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Madhavadeva: Biography 
Madhavadeva’s Great Debate with Sankaradeva
Rāmadāsa and Madhava waited for the morning and at day-break they went to Sankaradeva.
As they came near Sankara’s place, Madhava spoke to himself that he would not salute Sankaradeva, but would just discuss the theories laid down in the scriptures. Thus meditating in his journey, they came near Sankaradeva, and Madhava found Sankara sitting. Madhava felt his hair standing on an end by the lustre shed by Sankara’s person, and Madhava said to himself - ‘what tremendous influence does his personality exercise!’ Madhava’s body began to shrink seeing Sankara’s feet, and Madhava fell prostrate at Sankara’s feet. Rāmadāsa too did the same and Sankara asked both of them to take their seats.
The Historic Debate then began.
[See: The Great Debate]
Sankaradeva said, “I can gather that you do not have any acquaintance with the sastras
for it is only the greatly foolish ones who, not knowing the sastras, go to worship other gods.
If indeed you had any knowledge of the sastras, then why would you not know which deity is supreme?
And Ramadasa here is telling that he is a pandita; he knows the scriptures in detail!”
Hearing this, Madhava began to cite slokas
“Mahamaya Devi, supreme goddess,
worshiped by the entire creation.
Even Brahma, Rudra, Indra and Candra have done obeisance to her,
along with other gods, all along.
Offering to her lotuses, all the gods have worshiped her at great length, for the purpose of creating the cosmic egg (anda).
Prakriti’s amsa (part, manifestation) is Durga gosani - worshiped by one and all.
Offering of bali (sacrifice)
in grihastha dharma (householder’s life) to such a goddess,
for what reason you term as fault?”
Sankaradeva replied, “Madhava, Listen!
I tell you the fact, primeval.
Even Prakriti (material nature) is God’s creation,
know this as Truth, Essential.
Anadi (Beginningless), Ananta (Infinite), Nitya (Everlasting), Niranjana (Unstained)
and Sanatana (Eternal) is Lord Hari.
Hundreds of crores of times, He materializes and dissolves such a prakriti.
Obeying Whose command, crores and crores of mayas create [the material world] and Who, employing the three modes of material nature, maintains the entire creation indulging in various sports.
You are postulating that maya (nescience; illusion) is superior to [such a] God! Now this view surely is vamanaya (heterodox, opposed to the Vedas).
Further, the [chief] scriptures such as the Gita and the Bhagavata, the Purana and the Bharata, do not say
anything like this.”
Madhava said, “One lights lamps of ghee on the balis (sacrificed animals);
as many strands of their fur are burnt, so many years one gets to enjoy heaven.”
Sankaradeva said, “The Bhaktas (Devotees) of Visnu do not wish for the ‘happiness’ of heaven,
just as the ones partaking of the nectarean meal do not drink the water in which fish has been washed.”
Madhava said, “Staying in Kamarupa, one will perform the worship of Ambika (goddess) and, at life’s end, by the Devi’s grace, that one will obtain inexhaustible [happiness of] heaven.”
Sankara said, “Doing himsa-dharma, one does not obtain happiness of heaven.
Even if, somehow, doing ‘Vaisnavi puja’, one obtains it, then also, the fear of torture is not removed.
‘What moment that fate befalls me’, such anxiety is not removed from mind.
On the way [to heaven], the balis pounce on him and wring his neck.
And at the end of it all, he has the downward fall and lands up in terrible hell.
The messengers of death then make him suffer torture;
of those [miseries], oh! what will I tell.”
Madhava said, “Bali-Visvadeva - it is the dharma (rule) laid down for the grihasthas.
The five-yajnas (sacrifices) one must regularly perform; this is prescribed by sastras.
These five-debts (panca-rina), the one who does not repay [through the performance of prescribed rituals], there is not a greater sinner than that one.
Forsaking the rites (karma) prescribed by the Vedas, one goes to hell after death.”
