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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Śrī Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī

“Nothing comes closer than a Guru’s blessing for a path to betterment”

-Acharya Madhva [1]

That the Guru is essential to one’s spiritual journey is a fact not unbeknownst to our ancient seers of Bhārata. Each sect amongst the adherents of Sanātana Dharma has its own set of Dharmagurus that it reveres. The followers of Tattvavāda (or Dvaita as it is colloquially known) have long revered its Guruparampara branching out to several Yatīs (Hindu Monks) and a plethora of over twenty different Maṭhas.

One such Maṭha is the Śrī Rāghavendra Swamī Maṭha of Mantrālaya (or the Vidya Maṭha), from which several scholarly saints have descended, like its namesake, Śrī Rāghavendra Svāmī. The Paraṃpara extends from Śrī Haṃsa Nāmaka Paramātma to Śrī Madhvāchārya, Śrī Jayatīrtha, Śrī Vijayīndra Tīrtha, Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha, Śrī Rāghavendra Tīrtha, to the present pontiff Śrī Subudhendra Tīrtha.

The focus of this research essay is the Vidyā-Guru (Academic Teacher) and Āśrama-Guru (Bestower of the order of Sannyāsa) of Śrī Rāghavendra Tīrtha Svāmījī, Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī, the 16th pontiff of the Rāghavendra Svāmī Maṭha who is not to be confused with Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī’s of the Puthige, Kashi Maṭha Samsthanas. There are very few works in English on this illustrious saint, but his exemplary life and works demand, nay, command our undivided attention.

The Moola Brindāvana of Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī, Navabrindāvana, Hampi (Image credit: Wikipedia)

Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī was born Śrī Nārāyaṇāchārya [2], and was initiated into Sannyasa by Śrī Surendra Tīrtha Svāmījī. He was on the pontifical of the Maṭha from 1596-1623 CE. [3] Most details of Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī have been given in the Rāghavendra Vijayam (Biography of Śrī Rāghavendra Tīrtha Svāmījī) by Śrī Narayanacharya. Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī is extolled in the very first Canto as:

सुधीन्द्र योगिनं सेवे साधुसात्कृत संपदम्।

स गद्यपद्मनिर्माण विद्यायाः प्रथमं पदम्॥१०॥

sudhīndra yoginaṃ seve sādhusātkṛta sampadam.

sa gadyapadmanirmāṇa vidyāyāḥ prathamaṃ padam..10..

Translation (By GB Joshi): “I salute [Sudhīndra], the ascetic, who spent all his money to help the righteous and who was quite adept in creating literature both in the form of prose and poetry”.[4] This couplet gives us an insight into the magnanimous, righteous and scholarly personality that Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha was. Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha is also said to be skilled in polemics, since he defeated many Pundits from other schools at the time of the King Veṅkaṭa Bhupala [or Veṅkaṭapati Raya] for which he received many honours [including Ratnabhisheka].[5]

There are a few legends associated with Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī, wherein he prayed at Bījāpura at the Sultan’s behest and brought about immense rain in a famine-wrought area. It is also said that due to his prayers to Paramātma the sun was hidden temporarily. Dr. B.N.K. Sharma, the doyen of Tattvavāda Philosophy describes the personality of Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī as follows: “Sudhīndra [Tīrtha Svāmījī] was a person of peculiar tastes and equipment… Kāvya, Alaṁkāra and Nāṭaka seem to have been his [forte] in which he has left us works of real merit, which stand out like oases in the dreary desert of theological writings.”[6]

The works of Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī are as enchanting as his personality. Śrī Narayanacharya in his Rāghavendra Vijaya mentions the following works written by Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī: a Commentary on Tarka Tāṇḍava, a Commentary on the Second and Eleventh Skandhas of Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇam and a drama Subhadra [Dhanañjaya].[7] Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī has also authored two elegant and nuanced works on Alaṁkāra: Alaṁkāra-Mañjarī and the Alaṁkāra-Nikaṣa.[8] Both are “manual[s] of Alaṁkāras or figures of speech”[9]

The Gurucharita of H.K. Vedavyāsāchārya ascribes the following works to Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī: Sāhitya-Sāmrājya, Vyāsarājābhyudaya, or life ot Vyāsatīrtha, Amṛtāharaṇa (a drama),  Dayālu-Śa[ṭ]aka, Vairāgya-Taraṅga and Āpastamba-Śulba-Sūtrā-Pradīpa, of which Dr. B.N.K. Sharma notes the latter six do not bear any references to the availability of manuscripts.[10]

According to Dr B.N.K. Sharma, The Sāhitya-Sāmrājya is a commentary on a treatise of poetics by a Smārta poet and the very fact that a pontiff of such a great stature commented on the work of a poet of a different orientation apart from the commentary being “seven times the original” makes it a remarkable testament to Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī’s love and patronage of poetry.[11]

Apart from these remarkable works, Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī has gifted yet another jewel to this world. Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī was the Guru of Śrī Rāghavendra Tīrtha Svāmījī, a crown jewel amongst Sannyāsis. Under Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī, Śrī Rāghavendra Tīrtha Svāmījī studied “Mahābhāṣya, the commentary of Jayadeva, Bhatta school of [Meemamsa], Bhamati and [Prabhaakara] school of [meemamsa], Chandrika written by [Vyāsa Tīrtha], and whatever was required to be studied”. [12]

Śrī Rāghavendra Svāmījī was the pride of Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī, and he bestowed the title of ‘Mahābhāṣyāchārya upon him[13], and upon suitable indications by the Lord, Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī initiated Śrī Rāghavendra Tīrtha Svāmījī as his successor to the Śrī Rāghavendra Svāmī Maṭha. Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī also initiated Śrī Yādavendra Tīrtha Svāmījī into Sannyāsa.

Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī entered his Brindāvana in 1623 CE, at Navabrindāvana, Ānegondi, where 9 saints of the highest order were interred, on Phālguna Bahulā Dvitīyā. It is rather unfortunate that we do not know more about this illustrious saint, but it is hoped that this piece highlighted the significant aspects of the life of the great Svāmī.

References

[1] Acharya Madhva, Pearls of Bliss 14 (Shri Bannanje Govindacharya ed., P.R Mukund tr., 7th ed. 2017).

[2] A claim made in the Sumadhwasewa webpage. It is not known conclusively when the Svāmī was born.

[3] Dr. B.N.K. Sharma, History of the Dvaita School of VedĀnta and its Literature (3rd ed., 2000); Id. at 469.

[4] Mahakavi Narayanacharya, Raghavendra Vijaya (G.B. Joshi ed., 1st ed., 1995, G.B. Joshi tr.); Id. at 12.

[5] Narayanacharya, supra note 7, at 59.

[6] Sharma, supra note 6, at 469.

[7] Narayanacharya, supra note 7, at 208-209; However, Dr. B.N.K. Sharma writes that Subhadra Dhananjaya is probably the drama by Śrī Sudhīndra Tīrtha Svāmījī . This is distinct from Subhadra Parinayam as translated by GB Joshi; Sharma, supra note 6, at 473-474.

[8] Sharma, supra note 6, at 471.

[9] Sharma, supra note 6, at 471-472.

[10] Sharma, supra note 6, at 472, 474.

[11] Sharma, supra note 6, at 471.

[12] Narayanacharya, supra note 7, at 182-183.

[13] https://srsMaṭha.org/life-history.php

-By Prateek Harish (Twitter: @prateek_harish)

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Prateek Harish
Prateek Harish
Law Student (Twitter ID: @prateek_harish)

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