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Prameya Sloka by Sri Vyasa Tirtha

Prameya Sloka

by Sri Vyasa Tirtha


We have found the Prameya Sloka in a Web Site dedicated to Dvaitavada studies. Although the sanskrit texts were full of mistakes [fixed], Sri Vyasa Tirtha being one of the most revered amongst our Acaryas, we have thought to present them to our readers. We'll give first the verses in sanskrit, their translations one by one and at the end we'll give them again with some brief explanations from our part. It is not a thorough treatise: we'll give just hints to make readers acquainted with the theological points dealt by the Acarya.

About Vyasa Tirtha

In the Madhva Gaudiya Parampara, Sri Vyasa Tirtha is the 18th spiritual preceptor starting from the Supreme Personality of Godhead Krishna Bhagavan. From Sri Madhvacarya is the 14th. In the sacred guru parampara, after him we find Laksmipati Tirtha and then Madhavendra Puri, Isvara Puri and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, from whom the Gaudiya line begins. At the present moment we don't know much about him.


The word prameya may be defined, in accordance with the meaning given to it by Sri Jayatirtha, as "the subject of exact knowledge". All knowledge involves three entities: the subject, the knower, and the knowledge itself. If the knowledge is exact, then these are called the prameya, the pramata (or pramatri), and the prama, respectively.

Knowledge itself can be of three kinds: yathartha-jnana, or exact knowledge; samshaya-jnana, or doubtful knowledge; and viparyaya-jnana, or incorrect knowledge. Thus, exact knowledge is that which precludes the presence of doubt or incorrect understanding. However, it is not necessary for knowledge to be complete in all respects, for it to be considered exact. Knowledge may be considered exact to whatever extent it is present, even if the subject of the knowledge is not known to its fullest extent. The shloka by Sri Vyasa Tirtha lays out nine important tenets, all seemingly simple on the surface but having a world of depth, as the prameyas of Tattvavada. These prameyas are consistent among themselves, and are complete in defining Tattvavada; thus, they give a coherent and unique definition of the whole doctrine. It is very characteristic of Sri Vyasa Tirtha to have digested the whole of the corpus of a large number of commentaries, original texts, glosses, etc., and presented a very pithy and yet easy-to-understand statement of the doctrine as presented in all of them. In reading and analyzing the shloka that explains the prameyas, one finds a faithful echo of many of Srimad Ananda Tirtha's own statements; Sri Vyasa Tirtha compromises neither the nature nor the intensity of his master's unequivocal assertions. His prameya-shloka is thus a faithful recap of the subjects expounded upon by the previous scholars in the tradition, and it may be asserted that a correct understanding of the shloka is equivalent to a grasp of the fundamental tenets of Tattvavada.

The prameya-shloka


sriman-madhva-mate harih paratarah satyam jagat tattvato
bhedo jiva ganah harer anucharah nichochcha bhavan gatah
muktir naija sukhanubhutir amala bhaktish cha tat sadhanam
hy aksadi trayam pramanam akhilamnayaika vedyo harih

In Sriman Madhva's doctrine Hari is Supreme. The world is true (real). The differences are real. The classes of souls are servants of Hari and reach different ultimate states. Mukti (liberation) is the experience of the joy of one's own nature. That is achieved by flawless devotion and (correct understanding), pratyaksha (observation), etc., are indeed the sources of knowledge. Hari alone is praised in all the Vedas.

1. harih paratarah
Hari is Supreme.

2. satyam jagat
The universe is real.

3. tattvatah bhedah
The differences are real.

4. jiva ganah hareh anucharah
The classes of jivas are servants of Hari.

5. nichochcha bhavan gatah
(The jivas are) headed for higher and lower states.

6. muktih naija-sukha anubhutih
Liberation is the complete experience of the joys of one's own nature.

7. amala bhaktih cha tat sadhanam
Liberation is achieved by pure devotion and correct understanding.

aksaditrayam hi pramanam
The triad of pratyaksha, etc., are indeed the sources of valid knowledge.

9. akhila-amnaya-eka-vedyo harih
All the Vedas speak solely of Hari.

The introductory verse presents all Tattvavada truths in a nutshell. Hari (Vishnu) is the Supreme God. The world is real, not as certain classes of philosophers hold. Also the differences are real. All different types of souls are eternally united with Hari by loving relationships, which is expressed by the word "service". We'll clarify the concept afterwards. These relationships are manifold. The eternally individual souls are not meant to remain in this world, but they should gain liberation, state of maximum happiness. This very desirable condition is obtainable only by pure devotion. Transcendental observation and others are means of reliable knowledge. Finally Vedas praise only Hari (Vishnu).