Sankara said, “The one, who hath taken Eka-Sarana in Lord Krishna, in body (kaya), mind (mana) and speech (vakya) and with unshakeable resolution, adoring Krishna’s Feet,
that one is subject to none, hath no debts to repay and, in the end, effortlessly attains to the happy Visnu-loka.”
Madhava said, “All those matters pertain only to those persons who are inclined towards nivritti (release). They should renounce their householder’s life and, subduing their senses, take the company of the viraktas (the renunciants).
They should eat whatever they get, without doing any labor and should, for the sake of purifying their hearts, travel to tirthas, undergoing many a hardship.
Only then, in a later birth, obtaining the holy-association (sat-sanga) and doing Hari-Bhakti, some skillful ones taking great care may obtain liberation.
But all those people who are with lust, anger and avarice and who are greatly attached to their wives and sons,
forsaking bali-visvadeva and karmas and dharmas, they will proceed to their doom.”
Sankaradeva said, “If they take to the path, there is redemption even for the materialists.
Ekanta-Sarana is everybody’s dharma,
so says the Lord of the Yadus.
‘Forsaking all dharmas, the one who takes Eka-Sarana (sole-refuge) in Me alone’,
at the end of the Gita, the Son of Nanda Himself tells Arjuna,
‘I save that one from all sin, let him merely resolve [on Me].
I have told you the essence of it all; do not harbor even an iota of doubt over this.’
How Nama-Dharma is the supreme antidote, listen steadying thy mind,
in the Padma Purana, Rudra Deva himself says to Parvati,
“A man worshiping only one God; be he the enjoyer of all material comforts,
be he antagonistic to his own people or be he the one who even warms up water -
he does not have even an iota of dispassion (vairagya) nor does he ever abide by any dharma.
But still, singing the Name only once, the state which that one obtains, happily;
it is not obtained even by those practicing all dharmas, this I have told you, currently.
Know, O Parvati, that Nama-Dharma is the Supreme Religion above all.”
Madhava said, “The devas (gods), if they do not receive puja, cause troubles for men.
On finding that people have turned Eka-Saraniya they deprive them of their wealth and properties.
The person’s money and man-power, all are depleted and nothing remains for him.
He does not have anything even to eat and sorrow engulfs his mind.”
Sankara said, “The Visnu-Bhaktas count these ‘troubles’ for nothing.
Knowing the ‘joys’ of samsara to be transitory (nasvara), they never regret over anything.
Moreover, the devas cannot create any hurdles if one adores Krishna Deva.
They always respect the persons endowed with devotion, the devatas.
The servants of Hari do not adore any other deity apart from Isvara (God).
On taking Sarana (sole-refuge) in Krishna, they
do not worship other gods, even at the cost of their lives.”
Madhava said, “But all the devatas (gods) are the manifestations of Isvara only.
Therefore, worshiping the devatas,
no fault accrues.
It is laid down in the sastras that all the devatas constitute the body of Isvara
[and therefore], considering them to be parts of the Lord‘s virat-murtti (cosmic body), one should do worship to them.
Know that Surya has to be worshiped as the Lord‘s eye and Candra as His mind;
Similarly, one should worship Vayu as His ear and the fire-god as His mouth,
the Asvins as His nose and Varuna as the tongue.
And the king of the devas, Vasava, will be worshiped knowing him to be Isvara’s arms.”
Hearing this, Sankaradeva laughed and said,
“Listen to its answer, Madhava!
such a plight is only of those who
engage in the bhakti of karma-yoga.
But the one who does Bhagavati Bhakti,
listen to the procedure determined for him.
One Krishna only, one worships,
firmly resolving in mind.
When Hari is [thus] worshiped, the devatas also obtain great satisfaction.
Knowing this fact only, all the Mahantas (great saints) worship only Krishna.
