord nor equate the forms of the Lord with the forms of demigods or human beings. For instance, sometimes foolish sannyāsīs, thinking the body of the Lord to be material, equate daridra-nārāyaṇa with Nārāyaṇa, and this is certainly offensive. Unless one is instructed by a bona fide spiritual master, he cannot perfectly understand these different forms. The Brahma-saṁhitā confirms, vedeṣu durlabham adurlabham ātma-bhaktau. One cannot understand the differences between the forms of the Lord simply by academic study or by reading Vedic literature. One must learn from a realized devotee. Only then can one learn how to distinguish between one form of the Lord and another. The conclusion is that there is no difference between the forms of the Lord, but there is a difference between His forms and those of the demigods.

Ref>>Srila Prabhupada Vani

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What are the four special qualities present only in Kṛṣṇa?

Lord Nārāyaṇa has sixty transcendental qualities. Over and above these, Kṛṣṇa has four extraordinary transcendental qualities absent in Lord Nārāyaṇa. These four qualities are: (1) His wonderful pastimes, which are compared to an ocean; (2) His association in the circle of the supreme devotees in conjugal love (the gopīs); (3) His playing on the flute, whose vibration attracts the three worlds; and (4) His extraordinary beauty, which surpasses the beauty of the three worlds. Lord Kṛṣṇa’s beauty is unequaled and unsurpassed.

Ref>>Srila Prabhupada Vani.