Foreword by Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. B.N.K. Sharma
Introduction by Mahamahopadhyaya Prof. K.T. Pandurangi
English Rendering by K. Narasiman
Rg Veda is the oldest literary document of humankind. It is preserved by I recitation generation after generation. For its preservation and comprehension six auxiliary texts designated as Vedangas are also prepared. With the help of these the import of the Vedas is comprehended. Rg Veda has three levels of meaning, viz., Yajnika or ritualistic, Aitihasika or mythological and Adhyatmika or philosophical. For a long time there were no commentaries explaining these three levels of meaning. In the thirteenth century Sri Sayana •G with the help of a team of scholars prepared a Bhasya for the entire Vedas. It seems there were a few commentaries before him which covered only a portion of the Veda. Sri Sayana’s commentary is concerned with the ritualistic, level of meaning. He gives philosophical meaning only here and there.
Sri Anandatirtha popularly known as Sri Madhvacarya who preceded Sri Sayana by about a century has written a Bhasya on the first forty hymns of the Rg Veda bringing out the philosophical import of the Vedas. Following his method Sri T.V. Kapali Sastry of Aurobindo Asrama, Pondicherry has prepared and published a commentary for the first Mandala of the Rg Veda. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries German scholars took interest in the Vedas and prepared German translations of the Vedas. However Sri Madhvacarya’s Bhasya was not translated either into German or English so far. This gap is now filled by Sri K. Narasimhan. He has prepared an English translation and added detailed explanatory notes. The Dvaita Vedanta Studies land Research Foundation is publishing it with a view to make the Madhva Bhasya available to the modern scholars in-India and abroad. We hope this will be very useful to scholars, research students and lay men as well. We thank Sri K. Narasimhan for his pains taking effort in translating this valuable work. .
To many it may seem odd that a professed Vedantin like Acarya Madhva should have troubled himself to write a commentary on the Rg Veda albeit of a part of it. This is because people have come to believe and taught to believe after a fashion that a Vedantin should have nothing to do with the Veda as it is concerned with Karmakanda or at best with the numerous gods (Devatakanda). This is a tragic fallacy. Acarya Madhva has no sympathy with the lofty indifference to the Veda and its relegation to a lower status as Aparavidya, as compared with Upanisads. He has shown that the division of Vidya into Para and Apara is not a vertical division of the corpus of texts but is based on one’s way of ideological approach to the contents as referring primarily to the Supreme Being or to a plurality of gods and sacrifices offered through them to the One Supreme Being indwelling in each one of them and intended primarily to be addressed by their names in the fullest primary conno denotative sense of the words Indra, Agni, Varuna etc.
Here, if we substitute the word Para—Brahman for Visnu it will make the point intended to be conveyed clear and free from misunderstanding. For the Acarya’s use of the term ‘Visnu’ has no sectarian limitations. For, etymologically ‘Visnu’ pinpoints the highest metaphysical status of the Supreme Being, the all-pervasive being (Vis vyaptau) who is both immanent in the Cosmosand transcends it all (Visvatah paraman). The Nasadiya Sukta of the Rg Veda describing the pre-creation stage of the cosmos, during Mahapralaya, after making it clear that the various gods were brought into active being much later: (Arvag deva asya visarjanena) refers to the One Supreme Being reposing in the waters of the Deluge, alone breathing windless by its own powers. There was no life anywhere else: (Nasad asun no sadasit tadanim). Any one can see that the etymology of the term ‘Narayana’ applied to Visnu (in Manusmrti) helps to identify the Supreme Being of the Nasadiya Sukta with Visnu. This equation is confirmed by the Chan. Up (Sarvam khalvidam Brahma Tad Jalan iti santa upasita). Here, the Supreme Being (Brahman) is given the secret name of ‘Jala — an (one breathing in the waters). The other way of reading ‘Tajjalan’ as a compound word as Tajjam tallam and tadanam would refer to the world as the object of meditation instead of Brahman and would also be against the logical and natural order of the three stages of janma, sthiti and laya of all created beings, by inverting the natural order and not giving the last place to laya instead of putting it before ‘sthiti’ without any special reason, which shows it could not have been contemplated by the Upanisad. (See Taitt. Up. III. i.).
Acarya Madhva has successfully established the identity of the jalan of the Chan. Up. (IH. 14.1) with the Supreme Being of the Nasadiya Sukta of Rg Veda as the sole survivor in Mahapralaya using the same verb an to breathe corresponding to Anid avatam tad ekam (RV, X, 129).
All Vedantins irrespective of their brand, accept ‘Apauruseyatva’ of the Veda. They are authorless, not man—made. Such a high place assigned to the Veda would be inconsistent if all that they have to offer is a multiplicity of gods without a Supreme Being. In fact, when proselytizing alien religions entered the Indian soil this seems to have been seized by them as a vulnerable point of attack against Hinduism and Vedas. The credit goes to Acarya Madhva for removing this blot on Hindu Philosophical thought as reflected in the Veda by rediscovering and placing in the forefront the message of One Supreme Being of the Vedas the ‘Sarvanamavan’ spelt out by the Rg Vedic Seers themselves centuries back
The Acarya’s forthright declaration is — "Ityeva sabdat nanyesam Sarvanamata". As the Veda clearly says there is only One Supreme who is the real bearer of the names of all the various gods in the fullest primary conno—denotative sense of their respective names as Indra, Mitra, Varuna and so on without displacing or doing away with them. They are subject to His control and have their jurisdiction over the cosmic life as allotted by Him. This is confirmed by what even the Upanisads have to say: Bhisasmad vatah pavate bhisodeti suryah bhisasmad agnisca indrasca (Tatt.Up.H.8).
These forgotten facts were brought to light by Acarya Madhva for the benefit of humanity as the essence of what a Universal Monotheism should be. If this underlying truth of the message of the Veda is rightly understood, it would remove much of the misunderstanding about the Hindu polytheism by present day Christianity and Islam which have come to live in the land of the Vedas, in peace.
Madhva’s Rg bhasya embodies the outline of the governing principles and techniques of the semantics and morphology of the Vedic words capable of being adjusted to this dual or threefold interpretation of the Rks and Suktas as (1) Para—Brahmapara, (2) secondarily referring to the respective Devatas (gods Indra, Mitra etc) in the conventional sense (Samanya mukhyavrtti) and (3) the Adhyatmic way referring to the workings of man’s psycho—physical existence and functioning monitored by the active presence of the Lord within the microcosm. These techniques are based on Yoga, rudhi, Mahayoga, Maharudhi (Vidvadrudhi) symbology of words, poetic conventions and so many nuances of Vedic Grammar preserved in many fading and forgotten souce books like Vyasanirukta, Mahavyakarana Sutras etc., salvaged by him in the course of his assiduous collection of ancient Manuscripts from all over the country (Vide Mbh. T.N. II.3-6)
From what has been said it would be clear that the Acarya’s Rg Bhasyas a tough and highly condensed technical work couched in condensed verses,_ not in flowing free prose. One can easily imagine the difficulty of understanding the ins and outs of such a tantalizing work. The commentary of the Acarya’s illustrious Tikakara Sri jayatirtha is indispensable in understanding the intricacies of such a work.
Brahma Sutras (81)
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