On worshiping Krishna, all devatas derive satisfaction in mind,
just as, on watering the root of a tree,
all its branches and sub-branches are nourished.
Just as a tree does not obtain any nourishment when water is poured on its branches or flowers or leaves,
so also, know that, worshiping separately, the devas are not satisfied.
Take the case of a hungry man whose heart is craving for food.
If now that person wears rich garments and decorates his exterior with ornaments and flowers and cosmetics;
even after such decoration with clothes and ornaments, there is no happiness for his indriyas (senses).
As long as he does not take his meal,
there is no satisfying his prana (vital air).
On eating food, all are satisfied (nourished) -
vital air, mind, the senses.
In that very manner, know that on worshiping Hari,
all devas are satisfied, always.”
Listen, all people, to this tale exquisite,
O sabhasadas! uninterruptedly,
Madhava and Sankara are acting out this drama for the purpose of saving lives (jivas).
Madhava retains the path of pravritti (action; subsistence) [while] Sankara demolishes it.
They speak in slokas [that] both of them understand, [even as] all the people look on.
Madhava recites six, seven slokas
in speed, terrific;
quoting only one sloka, Srimanta Sankara
takes away all his logic.
In this manner, after both of them had battled with slokas for an entire prahara,
Madhava could not succeed in debate. He at last became silent, unable to argue any more.
Addressing him again, Sankara said, “Listen to this Supreme Fact,
There is no other, no other Supreme God
apart from the Son of Devaki,
and apart from His Name, there is no other
religion, this I tell you certainly.”
Hearing this, Madhava‘s heart melted and his mind was filled with joy.
Obtaining this verdict, Madhava, in great joy, extremely satisfied in mind,
immediately fell down at Sankaradeva’s Feet and saluted him with deep reverence.
Sankara asked, “Why do you salute, tell the reason behind this.”
Madhava once again began to speak in voice choked with emotion.
His whole body horripilates and, in his mind, there is great satisfaction.
Prostrating before Sankaradeva and joining together both his hands in prayer, he began to speak,
“Starting with false-pride, all other modes of
ignorance that existed,
all doubts and hesitancies and all evil-desires of countless births;
through Thy words, all are dispelled; I have become of extremely doubtless mind.
Therefore, from today, O Kripamaya (Favorable One)! I have entered into the shelter of Thy Feet.”
Seeing this attitude of Madhava, Sankara was overjoyed.
Drawing forth the logic of many other scriptures, He explained to him their meaning at great length.
Afterwards, Madhavadeva, rising and saluting Sankaradeva,
left for home with joyful mind, along with Ramadasa.
Sankare bolanta | jānilo tomāra nāhi sāstra-paricaya / mahāmurkha loke | sāstraka najāni anya deva upāsaya // sāstra-jnāna bhoile | kiya najānibā kona deva sresthatara / rāmadāse bole | ehante pandita sāstraka jāne bistara // suniyā Mādhave | slokaka padhilā kari āti kharatara / mahāmāyā devi | parama isvari puje tānka carācara // brahmā, rudra, indra | candreo arccichā āno deva nirantare / sata padma diyā | bistāra arcciche anda srajibāka tare // prakritira amsa | durgā gosānika pujā kari sarbajana / grihastha-dharmata | thāki bali dile dosa bolā ki kārana // Sankare bolanta | suniyo Madhava kathā kaho purbāpara / prakritio