He punished himself and his body in such a manner that people talk about it even today. He lived for several decades as a Grihasta before being initiated into the ascetic world.
If his brother was the pioneer of the Dwaitha system, this man was its more austere face-a man who choose the hard path for salvation. He sat on a stone so cold and meditated for so many years, that people found it hard to even touch the stoen, let alone sit on it.
Like his brother he too disappeared and both have no Brindavanas to commemorate them. If the elder is Madhwacharya, his brother is Vishnu Theertha.
Vishnu Theertha is the younger brother of Madhwacharya. It is to him that our Acharya or Madhwacharya gave his works in copper plates. These plate were buried at Kumara Parvata near Kukke Subramanya and Madhwacharya’s brother, Vishnu Theertha, was given the task of reincarnating in the Kali Yuga and once again preach the teachings of Madhwa.
Today, Vishnu Theertha is better know just as the younger brother of Madhwacharya. But not many know that he is the founder pontiff of two Madhwa mathas-the Sode Matha which was started by the Acharya himself as part of the Asta Mathas and the Subramanya Matha.
When his parents died, Vishnu Theertha approached Madhwacharya and insisted on being given Sanyasa. He had led the life of a householder for several years and he wanted to become a Sanyasi.
He is acknowledged as a great Yogi who did severe penance and set high standards of morality. He performed penance at Kumara Parvata near Kukke Subramamya. Many of these events have been describes in Madhwa Vijaya.
He is supposed to reappear again in Kaliyuga with the texts of Madhwa. This is alluded to by both Hrikesha Theerta, the founder-pontiff of the Palimaru Matha in his Sampradaya Paddathi and also Vadiraja Theerta in Sarasabharati Vijaya.
Vishnu Theertha’s only known work is Sannyasavidhi, a book of four chapters and containing 699 verses. It is a metrical text about the duties of a sanyasi.
It is in Tulu and it is still preserved in the Sode matha at Sode, Sirsi. Another original manuscript of Sannyasavidhi is in the Oriental Library in
Vishnu Theertha says he has depended on the Samhitas (The first part of each of the four Vedas-Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana are called Samhitas. They are a collection of Mantras.) and Panchararta (The Pancharatras are a continuation of vedic tradition. Madhwa has given them the status of being one of the Sadagamas as they expound the concept of Bhakti).
The first chapter deals with Vishnu Bhakti, types of Adhikaris and also speaks about the Dwaitha system. At one point, Vishnu Theertha warns readers not to fall into the trap of Adwaitha.
The second chapter deals with different systems of initiation of a Sanyasi as per the Vedas, particularly Rig Veda. The third chapter is on the way of life of a Sanyasi and Grihasta. The last is a miscellaneous collection of contents dealing about Brindavanas and the entombment of Brahmin saints.
Vishnu Theertha occupies an important position in the Madhwa Parampare as he showed people that the senses could be controlled by severe penance and deep concentration. He sat for long periods on the cold stone and it made him a true ascetic.
The cold stone melted away all his desires and senses and he became a true sanyasi in the real sense of the word. People who came to see him marveled at his self control and the severity of the penance left them, dazed.
Vishnu Theertha lived a very frugal life. He subsisted only on Panchagavya which he took once in five days when he was doing penance at Kumara Parvata. He gave this up later and lived only on fallen Bhilwa leaves and water.
One fine day, he just disappeared from view, becoming the first after the Acharya to do so. The other seers who disappeared are Bramanye Theertha of Abbur Kundapura Vyasaraja Matha and Jitamitra Theertha of Raghavendra Swamy Matha.