In the first prameya Sri Vyasa Tirtha declares that Hari (the deliverer) is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is remembered with many other names. Actually His names are as numerous as the waves of the oceans. These names explain qualities or activities of the Supreme Lord, and because these are without end, He has an infinite number of names all equally pleasurable to remember. Vaishnavas are not polytheists: God is one, but he has infinite names and also incarnates in many different forms. According to personal individual tastes, the devotees worship particular incarnations of Vishnu, making this appear as they were polytheists.

In the second prameya it is maintained that the universe and everything that be is real. There are certain classes of philosophers who teach that existence is illusory (maya). Because of this they are called mayavadis. Here Sri Vyasa Tirtha, representing Sri Madhvacarya and the entire parampara, asserts that existence is real. When Vaishnavas say that universe is not real they mean that is temporary and that is not our reality. But the universe itself is real. Nothing completely unreal can become reality, even as an illusion. Even a dream is a reality, a subtle reality, it is not untrue. So the universe cannot be illusion. It may be a subtler reality (comparing to our spiritual nature) but, as Vaishnava Acarya hold, it is real.

Following the principle expounded in the previous verse, the third prameya teaches that all differences witnessed in the world are also real. Difference is ingrained in everything. There are not in existence two things completely equal. In living species this is even more marked. Everyone is different from everyone else; all living entities are personal and individual entities. This is because the Supreme Personality of Godhead Vishnu or Krishna, although one, is internally plural. In other words, the One Supreme God has an infinite variety within Himself in the form of shaktis or potencies. This "the simultaneous one and plural" is Lord Caitanya's philosophy, technically called acintya-bhedabheda tattva, making perfect Sri Madhvacarya system of thought.

In the fourth prameya it is taught that all different classes of jivas are servants of Hari. The word service has not the same meaning as we have come to know. Actually this is a relationship of love, in whom Vishnu and the jivas mutually exchange sentiments. This sentiments express in the form of "doing something pleasurable for the lover", and this is what Vaishnava mean by service. Bhakti is the right word to explain it.

In the fifth prameya Sri Vyasa Tirtha asserts that the jivas who are rebellious to their own nature take material bodies and travel for very long time in different species of life. Some of them may be lower (animals, vegetables etc.), some of them may be higher (man, demigods etc.) but they are actually all inferior because matter is by far inferior to spirit. Therefore for the spiritual soul to be in the material world means to live in a fallen condition.

This being the case, in the sixth prameya the Acarya brings up the subject of liberation. Mukti is not something to be searched for outside, but is intrinsic in our own nature. When the jiva detaches himself from the illusions, recovers his real self, which is made of eternity, knowledge and bliss. In this state, he experiences the highest joy, which will have no end.

How to obtain this most auspicious state of being is explained in the seventh prameya. Pure devotion to Godhead is the system outlined in the Madhva Sampradaya. This bhakti may have different facets and manifest in different ways, but the principle is equal for all schools. The different practices of bhakti is a complex subject matter, but worthwhile of study. Without understanding (jnana) and practice (vijnana) is not possible to achieve liberation.

The eighth prameya states that the three sources of knowledge are reliable. These three are pratyaksa-pramana, anumana-pramana and sastra-pramana. The first is the knowledge obtained from exercise of the senses, the second from inference and the third from sacred sources (holy scriptures and spiritual masters). Sri Madhvacarya states that scriptural injunction that cannot be proved by sense perception of transcendent nature (divya pratyaksa) is not acceptable. In other words, knowledge that cannot be proved by direct experience is to be rejected. Vedic knowledge is scientific.

The ninth prameya holds that all Vedic scriptures speak solely of Hari. The Vedas treat a lot of different subject matter, but because everything is Him, being in Him, the final object is Hari. The word amnaya used in this last sloka means nondifferent, because Vedic knowledge is unchanged over all time. Absolute knowledge doesn't change. Only the section which deals with relative principles changes depending on time and circumstances.

Here we have tried to spend few words to explain the Prameya Sloka compiled by the holy preceptor Sri Vyasa Tirtha.

Explanations by Manonath Dasa Adhikari.