jānā | Isvara-srajanā ito kathā sārottara // anādi ananta | nitya niranjana sanātana deva Hari / hena prakritika | koti koti sata srajanta upasamhari // koti koti māyā | srajanta pālanta yāra ājnā sire dhari / tini guna-dvāre | sristi prabarttanta nānāna binoda kari // Isvarata kari | koilā māyā srestha ito kathā bāmānaya / purāna bhārate | Gitā Bhāgavate āka punu nakahaya // Madhave bolanta | ghritara pradipa dei bali samastata / yata dāli loma | pore tatakāla thākibe lāge svargata // Sankare bolanta | Visnu-bhakta save svarga-sukha nabānchaya / amrita bhojana | karā loke yena khāra-pāni nakhāvaya // Madhave bolanta | kāmarupe thāki ambikā devi pujiba / antakāle sito | devira prasāde aksaya svarga labhiba // Sankare bolanta | himsā-dharma kari svarga-sukha napāvaya / Voisnavi pujāka | kari yadi pāve nuguche yātanā bhaya // ketiksane sito | pāra hao āra mane sankā nugucaya / pathata yāhante | baligane pāyā mucari ghāra cingaya // antakāle goiyā | adhomukha huiyā pare ghora narakata / yamadute tāka | bhunjāve yātanā kahiboho kathā kata // Madhave bolanta | bali-bisvadeva dharma ito grihasthara / panca-yagna nite | karibāka lāge bihita ito sāstrara // panca-khāna (rina) ito | nusujaya yito tāta pare pāpi nāi / bedara bihita | karma tyāga kari mari narakaka yāi // Sankare bolanta | Isvara Krishnata yi loile Eka-Sarana / kāya-bākya-mane | sudridha bisvāse bhajiyā Krishna Carana // kāro āru sito | kinkara nuhike eko rine napāvaya / anta-kāle goiyā | pāya aprayāse Visnu-loka anāmaya // Madhave bolanta | ito sava kathā nibritti para lokara / grihabāsa teji | indriyaka dami sanga loibe biraktara // yei mile tāka | āhāra kariba nakari eko āyāsa / citta-suddhi arthe | tirthata bhramiba kariyā bahu prayāsa // janmāntare pāce | satsanga labhiyā kariyā Hari-Bhakati / kono bicaksana | mahā yatna kari tevese labhibe gati // kāma-krodha-lobha | yukta loka yata bhāryyā putre āsakati / bali bisvadeva | teji karma dharma yāibe sito adhogati // Sankare bolanta | dharibe pārile bisayiro āche gati / Ekānta-Sarana | samastare dharma kahichanta Yadupati // Gitāra antata | kanta Arjunata āpuni Nanda-Nandana / sarba dharma tyāga | kari mota mātra yi loile Eka-Sarana // sarba pātakata | hante tāro tāka karoka mātra niscaya / koilo sarbasāra | tomāra āgata nāhike āta samsaya // Nāmadharma yena | mahāmahousadhi sunā thira kari citta / Padma-Purānata | āpuni kavanta rudradeve pārbatita // eka devatāka | upāsanā kare samaste bhoga karaya / sva-bisayaka | birodha karanta jalaka tāpa divaya // boirāgyata jnāna | eko nāhikaya eko dharma nācaraya / Eka Nāma mātra | gāyā mahāsukhe sisava gati pāvaya // sakalo dharmaka | ācarana kari napāya koilo samprati / Nāma-Dharma srestha | savāto kariyā jānibā tumi pārbati // Madhave bolanta | pujā nakarile deva save bighni kare / Eka Saraniyā | huibāra dekhile stri-sampattika hare // dhana jana yata | bibhava āchaya ksina huyā loka yata / khāibe khutibeka | eko nathākaya āsukha mile manata // Sankare bolanta | Visnu-Bhakta save bighinika naganaya / samsārara sukhe | nasvara jāniyā eko kheda nakaraya // deva save bighni | karibe napāre bhajile Krishna Devaka / karaya sādara | devatāsakale bhaktimanta purusaka // Hari-Dāsa save | Isvarata bine eko deva nabhajaya / Krishnata Sarana | loile prānāntiko anya deva nupujaya // Madhave bolanta | Isvarara murtti yateka devatācaya / devatā savaka | pujā karilante eko dosa nisijaya // kahiche sāstrata | Isvarara tanu yateka devatāgana / birāta murttira | anga hena jāni karibe lāge pujana // caksu buli jānā | suryyaka pujiba candraka buliyā mana / karna buli jānā | arcciba bāyuka mukhaka ye hutāsana // asvinikumāra | nāsikā buliyā jihbā buli barunaka / Isvarara bāhu | buliyā pujiba devarāja bāsabaka // hena suni hāsi | Sankare bolanta suniyo Madhava kathā / karma-yoga bhakti | yijane kare tāhāra hena avasthā // Bhāgavati Bhakti | yijane karaya suniyo tāra nirnaya / Eke Krishnakese | kare mātra pujā kariyā dridha niscaya // Harika pujile | devatā savara parama santosa haya / ehi kathā jāni | Mahanta sakale Krishnaka mātra pujaya // Krishnaka pujile | yateka devara tripiti hanta manata / briksa mule yena | jala dāna dile tusta haya sākhā yata // dāla, puspa, patre | pāni dile yena santosa nāhi briksara / tenamate jānā | prithake pujile santosa nāhi devara // kona eka jana | purusara ksudhā lāgi āche antarata / bastra alamkāra | puspa candanaka pindhāvaya bāhirata // bastra alamkāra | pindhāilāto eko sukha nāhi indriyara / yāvata bhojana | nakaraya māne santosa nāhi prānara // anna bhunjilāta | save tusta hove prāna mana indriyara / sehimate jānā | Harika pujile tusta deva nirantara // sunā sarbajana | kathā bitopana sabhāsada nirantare // Madhava Sankare | karilā binoda jiva tāribāra tare // Madhave rākhanta | prabritti-mārgaka Sankare kare khandana / sloke sloke kanta | duhāne bujanta cāhi āche sarbajana / chaya sāta sloka | Madhave padhanta āti kharatara kari / eka sloka padhi | Srimanta Sankare savāko nenta samhari // ehimate duyo- | jane sloke bāda kariyā eka prahara / bāde novārilā | Madhava rahilā nidiyā eko uttara // Sankare sambodhi | dunāi bulilanta sunā kathā sārottara / Doivaki-Nandana | bine āna deva nāhi nāhi sresthatara // Nāma bine eko | dharma nāhi kaya kahilo kari niscaya / suni Madhavara | pulakita tanu dravita bhoilā hridaya // siddhānta labhiyā | ānande Madhave santosa labhi manata / huyā avanata | pari pranāmilā Sankarara Caranata // Sankare bolanta | kene pranāmilā kahiyo āra kārana / Madhave dunāi | gada gada bākye bulibe loilā bacana // jhāta jhāta kari | sarira sihare santosa āti manata / kritānjali kari | bulibe lāgilā huyā āti avanata / asambhāvanāka | ādi kari āno yateka ajnānacaya / aneka janmara | yata durbāsanā āno granthi samastaya // Tomāra Carane | pasilo Sarane āji dhari Kripāmaya / tayu bākye mora | samaste guchilā bhoilo āti nihsamsaya // Madhavara bhāva | dekhi ānandita mana bhoilā Sankarara / aneka sāstrara | yukti āni āro kahilā kathā bistara // anantare pāce | Madhave uthiyā pranāmiyā Sankaraka / rāmadāsa same | ānandita mane caliyā goila grihaka //
The initiation of Madhava into the Vaisnava creed was a turning point not only in the life of the young man but was an event of great significance in the history of Assam Vaisnavism also. The erstwhile Sākta scholar dedicated himself at the feet of the preceptor with utmost humility as well as to the propagation of his Master’s faith so much so that he managed to break with his betrothed bride and he became the principal apostle and second in command of he Movement. After Madhavadeva - as he was called by the devotees on account of his closeness and dedication to the Guru and his cause and his profound scholarship - was elevated to the apostolate, the Movement gained a tremendous impetus and Dhuwāhāt-Belaguri became the hub of immense activities, kirttana-singing, literary and dramatic presentation, performance and preaching of religion.